Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 30, 2009

Churchill Did Not Torture?

"When London was being bombed to smithereens, (the British) had 200 or so detainees and Churchill said, 'we don't torture'," Mr Obama told a press conference to mark 100 days since he became US president.

"The reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts and, over time, that corrodes what's best in people. It corrodes the best of the country."
'We don't torture': Obama invokes Churchill, April 30 2009

"We don't torture," is what George W. Bush also said. But Churchill or Bush saying something does not make it true:

Prisoners complained thumbscrews and "shin screws" were employed at the prison and Dr Jordan's report highlighted the small, round scars that he had seen on the legs of two men, "which were said to be the result of the use of some instrument to facilitate questioning". One of these men was Hans Habermann, a 43-year-old disabled German Jew who had survived three years in Buchenwald concentration camp.

All of these men had been held at Bad Nenndorf, a small, once-elegant spa resort near Hanover. Here, an organisation called the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (CSDIC) ran a secret prison following the British occupation of north-west Germany in 1945.

CSDIC, a division of the War Office, operated interrogation centres around the world, including one known as the London Cage, located in one of London's most exclusive neighbourhoods. Official documents discovered last month at the National Archives at Kew, south-west London, show that the London Cage was a secret torture centre where German prisoners who had been concealed from the Red Cross were beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with execution or with unnecessary surgery.
...
The inmates were starved, woken during the night, and forced to walk up and down their cells from early morning until late at night. When moving about the prison they were expected to run, while soldiers kicked them.

The Brits covered up the whole story and after a secret formal trial let the perpetrators get away with it:

The appalling treatment of the 372 men and 44 women who were interrogated at Bad Nenndorf between 1945 and 1947 are detailed in a report by a Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Tom Hayward. He had been called in by senior army officers to investigate the mistreatment of inmates, partly as a result of the evidence provided by these photographs.
...
Four British officers were court martialled after Hayward's investigation. Declassified documents show that the hearings were held largely behind closed doors to prevent the Soviets from discovering that Russians were being detained.

Another consideration was admitted to be the determination to conceal the existence of several other CSDIC prisons.
...
The only officer at Bad Nenndorf to be convicted was the prison doctor. At the age of 49, his sentence was to be dismissed from the army. The commanding officer, Colonel Robin Stephens, was cleared of a charge of "disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind" and told he was free to apply to rejoin his former employers at MI5.

It seems that Obama wants to follow the Brits in this like he claims to follow Churchill. He wants to take the "shortcut" he is warning against.

Cover up where else and who else the CIA and the military tortured. Don't let people come in front of a court, but if one must, let them get off free to be available for the next round.

And be assured. The next round will come if these criminals do not get the punishment they deserve.

Posted by b on April 30, 2009 at 01:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Links April 30 09

  • Billmon on Texas - Second Thoughts, or Rebellion Reconsidered - (Daily Kos)
  • How the NSC runs everything - Obama's Chess Masters - (Rolling Stone)
  • More on Obama's NSC and Foreign Policy - A Thousand Envoys Bloom - (National Interest)
  • Okay. Now prosecute the culprits - Obama: 'I believe waterboarding was torture - (Guardian)
  • Poodle does as master says - Gordon Brown: 700 more troops for Afghanistan - (Telegraph)
  • Another poodle - Australia boosts troop and financial assistance to Afghanistan - (Radio Australia)
  • Theory - Policy in Afghanistan - (Pat Lang)
  • Practice - Behind Closed Doors COIN Chatter on Afghanistan - (Ghost of Alexander)

  • Swine flu panic - WHO raises pandemic alert level - (BBC)
  • It's antisemitic! - Israeli official: Swine flu name offensive - (AP)
  • Chutzpah - Israel warns EU to stop criticizing Netanyahu government - (Haaretz)
  • Economists change course - The Last Temptation of Risk - (National Interest)
  • Game of chicken - Chrysler Bankruptcy Looms as Deal on Debt Falters - (NYT)
  • In bailing out banks - The Importance of Battlefield Nuclear Weapons - (Baseline Scenario)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 30, 2009 at 02:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

April 29, 2009

Stealing Pakistan's Nukes

The recent "Pakistan is a failed state" meme, heavily promoted by the Obama administration and its friends, had some of the intended results.

Pakistan's army is bombing and shelling some places in Lower Dir and Buner where the huge and fearsome TALIBOTHRA made an attempt to replace the hapless local government. The army will waste a lot of ammunition, many civilians and a few Pashtun fighters who never posed a real threat to Pakistan's Punjabi majority and the central government. After some fighting and reporting of big enemies-killed numbers to the U.S. the central government will agree to another deal with the locals there.

But the "failed state" meme certainly had an additional effect, likely unintended, to increase the believability of anti-U.S. conspiracy theories.

Yesterday the upper house of Pakistan's parliament discussed the current political situation:

PML-N Senator Raja Zafar-ul-Haq while taking part in the debate said that an anti-Pakistan environment was being created in the world with an impression that the nuclear assets were not in safe hands and that the country is an irresponsible state to pave way for depriving Pakistan from its nuclear assets. “A situation is being created so as to find an excuse to take control of the nuclear assets of the country”, the Senator said, adding that US had also said that Pakistan could be deprived of the nuclear programme if the situation worsened.

Zafar-ul-Haq is leader of the PML-N, the main-opposition party, not a backbencher. The fear of a U.S./Indian plot to get hands on Pakistan's (and Saudi Arabia's) nukes now seems to be a well established thought in Pakistan and certainly not without reason.

I am still unconvinced that it is the real intent behind the recent scare mongering. But who knows? The U.S. military certainly has plans for an 'emergency rescue' of Pakistan's nukes. But the chance of such an operation to be successful, even with some inside help, seems slim to me. Whether successful or not, the consequences would be huge, deadly and not restricted to Pakistan.

Let's hope that Obama does not fall for funny ideas over this issue.

Posted by b on April 29, 2009 at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Poem

by Lizard
lifted from a comment

when realizations come too late
irreversible damage, broken minds
electrical currents cooking testicles
but when the market dives, eyes get wet w/ tears

they feed us fears and supple nymphs
couched in spacey, wooden wombs
mesmerized by insatiable streams
of capital’s poisonous blooms

all within share torture’s sin
to kill a man five times a day
we welcome a shift to dirty swine
because there’s nothing we can say

nothing softens evil’s hand
or slows its dark, methodic hold
and nothing will be what is left
when sadism’s so easily sold

Posted by b on April 29, 2009 at 02:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Links April 29 09

  • Stephen Walt on Netanyahu - The treason of the hawks - (Stephen Walt)
  • Still a mystery - State of play in the Harman case - (The Cable)
  • Now keep 'em down - The great crash of the "Chicago school" of economics - (Salon)
  • Yves on secondary mortgage 'relief' - Yet Another Program to Enrich Banks at Taxpayer and Borrower Expense - (Naked Capitalism)
  • Industrial pigsty - The swine flu crisis lays bare the meat industry's monstrous power - (Guardian)
  • How yield expanded - Six Stylized Facts About U.S. Agricultural Subsidies - (Greed Green Grains)
  • Why some names sound 'Jewish' - German Surnames - Last Names - (About)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 29, 2009 at 02:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

April 28, 2009

Specter Changing Sides

Sen Arlen Specter switches his party affiliation. That is good for some stuff on the Democratic agenda as it will give them, as soon as Al Franken is seated, a filibuster safe super majority.

Good for Specter too who would otherwise have lost the Republican primary in Pennsylvania. He has good chances to win as a Democrat. Obama says Specter has his "full support."

One wonders how this switch was influenced or will influence his recent initiative to roll back presidential power grabs:

First, I intend to introduce legislation that will mandate Supreme Court review of lower court decisions in suits brought by the ACLU and others that challenge the constitutionality of the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by President Bush after September 11.
...
Second, I will reintroduce legislation to keep the courts open to suits filed against several major telephone companies that allegedly facilitated the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.
...
Further, I will reintroduce my legislation from 2006 and 2007 (the "Presidential Signing Statements Act") to prohibit courts from relying on, or deferring to, presidential signing statements when determining the meaning of any Act of Congress.

All three positions are to the 'left' of the blue dog democrats and possibly to the 'left' of Obama too. Especially the signing statements act is inconvenient for any president.

Has Specter Obama's "full support" on this legislation agenda or will Specter sell out on these quite important issues to get a friendly welcome in the Democratic caucus?

Posted by b on April 28, 2009 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Ships Changing In Name Only

Ships from the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) are regular guests in Hamburg harbor. But recently their seem to be some changes. While all the IRISL ships used to have those letters written on their gray sides, they are now painted black and the letters are gone. Many of these ships also changed their names.

These three are one and the same ship:


Iran Seestan (bigger)


Sea Flower (bigger)


Limnetic (bigger)

Iran Seestan (IMO 9167289), found here, with the homeport of Bandar Iman Khomeini was renamed Sea Flower and re-registered in Valletta, Malta. It was again renamed to Limnetic also registered in Malta.

The reason are U.S. sanctions against Iran. By renaming the ships and formally changing owner and homeport IRSIL tries to evade them. In total 154 of Iran's ships have recently been renamed at least once.

Does this simple trick work or is this as stupid as selling Chinese fruits in Iran under an Israeli brand name?

For now it does. The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has designated these ships on its Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN). The most current one from April 20 lists the Sea Flower but not the Limnetic.

So everyone is free to do business with that ship.

This game of cat and mouse can continue endlessly without any result. That is why Senator Joe Lieberman (Likud, Israel) wants to launch additional sanctions:

Specifically, our bill will amend the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act to allow the President to sanction foreign companies that are involved in the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, or that provide insurance or shipping for the delivery of these products to Iran, or that assist Iran in maintaining its own refineries.

Those companies to sanction would be the Swiss Vitol, the French Total and British Petroleum as well as Lloyds London and others. They certainly will make some noise against such hubris and if those sanctions are really to happen will arrange ways around them.

Not only lunatics like Lieberman, Bayh and Kyl have signed on to that new sanctions bill. So called 'liberals' like Chuck Schumer and Russ Feingold are also on board and Sec State Hillary Clinton talks about 'crippling sanctions'.

Where again is the change promised during the election campaign?

Like those Iranian ships U.S. policies have only changed in color and in name. The U.S. ship of state is still the same and is still sailing in the same direction.

Posted by b on April 28, 2009 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Links April 28 09

  • Canadian sadism cover-up - Military police failed to carry out obligations to detainees, probe finds - (Globe&Mail)
  • Or little Eichmans? - Naomi Wolf: - We are all torturers in America - (Guardian)
  • Obama the neocon - The New American Century Has Not Been Cancelled - (Newshoggers)
  • Real or fake? - The pirate king of Somalia - (Globe&Mail)
  • Unlike Helena, I think China Hand is wrong with his analysis of Pakistan. More later ...
  • 'Get your hands off my country' - Polish pianist stops show with anti-US tirade - (Guardian)
  • Dangerous 'defense' pork - U.S. Plans Attack and Defense in Cyberspace Warfare - (NYT)
  • Because 'they are honest' - Disgruntled Japanese turn to resurgent communists - (Guardian)
  • Slow recognition - Are CDS a good thing? - (Salmon/Reuters)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 28, 2009 at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

April 27, 2009

Overdone Flu Panic

All this news about the 'pandemic' swine flu seems overdone. But it is of cause a pretty sensational issue that has the benefit to distract from the U.S. torture debate.

A good update on the real situation can be glanced through this twitter feed.

There seems to have been an outbreak in early April in a small town in Mexico which resulted in some 20+ confirmed and 140+ suspected flu death. These seem to have been primary infections - i.e. people near huge factory pig farms in La Gloria, Veracruz State caught this first. So far only 10% of the 1,300+ total infected in Mexico died.

It is not astonishing at all that a virus transfer from pigs to humans could happen. Pigs and humans have  very similar organisms. All conspiracy theories around this have so far no factual ground.

The virus seems to be able to transfer from man to man too but probably in a less severe form. There have only been few death cases yet outside of Mexico and the total non-Mexican infections are in the lower dozens. In this globalized world a real pandemic outbreak would likely ramp up faster.

There are wide ranging estimates of 'normal' U.S. death through flu per year from a few hundred up to 60,000. This because a flu is often the 'last drop in the bucket' that kills a person with already severe medical conditions. Therefor the total numbers from Mexico and elsewhere may turn out to be just be a statistical irrelevant blip. Certainly not every death of people who had the virus in the blood stream was caused by that.

We do not yet know how well those people who died in Mexico were before the flu infection caught up with them and how well the medical care was they got - if any. But it is likely that they were already in relative weakened state and had little care.

For all the above reasons it is very unlikely that this will turn out to be a re-run of the 1918 flue pandemic. Today we know much more about virus infections and how to fight them. We know much more about epidemics. Even if this would be a serious one, which I doubt very much, I am confident that we could handle a real one pretty well.

Now lets get back to the real issues. Why again did the U.S. torture people?

Posted by b on April 27, 2009 at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)

Bring Out Your Dead

picture by beq

Bring Out Your Dead
by beq
beq
Click on image to enlarge (120k)
Click here for an uncropped image (220k)

---

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

---

Advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.
"Rebuilding America's Defenses" - The September 2000 PNAC Report (PDF)

---
Note: this is a re-run of a November 2004 post

Posted by b on April 27, 2009 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Links April 27 09

  • Industrial pork - Swine-flu outbreak linked to Smithfield factory farms - (Grist)
  • No intention to leave - Exceptions Are Proposed to Deadline of Pullout From Iraq Cities - (NYT)
  • Sadism: We don't care of 'results' - CIA reportedly declined to closely evaluate harsh interrogations - (LAT)
  • WTF - Appeals court rules Gitmo detainees are not 'persons' - (Raw Story)
  • Demanding a Palestinian state = Anti-semitism - Why should they get a state? - (Ynet via FLC)
  • Cohen: West Bank "a primer on colonialism" - Clinton’s Mideast Pirouette - (NYT)
  • Likely nonsense - 'Iranian arms ship destroyed near Sudan' - (JPost)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 27, 2009 at 01:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

April 26, 2009

How U.S. Torture Came To Iraq

According to the Taguba report torture by military units in Iraq was implemented after the Gitmo commander General Miller visited Iraq in August/September 2003 and recommended that the military police should be used in setting the conditions for intelligence exploitation of the prisoners. The pictures from Abu Ghraib were the result of that visit.

But that was certainly not the first implementation of torture by U.S. military in Iraq. Indeed the chain of torture use by the military was not Gitmo->Afghanistan and Gitmo->Iraq but Gitmo->Afghanistan->Iraq.

This can be concluded from the recently released Armed Services Committee report "Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody" (pdf).

According to that report's page 149f the interrogations in Afghanistan (besides those by the CIA) were done by regular military CJTF-180 personnel in Kandahar Bagram and based on the Army Field Manual 34-52. There were no Standing Operation Procedures (SOP).

In October a new special force group (SMU TF) came in and decided to handle interrogations themselves. There is reason to believe that these were Navy SEALs. They immediately send a team to Gitmo to learn what was done there. The team came back with a copy of Gitmo's yet unauthorized wishlist of torture techniques and immediately started implemented those. Early December 2002 two people in Bagram died from torture administered by regular army forces.

In January the SMU TF implemented Standard Operation Procedures for its interogations that were based on the Gitmo wishlist and the December 2 Rumsfeld memo for Gitmo which was later rescinded. These included toture techniques like isolation, stress positions, sleep deprivation and later the use of dogs. Shortly after that the regular U.S. forces in Afghanistan implemented similar SOPs.

Then came Iraq (page 158):

[T]he Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task. Force (TF) in Iraq had an interrogation policy in place before the beginning of OIF.

and

According to a review completed by the DoD Inspector General in August 2006, the SMU TF based its first interrogation policy on the SOP used by the SMU TF in Afghanistan.
...
Specifically, in February 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq in March, the SMU Task Force designated for operations in Iraq obtained a copy of the interrogation SOP in use by the SMU personnel in Afghanistan, changed the letterhead, and adopted the SOP verbatim.

Torture by the U.S. military came to Iraq as soon as the first Special Force people put their feet on Iraqi soil.

In summer 2003 the SMU TF commander requested support from the SERE school trainers (under JPRA) in the states that used waterboarding and other methods in resistance trainings for Air Force pilots. Early September three of those (two of them civilian contractors) came to Iraq and observe and help with interrogations. On of the three Lt Col Kleinman described the Special Forces interrogations (page 176):

I walked into the interrogation room, all painted in black with [a] spotlight on the detainee. Behind the detainee was a military guard... with a[n] iron bar... slapping it in his hand. The interrogator was sitting in a chair. The interpreter was - was to his left... and the detainee was on his knees ... A question was asked by the interrogator, interpreted, the response came back and, upon interpretation, the detainee would be slapped across the face... And that continued with every question and every response. I asked my colleagues how long this had been going on, specifically the slapping, they said approximately 30 minutes.

Lt Col Kleinman stopped the interrogation as he saw it being against the Geneva convention. He later refused an order to adopt all SERE techniques for the Special Forces as illegal. Still he saw more interrogations by the Special Forces that he thought of as illegal. He was then asked to leave Iraq.

General Miller went from Gitmo to Iraq in August/September 2003. By then the Special Forces were already practicing their special version of sadism. Miller then Gitmotized the operation of the regular army units at Abu Ghraib (where the general situation already was bad) and the interrogations done by the Iraq Survey Group in search of WMD.

Miller was not allowed to visit some of the Special Forces torture cells and was not given a copy of their operation procedures. Meanwhile the legal adviser for the Special Forces was quite concerned and tried to blow the whistle of what was happening (page193/4):

While she did not accompany the ITF-GTMO Commander [Miller] on his visit to the SMU TF, LTC Beaver, the former ITF-GTMO SJA, said that a Legal Advisor for the SMU TF contacted her and arranged to meet with her at Camp Victory. According to LTC Beaver, the SMU TF Legal Advisor raised concerns with her about physical violence being used by  SMU TF personnel during interrogations, including punching, choking, and beating detainees. He told her that he was "risking his life" by talking to her about these issues. LTC Beaver told the Committee that the SMU Legal Advisor had also raised these issues with the Commander of the SMU TF, but that [redacted] was not receptive to his concerns.

Little is known about the role of the U.S. Special Forces in the torture of people around the world. Even the still secret Army Inspector General report on which the Armed Services Committee report is partly based only had redacted parts of an investigation the Special Forces did of itself. It seems that even the Army IG is not allowed to look into their deeds.

Seymour Hersh describes these Special Operation Forces as 'executive assassination ring' outside of any oversight:

"I’ve had people say to me -- five years ago, I had one say: ‘What do you call it when you interrogate somebody and you leave them bleeding and they don’t get any medical committee and two days later he dies. Is that murder? What happens if I get before a committee?’

"But they’re not gonna get before a committee.”

It were these troops that brought torture from Gitmo to Afghanistan and from Afghanistan to Iraq and who are still spreading it around the world. Likely torture that is much crueler than what we have seen on the pictures from Abu Ghraib.

Posted by b on April 26, 2009 at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Links April 26 2009

  • Philip Stephens on Sadism - Abuse of the law handed victory to terrorists - (FT, alternative link)
  • A question to be asked in court - Who Ordered the Torture of Abu Zubaydah? - (Counterpunch)
  • U.S. Soldier Who Killed Herself--After Refusing to Take Part in Torture - (E&P 1 2)
  • Frank Rich - The Banality of Bush White House Evil - (NYT)
  • Creating a 'failed state' - Hillary and Pakistan - (Craig Murray)
  • Late: Senator Arlen Specter - The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs - (NYRB)
  • Analysis: Helena Cobban - Obama and Netanyahu - Storm Clouds Ahead? - (IPS)
  • The map - The Palestinian Archipelago - (Strange Maps)
  • An (unsuccessful) attempt to discuss with racists - Israel: Civilians & Combatants - (NYRB)
  • Huh? - Lieberman: Israel will not attack Iran - even if sanctions fail - (Haaretz)
  • On sharia-compliant finance - The Money that Prays - (LRB)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 26, 2009 at 02:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

April 25, 2009

Five Torture Myths

Myth: This only about the CIA.
Fact: Most of the torturing was done by the military, especially by special operation troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Myth: This was based on legal findings.
Fact: Torture on Abu Zubaydah and many people in Afghanistan was ordered and conducted months before any legal finding was made. The later legal arguments were made to justify torture and have been retracted.

Myth: The torture cases are only about water-boarding.
Fact: The other techniques used in these interrogations also constitute torture.

Myth: Important intelligence was gained through this.
Fact: The CIA IG says he could not find any proof for that claim.

Myth: Obama issued a general amnesty for the torturers.
Fact: Obama does not have the legal power to do such a thing. The U.S. is obligated to prosecute torture. Obama can pardon people only after they have been judged.

Posted by b on April 25, 2009 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

China's Resource Strategy

As Bernanke is doing his best to actively create inflation, the Chinese look for ways out of the immense amount of dollars they hold and to minimize their losses.

It took a while but their strategy is now clear. The will buy as much natural resources as they can get for the currently depressed prices.

Iron ore:

Although iron ore demand in other countries is slumping, in China demand is apparently increasing. In the first quarter of this year, China imported 131 million tons, up 18.8%, year on year. In March alone China imported 52.08 million tons, 46.2% over the same month last year and a record high.

Oil:

China has said it will build the second phase of a strategic crude oil reserve with a capacity of 26.8 million cubic metres, or nearly 170 million barrels, after filling its first four reserve bases with total capacity of 100 million barrels.

Copper:

China, which accounts for about 30 percent of global copper demand, imported a record 296,843 tonnes of refined copper in March, up 137.6 percent from a year ago.

Gold:

China has boosted its gold reserves to 1,054 metric tons, according to a Friday report by Xinhua News Agency, which cited Hu Xiaolian, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

The increase makes China the world's fifth-largest holder of gold, just ahead of Switzerland, and among the six nations plus the International Monetary Fund that have reserves of more than 1,000 metric tons.

Other stuff:

China Inc. is drawing increased attention as Chinese companies snap up mining and energy assets around the world. China announced foreign acquisitions totaling $52 billion last year, two-thirds in natural resources, according to Dealogic. This year, there have already been 65 deals totaling $23.2 billion, nearly all in natural resources, Dealogic says.

Where China can not buy directly, it invests via loans:

Beijing - China and Russia on Tuesday signed an oil cooperation deal involving the supply of Russia oil in return for record loan of 25 billion dollars from China. Chinese Vice Prime Minister Wang Qishan and his Russian counterpart, Igor Sechin, signed government agreements in Beijing to finalize the deal.

Further loan for oil deals were made with Kazakhstan, Brazil and Venezuela.

I think this is a very smart strategy. With demand in the rest of the world in decline due to the Second World Depression, resource prices are still falling. That is a good time to buy in bulk and to hoard for times of higher demand and prices. Paying for these resources in dollars will give China more value than the declining treasuries in now holds.

This will not solve China's treasury headache though. As long as it pegs the yuan to the dollar it will have to keep buying treasuries and there may not be enough resources readily available for China to buy right now to again get rid of these. Eventually the dollar peg will have to fall. But up to then China will do its best to convert its treasury holdings into tangible assets.

When the world economy eventually rebounds China will have the big advantage of having cheaply bought raw materials in stock while others will then have to buy them for increasing prices.

Posted by b on April 25, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Links April 25 09

  • Very well sourced - but it was not only the CIA - Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One) - (Andy Worthington)
  • Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two) - (Andy Worthington)
  • Why do they put torture in quotes? - In 2002, Military Agency Warned Against 'Torture' - (WaPo)
  • A Comic - The Guantanamo Bay Torture Memos: For Kids! - (Cracked)
  • Plus - Torture Flowchart - (Vagabond Scholar)
  • The tip of an iceberg - Americans Accused of Stealing Fuel in Iraq - (NYT)
  • Possible - Is the Harman Story an Attempt to Silence Her about Torture? - (Emptywheel)
  • Harman, Goss and Pelosi - Perplexing - (War and Piece)
  • Gideon Levy - Word games - (Haaretz)
  • Neo-what? - The ideology that dare not speak its name - (Crooked Timber)
  • Smart folks - China gold reserves apparently doubled - (Marketwatch)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 25, 2009 at 02:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

April 24, 2009

Windy Friday

Over the last months two new wind turbines were erected about three miles from my place. These are the biggest ones on can currently buy with a maximum output above 6 megawatt each. Yesterday the blades for the second one were lifted to the top of the 135 meter high tower. The crane used was the very first brand new Demag CC9800-1 and the lifted nose section with the three rotor blades weighed 369 metric tons.


bigger

Expected output from one of these is 20 million kilo watt-hours per year, enough for 5,000+ (European) households. High of the hub is 442 feet (135m), the rotor diameter 416 feet (127m), tower base diameter 48 feet (14,5m) - more here (pdf, page 6f).

To really get the size of this machine find the person in this picture:


bigger

The pictures are not mine, but stolen from a friend. More pictures of the lift are here and here

The whole setting up (and the cranes used) can be seen in this thread in a German crane-forum by navigating forward with the page-numbers ("Seiten") on the bottom.

Posted by b on April 24, 2009 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

The Really Important Question

While asking for a bi-partisan whitewash investigation into torture the neo-conned WaPO editors ask the most important question of our times:

Should Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger and their team have been held criminally or civilly liable for dereliction of duty 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, given that they knowingly allowed Osama bin Laden to flee Sudan for sanctuary in Afghanistan?

No, I didn't make that up.

Posted by b on April 24, 2009 at 03:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Links April 24 09

  • Krugman: Prosecute sadists - Reclaiming America’s Soul - (NYT)
  • Robinson: Prosecute sadists - Where 'Those Methods' Lead - (WaPo)
  • Hamas weapon hold found - 3,000-year-old arms storehouse uncovered in Sinai - (Haaretz)
  • Freedom of speech? - 6 years in prison for airing Hezbollah TV in NYC - (AP)
  • Daniel Levy on Netanjahu's and Abbas' tricks - Potential Traps for George Mitchell - (PfP)
  • William Pfaff I - American Fascism - (Pfaff)
  • William Pfaff II - Europe Needs No Part in Doomed Afghan War - (AntiWar)
  • More Pakistan panic - U.S. Questions Pakistan’s Will to Stop Taliban - (NYT)
  • Most pension plans are fake anyway - socialize them and tax the rich - Plight of Carmakers Could Upset All Pension Plans - (NYT)
  • Let's bury it deep - ‘Washington Consensus’ a thing of the past now - (Gulf Times)
  • About over - Treasury Prepares Chrysler Bankruptcy as GM Nears Deadline Too - (Bloomberg)
  • A (self-serving) insider view of the Treasury 2006-2009 - The Financial Crisis: An Inside View - (Brookings (pdf, long))
  • How did the Freddie Mac CFO really die? - Chinese mop-up crew? - (Xymphora)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 24, 2009 at 03:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

April 23, 2009

More Links April 23 09

Sorry, not in the mood to write today. So here are a few more links to drive you away :-)

  • Dozens of Prisoners Held by CIA Still Missing, Fates Unknown - (Pro Publica)
  • Pepe Escobar: Torture whitewash from The Dark Side - (ATOL)

Is publishing this affair now payback to AIPAC and Rosen for sabotaging Chas Freeman's appointment to chair the National Intelligence Council?

  • Intelligence Officials Tipped Pelosi To Harman Wiretap - (CQ)
  • Harper on the Harman/AIPAC affair - (SST)

Posted by b on April 23, 2009 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

Links April 23 09

  • Important - American Violet: docu-drama about racism and the drug-war - (Boing Boing)
  • Sadism - Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link - (McClatchy)
  • Incomplete - INTERROGATION TIMELINE - (WaPo)
  • Allied sadism - Torture Tape Implicates UAE Royal Sheikh - (ABCnews)
  • Funny - Jane Harman: Angry, partisan, civil liberties extremist - (Greenwald)
  • Right but already backtracking - Kerry: Administration lacks 'real strategy' for handling Pakistan - (USAToday)
  • Logistics - Militants burn NATO fuel tankers in Pakistan - (AP)
  • Gareth Porter - U.S. Lacks Capacity to Win Over Afghans - (IPS)
  • Be very afraid ... - Taliban Seize Vital Pakistan Area Closer to the Capital - (NYT)
  • Brown's recent "very big terrorist plot" - Britain: Last in ‘Terrorist Plot’ Freed - (NYT)
  • "[E]xemplary primary health care and sanitation" - Tehran's Health Patrol - (Time)
  • Can't let them have that - Hillary Clinton: US will organise 'crippling' Iran sanctions if diplomacy fails - (London Times)
  • Orwellian legislation "Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act" - US may target Iran gasoline imports - (Press TV)
  • Organized crime - Replacing Iraq's money was a rip off - (Iran Affairs)
  • He knew the real numbers - Police investigating death of Freddie Mac official - (TPM)
  • 50% is not going to be enough - UK raises tax for top earners - (FT)
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs - Water wars - (Zaman)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 23, 2009 at 02:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

April 22, 2009

The Sadism Report

Working through the quite detailed and long sadism and torture report Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody" (pdf) the most significant admission to me is the footnote 1219 on page 158:

Notwithstanding differences between the legal status of detainees held in Iraq and those in Afghanistan, the [Special Mission Unit Task Force] used the same interrogation approaches in both theaters. In addition, the [Combined Joint Task Force 7] interrogation policies included techniques that had been authorized for use at GTMO. By September 2003, interrogation approaches initially authorized for a war in which the President had determined that the protections of the Geneva Conventions did not apply, would be authorized for all U.S. forces in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib was not an accident but official policy promoted from the very top and many people knew that.

The report explains in detail how this developed. When the techniques used were taken from the SERE interrogation resistance training and pushed onto Guantanamo as "battle laboratory" and from there to Afghanistan and Iraq, a lot of people, mostly in lower positions, waved red flags and protested. But they were always pushed back from higher ups with the ultimate pressure coming from the White House and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. In between there were a lot of banality of evil cowards eager to further their careers.

How much of this is still going on in Bagram, Afghanistan, and the various CIA bunkers around the world?

The report also includes several tales that support my stand that these tortures were pure sadism as they had no other purpose than to entertain some higher ups. From page 140/141:

At one point in his interrogation, Slahi was also shown a fictitious letter that had been drafted by the Interrogation Team Chief stating that his mother had been detained, would be interrogated, and if she were uncooperative she might be transferred to GTMO. The letter pointed out that she would be the only female detained at '"this previously all-male prison environment."

On August 7, 2003, Slahi informed an interrogator that he had made a decision to cooperate.After questioning Slahi, his interrogator "congratulated [him] on his decision to tell the whole truth."

Five days after interrogators congratulated Slahi for his decision to '"tell the whole truth," the Secretary of Defense approved JTF-GTMO's Special Interrogation Plan. Notwithstanding Slahi's apparent decision on August 7,2003 to cooperate with interrogators, an August 21, 2003 email described preparations made to implement the Special Interrogation Plan. The email described sealing Slahi's cell at Camp Echo to "prevent light from shining" in and covering the entire exterior of his cell with tarp to "prevent him from making visual contact with guards.

Weekly Reports from the JTF-GTMO Commander in September and October 2003 indicated that Slahi "continue[d] to be cooperative." Despite that apparent cooperation, those same weekly reports stated that that the interrogations were continuing in accordance with the approved interrogation plan. A contemporaneous document suggested that the interrogation may have begun affecting Slahi's mental state.
...
JTF-GTMO produced written weekly updates on significant activities including certain detainee interrogations. The updates were sent to the SOUfHCOM Commander and, according to MG Miller, were forwarded to the Joint Staffand Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. MG Miller said that Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz was interested in the reports and his office would occasionally call GTMO to inquire about particular detainees.

Posted by b on April 22, 2009 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Lenders Press For Chrysler Bankruptcy

I postulated that by securing lenders, credit default swaps will create bankruptcies. Something that the Obama administration seems not to get.

Chrysler will now be a likely victim of this:

A group of big banks and other lenders rebuffed a Treasury Department request that they slash 85% of Chrysler LLC's secured debt, proposing instead to eliminate about 35% in exchange for a minority stake in the restructured car maker and a seat on its board.
...
In making their case for a significantly smaller sacrifice than what the government wants, the lenders have argued that their fiduciary duty to their own shareholders and investors requires them to recoup as much as possible from the car maker. The lenders have told Treasury officials they believe they could recover at least 65% of their loans if Chrysler is liquidated in bankruptcy.

It is very doubtful that the 65% could be recovered in a normal bankruptcy. If Chrysler closes down, there is not that much left to sell. Very likely these lenders have insured their loans and are confident that their  insurer will pay them when Chrysler goes into bankruptcy.

The only way the Obama administration could rein in those lenders and prevent more harm for the real economy is by declaring these insurances null and void. That is easy to do. As I wrote:

The administration could simply declare CDS contracts to be "contrary to public policy" (i.e. immoral) which would make them not enforceable in court. The CDS would immediately lose their value as no-one makes such businesses when they are not enforceable. (Keep in mind - every contract you make involves three entities: you, the other side and the government that makes you and the other side stick to the commitment. If the government finds the contract to be void on public policy doctrine grounds, it is useless for you and the other side.)

Most societies find usury harmful and to be "contrary to public policy" and outlaw it. Likewise insuring a loan, which lifts the need for responsible lending, is harmful and should be forbidden.

Posted by b on April 22, 2009 at 03:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Links April 22 09

  • Sadism - Harsh Tactics Readied Before Their Approval - (WaPo)
  • Sadism report - "Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody" - (Congress (pdf))
  • Avoiding peace at all costs - Israel Puts Iran Issue Ahead of Palestinians - (WaPo)
  • I guess he's right - Lieberman: U.S. to accept any Israeli decision - (Haaretz)
  • Harman related - U.S. Might Not Try Pro-Israel Lobbyists - (WaPo)
  • Liar - Geithner says big banks are healthy - ()McClatchy
  • $4.1 trillion bank losses - Global Financial Stability Report - (IMF)
  • Usually a typical German problem - The US Government: Over-engineering for Under-performance - (Information Arbitrage)
  • Slump - Japan Suffers Trade Deficit In FY08, 1st Since 1980 - (WSJ)
  • MoA Oct 2008: "destroy the excess housing supply" - Flint, Michigan: An Effort to Save a City by Shrinking It - (NYT)
  • Sign of the times - Pawn Shop Opens In London Financial District - (VOA)
  • Could become interesting - World Digital Library - (UN)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 22, 2009 at 02:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 21, 2009

Ahmadinejad Word Cloud

Word cloud of the Full Text of President Ahmadinejad’s Remarks at U.N. Conference on Racism


bigger

Posted by b on April 21, 2009 at 08:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Links April 21 09

  • Loved for protecting sadists - Obama gets euphoric CIA welcome - (AFP)
  • Spanish sadism prosecution continues - Proponents of Torture May Yet Face Universal Justice - (IPS)

  • Abusing minorities for propaganda - Israel recruits gay community in PR campaign against Iran - (Haaretz)
  • One trillion may be more accurate - Banks Face $400 Billion More in Losses, JPMorgan Says - (Bloomberg)
  • Shareholder interest? - Pay Rule Led Chrysler to Spurn Loan, Agency Says - (WaPo)
  • Dubious I - Pirates: the $80m Gulf connection - (Independent)
  • Dubious II - Somali Pirates Form Unholy Alliance with Islamists - (Spiegel)
  • Thoughts on Google street view and privacy - Short Cuts - (LRB)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 21, 2009 at 01:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

April 20, 2009

The Harman Wiretap Case

Congress women Jane Harman was caught on tape by the NSA talking to an Israeli agent. She agreed to influence a court case of an Israeli spy in return for a promise that Israel friendly lobbyists would further her (and their) interest.

The investigation against her was then shut down by the Bush administration for getting her support for furthering the administrations interest.

  • The case is NOT an argument against NSA wiretapping. For all we know from the Congressional Quarterly piece the wiretap was court approved, likely on an international line and primarily directed at a foreign spy.
  • The case is a scandal because Harman was willing to sell out to foreign interest.
  • The case is a scandal because the Bush administration stopped an investigation to blackmail Harman into doing its business.

The questions now should be:

  • Who else in Congress is directly working under Israeli direction on Israeli and against U.S. interest?
  • Who else in Congress was blackmailed by the Bush administration?

Any answers?

Update: Missed one very important question:

  • Why is this leaked now?

Posted by b on April 20, 2009 at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Why Fight In Korangal Valley?

Today's NYT has an embed piece on a platoon firefight in the Korangal valley in Afghanistan. The platoon had earlier ambushed some 'Taliban' (the Korangalis say locals) and expected to be attacked while going to 'meet local elders' in some village. The attack happens, one soldier dies and the rest have to retreat.

The purpose of the whole action is not really explained but the writer gives us two important pieces of information.

First, who the U.S. soldiers are fighting:

Relatively few Arabs or foreigners come here, the company’s officers say. But the Korangalis, a hardened and isolated people with their own language, have managed to lock the American Army into a bloody standoff for a small space for more than three years.

The Korangalis have fought, the officers say, in part because they support the Taliban and in part because they are loggers and the Afghan government banned almost all timber cutting, putting local men out of work.

Korangal Outpost itself symbolizes the dispute. It occupies a former sawmill, and the mill’s displaced owner is a main organizer of the insurgency. The Taliban pay the best wages in the valley now, the officers said.

The expression 'Taliban' seems somewhat abused here. The local mill owner, Haji Matin, and the people who made a living working there have good reason to hate and oppose the occupiers:

As the Afghans tell the story, from the moment the Americans arrived in 2001, the Pech Valley timber lords and warlords had their ear. Early on, they led the Americans to drop bombs on the mansion of their biggest rival — Haji Matin. The air strikes killed several members of his family, according to local residents, and the Americans arrested others and sent them to the prison at Bagram Air Base. The Pech Valley fighters working alongside the Americans then pillaged the mansion.

The whole thing started because the U.S. was used by one tribe to eliminate some competition from another tribe. They shut down the only real business the valley has and thereby increased unemployment. Since then the Korangalis oppose the occupiers. These people have nothing to do with 'Taliban'. They are not even Pashtuns but speak Pashai and have a totally different social system.

Why is it a task for the U.S. military to fight these locals? Why not just leave them and their valley alone?

And how is the U.S. doing its fight? Is it careful to not further incite the locals against it? What is the planed endgame? Winning hearts and minds?

The second revealing snip from today's piece. Pinned down by small arms fire the platoon calls in some help:

In American firebases on ridges along the valley, soldiers with heavier machine guns and automatic grenade launchers focused on Afghan buildings in three villages — Donga, Laneyal and Darbart — from where the trapped platoon was taking fire.

Farther back, at Company B’s outpost, a pair of Air Force noncommissioned officers was directing aircraft into position, while two 120-millimeter mortars were firing high-explosive and white phosphorus rounds at targets the platoon had identified.
...
Then the satellite-guided bomb whooshed in and exploded.
...
Two more airstrikes blew apart two buildings on the opposite side from where the Taliban had been firing.

All this to 'meet with local elders'? Any doubt what their opinion will be? What they will tell their young folks to do?

Posted by b on April 20, 2009 at 08:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Links April 20 09

  • Hmmm - Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC - (CQ)
  • Iran told to build thousands of nukes? - IAEA chief calls on Iran to reciprocate U.S. moves - (Reuters)
  • Another good one from Roger Cohan - Israel, Iran and Fear - (NYT)
  • Sadism as retribution - Power, humiliation and torture - (War in Context)
  • NYT picks up from Emptywheel - Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects - (NYT)
  • Nationalization - U.S. May Convert Banks’ Bailouts to Equity Share - (NYT)
  • Get poor by saving - Zero Percent on Treasury Bills as China, Fed Converge - (Bloomberg)
  • The U.S. turning Irish? - Krugman: Erin Go Broke - (NYT)
  • How can he dare to ... - Karzai asks NATO to explain civilian deaths - (MSNBC)
  • Because they approve of racism - UN racism conference boycotted by more countries - (Guardian)
  • Racism like this - World Bank: Israelis get four times more water than Palestinians - (Haaretz)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 20, 2009 at 01:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

April 19, 2009

Crime Of Pleasure

by anna missed
Crossposted from anna missed

Emptywheel has a post up today on the newly released torture memos, that reveal some profoundly disturbing details. According to the documents (and in spite of the presidents denials that we torture) both Al Qaeda Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah were tortured by waterboarding. While it’s disturbing enough that the president broke both domestic and international laws in authorizing the torture in the first place, had doctors and psychologists (in violation of their hippocratic oath) assist in the procedures, and had the whole process filmed repeatedly by the CIA and delivered to the White House for viewing - these are bad enough, but, now it also comes to light that both men were not only subjected to torture, but tortured so many times repeatedly that it defies all comprehension.

In the course of a month Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded no less than 184 times, and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 84 times during one month. That averages out to being waterboarded something like 6 and 3 times a day for 30 consecutive days. Bear in mind also that these procedures were not the so called “simulated drowning” technique (used in training), but the “real drowning” technique of actually pouring water into the respiratory system. Most experts in such matters agree that these methods are unreliable as intelligence gathering tools because the terror inspired by enduring one or two of these procedures is enough for the subject to begin confessing and admitting to what ever information they think the perpetrators are after in order to make it stop. The evidence of the intelligence received from these two, according to many accounts, would also confirm this, in that the only reliable information gathered was early in their confinement. And when the information flow began to slow to a tickle, the Bush administration then ordered that the torture increase in intensity to the astronomically absurd levels now being revealed.

There is really no other way to process or account for this information other than to view it as an act of pure sadistic sickness, hell bent, and addicted on the tactile pleasure of revenge. Is it any wonder that just a year or so after this, the Abu Ghraib debacle would also be revealed repeating the same mindset, if not in the same proportions. There’s no way any of this can be reduced to euphemism or the polite nomenclature of “what if’s” - this is pure evil, in undeniably large, unfathomable, and unwieldy quantities, that will not go away quietly, because there is a big difference between someone who commits a crime of passion and one who keeps his victim alive and locked in the cellar for his personal pleasure.

Posted by b on April 19, 2009 at 07:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Links April 19 09

  • Sadism - Justice Dept. Memos' Careful Legalese Obscured Harsh Reality - (WaPo)
  • More sadism - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month - (Emptywheel)
  • Orwellian Sadism - Scott Horton: Revealing the Secrets in Room 101 - (Harpers)
  • No impunity - Obama Releases Memos; Promises Impunity; Misunderstands Estoppel by Entrapment - (Opinio Juris)
  • "Do you want more gas?" - Palestinian resident of Bil'in killed during weekly nonviolent protest against the Wall - (Mondoweiss)
  • Gideon Levy - Gaza, remember? - (Haaretz)
  • Chávez book gift to Obama: Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent - (Amazon)
  • Adult supervison demanded - China seeks oversight of reserve currency issuers - (Marketwatch)
  • A major cause of the current mess - Rich-Poor Gap Tripled Between 1979 and 2006 - (CBPP)
  • Some still want to lie - Bank Regulators Clash Over U.S. Stress-Tests Endgame - (Bloomberg)
  • For anna missed - Our Man In Havana (1959) - (YouTube)

Please share your links, news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 19, 2009 at 01:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

April 18, 2009

Africa Comments (3)

Comments on the informal coast guards at the Horn of Africa and other issues ...

---
Note:
You can always access b'real's most recent Africa comments in the second top box in the left column.

The antecedent thread to this one is here. A really interesting read.

Posted by b on April 18, 2009 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (50)

How Credit Default Swaps Create Bankruptcies

The Institutional Risk Analyst folks say Citigroup is is insolvent and needs to be either restructured or liquidated. They believe restructuring is possible by three steps:

  • Forced management change
  • Agreement from bondholders to convert Citgroup's debt into common equity
  • A 'prepacked' Chapter 11 filing under the FDIC's open bank assistance

I agree with the diagnosis. Citigroup is insolvent. But I believe that the restructuring is impossible as many Citigroup bondholders have no incentive to take a loss by agreeing to a debt for equity swap but instead have a huge incentive to let Citigroup fail.

The reason are Credit Default Swaps.

One can distinguish two types of Credit Default Swaps buyers:

  • A. The CDS buyer that buys insurance against the default of an asset s/he really owns.
  • B. The CDS buyer that buys insurance against the default of an asset s/he does not own.

On a first view type A looks like a homeowner who pays for fire insurance on her home while insurance buyers of type B are firebugs who establish insurance on some other person's house to cash-in after  they burn it down.

It is obvious that the second kind of insurance buyer is a serious danger to the public and to the solvency of the insurance seller. Indeed no sane insurer, that is others than AIG Financial Services, will sell fire insurance on a home to someone else than the home owner.

As I call for ALL credit default swaps to be declared null and void I should explain why the first type of CDS buyer is also a systemic danger.

A person gives $1 million credit to Citigroup and receives a bond from it, a written declaration by Citigroup to pay back the $1 million plus a certain interest in a fixed number of payments distributed over time. The person also buys insurance for the full value of the bond. If Citigroup goes bankrupt the insurance will pay out for the full loss to the bondholder. 

But Citigroup is a big company and before such companies go bankrupt and out of business they try to restructure. They will call in all the bondholders and ask those to forgive some of the debt or exchange their bonds for shares. They will also ask their workers to work for less. Such restructuring is usually good for the economy as a whole. Not all company workers get fired and the general economic disruption that occurs with any large bankruptcy will be less painful.

But here is the rub. The bondholder that has insured the Citigroup bond has no incentive to agree to any reduction in what Citigroup owns her. If Citigroup goes bankrupt the bondholder will not bear any loss. Then why should the bondholder agree to take a loss in a restructuring procedure?

Indeed the analogy of this type of CDS buyer to a homeowner that insured his home is not completely  correct. A home fire insurance will not pay out 100% of the rebuilding costs of a home that had already decayed. It might pay the time-value of that house or the repair costs, but the payout for a burned down 50 year old house will usually not be enough for to pay for a brand new one of the same size and quality. This makes sure that the homeowner has no financial interest to burn the house down and gives an incentive to stop a small fire before it burns down the whole house.

But the CDS buyer of the first type will be made whole to 100%. The incentive here is not to stop the small fire but to make sure that the fire actually burns down as much of the house as is possible.

As the Financial Times reports (alt link) that is exactly what happened twice last week:

Credit default swaps, the derivatives instruments that have figured prominently in the global financial crisis, are now being blamed for playing a role in two bankruptcy filings this week.

Bankers and lawyers involved in restructuring efforts say they are concerned some lenders to troubled companies, such as newsprint producer AbitibiBowater and mall owner General Growth Properties, stand to benefit from a default because they also hold default swaps, which entitle them to payments in such events.

The same will occur with General Motors which is now trying to restructure:

The Obama administration has directed General Motors Corp (GM.N) to prepare a new restructuring plan that would pay off bondholders and the automaker's major union in stock in exchange for $48 billion in debt, people briefed on the plan said on Friday.

The GM bondholders who have in total $38 billion credit insurance will certainly not agree to a voluntary shares for debt-reduction swap. Outside of bankruptcy procedures there is little anyone can do to make them accept such. Inside a bankruptcy the insurance makes the whole. GM and Citigroup will thereby have to go into bankruptcies with all the nasty things that will be involved. Likely more jobs will be lost than necessary and more damage done to the economy as a whole while the bondholders who bought insurance will be perfectly well.

It is weird that the Obama administration and even the smart IRA folks have not grasped the problem that CDS' have created. These insurances by their very existence give an incentive to 'liquidationists'. They are institutionalized Andrew Mellon's that prefer total destruction over restructuring.

There is a way out of this: Declare all Credit Default Swaps null and void.

There is no real economic justification for these instruments. They only skew risk. If A gives a loan to B the payed interest is the gratification for taking the risk that B might default. A will demand higher interest from C if C is a higher default risk. That is the way it should be and it has worked well for thousands of years. If CDS' are allowed A will insure itself and no longer carry a risk at all. Any decay in B's financial state will give A an immediate interest to see B's total fall. This is a systemic danger that the public has a clear interest to avoid.

So lets get rid of these papers once and for all.

Posted by b on April 18, 2009 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Links April 18 09

  • On torture - Phillipe Sands: Nightmares made law - (Guardian)
  • 'Lone gunman': Mumbai confessions under torture - (PressTV)
  • Helena Cobban - Gaza Changed Everything, But Its People Still Suffer - (IPS)
  • Living with a wall - Israel's barrier - (NPR)
  • An importent project - Nakba History - (Palestine Remembered)
  • Instead of buying treasuries ... - Is China Hoarding Copper? - (Forbes)
  • ... China invests in commodities - Cash-rich China courts the Caspian - (ATOL)
  • The ultimate election ploy - Japan plans emergency share purchases - (FT)
  • The Pirate Bay Verdict and the Future of File Sharing - (PC World)

Please add your news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 18, 2009 at 01:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

April 17, 2009

Miffed

I am quite sure I was the first, in August 2008, to point out and establish that 1st Sgt. Hatley, recently convicted for murdering innocent Iraqis, was the same person that slandered Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who anonymously wrote about that and other incidents for TNR.

Today Attaturk at Echaton as well as Josh Marshall at TPM post about that connection. No link for MoA though even when it is pretty obvious that this was picked from MoA by those who now run with it.

That might tell a bit about the big wigs in the blogsphere ...

Posted by b on April 17, 2009 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

The 'Marital Rape Law' That Isn't One

There is lot of fuzz in the 'western' media about a marital rape law that is supposed to be implemented in Afghanistan.

There are three big misunderstandings here.

1. Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic and according to its constitution Sharia is already the law of the land except for certain minorities who under the Afghan constitution can settle family disputes under their own jurisprudence. 

2. The 'martial rape' paragraph is part of the 270 page Shia personal status law implementing the civil code for the often abused Shia Hazara minority. It was introduced by the relative conservative Ayatollah Mohammed Asif Mohseni and certainly does not fit our liberal ideals. But the law is urgently needed to protect the minority and has already languished for one and a half year in the parliament. It is good that it passed at all.

3. The law has nothing to do with marital rape. In a comment to a post by Joshua Foust, Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia Director (but writing in private capacity), translates and comments on the law:

The particular provision that has been mistranslated and misinterpreted as ‘allowing’ marital rape doesn’t do so, legally speaking: article 132 includes the following relevant provisions:

  1. The spouses are obliged to socialize with one another and their parents and family.
  2. The spouses are obliged to cooperate and collaborate for welfare of their families and children.
  3. The spouses must abstain from any actions that would cause the hatred and displeasure of one another; whenever the husband wants his wife to attend to her appearance, the wife is obliged to do so.
  4. The husband is obliged, except during period of travel, to spend the night in one place with his wife at least one night out of four, except when it is harmful to one of the spouses or one of them suffers from a venereal disease. It is the duty of the wife to tend to the husband’s inclination for sexual liaison. The husband is obliged to not postpone intimacy with his wife for more than four months without his wife’s consent. [...]

As you can see, this is not an explicit endorsement of marital rape. From a purely legal point of view, the offending language in section (4) (”It is the duty of the wife to tend to the husband’s inclination for sexual liaison”) has to be read in light of section (3)’s injunction against actions that would cause “hatred or displeasure”. And under basic jurisprudential principles the article could be interpreted so as to prohibit rape, in fact. [...]

So the law is not allowing rape within marriage nor outside. The Telegraph has an interview with Ajatollah Mohseni where he gives his interpretation which sounds about the same.

The 'western' outrage over this will have negative consequences. While the law may now get changed but the outcome of that change may well be worse than the original text. Additionally the 'western' criticism of the Afghan parliament over this is interpreted as Christian interfering in Afghan Islamic affairs (always remember - Islam is as much a legal system as a religious one.) The negative feeling such interference creates will be projected on the Hazaras.

This is not a law 'western' societies would implement today. But let us also acknowledge that equal rights for men and women in marriage in western societies were only implemented during the last 50 years (and in some countries are still not) and that it takes a society time to change.

This is also not the law young liberal Shia women in Afghanistan, many of whom grew up in the more liberal Iran, would like to have. But that is a general problem with minority opinions in a democracy and not something the 'west' should criticize.

And yes, I do feel sorry for the women in Afghanistan that do not have equal rights. I feel also sorry for the women in Ireland who do not have the right to choose and for the women in Germany who in average get payed 20% less than men in comparable positions. And where is the liberal outrage about the status of Saudi women?

Posted by b on April 17, 2009 at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Neo-Taliban And Class War

Searching "class revolt" at the New York Times site, the third result is about an assassination attempt against Lenin and from 1918. The second is on Britain and was published 1956. The first result is from today and about the Swat area in Pakistan.

Class is usually not mentioned in U.S. media and conflicts are seldom depicted as class based. So kudos to Jane Perletz and Pir Zubair Shah for this piece even when they miss some important questions.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.
...
In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.
...
Mahboob Mahmood, a Pakistani-American lawyer and former classmate of President Obama’s, said, “The people of Pakistan are psychologically ready for a revolution.”

Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.”
...
The insurgents struck at any competing point of power: landlords and elected leaders — who were usually the same people — and an underpaid and unmotivated police force, said Khadim Hussain, a linguistics and communications professor at Bahria University in Islamabad, the capital.

At the same time, the Taliban exploited the resentments of the landless tenants, particularly the fact that they had many unresolved cases against their bosses in a slow-moving and corrupt justice system, Mr. Hussain and residents who fled the area said.

The authors and the headline Taliban Exploit Class Rifts to Gain Ground in Pakistan urge the point of exploitation. But is that really the case? Exploit them for what? Are the Neo-Taliban in Swat abusing the poor just as much as the rich landowners they drove away? Where is the proof for that?

Alternatively: Are these Neo-Taliban true revolutionaries who help the poor to stand up and to take their fair share of the economic society? Are the Mullahs who guide them the leaders of an Islamic liberation theology movement?

My hunch is that the real answers to the last two questions are more to the yes-side than to the no-side. The dark picture of gruffly backwoodsmen who want to install a worldwide reactionary caliphate that the 'western' media are usually painting never made much sense. The picture that accompanies the NYT story tells me something different.

What is your take?

Posted by b on April 17, 2009 at 08:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Links April 17 09

  • Sadism - The Tortuture Memos - (ACLU)
    "[Y]ou [the CIA] would also like to introduce an insect into one of the boxes with Zubaydah. As we understand it, you plan to inform Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar. If you do so, to ensure you are outside the predicate death requirement, you must inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain. If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing him that you are doing so, you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce severe pain or suffering or even cause his death. Redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted."
  • Sadists officially protected - Obama shields CIA interrogators from charges - (G&M)
  • Spanish prosecution? Not likely. - Prosecutor: Drop case against Bush officials - (CNN)
  • He fought the occupiers - U.S. Judge Sentences Dutch Man to 25 Years for Crimes in Iraq - (WaPo)
  • Good embed reporting from Afghanistan - Obama's War - (GQ)
  • U.S. experts: Pakistan on course to become Islamist state - (McClatchy)
    Experts? On course to?
    "After nine years of efforts, Pakistan was successful in framing a constitution in 1956. The Constituent Assembly adopted it on 29 February, 1956, and it was enforced on 23 March, 1956, proclaiming Pakistan to be an Islamic Republic."
  • Plan for Palestinian state is 'dead end,' Israel tells U.S. - (McClatchy)
  • Mostly good - Relations between Iran and Central Asia (Synopsis) - (Ferghana.ru)
  • A New Approach to Iran - The Need for Transformative Diplomacy - (John Tirman/MIT (pdf))
  • Ken Silverstein - Invisible hands: The secret world of the oil fixer - (Harpers)
  • The myth of U.S. productivity - Reconsidering a miracle - (Krugman)
  • Right again - Stiglitz Says White House Ties to Wall Street Doom Bank Rescue - (Bloomberg)
  • Not yet - End of economic gloom? - (Roubini)
  • Also Krugman - Green Shoots and Glimmers - (NYT)
  • Inequality creates bubbles - The asset bubble theory of income inequality - (Curious Capitalist)

Please add your news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 17, 2009 at 01:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

April 16, 2009

No Reset With Russia

Obama sent Clinton to Russia to Geneva present a 'reset' to the Russian foreign minister button where the Russian text, not even in Cyrillic letters, did not says 'reset' but 'overcharge'.

It now seems to me that this was not a gaffe or a mistake, but the real message:

Russia demanded on Thursday that NATO call off planned military exercises in Georgia, saying they could undermine its efforts to rebuild ties with the Western alliance.
...
NATO says the exercises, from May 6 to June 1, will involve 1,300 troops from 19 countries. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the exercises would not help efforts to restore stability in the restive Caucasus region, Interfax news agency reported.
...
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman was dismissive of Russia's objections. "I don't think Russia's ever been particularly fond of NATO exercises," he said on Thursday.

This is stupid for several reasons.

  • Russia will not sit still and let NATO snub its nose a few miles from its borders. There will be a diplomatic price to pay for this and it will not be a small one. "You're sure your logistic lines to Afghanistan are safe?"
  • The pro-western opposition in Georgia today took to street for the eight day to oust the egomaniac and undemocratic Saakashvili. The EU is trying moderate a compromise solution. Holding the NATO exercise during this time will look like NATO is taking sides in the interior Georgian conflict, as future NATO membership is mainly a Saakashvili project.
  • This renews the false impression of backing from NATO for Georgia's and other small players adventures. A backing that as last year little war showed is in reality not there at all.

So who had this very great idea? If Clinton and Obama are serious about 'reset' it is now time to press the speed dial button to NATO and call this stupidity off.

Posted by b on April 16, 2009 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Evil Jeans

They took this guys medication away, but still let him lecture.


Today' sermon is about the evil of jeans:

Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.
...
Today it is silly for Americans whose closest approximation of physical labor consists of loading their bags of clubs into golf carts to go around in public dressed for driving steers up the Chisholm Trail to the railhead in Abilene.

This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

Hilarious ...

Are there still ANY sane conservatives around?

Posted by b on April 16, 2009 at 05:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Links April 16 09

  • Iran offering proliferation? - Iran says will offer nuclear package to West soon - (Reuters)
  • Good - Report: German firm seeking long-term gas deal with Iran - (Xinhua)
  • 10% of GDP for the military - The IDF can't be satisfied - (Haaretz)
  • Gaza investigation - Israel Says it Will Not Cooperate with the Goldstone Inquiry - (UN Watch)
  • Aid Rots Outside Gaza - (IPS)
  • Lichtblau and Risen - N.S.A.’s Intercepts Exceed Limits Set by Congress - (NYT)
    "And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said."
  • A dangerousidea: The next step then is to 'protect' those new citizens through an invasion - Romania in citizenship offer to 1m Moldovans - (FT)
  • Guilty - US army soldier convicted of killing Iraqi detainees - (Guardian)
    I posted on First Sgt. Hatley here and here. It seems the man was promoted degraded from Master Sgt. to First Sgt. while under murder investigation. I find that unusual Why?
  • No way to save the banks - Ruminations on banking - (Mavercon - FT)
  • Bank Test Results May Strain Limits Of Bailout Funding - (WaPo)
  • We Need More Stimulus, Not More Bailout - (Robert Reich)
  • Americans' Tax Burden Near Historic Low - (WaPo)
  • Anti-Tax Tea Parties Begin, Protesting Bailouts, Deficits - (Fox News)

Please add your news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 16, 2009 at 12:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

April 15, 2009

NYT On 'Owners' And 'Customers'

Floyd Norris writes in his NYT blog on yesterday's Goldman Sachs $5 billion share sale:

Goldman may also have some unhappy customers today. It says its stock offering was oversubscribed when it was priced this morning at 9 a.m. at $123 a share. That means it may be able to sell the overallotment option, which would give it an additional $750 million.

Goldman shares opened above $123 this morning, but fell below that level at noon, and closed at $115.11.

At that price, and assuming the overallotment option is exercised, Goldman’s customers, on a mark-to-market basis, have lost $368.8 million on the sale today.

Shareholders of a company - even new ones - are not customers (possible) but owners (for sure).

Those who bought were some likely stupid folks who 'invested' in an over hyped 'asset', i.e. Goldman Sachs.shares, and now own a part of that company. They have a say in what that company does - theoretically.

Interestingly though in this is that the "chief financial correspondent" of the NYT is obviously unable (or unwilling) to express the difference between owners and customers of a certain company.

Take your own conclusions from that.

Posted by b on April 15, 2009 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Foreign Policy Blindness And North Korea

Matt Dupuis blogs at FP Watch and currently also at World Politics Review.

About North Korea's decision to kick out IAEA inspectors and to restart its nuclear programs he asks:

What is Motivating Pyongyang This Week?:

I'm speculating, but maybe North Korea knew its launch would prompt the US to turn to the UNSC for retaliatory action, which it could then use as a pretext to jettison the Six-Party Talks and related accords it was no longer interested in adhering to. If that's the case, it raises larger questions about Pyongyang's motivations, specifically why they have periodically agreed to cap or halt illicit weapons programs (as it did under the 1994 Agreed Framework, the moratorium on ballistic missiles in the late 1990s, and the more recent accords under the Six-Party Talks) but later reversed course so defiantly. (bold added)

Simple questions, deserve simple answers: North Korea believe in Pacta sunt servanda, the U.S. does not.

North Korea needs primary energy, i.e. oil, and is willing to make deals to get some. It sticks to such deals but only as long as the other party adheres to those too.

In all three examples given in Dupuis question it was NOT North Korea  that "later reversed course so defiantly" but the U.S. that broke spirit and letter of the deals it had made.

1. Agreed framework:

The objective of the agreement was the freezing and replacement of North Korea's indigenous nuclear power plant program with more nuclear proliferation resistant light water reactor power plants, North Korea promised to included oil shipments from the U.S.

The oil shipments were late, the replacement reactor the U.S. had promised was never build and trade sanctions that should have been lifted were kept in place. As the U.S. showed no intention to seriously stick to the deal, North Korea walked away from it.

2. Moratorium on ballistic missiles:

  • Sept. 13, 1999: North pledges to freeze long-range missile tests.
  • Sept. 17, 1999: President Bill Clinton agrees to first major easing of economic sanctions against North Korea since Korean War's end in 1953.
  • June 2001: North Korea warns it will reconsider missile test moratorium if Washington doesn't resume contacts aimed at normalizing relations.
  • July 2001: U.S. State Department reports North Korea is developing long-range missile.

Again a. North Korea made a deal with the U.S., b. the U.S. did not stick to that deal, c. North Korea stopped doing its part.

3. Six Party Talks:

Five rounds of talks from 2003 to 2007 produced little net progress until the third phase of the fifth round of talks, when North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the United States and Japan.

Steps towards normalization by the U.S. were not taken. The fuel aid was stopped in December 2008 as 'response' by the U.S. to North Korea not accepting additional conditions the U.S. tried to add unilaterally:

North Korea has complained that the United States has not made good on its promise to remove North Korea from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, as President Bush announced in June that he was prepared to do, and instead has made new demands. One of those would require North Korea to accept a strict and intrusive verification system before the United States would carry out reciprocal steps.

As many other countries North Korea had hoped for that a new Democratic U.S. president and congress would take a different course than the ever deal-breaking Republicans. The recent legally unjustified issue of a U.S. instigated letter by the UN Security Council president on a NoKo 'satellite launch' has made it clear to them that there is no change in U.S. policies. Unless those change there is then obviously no point for it to continue talks over deals the U.S. obviously does not intend to follow through.

Dupuis' question is quite typical for general U.S. public views of foreign policy issues: very one-sided and blind towards its own faults.

But there is a serious defect in U.S. foreign policy when people who work in that field believe their own side's propaganda instead of obtaining a realistic reading which necessarily must include facts and some understanding of the viewpoint of the other side.

Posted by b on April 15, 2009 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Links April 15 09

  • Trita Parsi: Israel's Military Threat against Iran Is a Bluff That Keeps Giving - (MR Zine)
  • Will the Kreml sabotage Iran talks? High Stakes for Moscow in U.S. Play for Iran - (Moscow Times via FLC)
  • Chalabi on Bush: "A man with very little skill and knowledge." - (Tom Ricks)
  • Not serious, I believe - The Bush Six to Be Indicted - (Daily Beast)
  • Superiority complex: "We Israelis have babies and cherish our children more than any other Western society." - (Haaretz)
  • Pakistanis ask: How many times will we be fooled by the US? - (The News)
  • History repeats itself - Japan may now have to rearm itself - (China Post)
  • Do or die - Martin Wolf: Cutting back financial capitalism is America’s big test - (FT)
  • 'Some' data ... - U.S. Planning to Reveal Data on Health of Top Banks - (NYT)

Please add your news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 15, 2009 at 02:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

April 14, 2009

Culture Question

I again find myself not being well versed in U.S. culture. So please help me with this question.

Why is a party where people hang their scrotum into another persons mouth seen as a protest against taxes?

Posted by b on April 14, 2009 at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Deranged Ynetnews Headline

Ynetnews is an English language Israel news and content website operated by Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most-read newspaper. Like other Israeli media it loves bashing Germany. But this is even more deranged than the usual stuff.

See the first headline on this screenshot taken of Ynetnews half an hour ago.

It leads to a piece that quotes 'outraged' anonymous Israeli officials. The first comment to it says "and this is how it starts!! 1938 anyone?"

Are Israelis banned from a terminal in Munich? Of course not.

The simple facts behind this 'report': New introduced Lufthansa flights between Munich and Tel Aviv will board at the same gate where all other flights Munich-Tel Aviv also board. This because Israel demands special security arrangements and gate equipment for all flights to it.

How one can construe the above headline form that is beyond me.

What is the purpose of such 'reporting'?

Posted by b on April 14, 2009 at 08:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Links April 14 09

  • Ethno-sectarian divisions vs. policy issues - Iraq’s New Provincial Councils - (Reidar Visser)
  • Nir Rozen on Iraq - The gathering storm - (The National via FLC)
  • Taxdollars at work - Goldman Sachs swings to profit, plans offering - (Market Watch)
  • Wells Fargo is bankrupt - Analyst: Wells Fargo to Show $120 Billion in Stress Test Losses - ( Naked Capitalism)
  • Up, up, up - Unemployment in catlady land - Calculated Risk
  • Propaganda for SUV's - Study Says Small-Car Buyers Sacrifice Safety for Economy - (NYT)
  • It's a depression when the national circus clowns go on strike - (3arabawy)
  • Afghans have a say in this? - Civilians Died in Airstrike by NATO, Afghan Says - (NYT)
  • NoKo: As you don't pay as agreed we'll make more nukes - (Reuters)
  • Not yet final - Minnesota Court: Franken Won The Election - (TPM)

Please add your news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 14, 2009 at 02:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

April 13, 2009

No Victory Over Piracy

There is some collective masturbation in the U.S. media about the freeing of the U.S. captain Phillips and the navy killing three of the pirates that were with him. WaPo headlines it as An Early Military Victory for Obama.

A few more of such victories and shipping around Somalia will really be in trouble.

So far the pirates refrained from doing personal harm to the ships crews. They took some ransom and left everyone free to go. They did not damage the ships or the cargo. Backed by their insurances, the shipowners were willing to pay up. As only 0.1-0.3% of the ships sailing through the the Gulf of Aden were captured, insurance premiums did increase only modestly. With shipping rates near record lows the total damage to the world economy was minimal.

All that may now change:

"The French and the Americans will regret starting this killing. We do not kill, but take only ransom. We shall do something to anyone we see as French or American from now," Hussein, a pirate, told Reuters by satellite phone.

There are only very few U.S. or French flagged international trade ships on the oceans at all so it is unlikely that the pirates will get a chance to do harm to French or U.S. crews. But I expect the situation to escalate anyway. From now on the pirates will be more nervous and likely more trigger-happy. They may start coordinated attacks, take hostages to land or damage ships or cargo. Insurance premiums will increase.

There certainly were better ways to deal with the situation. The hostage could have been freed with a moderate ransom payment. The culprits could have been overwhelmed after that and brought to trial in Kenya or elsewhere.

Then there is the whole issue of 'follow the money'. We are told that millions are payed to the pirates but none of the money can be tracked down? At the same time where every charity dollar to Palestine gets scrutiny that his hard to believe. And who are the people behind this business. I doubt this piracy surge, which beyond the attacks foreign fishing trawlers seems to be at least partly organized crime, is directed solely from Somali ground.

Piracy, like 'terrorism', is a criminal act that should be answered with policing, not with billion dollar warships and executions. The U.S. made the huge mistake of answering to 9/11 by military means. It now made the same mistake with regards to piracy.

I fear that Obama's 'victory' here will turn out to be like Bush's 'victory' at Tora Bora. The starting point of a very costly  and bloody campaign in which will no one will win.

Posted by b on April 13, 2009 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

Links April 13 09

Colonialism:

  • The 'civil' side: Allies Ponder How to Plan Elections in Afghanistan - (NYT)
  • The 'disinformation' side: Warning that Pakistan is in danger of collapse within months - (SMH)
  • The 'kinetic' side: 60 drone hits kill 14 al-Qaeda men, 687 civilians - (The News)
  • The 'results' side: Targeted killing of women's rights activist shocks Afghans - (Globe&Mail)
  • After doubting deadlines for troops in Iraq, Odierno (is forced to) repeal - Commander Says U.S. Still on Schedule to Leave Iraq - (NYT)

Second World Depression:

  • Classic overproduction - China's runaway steel train - (Globe&Mail)
  • The Fed will have to print more: China Slows Purchases of U.S. and Other Bonds - (NYT)
  • Wonderland: Credit Default Swaps – Through The Looking Glass - Satyajit Das - (Wilmott)

Israel-Iran watch:

  • Good technical explanations: How a Centrifuge Works - (FAS)
  • Good: Roger Cohan: Realpolitik for Iran - (NYT)
  • Slightly disguised slander - Can Iran Change? - High stakes in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reëlection campaign. - (New Yorker)
  • Roane Carey, Will Israel Attack Iran? - (TomDispatch)
  • Borderline? - [Israel:] Borderline outcast? - (FT)

Please add your news and views in the comments.

Posted by b on April 13, 2009 at 02:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

April 12, 2009

The British Curse

The British New Labour spin doctors worked an a smear campaign against the conservatives right out of Downing Street No.10:

In his most lurid slur, McBride suggests that “secret tapes” exist containing evidence that Osborne had sex with the prostitute. McBride makes obscene allegations about the use of a sex aid and also claims that drugs were taken. The shadow chancellor has always denied having any physical relationship with Rowe or taking any drugs with her.

Finally, McBride suggests Red Rag concoct a tale about Nadine Dorries, a Tory back-bench MP, having a one-night stand with a married colleague during a party away day. McBride suggests Red Rag hint that a sex aid was accidentally left in a hotel bedroom.

Maybe not so unusual anywhere but other smear planers, Rove comes to mind, do not use their official government email addresses for such smear and take care not to get their emails published by a (right.-wing) blogger.

Craig Murray opines:

These disgusting New Labour spin doctors are a cancer attached to the heart of the British government. They pose an infinitely more fundamental threat to British society and values than terrorism does. We can get through the odd bomb attack. We cannot get through the radical corruption of the democratic system.

Right on. The Brits are cursed with Blair's and Brown's New Labour.

But the real questions is: Are the realistic alternatives any better?

Posted by b on April 12, 2009 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

 
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