Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 30, 2008

An Answer to Josh on WVWV

Josh Marshall asks

By Hook or By Crook

Does that group doing voter-suppression calls in North Carolina have ties to the Clinton campaign?

Yes it does.

The organisation which did the robo-calls that mislead on voter registration in NC and elsewhere is, as your folks have found, the Women's Voice Women's Vote with its website at "wvwv.org". That domain is registered as:

Registrant ID:42386600-NSI
Registrant Name:Womens Voices. Women Vote
Registrant Organization:Womens Voices. Women Vote
Registrant Street1:1707 L Street NW
Registrant Street2:Suite 750

Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Washington
Registrant State/Province:DC
Registrant Postal Code:20036

The same suite is used by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Institute for Women's Policy Research
1707 L Street, NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20036

The President of that organization is Heidi Hartmann. She is also a signee of the manifest Feminists for Clinton as is the Vice President & Director of Research of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Barbara Gault.

There is also the likely significant fact that the notorious Clintonite John Podesta is a member of the WVWV Leadership Team.

Proof? Not really, but hints abound. Could some journalist spend some leather and check that suite?

Note: This is not a partisan note but the answer to a research request. Fudging with voter voices is evil independent of what side of a race is doing it.

Posted by b on April 30, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Common Method or Common Philosophy

James Petras compares military empire building, as practiced after the second world war by the United States and Israel, versus economic empire building by Europe and Japan and now China and India.

He finds that the national economic rent of the first model is negative, while the second model's results are positive.

Petras includes this thought on the relation between Israel and the U.S.:

Israel is one of the few – if not only – military-driven ‘emerging imperial powers’ and that is part of the reason for the ‘resonance’ between Jewish leaders in Israel and Washington policy-makers. This is the real basis of the often stated and affirmed ‘common interests and values’ between the two ‘countries’. Military-driven imperial powers, like the US and Israel, do not share ‘democratic values’ – as even the most superficial observer of their savage repression of their conquered peoples and nations (Iraq and Palestine) can attest – they share the military route to empire-building.

The thesis of common interest is also reflected in a right wing op-ed in today's Haaretz. It contrasts the U.S. and Israel with a "pacifistic" Europe.

And indeed there is a common denominator to the European criticism of Israel and the U.S., and this common denominator apparently also stems from the lessons of that war. It is the phenomenon of European pacifism, the desire to avoid the use of any kind of force, to avoid any forceful confrontation even with evil regimes.
...
That is to say, the European sin is not anti-Semitism but rather pacifism, especially when dealing with the Europeans' attitude toward force on the part of a Western country.

The author explains what he sees as reason for such unrighteous European behavior. The Europeans, in contrast to the U.S. and Israel, lack the will for "national and sovereign existence."

In this sense, there is apparently a deep connection between the Europeans' pacifism and the low birth rates on the continent; both of them indicate a policy of "eat and make merry because tomorrow we may die;" a deep lack of trust in life in the long run because the wish to live - which is not merely that of an individual but rather of the civilization in which he lives - does indeed demand victims.

It requires the effort that is involved in raising children as well as the effort and the risk involved with waging a war on behalf of the values of freedom or on behalf of a national and sovereign existence so that these may be ensured for generations to come.

"These cheese eating surrender monkeys no longer strive for a 1000 year Reich - damned they be."

Lunatic. But it again throws up questions I am mulling over for quite some time.

Is it, as Petras claims, simply the communality of the method of expansion that unites the U.S. and Israel, or is there, as Yair Sheleg asserts, some deeper connection?

And if there is some deeper connection, what is it?

Posted by b on April 30, 2008 at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

April 29, 2008

Nuts United

Some U.S. Christian conservatives are up in arms over some Vanity Fair pictures of one Miley Cyrus. I never heard of her before and from what I can gather she is some young rich girl doing TV. The "scandal" created 864+ google news links that will help her to move into Jodie Foster territory and sell her new CD. The blame is now moved away from Disney, the general profiteer of the case, onto Annie Leibovitz who took those quite decent shots. Well, one can always blame the Jews ...

Not availabe as major U.S. MSM news is how Afghan officials pulled some Indian soap operas from Afghan TV for being "un-Islamic". To say so in U.S. media would somehow be 'controversial'. Who would want to confess that the U.S. supports conservative religious nuts judging over media content in a U.S. managed foreign country?

Better to look at some religious nut in Iran, who warns against the obstructive cultural danger of Barbie puppets. A story that already ran in 2002. But don't bother to say so - the sheeple will not notice the repeat.

Recently in Jerusalem some hundred orthodox Jews protested against the sale of leavened bread to anyone during their passover. Okay - not much sex in that story unless you have some interesting fantasies. It is simply another attempt to put some old-book-based interpretation of one's own life onto others.

We should somehow export all those folks. Can we please find some lone island on this planet to unify all these idiots?

Posted by b on April 29, 2008 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Kagan declares: "Success is achieved"

Fred Kagan has written a somewhat schizophrenic piece in the Weekly Standard on A definition of success in Iraq

Virtually everyone who wants to win this war agrees: Success will have been achieved when Iraq is a stable, representative state that controls its own territory, is oriented toward the West, and is an ally in the struggle against militant Islamism, whether Sunni or Shia.

Further into the piece we learn that:

- Iraq is largely stable

Violence is the most obvious indicator of instability and the easiest to measure. The fact that violence has fallen dramatically in Iraq since the end of 2006 is evidence of improving stability.

- Iraq is a representative state

[W]e should note that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis continue to manifest their desire for representative government, as evidenced by the 8 million who voted in the last elections, the 90 percent of Sunni Arab Iraqis who tell pollsters they will vote in the upcoming provincial elections, and the sense on the streets that anyone who tries to eliminate representative government will do so at his peril.

- it largely controls its own territory

Enemy control of territory has been significantly reduced, and further efforts to eliminate enemy control of any territory are underway. Spikes in violence surrounding the Basra operation reflect efforts by the government to retake insurgent-held areas and are, therefore, positive (if sober) indicators.

- Iraq is western orientated

Iran has not dominated Iraq in centuries.
...
In the simple terms suitable to that debate, then, suffice it to say that neither shared Shia faith nor a shared border has historically led to Iranian domination of Iraq. There is no reason to assume it will do so now.
...
Baghdad is organizing, training, and equipping its military and police forces to be completely interoperable with the United States--and not with Iran.

- and Iraq is actively fighting militant Islamism, Shia and Sunni

[T]here is no state in the world that is more committed than Iraq to defeating al Qaeda.
...
Iraq is already America's best ally in the struggle against al Qaeda. Moreover, the recent decision of Iraq's government to go after illegal, Iranian-backed Shia militias and terror groups shows that even a Shia government in Baghdad can be a good partner in the struggle against Shia extremism as well.

Three of Kagan's five "success" criteria are then, by his own writing, completely fulfilled, two are largely fulfilled.

To end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the will of the majority of Iraqis and the majority of the people of the United States. Why then, when all conditions for "success" Fred Kagan has set up are - at least largely - achieved, can he and the U.S. government not declare victory and leave Iraq alone?

Could it be that the real definition of "success" that Kagan has in mind includes a few additional points he doesn't want to discuss?

Mr. Kagan, what about permanent bases and oil?

Posted by b on April 29, 2008 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Fresh Open Thread

We welcome your comments on news & views ...

Posted by b on April 29, 2008 at 04:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

April 28, 2008

Consequences of Agro-Commodity Speculation

by Debs is Dead
lifted from a comment
with additions by b

Incidentally one of the innumerable talking heads that have been popping up to give their take the economy, the universe and everything of late did have one interesting contention.

That the flight from the dollar has caused spec- sorry investors, (his words not mine) to move into commodities such as cereal and grain when they pull outta the dollar.

This bloke pulled a number of between 20% and 25% of the value of food and other essentials all of which have increased in value by at least 100% in the last year, saying well nearly a quarter of the value is an increase as a result of 'investors' not speculators, he said buying into essential commodities as they look for alternatives to the $US that are stable.

If that is true then the world's problems are going to get worse that even our dire predictions.
The flow across to essential commodities will increase as 'investors' report better earnings from investing in food, but any attempt to reverse the flow, indeed any reverse of that investment may be as catastrophic for the hungry and poor as continued speculatory investment is (my words).

Crops as commodities are very different to oil, gold and diamonds, the latter tend to be extracted at a very predictable rate with long lead times (building new mines, drilling new wells) required for marked increases in amounts of resources extracted.

This isn't true of crops whose prices and productivity go up and down like a whore's drawers. The recent rise in grain prices has stimulated production on formerly fallow land that had been 'retired' after agricultural economies were forced to abolish the tariffs on heavily subsidised imports from amerika and europe.

Countries from Haiti to Thailand that had been net grain exporters and whose production dropped drastically following the effects of globalisation, have begun farming again.

If the floor drops outta the new prices because 'investors' have moved on to the next big thing small holders around the world who have bet their balls and their villages' wealth on a return to farming will lose their shirts once more. More humans will be driven off the land and into useless anti-human metropolises.

Even worse many small nations will lose yet another slice of economic sovereignty.
Further I'll stick my neck out with a huge prediction. The chaos that ensues from this evil speculation on what we humans eat could be the disaster monsanto needs to force acceptance of it's genetically modified monopoly on the world's food supply.

---

b adds:

Thanks Debs - I was thinking about this today too. Below are a few excerpts from a developing discussion.

One answer to this is to abolish free trade in agriculture products. In today's FT an unlikely proponent for less trade argued:

Africa and Latin America should adopt their own versions of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy as a response to rising demand for food, according to Michel Barnier, France’s farm minister.

While critics of the CAP prepare to use surging food prices and threats of shortages to seek freer trade in agriculture, Mr Barnier told the Financial Times that, on the contrary, the developing world should draw inspiration from Europe and form self-sufficient regional agricultural blocs funded with a redirection of development aid.
...
What we are now witnessing in the world is the consequence of too much free-market liberalism,” he said. “We can’t leave feeding people to the mercy of the market. We need a public policy, a means of intervention and stabilisation."

The "free traders" didn't like that special splash of French wine. Their immediate, angry answer was an FT editorial which calls Barnier's idea "a corker":

Food autarky is not food security. For Africa, beset by highly variable harvests and unproductive, largely rain-fed agriculture, attempting self-sufficiency today is a recipe for regular famine. Improving farm productivity, and the ability of growers to get their produce to market, is an imperative. Snatching away export markets that could reward such improvements is utterly perverse.

This is not just a bad idea. It is a potentially lethal one. It should be discarded.

The FT editors are wrong. Instead, more countries should follow the example of Malawi:

Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.
...
Here in Malawi, deep fertilizer subsidies and lesser ones for seed, abetted by good rains, helped farmers produce record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007, according to government crop estimates. Corn production leapt to 2.7 million metric tons in 2006 and 3.4 million in 2007 from 1.2 million in 2005, the government reported.

I suspect that the answer to the current commodity speculation will be more protectionism.  It is likely the correct one.

Posted by b on April 28, 2008 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

April 27, 2008

The Dollar Decline Will Continue

In an short interview with CNBC Prof. Roubini is asked about his expectations on the value of the U.S. dollar.

Roubini says he doesn't expect much change for now, because the economies of Japan and Europe are slowing down and that will lead to expectations of interest rate cuts in Japan and Europe.

One often sees this argument in the U.S. centric financial media. Last week the Dollar bounced off a record low of $1.60 per Euro to $1.5630. This promptly led to false analysis.

Bloomberg:

"The dollar will continue to rebound," said Benedikt Germanier, an analyst at UBS AG in Stamford, Connecticut. "The Fed has the bulk of its easing behind it, while the ECB has the bulk of its easing ahead of it."

Reuters:

Europe is really not insulated and its economy is beginning to show signs of a slowdown," Meadows, [a market analyst at Tempus Consulting in Washington,] said. "While most people now believe the Fed is about to end its easing cycle, a growing number of investors believe the ECB may have to start cutting rates really soon."

These people are wrong. Sure, differences in interest rates are one reason for Euro preference by investors, leading to a decline of the value of the dollar. It is also correct that the economy in Europe is slowing down. But the European Central Bank will not cut interest rates and any expectation of such is mistaken.

While the Fed's monetary policy has by law two equal and often competing objectives, maximum employment and stable prices, the ECB has, also by law, a hierarchy of objectives with overriding importance assigned to price stability. U.S. commentators seem not to understand this.

In the current inflationary climate the ECB can not and will not cut rates, while the Fed will likely cut at least another 0.25%. The ECB may well increase its interest rate even in an economic downturn and despite the usual protests from Sarkosy and others.

My expectation at this point is that the dollar slide will pause a while, until a second phase of this recession will hit the markets. Roubini and Pimco's Mohamed El-Erian also expect a second downturn wave. The later writes:

Economic data in the US have taken a notable turn for the worse. Most im­portantly, the already weakening employment outlook is being further undermined by a widely diffused build-up in inventory and falling profitability.
...
It is thus too early to declare the end of the turmoil that started last summer. Instead, during the next few months we may witness a new phase of dislocations, led this time by the real economy.

So far the downturn has been mostly in the leveraged finance realm. But as soon as the one time and small effect of the debt financed $30 billion economic stimulus checks is vanishes, the real economy will turn down sharply.

70% of U.S. GDP is depending on consumer spending. The very real downturn in spending has still to hit home. The slight uptick in U.S. exports will not cancel that effect. The Fed will then be urged to ease even more, while the ECB will be in raising mood. El-Erian again:

The sharp slowdown in the US real economy will occur in the context of continued global inflationary pressures. As such, the Federal Reserve’s dual objectives – maintaining price stability and solid economic growth – will become increasingly inconsistent and difficult to reconcile. Indeed, if the Fed is again forced to carry the bulk of the burden of the US policy response, it will find itself in the unpleasant and undesirable situation of potentially undermining its inflation-fighting credibility in order to prevent an already bad situation from becoming even worse.

The dollar will thereby fall again after having taken a small pause. To hope that the ECB will intervene and rescue the dollar by lowering rates is mistaken. There will be a lot of harsh words crossing the Atlantic over this, but the laws and facts will not change.

Posted by b on April 27, 2008 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Moral Relativism

"It is all relative," says the Queen of Hearts U.S. Justice Department.

"The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act," said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.
...
In one letter written Sept. 27, 2007, Mr. Benczkowski argued that “to rise to the level of an outrage” and thus be prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, conduct “must be so deplorable that the reasonable observer would recognize it as something that should be universally condemned.”

Sandy Levinson pinpoints the weakness of this claim:

There is, of course, a certain logical paradox here: The very fact that the some US interrogator would suggest that some particular conduct is "reasonable" in some situation would, by definition, mean that there is not "universal" condemnnation of the practice.

The easy test for such arguments as Mr. Benczkowski puts forward  is of course to apply them to the other site. When the U.S. threatened war on Iraq would Saddam have been justified to nuke New York? "Yes," says the Justice Department.

The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act.

Levinson again:

Once one allows what might be termed "purity of utilitarian motive" to dominate the analysis, the game is over, for there will always be those who will argue that it is worth doing practically anything to forestall any "terrorist attack."

Posted by b on April 27, 2008 at 03:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

April 26, 2008

The Skeleton in Rupert's Closet

by Debs is Dead

I thought this had been swept under the carpet, but apparently not:

Hacker testifies News Corp unit hired him

SANTA ANA, California (Reuters) - A computer hacker testified on Wednesday that a News Corp (NWSa.N: Quote, Profile, Research) unit hired him to develop pirating software, but denied using it to penetrate the security system of a rival satellite television service.

Christopher Tarnovsky -- who said his first payment was $20,000 in cash hidden in electronic devices mailed from Canada -- testified in a corporate-spying lawsuit brought against News Corp's NDS Group (NNDS.O: Quote, Profile, Research) by DISH Network Corp (DISH.O: Quote, Profile, Research).

The trial could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage awards.

I know I have posted about this scurvy scandal at MoA previously but since the best account of what happened has disappeared down the black hole of a 'site under construction interweb error message, I thought I might recap a little.

Firstly for the benefit of our amerikan readers I had better explain that Fox was not Murdoch and News Corp's first foray into TV broadcasting.  As well as holdings in some Oz TV markets which pre-dated Rupert's massive global expansion, back in the 80's News Corp (or News Ltd as it was then) invested in Sky TV a satellite pay TV service in england. 

Using some of the cutthroat execs that Murdoch and OZ rival and occasional partner Kerry Packer employed to dominate Australian TV, Murdoch's team quickly ate up their nearest brit rival BSkyB whose english execs had been raised on the weird duality of english TV with the state owned but commercial free BBC and very controlled private regional TV which had commercials but few competitors.

Back in the 80's and most of the 90's the pay TV signal carried by a mixture of satellite and ground station transmission, chiefly used analogue signals over the final hop to the consumer. Analogue encryption tends to be not very difficult to crack as News Corp found out when some german hackers got to the bottom of his the VideoCrypt system utilised by BSkyB.

This was quite soon after NewsCorp bought BSkyB and although Murdoch managed to get the use of Ho Lee Fook hack (say it aloud and hear what most brits said when they discovered the existence of this hack) declared illegal in england when used on signals originating in england, that didn't stop the hacked cards from proliferating.

The major producer of the hacked cards was eventually caught and sentenced to a couple of years low security incarceration. (He escaped and moved to NZ but News Corp hired private detectives to track him and the few hundred grand he had stashed away down.  He was eventually arrested in NZ and sent back to england penniless to face a longer sentence in a tougher jail - message to all don't try and rip off Rupert).

Eventually the Ho Lee Fook hack was replaced by the Omigod hack which was available free to anyone with a decent TV aerial and a PC - no set top box needed.

At some stage News Corp appears to have decided that if you can't beat em join em. News Corp approached a number of the german hackers who had until then been working for free, the english entrepreneur had grabbed their work off the net and like so many others before and since decided to commoditize work already in the public domain. At least one, Boris Floricic, who travelled under the handle Tron agreed to work for the pricks.

As you can see from the link, signal security was a matter of some contention between the pay TV operators in the late 90's.  Aside from VideoCrypt manufactured by News Corp subsidiary NDS the other major player was a swiss product Nagra which was used by CanalPlus.

There are many many differing accounts of what came next, the first mainstream publication of this saga is credited to the Grauniad:

How codebreakers cracked the secrets of the smart card

The process was complex, time-consuming, and very expensive. This was not about a lone hacker sitting at a computer screen trying to guess passwords. Instead, it was an attempt to split the foundation stone supporting an entire industry - the technology protecting pay TV.

The challenge handed in the autumn of 1997 to a team of scientists working quietly at a laboratory in Haifa, northern Israel, was to crack the encryption technique used to unscramble TV signals delivered to many paying customers through cable and satellite across Europe and the US.

The so-called "smart" or "conditional access" cards used to access Sky, ITV Digital, and other premium channels contain wafer-thin computer chips holding complex codes to make sure viewers see only what they have paid to see.

The Haifa team knew all about this. They worked for NDS, a Murdoch company which had begun life as a start-up firm, News Datacom, in Israel eight years earlier. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had backed the venture in the belief that the coming digital age required a quantum leap in areas such as data security and the encryption of communications. . . "

So Murdoch decided- prolly the no-longer employed Lachlan rather than Rupert himself.  (Both Murdoch 'boys' appear to be implicated in this and it is worth considering whether that contributed to their separate but similar NewsCorp downfalls)- decided to locate an arm of NDS in Haifa.  Apparently because Israel is free of laws barring reverse engineering. 

By now Bill Clinton's oppressive but corporation friendly DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) was in full swing in amerika, making any work such as this totally illegal.  NDS also benefited from the protection of Israel's state security institutions. One of the first on the payroll at NDS Haifa was Reuven Hazak, who had been deputy head of Israel's Shin Bet during the notorious Bus 300 incident (when two Palestinian terrorists who hijacked an Israeli bus were killed in custody by a Shin Bet agent).

Other Haifa employees reportedly included a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer named John Norris and a former Scotland Yard commander named Ray Adams. Finally, it hired a former would-be terrorist, Yossi Tsuria, who became chief technical officer of its lab in Israel. Tsuria was part of a radical group of Jewish Israelis in the 1980s that plotted to bomb the Dome of the Rock -- a shrine that sits on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a holy site for both Jews and Muslims. (ibid) .

These hackers and thugs got together (ever noticed how corporate assholes ruin everything by bringing along the nasties?  Drugs was good fun in the 60's until it became 'drugs n thugs' thanks to weak little greedheads who had failed at legit businesses and who then decided to have a crack at something 'easier' selling pot or trips).

The original plan, or so they claim, was to make their encryption for digital pay TV 'uncrackable'.  But somehow they ended up reverse engineering the French encryption system used by BSkYB's major competitor in england, ITV, and CanalPlus, which was Newscorp's major european competitor.  CanalPlus, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vivendi a french corporation was competing with News Corp in  new tech publishing. old tech publishing, movie making, video game manufacturing and distribution, virtually the entire areas NewsCorp saw itself in at the start of the 21st Century.

From the Guardian once more:

"But NDS had one important rival, an encryption technology developed in France by the local broadcaster Canal Plus which had been adopted by just about all News Corporation's rival broadcasters.

The NDS team in Haifa, according to a lawsuit filed in the US district court for the Northern District of California, set out to "sabotage Canal Plus technological security measures engineered into its smart cards."

Breaking the encryption alone would cost up to $5m. The process demanded the use of ultra-expensive electron-scanning microscopes, with the team probing wafer-thin chips no bigger than a thumbnail. Each chip contained up to 50 layers, with each layer in turn carrying up to 1,000 transistors, every one of which had to be pulled apart and analysed.

Unlimited funding

Even with access to the most sophisticated equipment and seemingly unlimited funding, it took the Haifa team six months to unravel a code which was supposed to be impossible to decipher.

From there, according to Canal Plus's $1bn claim for damages, it was a relatively straightforward matter of releasing the information and then waiting for the world's counterfeiters to undermine every rival broadcaster using the French encryption system.

In early 1999, the NDS team isolated a piece of the encryption software known as the UserROM, a portion of computer memory on a smart card which controls access to the rest of the digital data. This information was dropped into a downloadable internet file called Secarom.zip, which, according to the Canal Plus claim, was then sent to the Haifa team's colleagues in California at NDS Americas with instructions that it be published on the internet so that anyone wanting to produce pirate Canal Plus cards could do so.

Canal Plus claims that the file was then transferred to a web operator called Al Menart, who ran a website known as DR7.com, a geekish internet service which promptly published the Canal Plus code for all to see.

By late 1999 the first counterfeit cards had begun to appear and, according to Canal Plus, by September 2000 the Italian market was flooded. Proliferation across Europe was in full swing.

The cards have become commonplace in Britain, with ITV Digital complaining recently that more than 100,000 pirate cards are in circulation here.

Executives at ITV Digital, which has struggled to build a strong base of subscribers and which continues to hemorrhage cash, were apparently appalled recently by comments made by Sky's chief executive, Tony Ball, during an address to the company's US investors. "ITV Digital/DTT is completely pirated, a joke. For $7 you can buy a card for all channels," he is reported to have said.

Canal Plus faces the exhaustive process of renewing the technology in the 12 million cards issued worldwide. ITV Digital customers can expect completely new plastic by the end of the year.

Stories at the time claimed that for every legit CanalPlus subscription sold in the european market, 8 hacked cards were sold by crooks.

By 2002 Vivendi was on the verge of corporate collapse and to add insult to injury they were forced to go cap in hand to Rupert Murdoch.

Vivendi never recovered.  No longer a major player in new technology, a much restructured Vivendi is still existant courtesy of the french taxpayer.

There are all sorts of irritations and hypocrisies exposed in this story.  Murdoch who ruthlessly pursues anyone who 'gets fresh' with News Corp I.P. (intellectual property) has greatly benefited from his own corporation's indulgence in piracy.  Israel the recipient of much taxpayer largesse from guilty white folks in europe and amerika has once again been caught harbouring those who commit crimes against Israel's benefactors (from Meyer Lansky onwards).

Mostly though this story re-inforces the reality that the egalitarian state which my forebears just like others throughout amerika and australia, sought to establish in the 'new world'.  What they were attempting to create, is truly dead.  All the old injustices of the rich and powerful living outside the law with impunity have migrated to that 'new world'.

The 'rakes' of 18th century imperial england considered any woman who wasn't an aristocrat 'fair game' for rape.  They would go out at night and hunt in packs raping and bashing any woman they 'fancied'.  A complaint to the police would guarantee a prostitution charge against the poor plaintiff.

How long before amerikan and australian women live in fear of lust soaked, arrogant and power crazed Microsoft shareholders when they go outside their door?  This case isn't just a question of corporations committing buggery upon each other; it is a test to ascertain the public tolerance of corporate impunity.  Impunity or maybe just plain impudence.

The trio of the desperate, that clutch of unscrupulous assholes currently clawing at each others’ eyes to get a crack at prez of all amerika, will be lining up at Murdoch’s door eye's dutifully and respectfully downcast, each vying for the right to throw Vivendi’s case outta court in exchange for NewsCorp support in the election. 

Posted by b on April 26, 2008 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 25, 2008

Some Now Notice How the Fed Kills People

Fed Rate Cuts Kill People, I wrote in February. Silence ... BTW: The death toll is much bigger than the Iraq catastrophy we diligently try to follow on this blog.

But finally others catch on. Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture now asks (and answers positively) Is the Fed Causing a Global Food Crisis?

Yes, the Fed does so by two mechanisms. Unfortunately Barry only points to the first. Low Fed rates lower the comparative value of the dollar and make commodities, which are mostly dealt on a dollar base, more expensive in dollar terms. Many countries have linked their currency to the dollar and their citizens now pay the higher prices.

The other mechanism is the expansion of credit.

The Fed floods the markets with too much money. More money chasing an unchanged amount of rare goods always ends up in higher prices. (Try it: Give a group of kids twenty quarters each and let them bid on a limited amount of sweets. Give them twenty $1 bills each and let them bid on the same limited amount of sweets. Observe the nominal  payed price of sweets.)

M3 is a broad measurement of money and money equivalents in circulation. In 2006 the Fed stopped to make this measurement public because "costs of collecting the underlying data and publishing M3 outweigh the benefits". Sure, the Fed must take care of its "costs". Others recreated the M3 statistic for free and as the chart (scroll down) shows, M3 is rising and rising fast. 

With lots of money around, institutional and private speculators can borrow very cheap and use 'leveraged' deals in commodity future markets. Spiegel International just had a good piece about DEADLY GREED - The Role of Speculators in the Global Food Crisis. Go read.

Additionally, expectation of rising prices leads to hording. People buy today and store stuff because they expect stuff will be more expensive tomorrow. This leads to rationing which escalates the problem: Wal-Mart's Sam's Club chain limits rice purchase. A deadly spiral started:  hording  -> greater scarcity in the markets -> increasing prices -> increasing price expectations -> more hording.

The Fed argues that inflation is low and it can lift the economy by lowering rates and printing money. It looks at the 'core inflation rate' which excludes the 'volatile' stuff that gets more pricy day by day: food and energy.

Over the years the inflation measurement has been fudged with in various versions. Hedonic measurements, as now used, factors in 'quality improvements' in price measurement. The computer you bought for $1,000 has only cost $100 in the statistics because it is now 10 times faster than your old PC. (With that 'quality improvement' argument I would value today's cost of a single Microsoft operation system license today in the $100,000 range - this stuff is getting worse with each version.)

House prices get measured in 'owners equivalent rent'. the money that would be paid to the owener if the home were rented out, not the real costs of purchase or accrual. People now find out there is indeed a difference between these. In the inflation statistics, the housing bubble never happened.

Inflation measured today as it was measure in pre-1983 is 11.6%. Measured in the pre-1998 method it would be 7.3%. But the Fed says its only 4%, and the core rate below 2%. No need to hike rates or restrict the money flow.

In Harpers Kevin Phillips looks into the Numbers Racket. Real U.S. unemployment? 9%. Thanks to the Clinton administration the official number is 5%. Real U.S. GDP? Negative for some years already, but the official statistic would never say so. But old Europe has such a bad economy. Just look at their numbers ...

Garbage in, garbage out. The fudged statistics lead to false policies. Now these false policies have deadly consequences.

How do we stop them?

Please comment.

Posted by b on April 25, 2008 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

The "Syrian Reactor Show" - a Fake?

The "video", a slideshow of text, computer animations and photos alleged to be from a Syria nuclear reactor, has been released. The presentation has, as David Sanger in the NYT characterizes, "the feel of a cold-war-era newsreel about the Korean War."

There are some inconsistencies in the presentation, at least for me, and I'll discuss those along with pictures below the fold.

The presentation is an elaborate information operation. If one sees it only once and is not really concentrated it is even convincing. But if you analyze it you will find that it jumps in time and space and adds stuff in animations and graphics that are not supported in the photographed evidence.

The chutzpah of the presentation peaks some eight minutes into it. There one slide shows some undefinable structure in a very blurry aerial photograph next to a CIA computer graphic and the text says:

Internal Structure of Destroyed Building Matches Reactor Computer Model

One really wonders how that could be. These CIA indeed managed to paint a computer graphic so that it fits their interpretation of a very blurry photograph. Who would have expected such a capability within that organisation?

For the purpose of further discussion I have made screenshots from the presentation all of which you can see here (may load slow for you). The timer of the slideshow at the McClatchy site runs backwards. I have marked the pictures with those timemarks. The total length of the presentation is 11:40.

There is not much reason to believe the U.S. assessment that Syria was building a nuclear reactor. The presentation only adds to suspicion towards that claim. But some were convinced by it just like they were convinced by Powell's show on Iraqi WMD at the UN. The Leader column at the Guardian is one example:

The images, taken before the structure was attacked, indicate that North Korea helped build the reactor, which closely resembles the one at Yongbyon which they have just disabled.

The pictures certainly don't indicate anything like that.

Some of these pictures are manipulated. Others might have been made in a different context and at a different place than alleged. Some are outright misleading.

I have four specific question:

Question 1:

This picture was released by ISIS last October. The orientation of the picture is largely towards north. The big box is the middle is the alleged reactor building. On the left (western) side of that building one can see an attached structure with a white roof, which, if one inspects the shadows, is less tall than the big box.


The slideshow starts with this picture which is orientated towards east (time left in the video: 11:39).

The slideshow zooms onto the center building in the above picture (11:26). But this isn't only a photograph. The "windows" and lines on the facade are much finer than other details of the quite blurry picture. They are also exactly horizontal.

Also note that the lower level part of the building on the lower part of the picture is centered on the western side of the building, while in the ISIS photo the lower western part is asymetrical attached to north western corner of the bigger building. Is this "facade" of the building photoshopped with a higher resolution than the original aerial picture? Why?

Question 2:

An alleged "photograph of the facility" (11:15).

To me this looks like a unfinished raw concrete building in a sandy place. (9:40)

But much later into the show the same "West wall" picture is used and it is alleged that this is a camouflage structure.

First comes another picture showing "the reactor under construction" (3:50)

And now again the "West wall" with the presentation voice-over saying this is "after curtain walls and roof were added" to differentiate it from a the North Korean building complex which in any case is much bigger and looks totally different to me even without any additions. (3:40)

This seems a quite elaborate made-up story. First the presentation and especially its animations try to make one believe that this is big concrete box that houses a reactor like the North Korean one even though the building doesn't really fit. Then it is alledged that this is so because the building was camouflaged with "curtain walls", i.e. these ain't councrete walls.

If the Syrians wanted to hide some alleged similarity of structures (where did they hide the chimney?), why would they then not build in a different configuration to begin with instead of going the extra length to build "curtain walls"? Why did they build an "underground water tank" instead of using an overground tank to make the installation look different?

It is not obvious at all from these on-the-ground pictures where they were taken. Do they really fit the aerial pictures or are they Made in DimonaTM?

Think about it - we have some independent aerial pictures and the same aerial pictures animated with a likely photoshopped facade. We then have pictures on the ground of a concrete box or curtain walls that fit the facade. Who says that these are the same structures? From looking at these pictures, we can not tell.

Are these pictures from the same site than the aerial views?


Question 3:

These persons: I found some parts of this photo unconvincing, marked those with red circles and zoomed one part without interpolating. (6:03)





The pixilation of the outline of the person in blue seems to be rougher than the pixilation of the rest of the picture. Is this picture photoshopped or umodified?


Question 4:

A new building of unknown, but assessed as non-nuclear, function at the side of the destroyed building. (1:28)

Who made the assessment that this is non-nuclear? Is s/he really sure or is this just because the "Internal Structure of New Building Matches a Non-Reactor Computer Model"? Couldn't I photoshop a nuke factory into that?

Sorry folks - to me, this all looks like a big fake.

Anyway - discuss the pictures. More are here.

Posted by b on April 25, 2008 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (61)

April 24, 2008

The "Video" and on Granting Anonymity

Yesterday's LAT: CIA to describe North Korea-Syria nuclear ties, today's NYT: Video Links North Koreans to Reactor, U.S. Says and today's WaPo: N. Koreans Taped At Syrian Reactor

A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea's nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.

Turns out - there is no video:

A US official, requesting anonymity, told AFP: "There are still photographs of the facility as part of the video, but it's a video presentation, like a Powerpoint presentation. It's not a video of the facility."

They have got nothing on a nuclear Syria-NoKo connection but rumours and the dubious pictures of the box on the Euphrates Israel allegedly bombed. I wrote about The Building of a Nuclear Syria Meme and later Seymore Hersh reported on the issue. He confirmed my thoughts:

  • There was no 'nuclear target'.
  • Syria has no 'nuclear program'.
  • Most of the 'official' accounts about the issue were pure propaganda.
  • The press was lied to and lied itself.
  • David Albright's photo analysis was influenced by Israelis and dead wrong.

Back to the false "video evidence" claim.

What will the New York Times and the Washington Post do now?

Both have been briefed by "senior U.S. officials" that a video with evidence will be shown to Congress. There is no video but only stills of dubious origin.

Wouldn't it be appropriate to now publish the names of the "senior U.S. officials" who lied to the reporters? Why is anyone granted anonymity even after it is obvious that the person lied?

Customers' trust in a media is a serious economic asset. These lying anonymous sources consciously devalue that asset. They hurt the media company's stock price.

Shouldn't there be consequences for doing so?

The media should put a simple condition on granting anonymity. If something is said under granted anonymity that turns out to be a lie, the anonymity is automatically lifted and the circumstances and sources of the interview will immediately be published.

Simple, fair and effective.

Posted by b on April 24, 2008 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

Department of "Huh?"

Are AP and Bloomberg writing about the same numbers?

U.S. Durables Orders, Excluding Transportation, Rise

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Orders for U.S. durable goods excluding transportation equipment rose more than forecast last month, indicating demand from overseas may be helping factories weather the housing-led economic slowdown.

Bookings for durable goods, designed to last several years, rose 1.5 percent excluding transportation equipment, the Commerce Department said today in Washington.

Durable goods orders fall for third straight month

AP News - Apr 24, 2008 08:03 EST - Orders to factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell for a third straight month in March, the longest string of declines since the 2001 recession.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that demand for durable goods dropped by 0.3 percent last month, a worse-than-expected performance that underscored the problems manufacturers are facing from a severe economic slowdown.

I can't find the original Commerce Department press release, but it seems Bloomberg is wearing some rosy, republican glasses here.

"Excluding transportation" - In its piece Bloomberg doesn't tell its readers that orders for autos slumped 4.6 percent. Instead they emphasize an increase in aircraft sales making one think that transportation orders actually rose.

A problem with both pieces is that they don't provide year-over-year numbers and don't say whether the month-to-month numbers are seasonally adjusted. The numbers as given are essentially meaningless without that information.

Can anyone find me the real statistics?

Posted by b on April 24, 2008 at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Three I-P Issues and Questions

Three Israel-Palestine issues and questions:

1. Guardian

The UN is to halt food handouts for up to 800,000 Palestinians from tomorrow because of a severe fuel shortage in Gaza brought on by an Israeli economic blockade.

John Ging, the director of operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees, said there had been a "totally inadequate" supply of fuel from Israel to Gaza for 10 months until it was finally halted two weeks ago. "The devastating humanitarian impact is entirely predictable," he said.

and LAT

The United States, France and Britain walked out of a Security Council debate on the Middle East on Wednesday after Libya compared the situation in the Gaza Strip to that of Nazi "concentration camps," diplomats said.

How is starving in Auschwitz different from starving in Gaza?

2. Washington Note

In a closed congressional session tomorrow, Israeli intelligence officers will provide Members of Congress with details regarding Israel's air raid last September on an alleged nuclear installation Syria was constructing with North Korean assistance. However, there is no solid evidence to date that Syria was actually building a nuclear facility, according to highly-placed U.S. intelligence officials.

When was the CIA replaced by Mossad?

3. WaPo

A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank.

In the comments at the Post people seem to be somewhat suprised by this issue.

Olmert is correct here. Bush gave that "permission". The letter exchange, little discussed in U.S. media, was at that time published in full in the Israeli media. The core sentence is Sharon's never rejected claim:

In this regard, we are fully aware of the responsibilities facing the State of Israel. These include limitations on the growth of settlements; ...

No dismanteling of settlements, just a slower growth rate. A follow up letter by Sharon's chief of staff Doc Weissglas to Rice was also published in the Israeli press.

Rice will now again say: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that ..."

The "peace process" was never a serious one. Israel never planed to give up any of its illegal colonial settlement in the West Bank and with the acceptance of the letter exchange Bush actively supported that policy.

Now under pressure from the Saudis, Bush has to deliver some kind of peace deal. But nothing will be signed by the Palestinians without abolishment of settlements. Therefore Bush now wants to retract from his former position.

Within what system of international law can the president of country A give "permission" to country B to colonize C and country B claim that such a "permission" justifies its illegal policies?

Posted by b on April 24, 2008 at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

April 23, 2008

Energy sector is organized crime: U.S.

Don't blame me - they say so - I only added the names and corrected the headline  ...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - International organized crime groups control "significant positions" in global energy and strategic materials and are expanding holdings in the U.S. materials sector, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.

A strategy on fighting organized crime released by the department also says such groups manipulate securities exchanges and conduct financial fraud to steal billions of dollars. It says they systematically corrupt public officials, use computer networks to target victims, and provide logistical support to terrorists and foreign intelligence services.

"The activities of transnational and national organized criminal enterprises [Exxon  Mobile, Halliburton, BP, Shell, Chevron, Maraton, Mobile, Imperial Oil Limited, Barrick, Billiton etc] are increasing in scope and magnitude as these groups continue to strengthen their networking with each other to expand their operations," said FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole.
Organized crime penetrates energy sector: U.S.

Posted by b on April 23, 2008 at 03:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Who is fighting Sadr?

The current official Information Operation campaign on Iraq tells us that Maliki and the Iraqi army are fighting criminals in Basra, Sadr city and elsewhere.

A TIME piece gives some doubts:

[A]t least one American soldier said he was angry that the role of Iraqi troops was exaggerated after the battle. "A gunfight broke out and we were fighting [the Mahdi Army] for about four hours," the soldier told TIME. "The army article made it sound like we were just there supporting the Iraqi Army, but we did all the work. We just had four humvees out there with some Iraqi [troops]."

The BBC adds:

US and UK special forces are carrying out operations in Basra in southern Iraq against Shia militiamen, a Western military source has told the BBC.
...
Basra was the scene of intense fighting some three weeks ago, after Iraqi forces made an attempt to disarm militias operating in the city.

At that time, the BBC understands that 550 US troops embedded with the Iraqi army also joined in the battle.
...
There are understood to be about 150 British troops from the Royal Regiment of Scotland embedded with Iraqi units in Basra.

Some are mentoring Iraqi soldiers while others are protecting local personnel engaged in combat operations.

U.S. and British soldiers "protecting local personnel engaged in combat." Now that is a fine expression for "covering their ass." But are they really doing that? To me this sounds more like the U.S.u.k. is taking the lead in all of this:

The United States army on Wednesday said its forces killed 15 gunmen overnight in the capital, Baghdad.

"Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers engaged and killed 15 criminals in separate engagements in Baghdad April 22," read a U.S. army statement quoted by the voices of Iraq (VOI).

All the talk of the "Iraqi army is taking on Sadr" seems to be at least exaggerated.

The real tale might be more along this line.

Cheney came to Baghdad because some success was needed before the Petraeus/Crocker  testimony in Congress. He ordered the "they stand up, so we can stand down" assault on Basra.

That went wrong when the Sadr resistance was more powerful than expected and the Badr militia in Iraqi army uniforms cracked even though U.S. troops were embedded with them.

This was blamed on the puppet. "Maliki ordered this and didn't inform us." Bullshit - 550 embeds and the U.S. didn't know? For lack of intelligence, the U.S. had miscalculated.

But with that fight failed any draw back would have been seen as a U.S. defeat so this had to be carried through. So the U.S. started to bomb and shoot its way into Basra and Sadr city.

The problem now is to hold that space. With at the same time increased AQI action in Anbar and the "surge" draw down there ain't enough troops to cover those places.

The answer is bombing. Here is a raw movie of a U.S. air attack on some car in Sadr city.

But what about those kids on the stretchers? Hearts and minds?

Posted by b on April 23, 2008 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Outrage over Darfur Numbers

CNN: U.N.: 100,000 more dead in Darfur than reported

The number of deaths in Sudan's Darfur region since 2006 may have been underestimated by as much as 50 percent, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said Tuesday.

AP via IHT: UN officials say Darfur conflict is worsening

The conflict in Darfur is deteriorating, with full deployment of a new peacekeeping force delayed until 2009 and no prospect of a political settlement for a war that has killed perhaps 300,000 people in five years, UN officials said.

In The News: 300,000 lives: The cost of five years in Darfur

More than 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since fighting broke out five years ago, the United Nations humanitarian chief has said.

Watch for the coming shitstorm of new Janjaweed horror stories.

These headlines and reports are bullshit: Wrong numbers, wrong conclusions, wrong focus.

The number 300,000 is an estimate based on numbers from a 2005 study. The real death number is either higher, or the death rate in Darfur has dramatically improved. But even more important, these death counts are mostly natural death which have little to do with the resource conflict and are nothing extraordinary.

Here is how the new number arose:

BBC:

An estimated 300,000 people may have died as a result of the Darfur conflict, the UN head of humanitarian affairs John Holmes says.
...
The previous figure of 200,000 came from a 2006 study by the World Health Organisation.
...
Speaking later to reporters, Mr Holmes added: "I am not trying to suggest this is a very scientifically-based figure. It is extrapolated from the 2006 figure, it is not new research."

I can not find any 2006 WHO study on mortality in Darfur. As it turns out, there is none and the 200,000 base number from which Mr Holmes extrapolates is based on a September 2005 WHO study (pdf) of June 2005 survey data.

AP recently interviewed the former U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland:

Egeland said when he was interviewed at the end of 2005 "I just added the 10,000 we found that died per month in 2004. ... I said well it's 18 months, it's 180,000." A few months later he raised it to 200,000.

"Then, the clock stopped ticking, sort of," he said in an interview earlier this month.

"You have the figure 200,000 people died in Darfur which has been used continuously since I gave it," Egeland said. "Please stop using that figure. I gave it. It's 2 1/2 years old. It's wrong."

The 2005 study does not give a total of 200,000. It calculated the monthly death rate within an estimated 3.2 million affected people in Darfur. Egeland just went from there by multiplying that with the number of month the conflict was ongoing.

The study found (p31):

The aggregate crude mortality rate was 0.8/10,000/day in North and 0.6/10,000/day in the West. Neither IDPs (in or out of camps) nor residents in either State presented crude mortality or under five mortality rates higher than the emergency thresholds.

The death rate was high, but not in emergency territory. An average rate of 0.7/10,000/day is equal to 25.6 death/1,000 population per year. Let us now check Mr. Holmes new number.

At that death rate, with a conflict affected and surveyed population of 3.2 million and 2 1/2 years since Egeland said 200,000, there now should have been 205,000 additional dead.

25.6 death / 1,000 people / year * 3,200,000 people * 2.5 years = 204,800

So if the 100,000 additional death number since 2005 Mr Holmes estimates is correct, then the situation is much, much better than it has been before. The death rate must have fallen by 50%.

So while the press is outraged about the 300,000 new total, that number would be indeed a great success.

On the other side, Mr Holmes may have plugged that number from thin air.

But the 2005 study also found that most of these death were of natural cause and especially the high small children death rate in the study was mostly from diarrhoea, i.e contaminated water. This is nothing extraordinary in any overpopulated arid area.

The current average death rate for all of Sudan is 13.6 deaths/1,000 population (CIA Word Fact Book estimate).

Compare this with some other overall country numbers:

  • Afghanistan - 19.56 deaths/1,000 population
  • Angola - 24.44 deaths/1,000 population
  • Lesotho - 22.33 deaths/1,000 population
  • Mozambique - 20.29 deaths/1,000 population
  • Niger - 20.26 deaths/1,000 population
  • Sierra Leone - 22.26 deaths/1,000 population
  • South Africa - 22.7 deaths/1,000 population
  • Swaziland - 30.7 deaths/1,000 population
  • Zambia - 21.35 deaths/1,000 population

To summarize:

  • The number 300,000 quoted by the press may well be wrong: too high, too low, we don't know.
  • The media interpretation of that number, "understimated", "deteriorating conflict", "war has killed", "cost" is totally upside down. If the number is correct, then the situation in Darfur has really improved.
  • The situation in Darfur was and is not extraordinary.

But there is no oil in Swaziland ...

Posted by b on April 23, 2008 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 22, 2008

The Bush-Euro Correlation

New low for Bush, new high for the Euro.

Bush's disapproval rating worst of any president in 70 years
Euro Surpasses $1.60 for First Time on ECB's Inflation Outlook

There seems to be some correlation between these numbers.

See this Bush approval graph (a better one but Flash) and this currency graph (sorry, no time to plot these together).

But what is the interaction mechanism here?

Posted by b on April 22, 2008 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Asia Times Online Needs A Better Editor

While Asia Times Online often has some readable pieces of non-mainstream news, it today disgraces itself with putting a sensational nuclear Iran piece by intelligence consultant Richard M Bennett at the top of its homepage.

The piece is false from the first letter to the last dot.

Mr Bennett starts by asserting that the recent NIE, which claimed Iran had stopped a nuclear weaponization program in 2003, is wrong:

However, in late 2007, the flawed and now largely discredited NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) report, "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities", was published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in Washington and simply discarded years of supposedly hard intelligence.

Then Mr. Bennett sets out to "report" several bites of "news" to make believe that an Iranian weaponization program (which may well never have existed) has, as he asserts, not been stopped;

It is reported that concrete proof of Iran's sophisticated disinformation came in mid-December 2006, when the CIA intercepted a conversation between two unidentified officials at the Defense Ministry in Tehran, reporting differences between the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and the Ministry of Defense.

One of the Iranian officials reportedly said, "Currently, as for the CTBTO [Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization], I think that the Ministry of Defense must have the last word, because they [the leaders of the AEOI] know that ultimately we intend to conduct tests."

Yet this damning evidence of deliberate Iranian deception was also discounted in the NIE findings.

With Google's help we find that the "report" Mr. Bennett referred to is from the Iranian Press Service, an Iranian opposition "news service" in Paris, itself based on a rumor mongering Le Monde piece (in French - an English translation is at the MEK's, the anti-Iranian cult, site).

So Mr. Bennett "reports" what some Iranian opposition site "reports" by mangling up a Le Monde "report" which itself is solely based on "sources close to an intelligence service."

Mr. Bennett continues:

Controversially, China was also reported to have recently embarrassed Iran by providing the UN with intelligence on its close ally's efforts to acquire nuclear technology.

This was, indeed, "reported" - in the always unreliable Daily Torygraph - and refuted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

On goes Mr. Bennett:

Chinese designs for centrifuges that refine uranium into a "weaponized" state had been found previously in Iran, but these had been thought to have come exclusively through a network controlled by disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Not only have designs be found in Iran, but several thousand centrifuges. The design of the Iranian centrifuges came indeed through Mr. Khan. But the design of these is not a Chinese one. Khan copied  the Dutch/German design when he worked for URENCO in the Netherlands and used this in the Pakistani and Iranian program.

There are also of course no special centrifuges to "weaponize" uranium. The enrichment concentration of U235, for civil or military use, is prinicpally determined by the number of centrifuges coupled into a cascade, not by the centrifuge design.

Further on:

Expert observers suspect Iran is replacing its original P-1 centrifuges with the IR-2, a modified P-2 second-generation system which operates three to four times faster.

This is not "suspected" by "expert observers" but was announced by Iran loud and proud and with lots of glossy centrifuge pictures.

And now the very best from Mr. Bennett's report:

Significantly, Ahmadinejad paid a little reported visit in April 2006 to the research complex at Neyshabour in Khorassan. This top-secret and heavily protected facility ringed by the most advanced Russian air defense missiles is designed to eventually operate as many as 155,000 centrifuges.

The only site that has this "little reported" "news," sans the "most advanced Russian air defense" which Mr. Bennett added himself, is the Israeli Mossad disinformation service DEBKAfile:

According to our intelligence sources, running-in has begun at some sections of the Neyshabour installation, which is located 600 km northeast of Tehran. DEBKAfile’s sources reveal too that the Neyshabour plant has been built 150 m deep under farmland covered with mixed vegetable crops and dubbed Shahid Moradian, in the name of a war martyr as obscure as its existence.
...
Russian experts completed the initial plans in 2003 and construction began in early 2004. In late 2005, Bulgarian transport planes delivered tens of thousands of centrifuges from Belarus and

they were transported directly to Neyshabour.

(Just in case you are interested, the DEBKA site also has several bridges on sale ...)

Mr. Bennett, like DEBKA, spells that alleged nuclear city's name wrong. It is Neyshabur or Nishapur and it doesn't have an airport.

So what we have here is a mix of confused opposition reports, lots of false facts and Israeli disinformation mixed up and stirred into a dramatic report by an intelligence consultant.

It seems that ATOL needs a better editor.

Posted by b on April 22, 2008 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Bad-Faith Talks

In February neocon Marc Reuel Gerecht from the American Enterprise Institute used a NYT op-ed call for talks with Iran. Not to achieve any solutions, but as a preparation for war.

The Bush administration should advocate direct, unconditional talks between Washington and Tehran.
...
Foreign-policy hawks ought to see such discussions as essential preparation for possible military strikes against clerical Iran’s nuclear facilities.
...
[A] new approach would certainly put the United States on offense and Iran on defense. We would, at least, have the unquestioned moral and political high ground. And from there, it would be a lot easier for the next administration, if it must, to stop militarily the mullahs’ quest for the bomb.

The point of negotiations is only to win some "high ground" and some national and international support for strikes on Iran.

In lockstep with Gerecht, Michael O'Hanlon from the now equally rightwing Brookings Institution, opined in yesterday's Washington Times:

By trying to talk, we better position ourselves to get tough and have others join the effort.

Through negotiation, we can prove to the world that American recalcitrance, Texas cowboy foreign policymaking, and pre-emption doctrine are not the real problems here. Only by patiently trying to work with Iran, and consistently failing to make progress, will we gradually convince Bush-haters and U.S. doubters around the world that the real problem does not lie in Washington.
...
[A]s part of a broader realpolitik strategy, talking with Iran — while preparing for the next steps after those talks fail — is still the right thing to do.

I see two possible interpretations here:

  • The neocons mean what they say and now really want to talk to Iran. If only to use this eventually to argue for war.
  • They fear that talks are in preperation (or ongoing?) and want to preempt these. Iran, they might hope, will not agree to talks, as it may now believe that such would be held in bad faith.

The Iranphobic Michael Ledeen still hates the idea of any conversation with Iran:

We have had high-level and low-level talks, public and private talks, talks conducted by diplomats, by spooks, and by a colorful array of intermediaries ranging from former Spanish President Felipe Gonzales to nephews of Rafsanjani, Iranian-American businessmen, former NSC and CIA members, and others with more dubious qualifications.

All failed.
...
That’s Iran. The mullahs want us to die.

As he is usually the leader of the neocon gang on Iran, I suspect that the second point is the better interpretation.

By letting possible talks appear as just another step to war, the neocons hope to incite Iran to avoid any negotiations.

Posted by b on April 22, 2008 at 03:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 21, 2008

PA Primary Crystal Ball

There are lots of polls and even poll internals on tomorrow's PA primary.

As someone who never answers poll questions, I am dubious of these.

We might find more accurate numbers by using the crystal ball anna missed provides us with.

What results do you see in it?

  • For Pennsylvania?
  • For the general election?

chrystal ball
by anna missed

23"x23"x3" - oil paint, acrylic gems on wood
(bigger)

Posted by b on April 21, 2008 at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

April 20, 2008

A Hot Summer in Iraq

The torture lady is in Iraq to praise the "unity" behind Maliki's puppet government.

That "unity" is, of course, not existent.

On Sadr she commented: "It's been very difficult to get a read of what his motivations are and what his intentions are." 

Well, let me help you here.

Sadr wants the attacks on his people to be stopped immediately. He wants a timetable for the occupiers to leave his country and he wants a united, independent Iraq. If he will not get these majority demands fullfilled through a fair political environment, he will ask the people to fight for it. That's it.

The U.S. military barfed back on Sadr's recent ultimatum, which demanded the immediate stop of the bombing campaign on his people.

"If Sadr and Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) become very aggressive, we've got enough combat power to take the fight to the enemy," said Major General Rick Lynch, commander of US forces in central Iraq.

That wasn't the question general. Do you have enough combat power to win?

Sadr is understandably pissed. Iran sent him back to Najaf, where his brother in law was recently assassinated. The U.S. and the Brits are bombing his people in Sadr city and in Basra and the Maliki government denies Sadr's constituency effective political representation.

It is time to fight.

Sadr's last campaigns were not impressive in a military sense. But by now he might have gotten some serious advice on how to achieve something. A good advice might have been to look at logistics.

The U.S. military consumes incredible 50 million gallons of fuel each month in Iraq. I assume this  number includes fuel for most of the mercenaries and the civilian staff. These are 185 tanker trucks loads (9,000 gallon each) which each day have to make the 330 miles run from Kuwait to Baghdad. It should be possible, if not to shut down, at least to slow down and decimate that permanent caravan.

To achieve that, a campaign should eliminate the bridges on the most convenient routes that these tankers pass. The aim would be to force the occupiers to canalize all supply through the most undesirable routes, the population centers of the south. There Mahdi fighters can 'swim with the fishes' and attack the convoys from all angles while being able to easily escape and prepare the next attack. 

The campaign should coordinate with the Sunni resistance which just announced a month of concentrated attacks on the occupiers. They shall shut down the alternative line of communication from Jordan to Baghdad. Other aspects of Sunni/Shia relationship can be solved later on.

The campaign on U.S. logistics should be combined with hit and run attacks all over Iraq that will bind U.S. forces and hinder them to concentrate for a decisive battle or to divert enough forces to protect their line of communication.

Continued mortar attacks on the Green Zone, Baghdad airport and the British at the Basra airport will be of psychological value. Attacks on Maliki officials will help to cut their resolve.

A problem is the lack of outside support as the Iranian government is, for now, obviously on Maliki's side. Think about how that could be changed.

But for now they will not hand over weapons or give financial support. But money is not a problem for Sadr and there are certainly ways to buy weapons on the black markets in neighboring countries. Some Russian or Chinese made man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) would be nice. Without close air support, the U.S. infantry and the Badr brigades in Iraqi army uniforms are much less effective.

A widening of the campaign to Kuwait might be possible. An explosion at a harbor there? A refinary in flames?

The U.S. has little capacity to reinforce ground troops. Keep them diverted and starve them of the stuff they need most.

Again, it is all about oil.

Posted by b on April 20, 2008 at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (61)

OT 08-16

M.o.A. lives off comments.

It loves those on news, views and opinions.

Please feed it.

Posted by b on April 20, 2008 at 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

Monetary Policy and Hunger

A not so popular piece titled Fed Rate Cuts Kill People was published here in February:

[I]nstead of letting the market sort itself out as it should, the Fed cut the rates again and with unprecedented speed. It induced a fresh bubble, this time in the commodity markets.
...
The direct consequence of the ongoing bail-out of irresponsible and greedy people on Wall Street is mass starvation because of exploding wheat, rice and other food prices.

The 'biofuel' madness adds to the Fed induced killing.

In comments I further noted:

[Commodities] have left the explainable landscape of fundamentals and jumped into bubble territory. Three years from now, or whenever the commodity bubble will inevitably burst, everybody will point to the fed.

All that sounded just too nutty and there was little discussion on the issue. But this week, much earlier than I expected, some other lone, know-nothing lefty came to the same conclusion.

Martin Feldstein, Harvard prof and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Reagan, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the issue. He reasoned:

It's time for the Federal Reserve to stop reducing the federal funds rate, because the likely benefit is small compared to the potential damage.

Lower interest rates could raise the already high prices of energy and food, which are already triggering riots in developing countries.
...
Many factors have contributed to the recent rise in the prices of oil and food, especially the increased demand from China, India and other rapidly growing countries. Lower interest rates also add to the upward pressure on these commodity prices – by making it less costly for commodity investors and commodity speculators to hold larger inventories of oil and food grains.

Lower interest rates induce investors to add commodities to their portfolios. When rates are low, portfolio investors will bid up the prices of oil and other commodities to levels at which the expected future returns are in line with the lower rates.

An interest rate-induced rise in the price of oil also contributes indirectly to higher prices of food grains. It does so by making it profitable for farmers to devote more farm land to growing corn for ethanol.

Feldstein is right in his analysis, but wrong in calling for the Fed to just halt interest rates cut. The Fed should immediately increase interest rates up to the real U.S. inflation rate plus 2%. Even more important, it should reign in the crazy money supply growth. That increase is best measured by the (guess why) no longer officially published (but shadowed) M3 stats. More money in the market -> more speculation -> higher prices in the fad investing scheme, which is for now commodities.

Less money supply and higher Fed interest rates would severly dent, if not implode, the commodity bubble that this year already increased prices in general commodities by over 20%.

People who live on a dollar or less pay day, and there are many of these on this planet, can not afford enough rice, now priced at $1000+ per ton, to survive.

Unless the U.S. government changes its inflationary policy, it will be guilty of creating the most extensive humanitarian crisis this planet has ever seen.

Posted by b on April 20, 2008 at 03:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

April 19, 2008

She can not run against the "activist base"

Hillary Clinton just shot herself out of the race by repeating Karl Rove's false talking point about MoveOn.org.

If she is too elite or bitter to endorse the "activist base of the Democratic Party," she will not get their vote. That settles the electibility argument she tries to make to the superdelegates.

The Pennsylvanian primaries, three days from now, seemed to trend in her direction. This will likely turn that around. A loss or only narrow win there will be another point against her electibility.

Meanwhile Obama managed to get over 30,000 people to a rally in Philadelphia.

Impressive ...

Posted by b on April 19, 2008 at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

Rice appeals for Arab Nationalism

Rice says:

What [the Arab states] need to do is confirm and work for Iraq’s Arab identity. Iraq is a founding member of the Arab League, and so Iraq should be fully reincorporated into the Arab world. I think that, in and of itself, will begin to shield from influences of Iran that are nefarious influences. Iran is a neighbor. It’s going to have influence. But Iraq is, first and foremost, an Arab state. It’s a state in which Iraqi nationalism is very strong, and the neighbors ought to be reinforcing that.
On-the-Record Briefing by Secretary Rice, Dep. State. April 17, 2008

But what will the "Arab street" think of, when they here the above. I suggest they will remind this:

Pan-Arab Nationalism was a secular, socialist ideology en vogue for much of the 20th century that called for unity among the Arab peoples of the Middle East. Promoted by pro-independence leaders such as Egypt's former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Pan-Arab Nationalism sought to create a Middle East independent from the colonial meddling and occupation of Europe.
...
Contrary to some rather inaccurate portryals of Iraq's links with Islamic terrorism, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his Baath party were Arab nationalists.
Arab Nationalism, About.com

The secular Arab nationalism of Nasser declined after the lost 1967 war with Israel. It has been replaced by the Islamic Arab movement - Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Sadr. That is today's Arab identity. The Washington sponsored dictatorships in the Middle East will not like any appeal for that.

Applying Occam's razor, Rice likely has no idea what she is calling for. Still she may reap what she sows.

Posted by b on April 19, 2008 at 02:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

April 18, 2008

Art: Evil

by anna missed

evil
by anna missed

12" x 18" - oil paint, rhinestones, on wood
(bigger, biggest)

Sometimes it is the overall view, from afar, which reveals the devil.

Posted by b on April 18, 2008 at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Pharma Ads

by Debs is Dead
(lifted from a comment)

I suppose that it is no surprise that peeps in NZ are more aware of the fact their country is one of only two that allows direct to consumer prescription drug advertising, than the peeps in the other country, amerika. The deregulation may be newer here, but since it occurs within the continuum of a semi-socialised health system is it certainly more controversial. Physicians and other health professionals complain of the difficulty of treating a patient who believes they already know what they need having diagnosed their malady and selected their remedy on the basis of a 20 second TV commercial.

The law was changed during the first flush of neo-liberal 'let the markets decidism' At that time all censorship laws and anti-pr0n legislation was also abolished - although that was re-introduced when the most awful snuff movies starring no longer economically viable german heroin addicted sex workers began to proliferate.

Since then slightly 'lefter' in name if not in action, governments have allowed the commercials to continue. This after no holds barred negotiations with big Pharma.

The pharmaceutical companies are forever trying to prevent their brand name drugs from being replaced with no name generics, and have deliberately withdrawn drugs from NZ for which there is no generic alternative if Pharmac (the government drug buying authority) allows generic alternatives to other drugs on their list.

It gets nasty and of course deadly since these are life and death decisions. So by way of a trade off the government has agreed to let the makers of Viagra, Ritalin, even Vioxx until that became a little how shall we say it, controversial? In return for funding generics Pharmac is extorted into allowing big Pharma to advertise their product, which if the patient insists, is prescribed (and funded) ahead of the generic.

Of course that isn't the worst that the drug corporates get up to here. The old favorite of promising "wonder drug" -like properties on some chemical that they hold exclusive rights to, then promising dying people that this drug will fix them, if only the mean interfering nanny-state will pay for it, is still popular.
Women who are considered the best target for these campaigns by big pharma, as it is widely held most men usually only worry about being sick when they are mortally ill. Anyway women are continually told that Pharmac is conspiring to kill them.

Some wonder drug which can help in limited instances of breast cancer has been pushed to women as their new saviour. Doctors with nothing better to do than push their own barrow are leading the charge for 100% funded Herceptin for all women with the particular form of cancer that Herceptin can assist in.

On the surface that seems fair enough until one discovers that the manufacturers charge over $US100,000 for each course of treatment of Herceptin. Not because it costs anything like that to produce, but because that is how much they can get.

Well just pay the $100,000 is what anyone with a loved one with breast cancer would say. Thing is when the health budget is finite as it is; is it morally acceptable to spend $100,000 on something that might extend a person's life for several more years knowing that money could also be used to pay for several open heart operations, or many other treatments which would give life to more people. In addition accepting the drug manufacturers extortion will guarantee that every other corporation will also ramp up their prices for their sole patent drugs.

The govt attempted a compromise. Herceptin treatment normally runs for 12 months but they uncovered some research which they claim shows nearly as good a success rate with a much shorter treatment period, 9 weeks.

That didn't go down well with the corporate propagandists who rarked up the "Herceptin Heroines" into refusing the shorter treatment thereby endangering their own lives (drug companies will stop at nothing it seems) to demand the full 12 months, which is apparently not affordable.

As I've pointed out before, the amerikan health system's appallingly inefficient and discriminatory structure impacts on everyone else's health system around the world. If amerika did introduce a form of complete health coverage for all citizens, the pharmaceutical corporations would lose their guaranteed 'earner' of unquestioning support for those elites with five star corporate coverage, (probably coverage underwritten by insurance corporations which hold stock in the drug corporates), and have to negotiate with health authorities world wide on a more equal footing. If the various government bodies responsible for public health funding decisions, about this planet stood together, some remarkable changes in healthcare affordability must ensue.

Posted by b on April 18, 2008 at 01:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

April 17, 2008

"Iraqi security forces can take over ..."

U.S. sees Iraqis in control in Baghdad in a year, April 17, 2008
U.S. forces in Baghdad hope to turn over responsibility for security in most of the Iraqi capital to Iraqi forces in about a year, the chief of staff of the American military in the city said.

The remarks by Colonel Allen Batschelet describe a smaller role for the U.S. military in Baghdad after the next U.S. president takes over from George W. Bush in January.

"We anticipate transitioning the majority of Baghdad city into a tactical overwatch by the time of our division's departure in early spring (2009). We believe that is attainable," Batschelet wrote in an e-mail interview with Reuters.

Wait a second. Haven't I read such before? Let's see:

Iraq PM says security forces can take over from U.S., Jul 15, 2007
Iraq will be ready to take over security from U.S. forces "any time" they decide to withdraw, although its police and army still need more training, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in remarks over the weekend
...
"We say with full confidence we are able, God willing, to shoulder the complete responsibility in administering the security portfolio if the international forces withdrew, at any time they wish," he said.

PM Al-Maliki: Iraqi Forces Could Take Over Security in '07, December 01, 2006
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday he believed Iraqi forces would be ready by June 2007 to take full control of security in Iraq, an issue on which he pressed President Bush during their meeting in Amman, Jordan.
...
"I can say that Iraqi forces will be ready, fully ready to receive this command and to command its own forces, and I can tell you that by next June our forces will be ready," al-Maliki said in an interview with ABC News.

Top U.S. general: Iraqis can take over security within 18 months, August 30, 2006
The top U.S. commander in Iraq expressed optimism Wednesday that Iraqi forces are making enough progress to provide their own security within 18 months.
...
Gen. George Casey said Iraqi troops were on course to take over security control from U.S.-led coalition forces, a move that would bring the foreign forces a step closer to withdrawal from the country.

"I don't have a date, but I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country, with very little coalition support," he said.

Iraq president upbeat on security,   August 2, 2006
Iraqi forces will take over the security of the entire country from US-led forces by the end of the year, President Jalal Talabani says.

"Iraqi security forces will gradually take security responsibility by the end of this year for all the provinces of Iraq," he told a news conference.

Iraq 'can take over in 18 months', February 2, 2005
Iraq's security forces could be ready to take over fully from foreign troops within 18 months, the country's interior minister has said.

Falah al-Naqib said he was "confident" that Iraq would be able to handle its own security in that timeframe
...
"I think our security forces will be ready to take care of the security of the country within 18 months," he told the BBC during an interview at the interior ministry in Baghdad.

Maybe I am bit too pessimistic and the Iraqis really will take over from the U.S. occupation. The police at least starts to look really serious now.

Posted by b on April 17, 2008 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

The Problem with Credit Default Swaps

While the mortgage disaster and the credit crunch keep to take their toll, there is another financial crisis building that will one day inevitably explode.

Credit-default-swaps (CDS) were developed to insure banks who gave loans against the risk of the borrower's default.

Bank-A lends 100 million to Company-C and Bank-B lends a 100 million to Company-D. Bank-A then sells Bank-B an insurance for the case of a default by Company-D and Bank-B sells Bank-A an insurance against default of Company C. Both insurances are capped at 50 million.

Now Bank-A and Bank-B have spread their default risk as each no longer depends on the performance of one big loan alone. This is a fine way for lenders to gain a bit of additional security.

But overtime financial players developed financial products that are no longer related directly to A, B, C or D. Player X believes C is more likely to default than D and player Y believes the opposite. They make a private bet with each other and document this in a not standardized contract. Such bets are derivatives of the original credit risk in that they derive their value from the performance of the original loan.

A huge problem arises when the bets on a underlying product are bigger than the original product. Imagine X and Y are betting 200 million on a negative and respectively positive performance of the 100 million loan of Company-C. X now has a huge incentive to pay 100 million or more bribe to Company-C to make it default on its loan. Y has a huge incentive to pay 100 billion or more to prevent the default of the loan Company-C got.

A derivative market that has a higher monetary value than the underlying original assets is likely to manipulate the value of the underlying assets.

William Pfaff points out that this is currently happening in the food market. People who hold billions in derivative bets on higher wheat and soybean prices are also buying the companies that stock grains. They are taking wheat off the physical market to manipulate the price upwards and to profit on their bets while elsewhere people die of hunger. Today such behavior is legal.

But back to credit default swaps. The Financial Times reports that the value of these bets have increased from $34,500 billion at the end of 2006 to $62,200 billion at the end of last year. This is more than the total outstanding credit in this world which is estimated to be some $43,000 billion.

Some start to recognize the problem:

Some credit-default indexes have morphed into what Wachovia Corp. analysts led by Glenn Schultz call "Frankenstein's monster" because they now often drive prices in the so-called cash bond market, rather than the other way around.

A house that is fire insured for multiple times of its value has a higher risk to burn than a house that is insured at less than its value. But the house insurance market is regulated and arson is a criminal act. Both prevents manipulations.

The CDS derivative market is private business with non standardized "over-the-counter" contracts that are registered nowhere but in the books of the contract partners. Nobody knows who holds what risk in these markets and how the player's bets are interrelated.

Not all of these players will play fair and when some start to manipulate the real markets the other players get screwed, go bankrupt and they whole multi-trillion system will come down.

The unwinding of these bets will have effects in the real markets through two mechanisms. Some banks and other investors will have huge losses and go out of business taking others with them. The costs for real loans will swing widely as nobody will be able to assess their real unmanipulated values. That's why Buffett calls derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."

Compared to what will happen in the CDS markets, the losses in subprime mortgages will look like small change.

Posted by b on April 17, 2008 at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

April 16, 2008

Iraq News

Some news from Iraq where the situation is so chaotic now that it is hard to put this in one narrative.

The Associated Press detects differences between U.S. and Iraqi strategies towards al-Sadr. But while the U.S. may use softer words than Maliki, facts on the ground tell a different story.

Fighting continues in Basra and Sadr-City with the U.S. firing missiles from helicopters and drones killing 'criminals'. (When will that tactic migrate to fight 'criminals' in the homeland?)

A company of the Iraqi army sent as cannon fooder in front of U.S. lines in Sadr city simply packed up and left.

Maliki sacked Basra's army and police commanders who both had been appointed in June by his  central government.

Yesterday's bombings in Baquba,  Ramadi and Mosul by the Iraqi resitance seem to have been aimed at police and awakening forces, but also killed and wounded many civilians.

Turkey again bombed PKK positions in the Zagros mountains in north Iraq.

Sadr's movement is the biggest humanitarian aid agency in Iraq.

Two aids of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani were seriously wounded in seperate assassination attempts and another one escaped unharmed.

The State Department threatens to order its diplomats onto Iraq positions where the new imperial embassy building is now ready to recieve them.

Maliki is in Brussels working on deal to sell Iraqi gas to the European Union. Certainly the most important thing for him to do right now.

ADDED:

Badger reports how Maliki and the U.S. by creating 'awakening councils' in Sadr city try to instigate another civil war.

Posted by b on April 16, 2008 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

Haaretz' Editorial Lies

So far I thought of Haaretz as a relatively reasonable Israeli newspaper. I herewith officially change that judgement.

On April 7 2008 Haaretz reported:

Minister of National Infrastructures and former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer sent Iran a warning Monday, saying "an Iranian attack on Israel will lead to a harsh response by Israel that will cause the destruction of the Iranian nation."
Ben-Eliezer: If Iran attacks Israel, we will destroy it

On April 15 2008 Haaretz reported:

Iran's Deputy Chief of Staff Mohammed Rada Ashtiani was quoted earlier by the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr as saying: "If Israel wants to take any action against the Islamic Republic, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe... Our answer to any military attack against Iran will be strong."
...
The Iranian officer's comments came after Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer last week warned Iran that "an Iranian attack on Israel will lead to a harsh response by Israel that will cause the destruction of the Iranian nation."
U.S.: Iranian threats to 'eliminate' Israel justify int'l sanctions

In today's edition, the main Haaretz Editorial is changing the above timeline. Additionally it denies what the Israeli minister Ben-Eliezer explicitly said.

It is therefore impossible to view the statements of Iran's deputy chief of staff, that if Israel attacks Iran then Israel "will be eliminated immediately," as empty rhetoric aimed at prodding National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer to respond with a similar promise. Israel has never threatened to destroy any state, while Iran never refrains from doing so.
Iran is playing with fire

The editorial includes more false claims.

A comment, titled SENSIBLE THINKING, to that editorial from one Sechel in Jerusalem lauds the paper:

I am happy for the return of Haaretz to sensible and rational thought. May you continue with such clear thinking.

Sensible, clear thinking?

Some people in Israel are really beyond any rational thought. To what end?

Posted by b on April 16, 2008 at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 15, 2008

Dean Baker's Dollar Claims

Dean Baker is a supposedly left U.S. economist, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and writer of an American Prospect blog and at the TPM Cafe.

Yesterday he had a column about the value of the U.S. dollar in the Guardian:

Declaring class war

America's two highest-ranking economic officials, Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, effectively declared class war last weekend. While they did not use this term, that is the implication of their stated policy of propping up the dollar.
...
A high dollar makes goods produced in other countries cheaper for people in the US. If the dollar rises by 20% against the currencies of our trading partners, then all the goods that we import from other countries are approximately 20% cheaper for people in the US. In this way, an increase in the value of the dollar by 20% has roughly the same impact on imports as if the US government had a policy of paying a subsidy on imports equal to 20% of the sale price.

The first graph about "propping up the dollar" is nonsense. At the G7 meeting last weekend, the communique made some noise about the "sharp swings in major currencies". Bernanke and Paulson repeated their standard claim of a "strong dollar policy".

But that claim is always made and the actual policy both implement has the effect of lowering the dollar's value. They continuesly hammer China to let the Renmimbi rise, which it does, and keep interest rates lower than they are in other countries, which has the the effect of lessening the dollar value.

Since 2002 the U.S. Dollar index has fallen over 30%. If Baker were right, that move should have created more domestic manufacturing, more blue collar jobs, less imports and higher exports.

But all of that hasn't really happend. Certainly not to the extend as in Baker's simplistic example above.

While U.S. exports have somewhat increased during that last two years, imports have increased even more as the lower dollar led to a significant price rise in oil and gas and food stuff.

There are more counter-examples. While the Euro has steadily increased, Germany posts one export record after the other and unemployment there is decreasing. How does this fit into Baker's model?

Baker also claims a higher dollar is better for the rich than for the poor, i.e. it is "class war". But if a worker has to pay 20% of his income to get to work and to eat, a lower dollar will hurt him more than someone who has a high income and doesn't have to care about gas prices.

Baker has written some very simplistic stuff here and the numbers simply don't support him.

The reasons for a decline in U.S. manufacturing are not the dollar value, but structural policy issues. Those can not be cured by low dollar.

A decreasing dollar value creates inflation. That really hurts the poor and is real "class war."

Posted by b on April 15, 2008 at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

April 14, 2008

The Yoo Play - Which isn't about Yoo

''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Without a Doubt, Ron Susking, NYT, Oct. 14, 2004

Emptywheel dissects a Bush statement and finds:

Bush does not say, "torture is illegal, but we do not torture, therefore we are working with the law." He flips the whole question around, as Yoo did. He basically states that anything the executive does to fulfill its obligation to protect the American people is--because it is done in the name of protecting the American people--within the law. The rationale for these activities--protecting the American people--and not the nature of the activities themselves, is what makes them legal, according to Bush.

She is right and one could rewrite the above quote into:

''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own law. And while you're studying that law -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new laws, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

That's the situation we are at.

The folks at the judical blog Balkinization are tearing at their hair about Yoo's tenure status.

As Glenn aptly expresses, that is not the way to go:

As a country, then, our democratic institutions -- without much outcry -- literally amended the War Crimes Act, retroactively, to declare that those who violated it, those who committed war crimes, would be free from investigation or prosecution. The Abu Ghraib scandal was disclosed in early 2004 and George Bush was re-elected. Accounts of systematic abuse at Guantanamo and elsewhere were known before then as well.

Directing moral outrage uniquely at John Yoo and demanding that he be removed from Berkeley, while highly understandable in one sense, poses the danger that this broader responsibility will be obscured and that real accountability need not take place.

Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that any real accountability will happen. Additionally to the congressional WCA, Bush will give a presidential amnesty to all his aids before he leaves and will not be touched himself by his successor. The people who voted for him will - what?

Bush admitted that he approved the meetings of his principals, chaired by Condi Rice, during which the CIA demonstrated torture techniques and the principals decided on individual combination of these to be administered to this or that Afghan goatherder who was sold for cash by rivaling neighbors or tribes to the U.S. occupiers in Afghanistan.

Nothing will be done about that.

But there are other ways to work with collective guilt.

I am thinking of a play here.

On the stage you see actors in four rooms on two floors.

The lower floor is a ghastly basement, the upper one a quite noble business area.

On the lower floor to the left, a bigger room with prison cells and with prisoners in orange jump suits in various positions and guards in camouflage uniforms - to the right a smaller, sober military office, with a high ranking military officer with lots of decorations sitting behind his desk. There is door between those rooms and constantly soldiers pass back and forth to ask for and report on fulfilled orders. Prisoners under hoods also pass back and forth under guard to receive their judgement by this officer.

On the upper floor to the left there is a smaller presidential office with a President doing daily business - greeting victorious football teams, subaltern congress members and self-serving foreign dignitaries with lot of laughs, silly jokes and smalltalk. To the right the serious principal's conference room. There is door between those too.

There is also a hatch between the lower left dungeon and the upper right conference room.

Additonal to this stage setting of these four rooms there are big TV screen on the left and on the right side of the stage. These constantly play Fox News segments on various missing white, young women.

During the play you will see continuous action in all four rooms. Various kinds of torture in the lower left, sustained military diligence in the lower right, greetings and laughter in the upper left and somber evaluations in the upper right.

But the only sound you will hear is from that upper right conference room. Acting in all other rooms is expressive, but without sound. In the conference room there is serious talk about goatkeeper 451:

CONDI: We need to decide this right now.

RUMMY: Let's just fuck him in the ass 'til he bleads.

TENET: No way! If that is combined with electrocution it really would be dangerous for our own guys. How about screwing his children instead?

The discussion stops and Condi leaves to the left to ask her husband boss. She comes back.

CONDI: Fine with him.

POWELL: Fine with me too - less hair around, more fun.

ASHCROFT: Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.

POWELL: Fuck yourself then.

The hatch opens and a cloaked person comes up the ladder from the lower level.

AGENT: Do we really have approval to rip nails and kidneys simultaneously?

TENET: I'm not sure how that will eventually play on TV.

Agent pulls out a tape

AGENT: May I show you?

RICE: The boss thinks it's a fine combination and he already said so last week. Why do you bother us again on this. Just get it done.

AGENT: Okay.

RICE: Leave that tape here. Dick really enjoys these.

Cloaked person goes down, steps into the military office and passes the order to the officer. On the lower floor things get done - in silence.

...

You'll get my drift - someone please write this play - 90 minutes of principals discussing torture - Billmon? r'giap? - I can't.

The barman just opened another bottle for me ... where is Brecht when you need him ...

Posted by b on April 14, 2008 at 05:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Elections in Nepal

The Maoist party, a "terrorist" organization according to the U.S. State Department, has won the Nepalese election for a constituent assembly. The competing Communist party (Marxist-Leninist) nearly came in second.

The Carter Center says the election were "well executed" and essentially free and fair.

For a Nepalese view you might want to check United we blog!. A recent piece there analyses the election and it is interesting to compare this to the U.S. situation:

Maoists are winning the election. There are various reasons for that. The most prominent reason is people’s need for a change. They want something different. They have tried congress and they have tried UML. They haven’t done much to people’s aspiration. They now want someone new in the place. And they have found perfect alternatives to those. They have found a party with whom they could relate to. They have found a party who talks about change and who promises them what they want. The second reason for the Maoists win is the new generation of the voters. It’s been long since we voted. And many of us were children in last election. Many of us are voting for the first time. The EC estimates nearly 35 percent of the population to be first time voter in this election. And this population swung the elections. The youths have stood for a change. And they have voted for a change. This has swung the pendulum towards Maoists win.

The Maoists will abandon the kingdom and establish a democratic republic. The economic model will be a kind of socialist democracy, not a neo-liberal free market model.

For various reasons neither the U.S., nor India will like this outcome.

How long will it take to declare this a threat to American interests and for some intervention to happen?

Posted by b on April 14, 2008 at 07:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

April 13, 2008

OT 08-15

MoA lives off comments and is hungry.

So please add your news, views and opinions ...

Thanks!

Posted by b on April 13, 2008 at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

Speechless

I am amazed how people like Fred Hiatt are able to believe their phantastic, self-created reality.

Threaded through the reports of progress in Iraq by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker last week was the story of a larger failure: the inability of the United States and its allies to contain the growing aggressiveness of Iran.
...
The proxy war in Iraq is just one front in a much larger Iranian offensive.
...
In theory, a popular backlash against Iran's military adventurism could be nurtured across the Middle East.
...
It nevertheless is inevitable that Iran's proxies in Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon will have to be countered in part by military force, while diplomatic and economic pressure aimed at stopping Tehran's nuclear program is stepped up. Some observers interpreted the report of Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker as calculated to provide yet another excuse for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq. In fact, these two seasoned professionals were pointing at a growing menace that the Bush administration, and its successor, cannot afford to ignore.

This leaves me speechless.

Posted by b on April 13, 2008 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Progress on Iraq Acceptance

Written here in April 2007:

Different parts of the U.S. public are in various phases of grief about the lost war.

The hard-core believers are still in the denial phase. Moderate Republicans have proceeded to anger. The Democrats are in the bargaining phase. The pro-war left realm is in depression and the anti-war people have long accepted the loss.

Like with the war on Vietnam, it will take years until a majority will have finished the grieving process and accept the loss. Only after that happened will the last GI leave Iraq. Only then will the Iraqi people be able to find their solution for peace.

Frank Rich writes today:

This war has lasted so long that Americans, even the bad apples of Abu Ghraib interviewed by Mr. Morris, have had the time to pass through all five of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief over its implosion. Though dead-enders like Mr. McCain may have only gone from denial to anger to bargaining, most others have moved on to depression and acceptance. Unable to even look at the fiasco anymore, the nation is now just waiting for someone to administer the last rites.

It seems like there has been some real progress on Iraq.

Posted by b on April 13, 2008 at 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

April 12, 2008

Water Consumption in NYC

Atrios linked a NYT story about a broken underground aquifier which supplies New York. Since the 1980s it is known that the aquifier has at least two big leaks and the city only now start to look into repair options.

While researching a bit around this I found a press release of the NYC environmental protection department about the aquifer repair. It claims:

New York City's water supply system provides 1.2 billion gallons of water daily to approximately nine million people in New York City, as well as a number of communities in Orange, Putnam, Ulster, and Westchester counties.

Let's make this easy and calculate with 10 million people. Then consumption per person per day is 120 gallons.

I find that number incredibly high. This of course includes industrial consumption, but I am not aware of huge industries in NYC that consume immense amounts of waters like for example paper mills.

Researching further a NYT piece from 2006 came up. It speaks of a laudible 28% decrease of NYC consumption since 1979. But it reports current consumption per person per day in New York City as 137 gallons.

For comparison I checked the 2006 year-end report (pdf-english) of the water authority here in Hamburg, Germany. It supplies 2 million inhabitants.

According to the report consumption per person per day in 2006 was 29 gallons (= 110 liters) and this includes industry and trade. According to the longer German version (pdf) of the same report water usage is on a downtrend. In 1996 people used 33.8 gallons (= 128 liters) per day.

Personally I find these numbers still too high and try to use less. India, as an extreme though probably not comparable example, has a consumption of some 6.6 gallon per person per day.

But the industrialization and standard of living in Hamburg and NYC are quite compareable. I understand that summer in NYC are hotter than in Hamburg, but a 4+ times higher consumption per head seems incredibly high.

What are these people doing with their water?

Posted by b on April 12, 2008 at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

"Show her the new centrifuges."

UPDATED below (even better pictures)
---

Rice said she could not verify "one way or another" what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had said this week about apparent advances in Tehran's nuclear program.
New Iran incentives, sanctions unlikely now -Rice, April 11, 2008

The Iranian President heard of Rice's dilemma and said: "Show her the new centrifuges."

Via Jeffrey Lewis:

[T]he Office of Iran’s President released almost fifty photographs of Ahmadinejad hanging out among centrifuges, including a couple of shots of him cradling a carbon fiber rotor casing for the IR-2.
...
[T]he pictures are available on on the
Iranian President’s website.

In case you want direct links, the images are:

http://www.president.ir/piri/media/mid/28832.jpg
through
http://www.president.ir/piri/media/mid/28881.jpg

IR-2s are the new generation of Uranium enrichment centrifuges with carbon-fiber rotors (the black cylinder above) Iran has announced to install.

Nice PR coup ...

UPDATE:

Just chatted with Ahmadinejad and lamented that these pictures are only low resolution and too small. He told me to use the URLs:

http://www.president.ir/piri/media/main/28832.jpg
through
http://www.president.ir/piri/media/main/28881.jpg

to get the high resolution, full format pictures. They load a bit slower though.

Here are the best shots in low res:

But yes, Ms. Secretary, it's all very secretive stuff Iran is doing.  This guy is laughing about you.

Posted by b on April 12, 2008 at 06:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Re-orientation of the anti-Iran Campaign

After the recent Iran NIE said that Iran currently doesn't persue nuclear weapons, a new reasoning was needed for a possible bombing campaign.

On April 5 and 6 planted exaggerated previews of the Crocker/Petraeus testimony were published in the British press pointing out that they would see Iranian 'interference' in Iraq.

In a little noticed interview with Al-Maliki last Sunday, CNN 's Nic Robertson tried several times to get Maliki on the record about "special groups who are getting weapons from Iran". Maliki didn't take the bait and only spoke of "criminal gangs who receive funding from beyond the borders."

Maliki, by the way, came out against the pause in U.S. troop reduction:

ROBERTSON: They are considering a pause, maybe weeks or months to examine when they should pull all American troops out. What do you want the U.S. to do? Should there be a pause in the drawdown? Do you want it to be weeks? Do you want it to be months?

AL-MALIKI: [...] I believe the American forces can draw down. I don't believe the decision for a drawdown should be paused as long as Iraqi security forces -- based on the first agreement the more Iraqi forces move forward, the more U.S. forces move back until all security responsibilities are handed over and coalition forces remain in a support role. And in a support role, you don't need such a big number.

Did someone in Congress notice this?

The hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday were a bit less offensive against Iran than what was previewed but included the new boogyman of "Iran backed special groups." On talkradio Bennet, Kristol and Lieberman mused about "Bush going to take action" against Iran.

On Thurday Dick Cheney was on two rightwing radioshows, Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt, and babbled about the 12th Iman and apocalyptic Iranian leadership.

Also on Thursday Bush lumped Iran with Al-Qaeda as "two of the greatest threats to America in this new century".

Page A1 pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times today focus on Iran as a "top threat to Iraq".

Both report of yesterday's press conference with Sec.Def. Gates and Adm. Mullen and additional interviews with Crocker. All accuse Iran of fighting a proxy war in Iraq against the U.S., giving weapons to Iraqi groups and eating little children.

Also on Friday Rice called for more sanctions on Iran and Bush in an ABC interview again threatened Iran:

"The message to the Iranians is: we will bring you to justice if you continue to try to infiltrate, send your agents or send surrogates to bring harm to our troops and/or the Iraqi citizens," he said.

So this week was a full blown campaign of official hate speech against Iran.

Was this drumbeating simply to justify the U.S. troop level in Iraq?

To me this looks like more.

This week's campaign was that re-orientation of the "bomb Iran" argument away from the "nuclear threat" and towards the "threat" of Iran's role in Iraq.

I still doubt that the public will fall for it, but the force of this week's campaign was quite impressive.

Posted by b on April 12, 2008 at 04:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

April 11, 2008

Some still buy Moddy's rated crap-bonds

The Wall Street Journal, via Big Picture, writes about one of the three rating agencies that helped bankers sell bundled crap as triple-A rated valuable bonds. Another piece explains that this scheme is still working and how a big investor is stills buying such crap with your money.

The rating:

[Moody's, a] firm once known for a bookish culture began to focus on the market share that affected its own revenue and profit. The rating firm became willing, on occasion, to switch analysts if clients complained. An executive overseeing mortgage ratings went skydiving with a client. By the height of the mortgage-securities frenzy in 2006, Moody's had pulled even with its largest competitor, rating nine out of every 10 dollars raised in these instruments. It gave many of the bonds its coveted triple-A rating.
...
Investors, many of whom relied on ratings to signal which securities were safe to buy, have lost more than $100 billion in market value. The credibility of the ratings system is in tatters as new downgrades of mortgage securities come almost weekly.

Moody's, Standard & Poor and Fitch essentially took bribes from investment banks. They rated bonds issued by the big bank's shady off-balance-sheet vehicles much higher than they deserved to be rated.

A lot of pension funds now own such misrated bonds and are losing money on them.

So one should think that by now no one will trusts those ratings anymore. Not so.

There are still banks out there who try this three card monte trick and they even find investors who fall for the scheme. One of these people goes buy the name of Ben Bernanke and acts, somewhat, on behalf of the people.

Reuters reading from another WSJ piece:

According to the Journal, Lehman [Brothers Holdings Inc] transferred $2.8 billion in loans that included some risky leveraged buyout debt into a new investment entity called Freedom.

Freedom then issued debt securities backed by the loans, and $2.26 billion of the securities got investment-grade credit rankings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, according to the report.

The bank used some of those securities as collateral for a low-interest, short-term cash loan from the Federal Reserve, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

When the Fed makes profits, as it usually does, most of those go to the government and help to pay for the general budget. When one day the Fed will make a big loss on one of these loans backed by crap-bond collateral, it will send less profit to the government and higher taxes will have to make up for the difference.

Ben Bernanke will then explain to Congress that it was impossible to know that a triple-A rated bond could be worth less than its face value. "Who could have known that Moody's ..."

Posted by b on April 11, 2008 at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Art: To Witness

by anna missed



to witness

by anna missed

oil paint on wood
21" x 21" x 2"
bigger - - - detail

Posted by b on April 11, 2008 at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

April 10, 2008

Colonial Suffocation - No Energy for Gaza

Yesterday four Palestinians from the totally blockaded Gaza strip undertook a desperate mission.

They slid through the border to Israel and infiltrated a fuel depot under Israeli control, the sole source for energy for 1.4 million people in the strip. They killed two Israelis and in the following "revenge" the Israel army killed eight Palestinians.

I believe the Palestinians were wrong to do so. But the Israeli reaction, as seen below, is worse.

Three Palestinian organisations have announced that they took part in this. Hamas, who won the last Palestinian election but were shunted from power by the U.S./Israeli puppet Abbas, was not part of this attack.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, along with a group linked to the Al-Aqsa Brigades. A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees said that members of three groups, not including Hamas, infiltrated the crossing.

Still Israel announced that it will try to internationally blame Hamas as responsible for the raid.

Israel will launch a diplomatic offensive with the United Nations and international aid organizations to emphasize that Hamas is responsible for the cross-border raid which killed two Israeli civilians on Wednesday and the consequent humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The fuel in the depot, though sitting on Israeli land (why isn't there an accessible port in the 'unoccupied' Gaza?), is solely for Gaza and payed for by the EU.

The infiltration occurred after the latest delivery of fuel funded by the European Union, Western diplomats said.

After the attack Israel first promised to keep the already much reduced fuel supply to Gaza going for "humanitarian reasons".

Israel said it would hold Hamas responsible for Wednesday's attack because it is in charge of the Gaza Strip but would not cut off the fuel supply to residents there. "The policy is to continue to bring humanitarian supplies to Gaza," Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said.
...
All cooking gas and oil, heavy diesel fuel and gasoline provided to the Gaza Strip go through the Nahal Oz crossing by a series of undergrounds pipes.

But obviously Israeli official words are just that. Now it has cut off all supplies.

Israel cut off the only source of fuel to Gaza's 1.4 million people Thursday after a deadly Palestinian raid on the Israeli depot, deepening the seaside territory's hardship.

Israel, in its colonial expansion, daily kills Palestinians who resist the occupation and annexation of their land.

More so, it is collectively punishing all Palestinian people, be they old or young, for the doings of those who resist to the stealing of their land. There are people in Gazan hospitals who will die tonight because their hospitals lack gaz for their generators.

There are kids dying from not cooked waste water they'll have to drink.

The Israeli blockade of fuel for Gaza is a "war crime" with all consequences included in that term.

Posted by b on April 10, 2008 at 04:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Insurgency in Egypt?

There were local "elections" in Egypt this week with a very low turnout and today was the third day of demonstrations and riots with 56 people wounded in fights with the police.

This could escalate and have serious consequences for the Mubarak regime and its U.S. backers.

The demonstrations are against high food prices, lack of subsidized bread and low wages.

But the real reason behind these is political disenfranchisement. The Muslim Brotherhood and other parties were not allowed to put their candidates on the ballots, instead many were put into prison.

The MB had sought to run some 6,000 candidates in the elections slated to fill some 52,000 posts in local administration throughout the country. The regime placed many kinds of obstacles in their way-- including deploying security forces to forbid entry to the places where candidates needed to register, and widespread campaigns of arrest without trial and other forms of intimidation. In the end, only 20 of the MB's 6,000 chosen candidates were able to make it onto the electoral list, at all.

The Muslim Brotherhood finally called for an election boycott.

Like Hamas, Hizbullah and Sadr's movement, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic social organisation with its constituency in the poor masses. So far it did not call for violence. But with the political way blocked, at least some of its people will try a different course.

Egypt is not a poor state. It exports natural gas, now even to Israel, but the money it gains is not used to alleviate the life of the poor. The gas and oil is produced under production sharing agreements leaving much of the $14 billion in export revenue with western companies and the rest in the hands of a patronage system.

Mubarak, the U.S. backed dictator, is preparing to lift his son Gamal onto the throne.

Will he have time enough to do so?

Maybe not. To me this looks like people are about ready to take him down. The strategic consequences of a rebellion or insurgency in Egypt would be huge.

Video via Abu Muqawama

Posted by b on April 10, 2008 at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Monsters in Congress - "Skin in the Game"

"We've put about $45 billion into Iraq's reconstruction . . . and they have not spent their own resources," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). "They have got to have some skin in the game."
link

So this is a game? Over a million Iraqis dead, 4-5 million refugees? How much skin does Rahm think Iraqis should put up for his war? Does he wish more Iraqi children to die?

According to the United Nations — citing reports from Iraq's southern province of Qadissiyah — 275 children have been struck with leishmaniasis, which is spread by sand flies. Most have a form that causes skin sores, but others have a type that strikes internal organs and can be fatal.
...
Though the disease was first identified in Iraq more than a century ago, outbreaks were rare during Saddam Hussein's regime. But since the conflict began, experts say the destroyed health system has opened the way for diseases lurking in the environment.
Skin disease strikes Iraqi children

Now the U.S. Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, want Iraqi's to pay for the bullets that kill them. 

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) met yesterday to craft a bipartisan bill to make Iraq take on a greater share of the financial burden. Under their plan, any future U.S. money for reconstruction would take the form of a loan to be repaid, and Baghdad would have to pay for fuel used by U.S. troops and for the training of its own security forces, and make payments to the predominantly Sunni fighters in the Awakening movement taking on al-Qaeda.
...
Even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the staunchest war supporters and a key ally of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, agreed that Bush made a mistake by not making Iraqis repay U.S. costs from the start. "The best thing we can do for the people of Iraq is to make them a stakeholder in their own country," he said.
link

Iraqis have tobe made "stakeholder in their own country"? Then who owns their country right now Mr. Graham?

These people are monsters.

Posted by b on April 10, 2008 at 05:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

Ms. Kaltenbrunner Personally Approved Torture

ABCnews: Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.
...
A new senior official in the Justice Department, Jack Goldsmith, withdrew the legal memo -- the Golden Shield -- that authorized the program.

But the CIA had captured a new al Qaeda suspect in Asia. Sources said CIA officials that summer returned to the Principals Committee for approval to continue using certain "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Then-National Security Advisor Rice, sources said, was decisive. Despite growing policy concerns -- shared by Powell -- that the program was harming the image of the United States abroad, sources say she did not back down, telling the CIA: "This is your baby. Go do it."

So Ms. Kaltenbrunner herself ordered to torture even after the pseudo-legality had been retracted.

What is she going to tell the foreign court that might ask her about it?

"So?"

That answer might not be sufficiant.

Posted by b on April 10, 2008 at 03:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

April 09, 2008

"Iran backed special groups" - Maliki and Ahmedinejad

Pat Lang on the pimp hearings:

Then, there are the "special groups." These two words are being used to conjure up direct Iranian responsibility for our remaining difficulties in Iraq. We seem to be expected to believe that were it not for the Iranians all would be well in Iraq.

The endless repetition of these two propaganda "themes;"

  • Maliki's legitimacy above all other contenders
  • direct Iranian intervention as the cause of Shia infighting,

have been the music of the Petraeus/Crocker show before Congress.

Hmm - is that correct?

Petraeus/Crocker talk about "Iran backed special groups" when they speak of people who resist a U.S. owned Iraqi puppet government and who subordinate themselves to al-Sadr. They depict such resistance as "direct Iranian intervention as the cause of Shia infighting," implying that these al-Sadr groups are supported by Iran.

But there also could be something different meaning in their testimony.

What if the Iraqi government is not a U.S. owned puppet but has the same allegiance to Iran? Or what if Iran and the U.S. are pulling on the same strings? (Petraeus/Crocker would know this.) Still a claim of "direct Iranian intervention as the cause of Shia infighting" would be true as Iran possibly gave orders to Maliki to stamp down on al-Sadr's movement.

That's unthinkable? Why?

As a probably unneeded service to MoA regulars I'll add some dissonant visual notes to the current propaganda music.

Also recommended: Pat Cockburn on al-Sadr

Posted by b on April 9, 2008 at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Clumsy Euro-bashing

Seven month ago some Forbes scribes wrote a piece headlined Airbus' A380: Millstone, Not 'Milestone'

Delivery delays for the A380 started to pile up in mid-2005, as Airbus blamed wiring installation problems. Skeptical commentators, however, pointed to larger design issues like weight. Customers, including Qantas and Emirates, saw the delivery date slip from six months behind schedule to a year-and-a-half.

Worse, EADS' clumsy Franco-German dual management structure mishandled the entire situation, only announcing the full extent of the delays in June 2006.

Now I am waiting for that dude's comment on this:

April 9 (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co., the world's second- largest commercial aircraft maker, delayed delivery of the 787 Dreamliner until the third quarter of 2009, the third time in six months the aircraft has been postponed.

The revised delivery target, announced by Chicago-based Boeing today in a statement, puts the Dreamliner at least 14 months behind its original schedule of May 2008.

Will it include a sniding remark about "Boeing's clumsy American management structure"?

Posted by b on April 9, 2008 at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Style-less-ness is also a Recognizable Style

by DeAnander
lifted from a comment

Kunstler talks about "freeway architecture"-- buildings like giant cartoons, designed to be perceived as a stylistic gesture out of the corner of an eye while flashing by at 65 mph.

Recently a friend and I were driving through the outback of inland British Columbia on our way to Quesnel and frothing a little at the hideous trophy homes springing in in random places along the highway. We mulled over for many miles just what it was that was so depressing about this buildings.

First, we decided, there's the deliberate clearcutting of every tree and shrub on the lot to make it "more efficient" to build a big house (i.e the builders can be as stupid and brutal as they wish with vehicles, as the acreage around the house has been reduced to bare dirt or gravel). But there was something more than that, something more disturbing than just an absence of trees.

Finally it clicked for me. These trophy homes look commercial -- that is, they look like commercial architecture. they look like steak houses, they look like Borders bookstores, they look like an upscale Starbucks in a resort community, they look like the central atrium of a ski lodge, like a yuppie Western-wear emporium, like some kind of fakey "Mom's cookin'" restaurant in an upmarket mall. These homes look like shopping mall architecture. They are designed in mimicry of the "freeway style"... slightly smaller in scale, but the style is faithfully copied.

And this in turn made me think how the architecture of rich people's houses always mimics their concept of power. When knights in armour ruled the land in recent memory, great houses of the wealthy were designed to imitate castles, which were originally armed fortifications. When the power of the Church ruled the land, rich people's houses had stained glass windows, dark soothing wood work and vaulted ceilings. When industrial artificers were the dominant class, rich people's houses became "art deco industrial" with a lot of brushed stainless, plain "functional" decor like an idealised locomotive, "rationalised" design. And now, corporate franchise barons rule the world and rich people's houses look like franchise outlets.

Or so it seemed to me, as the truck rolled on into twilight and the thinning edge of the great boreal forest, ravaged by pine beetle and trophy home developers (mange on two different scales, reflections of the same Wetiko culture).

And speaking of which

Taiga, taiga, turning brown,
beetle-eaten, burning down:
no jet flight or SUV
is worth this slo-mo tragedy.

Posted by b on April 9, 2008 at 06:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

 
Site Meter