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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 08/02/2009 - 08/09/2009
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Goldman's Blankfein and Treasury's Paulson - one hand washes the other

ya can't tell one player from another without a program...

from the nyt via raw story...

Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson wasn’t on Goldman Sachs’ payroll when the US government bailed out his former employer, but he may as well have been.

That’s the implication in a New York Times article, published Saturday, that shows President George W. Bush’s last treasury secretary, a former CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs, had frequent conversations with the current CEO of Goldman during the week of Sept. 16, when the US government handed over $85 billion to rescue the troubled insurance giant AIG.

AIG’s outstanding debts to Goldman Sachs meant that $13 billion of the money handed over to AIG went directly to Goldman Sachs.

“During the week of the AIG bailout alone, Mr. Paulson and [Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd] Blankfein spoke two dozen times … far more frequently than Mr. Paulson did with other Wall Street executives,” the Times reports.

The revelation is sure to fuel further claims that the $700-billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, passed by Congress last fall with the support of both major presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, was “gamed” by Paulson in order to help out his colleagues at Goldman — and preserve his own reputation, which he made as the bank’s CEO.

Paulson spoke with Goldman’s CEO in an official capacity a total of 26 times before the treasury secretary was granted an “ethics waiver” that allowed him to be in far closer contact with his former employer than would have otherwise allowed, Reuters notes.

i'm shocked, SHOCKED, i tell you...

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A documentary from Africa

sent by a good friend and colleague in buenos aires... very well worth watching...


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Is "the purpose of the corporation to harness private interests in service to the public interest?"

one would think that any organization that requires state approval to operate would also be required to serve the common good...

one would think...

it's pretty evident that, in the united states, in particular for the u.s. health insurer industry, that's not the case...

from business week...

The industry has already accomplished its main goal of at least curbing, and maybe blocking altogether, any new publicly administered insurance program that could grab market share from the corporations that dominate the business.

maybe all of us should start thinking more in terms of the common good...
[S]ix propositions from Allen White, co-founder of Corporation 2020, an organization formed in the United States to “rethink corporate purpose, rights and obligations”.

1. The purpose of the corporation is to harness private interests to serve the public interest.

2. Corporations shall accrue fair returns for shareholders, but not at the expense of the legitimate interests of other stakeholders.

3. Corporations shall operate sustainably, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

4. Corporations shall distribute their wealth equitably among those who contribute to its creation.

5. Corporations shall be governed in a manner that is participatory, transparent, ethical, and accountable.

6. Corporations shall not infringe on the right of natural persons to govern themselves, nor infringe on other universal human rights.

whaddaya think...? personally, i like 'em... i like 'em a LOT...

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Brad Blog is liveblogging Sibel Edmonds testimony under deposition

worth checking out...
LIVE BLOG: Deposition of Sibel Edmonds Underway, DoJ a 'No Show', All Questions Being Answered...

here's some comments brad solicited from david krikorian, sibel's attorney...
From my opinion, if I'm some of the current members of Congress, I'd be very very worried about the information that's going to come out of this. There are current members of Congress that she has implicated in bribery, espionage. It's not good. It's crazy, it's absolutely crazy. For people in power situations in the United States, who know about this information, if they don't take action against it, in my opinion, it's negligence.


Frankly it's disappointing that things like this are happening in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Is it a huge surprise? No. Should it be tolerated? Absolutely not. I can't imagine George Washington and Thomas Jefferson allowing this sort of thing to go on in the Republic that they created. I cannot imagine it.

We're talking about High Crimes against the United States government. If the Government is aware of these High Crimes and doesn't prosecute them, I'm not sure what can be said about this.

from all indications, there's some pretty explosive stuff going on the record... brad is hopeful that a videotape of the testimony will be available for release...
The deposition is being videotaped and Edmonds hopes that it can be released as soon as possible after the deposition, though there has been some objections about releasing the video tape...

we've all been waiting a long time for this...

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Friday, August 07, 2009

What goes into the making of a contemporary American revolutionary?

a question for all of us to ponder, particularly with the chaos and borderline violence erupting daily in townhall meetings...
So what goes into the making of a contemporary American revolutionary? What turns an ordinary law abiding, relatively sedate and insular, American Idol watching couch potato into an informed and committed citizen prepared to incur risk and make meaningful prolonged personal sacrifice aimed at reclaiming our country? Two things: truth and suffering.


Well then, if we have these essential elements of truth and suffering, why is there still no large, forceful, coherent, and well organized body of popular grassroots resistance in the US? The main reason is simply that the requisite deep suffering and penetrating hard truths are not yet sufficiently widespread. Another reason is the extensive dumbing down of our society, along with the non-stop lies and propaganda spoon fed us daily by mainstream corporate media. Also there’s the ever present fear created by our government, using both rhetoric and legislation designed to consistently reinforce the clear threat so plainly put to us in the wake of 9-11 by George W. Bush: “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.”

In any case, with our Bush initiated upward spiraling national debt, exploding unemployment, and massive war related economic hemorrhaging, all continuing unabated under Obama and our wholly owned Congress, the furtherance of expanded suffering is a foregone conclusion. It will be left to the small but growing numbers of would-be resisters and truth-tellers (citizens Big Brother will vilify as home-grown terrorists) to advance the spread of truth.

we placed so much hope with obama for meaningful change... now what...?

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

We're poised on the brink of fascism - the angry right is being mercilessly exploited and is serious as a lynch mob [UPDATE]

sara robinson, writing in the blog of the campaign for america's future, backed by significant research and clear reasoning, proposes that our country is poised on the precise spot where "full-blown fascism is born"...
[O]ur fascist American future now looms very large in the front windshield -- and those of us who value American democracy need to understand how we got here, what's changing now, and what's at stake in the very near future if these people are allowed to win -- or even hold their ground.


America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It's also our very last chance to stop it.


[A]s the duo [corporate/brownshirt alliance] assumes full control of the country, power struggles emerge between the brownshirt-bred party faithful and the institutions of the conservative elites -- church, military, professions, and business. The character of the regime is determined by who gets the upper hand. If the party members (who gained power through street thuggery) win, an authoritarian police state may well follow. If the conservatives can get them back under control, a more traditional theocracy, corporatocracy, or military regime can re-emerge over time. But in neither case will the results resemble the democracy that this alliance overthrew.


It's so easy right now to look at the melee on the right and discount it as pure political theater of the most absurdly ridiculous kind. It's a freaking puppet show. These people can't be serious. Sure, they're angry -- but they're also a minority, out of power and reduced to throwing tantrums. Grown-ups need to worry about them about as much as you'd worry about a furious five-year-old threatening to hold her breath until she turned blue.

Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they're going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country's most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.

We've arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we're slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

a compelling argument...

meanwhile, tom tomorrow, a nonpareil source of clarity on current issues, a source i've been guilty of seriously neglecting for months, offers up a view of obama that i can't possibly dispute...



in an eerily coincidental and explicitly validating article, we have this from today's alternet, penned by frank schaeffer...
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

There is no daylight between the Republican Party, the health-care insurance industry, far right leaders like Dick Armey, the legion of insurance lobbyists, and now, a small army of thugs. All we're missing is actual uniforms, otherwise we now have a full blown American version of the Nazi Brown Shirts.

while schaeffer in the very next paragraph states that he "doesn't believe that these people are about to take over the country," it seems to me that what we're witnessing is a very disturbing phenomenon, one that should be taken very, very seriously... if the current scenario continues to escalate, more authoritarian, police state-type measures are sure to follow...

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Warren Buffett - "Were it not for government bailouts ... many of his company’s stock holdings would have been wiped out"

so much for the legendary "oracle of omaha"...

from rolfe winkler, blogging at reuters...

A good chunk of his fortune is dependent on taxpayer largess. Were it not for government bailouts, for which Buffett lobbied hard, many of his company’s stock holdings would have been wiped out.

Berkshire Hathaway, in which Buffett owns 27 percent, according to a recent proxy filing, has more than $26 billion invested in eight financial companies that have received bailout money. The TARP at one point had nearly $100 billion invested in these companies and, according to new data released by Thomson Reuters, FDIC backs more than $130 billion of their debt.

To put that in perspective, 75 percent of the debt these companies have issued since late November has come with a federal guarantee.

Without FDIC’s debt guarantee program, even impregnable Goldman would have collapsed.

And this excludes the emergency, opaque lending facilities from the Federal Reserve that also helped rescue the big banks. Without all these bailouts, the financial system would have been forced to recapitalize itself.

Banks that couldn’t finance their balance sheets would have sold toxic assets at market prices, and the losses would have wiped out their shareholder’s equity. With $7 billion at stake, Buffett is one of the biggest of these shareholders.

He even traded the bailout, seeking morally hazardous profits in preferred stock and warrants of Goldman and GE because he had “confidence in Congress to do the right thing” — to rescue shareholders in too-big-to-fail financials from the losses that were rightfully theirs to absorb.

a mitigating view from raw story...
To be fair, his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has received no government aid. In fact, Berkshire became a major lender in the wake of frozen US credit markets, injecting $5 billion into General Electric, Goldman Sachs and even motorcycle-maker Harley Davidson at hefty interest rates.

the lesson here...? the super-rich can pretty much do what they want and say what they want and still take comfort in the thought that they will only continue to get richer no matter what...

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Full moon photoblogging

it's been entirely too long since i've posted any pics... tonight with the full moon coming up at sunset seemed like a good time to break the drought...


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Are Blackwater (a/k/a Xe Services LLC) and its founder Erik Prince going down...?

suggestion for the prosecutors... first, follow the money... second, make sure that when you do follow the money, you follow it UPSTREAM...
A former Blackwater [Xe Services LLC] employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

and while you're swimming upstream, be sure to check out cofer black...

Cofer Black, the company's current vice chairman, was director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at the time of the September 11 attacks in 2001. He was the United States Department of State coordinator for counterterrorism with the rank of ambassador at large from December 2002 to November 2004. After leaving public service, Black became chairman of the privately owned intelligence gathering company Total Intelligence Solutions, Inc., as well as vice chairman for Xe. Robert Richer was vice president of intelligence until January 2007, when he formed Total Intelligence Solutions. He was formerly the head of the CIA's Near East Division.[23][24] Black was senior advisor for counterterrorism and national security issues for the 2008 Presidential election bid of Mitt Romney.[25]

swell folks, eh...?

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Monday, August 03, 2009

When stocks rise on Wall Street, how does that benefit the average schmoe struggling with unemployment?

it doesn't...
Wall St rises on resources, banks, data

U.S. stocks extended gains on Monday, pushing major indexes up 1 percent as investors snapped up shares of natural resource companies and banks after fresh data pointed to signs of economic stabilization.

before we look at unemployment, let's look at what's happening with rental and homeowner vacancy rates...
In Kansas City, rental vacancy rates rose from 11.9% to 15% over the past year; homeowner vacancy rates nearly doubled, up from 2.1% to 3.8%. Comparatively, the average homeowner vacancy rate in the country's 75 largest metro areas improved slightly from 3% to 2.7%, while the rental vacancy rate edged up to 10.2% from 10% a year ago.

Kansas City isn't the only metro where rental and homeowner vacancy rates are rising in tandem. Second on our list is the San Francisco-Oakland metro, where high prices are pushing Bay Area residents out of the region. Third is Tucson, Ariz., where the aftermath of the housing boom has left a glut of inventory. The pair's predicament illustrates both sides of the vacancy coin.


Miami, which ranks No. 8, owns a whopping 12.7% rental vacancy rate, up from 11.4% a year ago; residential towers built in the final stages of the boom now stand as empty monuments to an over-hyped market downtown. Homeowner vacancy stands at 5.6%, up from 3.8% last year, thanks mostly to a spate of foreclosures. According to, 40% of the homes available in Miami's city limits are foreclosures.

now, how about that unemployment...
The U.S. unemployment rate may not peak until the second half of 2010, even as the broader economy shows signs of improvement, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.


Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, said that while the economy will resume growth in the second half of the year, the job picture “will be serious for some time to come.”

and what's going to make things all better...?
Much of the economic recovery will depend on the housing market, [former Fed Chairman Alan] Greenspan said.

oh, well then...

note to you average schmoes struggling with unemployment... the tradesters and banksters may be kissing the recession goodbye but, for the time being, you can kiss your ass goodbye...

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mish offers a graph that tells us everything we need to know about our economy

and it's a doozy...

(click on graph for a larger, more readable version)

without further ado, here's mish...
With that stunning graphic out of the way, please consider some interesting factoids from Why a Recovery May Still Feel Like a Recession.
  • Durable goods shipments fell by more than 20 percent during this recession, and would have declined further were it not for increased production of weapons.
  • In no previous downturn since 1958, when the figures began being recorded, had the decline been as much as 14 percent.
  • The drop is all the more remarkable because such shipments rose at a relatively restrained rate in the preceding period of economic growth, particularly when military sales were excluded.
  • In June, seasonally adjusted shipments for civilian purposes were 19 percent below the average monthly figure for 2000. Shipments of military items were running 123 percent above the 2000 average.
  • Those figures are in nominal dollars, not adjusted for inflation. That fact may exaggerate the trend, since prices of some durable goods, like computers, have fallen over the years.
Given the amount of durable goods that go into homes (washers, dryers, microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, etc), and given the enormous boom in housing from 2003-2007 that chart is a stunning description of the state of our economy.

and just in case you might have forgotten what REALLY drives the u.s. economy...


Fifty-seven countries procured significant military equipment (SME) that exceeded $2,000,000 through the FMS system in FY 2008. The total value of these purchases was $10,178,102,944. These purchases were made through the Air Force, Army, and Navy and Marine Corps.

the average annual sales of u.s. military equipment to foreign countries averages between $10B and $15B, although you can see from the chart below that it spiked at around $25B in 2006...


now, tell me what a peace-loving country the u.s. is and ponder who's getting richer and richer no matter what happens to the rest of us...

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Iraqis take over security, violent deaths fall by 1/3


gee... how 'BOUT that...?
Violent deaths in Iraq fell by a third in July, the first month that Iraqi police and troops were in charge of security in urban areas since the 2003 US-led invasion, official figures showed Saturday.

A total of 275 Iraqis lost their lives last month, according to statistics compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries, compared to 437 deaths in June.

Two hundred and twenty-three Iraqi civilians, 40 police and 12 soldiers died in July, while 975 civilians, 93 police and 35 soldiers were wounded in attacks, according to the figures.

Overall, 400 insurgents and militiamen were arrested by Iraq's security forces, while 41 were killed, the figures showed.

In another sign that violence levels have ebbed, the number of US soldiers killed in July dropped to seven, the lowest monthly toll since the invasion, according to an AFP tally based on independent website

The previous lowest monthly toll of US casualties was nine dead in March this year.

obviously it's dangerous to jump to conclusions, but it seems reasonable to speculate that at least SOME of the violence was related to having foreign troops occupying the country... also, let's face it, ONE-THIRD is a very impressive number...

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