Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pelosi's Popularity Wilted by Cindy Sheehan's People Before Politics Campaign

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 30, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Today, Cindy Sheehan, candidate for Congress, denounced Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) for her support of the now-failed "bailout for Corporate America." Sheehan also kept up her call for a progressive and comprehensive "bottom up" plan that gets to the heart of the economic crisis and addresses the needs of everyday Americans struggling to make ends meet.

"My opponent Nancy Pelosi works for the corporate interests. She put this bill forward and voted against the will of her district," Sheehan said. "Thankfully my opponent wasn't able to get the votes she needed in her own House to get it to pass. I am heartened that 'We the People' won the first round in the corporate bailout of irresponsible and greedy bankers."

If passed, the staggering $700 billion proposed bailout would have cost each and every American more than $2,300.

A soon-to-be released Zogby poll found that nearly 41% of registered voters in California's 8th Congressional District think that they now are worse off financially than they were two years ago. The poll, conducted from September 24 through September 25, also found that Pelosi's popularity is waning among her constituents, showing that she has seen an 18% drop in voter support since California's June primary. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 5.0 percentage points. According to a May Field Poll, only 30% of California voters approved of Pelosi's performance, while 39% disapproved.

Sheehan for Congress is offering several platforms where people can get their voices heard about the economic crisis and send a strong message to Pelosi that Congress needs to bail out hard-working men and women by paying their accumulated personal debt.

Sheehan has organized protests where people can bring their past-due mortgage, rent and utilities, student loan, medical and credit card bills. The campaign has also set up an electronic form on their web site, http://www.cindyforcongress.org, where people can enter their estimated total debt. The campaign will then present Pelosi with the accumulated bill.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bailout vs. the Defense Budget -- Chalmers Johnson

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174982
via Truthdig

There has been much moaning, air-sucking and outrage about the $700 billion that the U.S. government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches. In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.

On Wednesday, September 24th, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all. (The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.)

The defense bill includes $68.6 billion to pursue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only a down-payment on the full yearly cost of these wars. (The rest will be raised through future supplementary bills.) It also included a 3.9% pay raise for military personnel, and $5 billion in pork-barrel projects not even requested by the administration or the secretary of defense. It also fully funds the Pentagon’s request for a radar site in the Czech Republic, a hare-brained scheme sure to infuriate the Russians just as much as a Russian missile base in Cuba once infuriated us. The whole bill passed by a vote of 392-39 and will fly through the Senate, where a similar bill has already been approved. And no one will even think to mention it in the same breath with the discussion of bailout funds for dying investment banks and the like.

This is pure waste. Our annual spending on “national security”—meaning the defense budget plus all military expenditures hidden in the budgets for the departments of Energy, State, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, the CIA, and numerous other places in the executive branch—already exceeds a trillion dollars, an amount larger than that of all other national defense budgets combined. Not only was there no significant media coverage of this latest appropriation, there have been no signs of even the slightest urge to inquire into the relationship between our bloated military, our staggering weapons expenditures, our extravagantly expensive failed wars abroad, and the financial catastrophe on Wall Street.

Winning Hearts and Minds (continued)

An Iraqi boy and his sister eye U.S. Army soldiers from Lightning Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment as they ask the children's father about a roadside bomb attack on the outskirts of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday.
(September 28, 2008) Associated Press

Bloodsucking Hypocrites

"Why are they smiling?

You’d almost think they enjoy fucking the voters!"

from the correntewire website via Once Upon A Time...

More People Who SHOULD be Getting Bailed Out -- Instead of Greedy Wallstreeters

SAN'A, Yemen —

Somali refugees abandoned by smugglers in the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden drifted for 18 days, and at least 52 died before the group was rescued off the Yemeni coast, the U.N. said Sunday. Seventy-one people survived the journey.

The boat broke down within hours of leaving Somalia on Sept. 3, bound for Yemen and carrying 124 Somalis, the U.N. refugee agency said. The crew abandoned the boat for another craft and never returned for the refugees, who threw bodies overboard as fellow passengers died, the UNHCR statement said.

Eventually, the boat drifted close enough to southern Yemen that three passengers tried to swim ashore. Two managed to alert rescuers; the third never made it.

The Yemeni coast guard rescued 71 refugees on Sept. 21, the UNHCR statement said.

Hundreds of Africans die every year trying to reach Yemen, with many either drowning or being killed by pirates and smugglers in the dangerous waters separating Somalia and the Arabian peninsula. Those who survive the journey register with the U.N. refugee agency and stay in refugee camps in Yemen, while others take jobs in the cities as laborers for less than a $1 a day.

The agency said at least 31,192 people have arrived in Yemen on smugglers' boats so far this year - including 21,201 Somalis and 9,854 Ethiopians fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands. More than 228 people have died and at least 262 remain missing, the UNHCR said.

According to the agency, people smuggling subsides in the summer months because of bad weather in the Gulf of Aden, but picks up again in late August and September.

When You Believe In Things You Don't Understand, Then You Suffer

Stevie Wonder nailed our predicament in this song, Superstition. Congress and the administration are trying to scare us -- let's not let them do it. NO BAILOUT!

Very superstitious, writings on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

When you believe in things that you dont understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

Very superstitious, wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin strong,
You dont wanna save me, sad is my song.

When you believe in things that you dont understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way, yeh, yeh.

Very superstitious, nothin more to say,
Very superstitious, the devils on his way,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin glass,
Seven years of bad luck, good things in your past

When you believe in things that you dont understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way, no, no, no

U.S. Troops Fighting Moro Insurgents In The Philippines -- Another Sad Chapter

Portion below; whole thing here: http://sonnysj.blogspot.com/2008/09/us-troops-fighting-moro-insurgents-in.html

From this place, US military operations against domestic insurgents--whether belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) or to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), or the New People's Army (NPA)--are launched and directed. In lieu of economic-social reforms, the government's militarist solution to poverty, unemployment, and extra-judicial killings and kidnappings--over 1,000 victims so far--will only create a refugee crisis, more atrocities and "collateral damage" of innocent civilians, loss of national sovereignty, and impunity for criminal violence committed by the military and police.

Re-occupying "Our Possessions"

The Camp Navarro U.S. outpost is only one of many disposable, low-profile "lily-pad" stations of "forward deployment" for the US military in the post-9/11 period. Tom Engelhardt recently counted more than 750 US military facilities in 39 countries. But many more are not officially acknowledged, such as the 106 bases in Iraq or those in Afghanistan; or in countries like Jordan and Pakistan where bases are shared (Tomgram 2008; Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire, 2003). This applies to US military installations in the Philippines. US troops in the Philippines refer to their Jolo launching-pad as "Advance Operating Base-920" devoted to "unconventional warfare"(Herbert Docena, Focus on the Global South Media Advisory, 8/15/2007). The JSOTF-P started in 2002 in Mindanao, part of the Pentagon's realignment of overseas basing network (Michael Klare, "Imperial Reach," The Nation 4/25/2005). The bases are now called "cooperative security locations" (CSL), a euphemism mentioned in the May 2005 report of the US Commission on Review of Overseas Military Facility Structures, or Overseas Basing Commission. CSLs can be existing military or private facilities available for US military use. These are located in Clark, Subic, Mactan International Airport in the Visayas, in General Santos City airport, in the aforementioned Zamboanga AFP outpost, and in other clandestine areas (Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao Bureau, 11/26/2007).

The Arroyo regime readily hands out apologias for the presence of 400-600 US military personnel in the country purportedly serving "mutually beneficial ends," as the US Embassy claims. Retired General Edilberto Adan of the Presidential Commission on the VFA (Visiting Forces Agrement) openly excuses the U.S. embedded military headquarters as a necessary fixture to maintain "control over their units." When Arroyo visited the US in May 2003, she boasted of having obtained from Washington $356 million in security-related assistance, the largest military aid package since the closing of US bases in 1992. She claimed that US military aid had grown to "more than 100 million dollars annually from 1.9 million dollars three years ago" (Inquirer News Service, 5/27/2003). Two million dollars were allocated for "Sulu rehabilitation" while four million was allocated to Basilan, the site of the Balikatan exercise in 2002. As a "major non-Nato ally," Arroyo announced that Bush will continue to give aid to support the Philippines' "war on terrorism," not for economic development or for social services, much less for social justice and equity.
"War on terrorists" ("terrorists", of course, refer to those opposed to US policies; the exploitative neoliberal impositions of the World Bank, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund) becomes the Arroyo regime's blanket term to legitimize US infringement and violation of Philippine sovereignty. What results is a war of terror on humanity, a "homeland security imperialism" whose latest symptomatic crisis is the collapse of the US financial system and the erosion of US economic capacity to maintain hegemony (John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney, Pox Americana, 2004).

Ghouls of Pacification

A brief historical background may be helpful. When the U.S. granted nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946, one of the conditions for this grant was the retention of 23 military installations all over the pacified colonial territory. It was legitimized by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty which, under the aegis of Cold War anticommunism, provided for US intervention in case of foreign military invasion by a communist power (Daniel B, Schirmer and Stephen Shalom, The Philippines Reader 1987).

In reviewing the historical record of US colonial subjugation of the islands, William Blum reminds us how the US helped suppress the Huk peasant rebellion in 1940-50. At least one US infantry division collaborated with the Filipino military in killing Huk sympathizers (about 500 peasants, with thousands jailed and tortured) during the months before and after the elections of 1946. In the 1950s, through the Joint US Military Advisory Group and Col. Edward Lansdale (who became notorious for the Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam), then President Ramon Magsaysay used US military advisers, weapons and logistics in unconventional types of counterinsurgency schemes against peasant rebels. Among the CIA agents in government, Arroyo's father Diosdado Macapagal "provided the Agency with political information for several years and eventually asked for, and received, what he felt he deserved: heavy financial support for his campaign..." Blum concludes that by the early fifties, "Fortress America" in the Philippines was securely in place: "From the Philippines would be launched American air and sea actions against Korea and China, Vietnam and Indonesia....On the islands' bases, the technology and art of counter-insurgency warfare would be imparted to the troops of America's other allies in the Pacific" (Killing Hope, NY 2004, p. 42)."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

James Petras' Ten Reason to Oppose the Wall Street Bailout

Portion below; whole thing here: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_28341.shtml

Ten Reasons to Oppose the Wall Street Bailout

  1. In a market economy capitalists justify their profits by the risk of losses that they take. Gamblers cannot keep their profits and pass their losses to the taxpayers. They have to take responsibility for their bad decisions.

  2. Much of the toxic (garbage) debts were based on fraudulent practices – opaque financial instruments unrelated to real assets (but which generated huge commissions). Bailing out swindlers only encourages more swindling.

  3. The US Treasury will purchase worthless paper, the private banks will retain any assets of value. We buy the lemons, they drive the Cadillacs.

  4. The chance of the Treasury recovering any value from their purchases of bad debt is near zero. The taxpayers will be stuck with paper with no buyers.

  5. The long-term effect of a bailout will be to double the public debt and undercut funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and public health programs while increasing the tax burden of future generations.

  6. The dollar will devalue as the government debt will decrease its attractiveness overseas, increasing the cost of imports and resulting in an inflationary spiral which will further undermine working people’s living standards.

  7. The channeling of funds to Wall Street will divert funds from getting us out of this deepening recession.

  8. The bailout will deepen the financial crisis because, according to the Director of the Congressional Budget Office, it will expose the fact that many institutions may be carrying many more ‘toxic assets’ and reveal that those institutions are not solvent. In other words, the Treasury and Congress are freeing up bad debts to insolvent institutions.

  9. The bailout is aimed at facilitating lending; but if the problem is not credit but (as the Congressional Budget Office has shown) the insolvency of the financial institutions, the solution is to create solvent financial institutions.

  10. The bailout totally ignores the financial needs of 10 million homeowners facing foreclosures; the bankruptcy of small enterprises facing a credit crunch and the loss of workers’ jobs and health plans for their families because of the recession.
Alternatives to the Wall Street Bailout

The speed with which this gigantic amount of public funds had been made available by the Treasury and Congress puts the lie to their argument that popular programs cannot be funded or need to be cut back. In fact, investing $700 billion in the health and education of American workers will increase productivity, open markets and expand consumer power leading to a virtuous circle increasing public revenues and eliminating the budget and trade deficits.

Public funds invested in manufacturing, construction, education and health care leads to products with real use value and has a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy instead of ending up in the pockets of billionaires who speculate and invest in mergers and overseas buyouts.

The Treasury and Congress have inadvertently revealed that federal financing is readily available to rebuild the US economy, guarantee decent living wages and provide health care for everyone if we choose elective officials who are committed to the needs of the US workers and not the Wall Street billionaires.

The Red and White Bird in Gaza -- Mats Svensson

The young girl from Gaza tells me how she yearns for the red and white bird. It used to come every morning to the little veranda where her mother served a breakfast of bread, tea, water and fruit when the weather was good. Each morning her father left to look for work in Gaza City, and sometimes he was successful. Most of the time he came home late at night.

She used to throw out a few seeds or breadcrumbs to the red and white bird. It came every morning at the same time, as if it had its own clock. They used to have breakfast together.

The girl talks about the time before that day in 2004, when everything disappeared. That was the day when one of the many wars ended. Before then, Israeli soldiers had passed by every day in their big metal boxes. She could see them clattering by when she drank her morning tea. Behind the thick grey steel sat the young soldiers. On these days, she would remain at home rather than going to school.

They were all scared of the uncertainty and of the unknown. They often heard them in the distance, the sound of big machines with their heavy engines, the roar of rockets, the rattling of machine guns. They were afraid that the machines would come too close, that the sounds would come up to them and stop, and that the machines would turn their jaws directly at them. It was on these days that the red and white bird would not appear.

The adults used to sit in the evenings and whisper about what they had seen or heard that day. Everyone dreamed of the day when everything would be quiet, no more machine gun fire and no clattering of heavy metal. The girl longed to go back to school.

In the middle of the cold refugee room, with a few possessions piled in one corner, she sits and tells her story. She speaks in a calm and quiet voice as she spreads a rug on the cold cement floor and helps her little sister with her math lessons.

She speaks slowly, as if she wants to be sure that every word is true, no exaggeration and nothing left out. Back then, they had a house with a veranda and a red and white bird. She shared a room with her little sister. Now the whole family is squeezed into a small room without a veranda and without a bird that comes to visit.

On the morning of the last day of the war, the soldiers stopped their heavy metal box and aimed the long cannon barrel at the house. That was the morning they didn’t just pass by. The girl will never forget it. She saw how they went by the house and slowly turned back, and in their wake followed four bulldozers. Daddy had already gone looking for work. They were surrounded by tanks carrying soldiers and heavy, specially built bulldozers. The houses were emptied of women, men and children. The soldiers were screaming, and so were the women and children. The soldiers only gave them a moment. She forgets how long, but it wasn’t long enough.

“I don’t understand,” she says. “I don’t understand. They just came, as if they were passing by our houses. Then they stopped. Someone called out. A soldier approached and asked us to leave our houses, leave them at once. We could bring a few things, but most of our possessions were left behind. The time was too short, everyone was just running around. We wanted to go into the house while it was falling down. The sound of your house being destroyed is terrible."

Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is presently following the ongoing occupation of Palestine. He can be reached at isbjorn2001@hotmail.com.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur Speaks Truth to Power on the Bogus Bailout

Friday, September 26, 2008

Haitians -- Some People Who Could REALLY Use a Bailout

Haitian city encased in mud needs global help

GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) -- The U.N. World Food Program's director flew to a Haitian city still encased in mud Friday to draw global attention to the ongoing disaster that has enormously complicated the country's struggle to feed itself.

The WFP said it has asked for US$54 million to help Haiti recover from four killer storms but so far has received only US$1 million. Beginning a two-day survey of the disaster area, Executive Director Josette Sheeran said ''concerted global action'' will be needed in a country where local officials say famine looms.

Haitian President Rene Preval also pleaded for help, asking for long-term assistance Friday in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Devastation awaited Sheeran in this coastal city, largely cut off from the rest of Haiti because of flooded roads and wrecked bridges. Gray mud is still piled waist-high in homes, coating prized television sets, books and cooking pots. Tens of thousands still live in shelters and roam muddy streets looking for food.

At least 194 people were killed by the tropical storms in less than a month this summer in Gonaives and the surrounding region, the largest share of a nationwide death toll of 425.

Some of the muck is topsoil -- precious in this deforested country -- flushed from the mountains above when a river broke its banks, churned through the countryside and sliced through town before emptying into the sea.

Clouds of mosquitoes now breed in Gonaives' wet ground, raising fears that disease will spread. Children play in the muck. In a hospital, brown mud immobilizes an empty wheelchair.

Some families bail the mud from their houses, soldiering on in the stench. Mothers use muddy rags to wipe off kitchen utensils. Most residents have nowhere else to go.

''I've been cleaning out my dirt house,'' said Yonel Charles, who lost all his possessions in the floods. ''I have to stay here.''

The floods from Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike destroyed an estimated 60 percent of Haiti's food harvest. The WFP said it has delivered more than 2,200 metric tons of food during this emergency, enough to feed almost 500,000 people.

''Hunger is no stranger to Haitians who have been struck by more than their fair share of crises,'' Sheeran said. ''Now is the time for concerted global action to get food to the hungry, and to support President Preval's goal of longer-term solutions to help the country, and its people, feed themselves.''

Speaking in New York, Preval thanked the world for its help, but said emergency aid alone won't solve Haiti's plight and that long-term solutions are needed.

''Once this first wave of humanitarian compassion is exhausted, we will be left as always, truly alone, to face new catastrophes and see restarted, as if in a ritual, the same exercises of mobilization,'' Preval said.

Preval said he wants trade liberalization ''based on clear rules'' that would allow Haitian farmers to compete, and a reconstruction project that empowers Haitians to take care of themselves.

More than 800,000 people in the country of 9 million have been affected by the storms, including more than 300,000 children. Gonaives is on Haiti's central floodplain, but towns on the southern peninsula also remain cut off and desperate for drinking water, and the country's northwest is flooded. Bridges and roads lay destroyed all across the country.

The U.N. said it has only received 3.4 percent of its US$108 million appeal for relief after the storms. An additional US$17 million has been given in bilateral aid.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has pledged US$29 million in humanitarian assistance so far.

On Friday, the nonprofit Green Family Foundation also announced a US$900,000 seed grant for a Millennium Global Village in Haiti during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York.

The grant funds a village in the impoverished Central Plateau to help fight malaria, increase food production, provide drinking water and improve schools.


Associated Press writer Jonathan M. Katz contributed to this story from the United Nations.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Dismal Science Becomes Gloomier

Portion below; whole thing here: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_28235.shtml

Our world cannot support 6 billion people living at the consumptive level of the United States. The economy cannot be predicted by useless non-scientific formulas. Growth cannot last forever. Markets are neither closed nor perfect. Humans do not always put self in front of others, the neoliberal consummate greedy individual, and quite in contrast, most humans will perform highly altruistic acts to help other people.

The one thing the current global picture has that is in common with economics is the ‘dismal’ part. The environment is changing, and if previous civilizations are any indication, we will either change and adapt with it…or go the way of the dinosaurs. The global war on terror with its black and white “with us or against us” mantra ensures ongoing wars of some type somewhere. Those wars are truly about resources creating the mess in the Middle East, from Israel/Palestine in the west, to the increasingly more troubled and dangerous borders of Pakistan/Afghanistan farther east, and will not abate any time soon, either with Obama or McCain at the helm.

Then there is the economy itself. If the economists truly know what is going on, how did we arrive at the above conditions (as they obviously have many economic variables within themselves) globally? Combine that with the enormous debt structures both within the United States and internationally, how are their magic formulas going to get us out of all this?

What to do? Think pessimistically globally, act positively locally, and continue to advocate and educate as best as possible. Perhaps someday when the politicians and economists cannot deliver us from disaster, then maybe millions upon millions of little actions will eventually break through their narrowly defined self-centred focus on growth and wealth accumulation at the expense of other people and the environment. In the meantime, don’t believe anything an economist might tell you. It’s all magic.

Live and Let Die -- William Parry

Portion below; whole (on Electronic Intifada) thing here:

Imagine John Lennon is still alive and touring, and is asked to play Tel Aviv as Israel celebrates turning 60. Picture him publicly telling the Israelis where to stick their offer. Instead, he chooses to play Bethlehem to mark 60 years of dispossession of the Palestinian people. While the world's press cover the gig, a few hundred locals turn out, bemused to see the old bespectacled former Beatle on stage in a kuffiyeh performing "Power to the People," "Happy Xmas (War is over)," and "Give Peace a Chance." Millions of people in the West get a rare dose of invective from a celebrity about the catalogue of crimes being perpetrated with impunity by one of our allies. "Instant Karma's gonna get you, Israel," he wails!

Paul McCartney, on the other hand, will be giving the first performance by a Beatle in Tel Aviv on 25 September -- receiving an alleged $4.3 million -- despite efforts by various groups in Palestine and internationally calling on him to boycott Israel, including the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Barrie Marshall, from Marshall Arts, a company representing Sir Paul, has replied to such concerns by saying: "[P]lease rest assured that Paul's 'Friendship First' concert is about his music and its inherent message of friendship."

What will McCartney open with, "Pipes of Peace" or "Ebony and Ivory"? Given the reality on the ground, which he refuses to acknowledge, why not open with "Live and Let Die" to a rapturous Israeli audience?

"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see," the Beatles once sang. This is what Israel is about -- denial. Denial regarding its responsibility for creating 750,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948 through massacres and a campaign of terror. Denial of its legal obligations over six decades toward these refugees, who now exceed 7 million people, comprising the largest refugee population in the world. Denial concerning the ongoing dispossession and ethnic cleansing that is blindingly obvious to anyone who wishes to see it.

Take Jerusalem: Israelis are bent on living normal lives like other Western citizens, in cafes, restaurants, parks, bars, shopping malls, or going to school or to work or to pray. The facade can be -- and should be -- smashed by stepping into a car and driving into occupied East Jerusalem, surrounded by a wall, cutting it off from its Palestinian context, or just 15 minutes in virtually any direction.

US Nuke Ship Provokes Protests in Japan

Hundreds of Japanese have staged a protest against a notorious US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier which is due to dock in Yokosuka.

More at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=70116&sectionid=351020406

Project Censored -- via Angry Arab Newservice

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words!

via Palestinian Pundit
(Click on cartoon to enlarge)
By Tab, the Calgary Sun

Bush to Address the Nation About the "Credit Crisis!"

Found on Palestinian Pundit

Vets Leading the Way Forward Against War Criminals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 23, 2008
Contacts: Elliot Adams 518-441-2697, Ellen Barfield 410-948-8023, Tarak Kauff 845 249-9489


“Arresting Bush and Cheney for war crimes will honor our oath to the Constitution,” vets say.

On Tuesday morning, September 23, 7:30am, at the front of the National Archives Building on Constitution Ave. in Washington, D.C., five military veterans will risk arrest as they climb a 9-foot retaining fence and occupy a 35-foot high ledge to raise a 22x8 foot banner stating, “DEFEND OUR CONSTITUTION. ARREST BUSH AND CHENEY: WAR CRIMINALS!”

Seattle IVAW challenges Army Recruiters on Campus of University of Washington. Pic is atop the portable climbing wall the recruiters use as bait. 9-23-08

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Fair Game: Your Money At Work, Fixing Other's Mistakes"

"Such is our lot today: They break it. We own it.

Taxpayers deserve better than this, of course. But we have no lobbyists, so we get skinned."

This is from Gretchen Morgenson in the NYTimes. I'm not sure it was a "mistake," when I think about Grover Norquist and his wish to "to get government reduced down to the size where I can drown it in the bathtub." This bail-out could just about do that. Although I'm sure they won't be shutting down the imperial war machine for lack of funds. Probably just social security, which is just what Grover wants.

Whole article below and original here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/business/21gret.html?8dpc

IT looks as if we may get through this weekend without another scramble to save a troubled financial firm with a trillion-dollar balance sheet.

But that doesn’t mean taxpayers are out of danger. No, sir. No, ma’am. Because lawmakers are at work on a bailout fund that would buy the kind of distressed assets (defaulted mortgages, for example) that have ignited this firestorm.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has called the fund the “troubled asset relief program.” I’ll just call it TARP for short (you know, the kind of thing they spread over muddy fields so you don’t soil your Guccis).

And depending on how TARP is operated, and how the assets are valued before taxpayers are forced to buy them, it could bloat our final bill for this mess while benefiting the very institutions that got us into it.

Yes, we need a smart plan and a concerted effort to get the frozen credit markets up and running. But we also have to be certain that the types of conflicts of interest that riddle Wall Street aren’t visited upon TARP.

Consider: A bank wants to sell the TARPistas (also known as TAXPAYERS) a pile of stinky mortgage securities that it currently values at 60 cents on the dollar. Let’s assume that the most recent actual trade between market participants for similar assets was struck at 30 cents on the dollar.

So what’s a fair price that we TARPistas should pay for the assets?

If we bought at 60 cents, a price that the bank would argue is appropriate, we would most likely face a loss. The bank, however, would be much better off than if it had to dump at 30 cents.

Conversely, if the assets were sold at 30 cents, taxpayers could wind up making a profit on the purchase if the assets performed better than expected over time. But the bank would have to write down the value of the assets as a result of the sale, possibly threatening its financial standing yet again.

Do you think, perchance, that financial services lobbyists might be working their Hill contacts right this very minute to ensure that the TARP valuations are rigged in their favor?

You know the answer to that.

And you also know that we should steel ourselves for heavy losses as the TARP gets pulled over our eyes. Never mind that it was the banks, with their reckless lending and monumental leverage, that drove us into this ditch.

Such is our lot today: They break it. We own it.

Taxpayers deserve better than this, of course. But we have no lobbyists, so we get skinned.

IF federal regulators and political leaders want to earn back some trust, they could do two things. First, they could provide us with some transparency about whom precisely we are backing in the recent bailouts.

Take, for example, the rescue on Tuesday of the American International Group, once the world’s largest insurance company. It was pretty breathtaking. Since when do insurance companies, whose business models seem to consist of taking in premiums and stonewalling claims, deserve rescues from beleaguered taxpayers?

Answer: Ever since the world became so intertwined that the failure of one company can topple a host of others. And ever since credit default swaps, those unregulated derivative contracts that allow investors to bet on a debt issuer’s financial prospects, loomed so big on balance sheets that they now drive every bailout decision.

The deal to save A.I.G. involves a two-year, $85 billion loan from taxpayers. In exchange, the new owners — us — get 80 percent of the company. If enough of A.I.G.’s assets are sold for good prices, we may get our money back.

Credit default swaps, which operate like insurance policies against the possibility that an issuer of debt will not pay on its obligations, were the single biggest motivator behind the A.I.G. deal.

A.I.G. had written $441 billion in credit insurance on mortgage-related securities whose values have declined; if A.I.G. were to fail, all the institutions that bought the insurance would have been subject to enormous losses. The ripple effect could have turned into a tsunami.

So, the $85 billion loan to A.I.G. was really a bailout of the company’s counterparties or trading partners.

Now, inquiring minds want to know, whom did we rescue? Which large, wealthy financial institutions — counterparties to A.I.G.’s derivatives contracts — benefited from the taxpayers’ $85 billion loan? Were their representatives involved in the talks that resulted in the last-minute loan?

And did Lehman Brothers not get bailed out because those favored institutions were not on the hook if it failed?

We’ll probably never know the answers to these troubling questions. But by keeping taxpayers in the dark, regulators continue to earn our mistrust. As long as we are not told whom we have bailed out, we will be justified in suspecting that a favored few are making gains on our dimes.

A.I.G.’s financial statements provided a clue to the identities of some of its credit default swap counterparties. The company said that almost three-quarters of the $441 billion it had written on soured mortgage securities was bought by European banks. The banks bought the insurance to reduce the amounts of capital they were required by regulators to set aside to cover future losses.

Enjoy the absurdity: Billions in unregulated derivatives that were about to take down the insurance company that sold them were bought by banks to get around their regulatory capital requirements intended to rein in risk.

Got that?

Which brings us to Item 2 for policy makers. Stop pretending that the $62 trillion market for credit default swaps does not need regulatory oversight. Warren E. Buffett was not engaging in hyperbole when he called these things financial weapons of mass destruction.

“The last eight years have been about permitting derivatives to explode, knowing they were unregulated,” said Eric R. Dinallo, New York’s superintendent of insurance. “It’s about what the government chose not to regulate, measured in dollars. And that is what shook the world.”

And it will continue.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lawrence of Cyberia -- Bertrand Russell -- Quote of the Week

"The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was 'given' by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East."

- Bertrand Russell, statement to the International Conference of Parliamentarians, 3 Feb 1970; cited in Palestine and the Palestinians: A Social and Political History by Samih K. Farsoun & Naseer Hasan Aruri (second edition, p.370).

Photo: A young Palestinian refugee walks near her school wall at al-Baqaa refugee camp, outside of Amman, May 15, 2008. The graffiti reads: 'I will not stay a refugee forever'. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bull Market -- by Daryl Cagle

via Palestinian Pundit

"The Dems Are Going the Way of the Whig Party" --

Whole text below; go to link for notes: http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2008/09/17/p28751

“The Dems...are weaklings who blow where the wind takes them while frittering away our...lifeblood.” - Cindy Sheehan

It’s painful for me to watch the Dems, the political party of my youth, self-destruct. I’m sure this is how members of the Whig Party must have felt as they witnessed their organization fade from the national scene. The Whigs were the heirs of the Federalist Party, originally led by George Washington. A split over the issue of Slavery, however, just before the Civil War, marked the death knell of that once influential entity. The Dems, on the other hand, are going down because they no longer stand for anything. They are morphing into a Duopoly--the DemRepublicrats. The Peace Mom, Cindy Sheehan, correctly wrote that the Dems are only good for “careful fence sitting and pandering.” (1)

The 2006 mid-term election was the tipping point for the demise of the Dems. Their decline followed from that election--and it was a challenge--ironically, that they had won. The Dems solemnly promised the voters that if they carried the day, in 2006, they would end the Iraq War. The activists in the Peace Movement, such as Ms. Sheehan, a Gold Star Mother for Peace, took them at their word. They worked their guts out to get a majority of the Dems elected in congressional races across the country.

What was the result of all of that sweat? The Dems gave the activists the back of their hand. In fact, some of their allies, like at the HuffPost web site, a bastion of the Hollywood Elite, added insult to injury. They wrongly claimed that the Dems won, in 2006, mostly because of the efforts of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), and his ilk. (2) In the past, this same HuffPost web site has gone out of its way to marginalize the efforts of the Peace Movement.

To make matters worse, in 2007, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), proclaimed: “Impeachment is off the table!” What a dumb thing to say. By not seeking the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney, the Dems were giving away the seminal issue for forging a Democratic victory in 2008: The serial wrongdoings of the Bush-Cheney Gang over the last eight years! (3) Instead, the Dems are now running as the “Party of Change.” But, where are their “new” ideas?

At the Democratic Convention did you hear a word of serious criticism about the Bush-Cheney Gang’s domestic spying operation, or its torture polices, or its massive out sourcing of jobs, via its trade agreements? The Bush-Cheney Gang also gave us secret prisons, the draconian USA Patriot Act and gutted the ancient Writ of Habeas Corpus. Yet, the Dems were silent on all of the above.

To show that the Dems have no real intention of bringing the troops safely home from Iraq, they anointed the hawkish Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, a confessed Zionist, as Barack Obama’s VP running mate. Now, the flaky Biden is saying Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), would have been a better VP choice for the ticket than himself. Things are so bad with the Dems, you can’t make this crap up! Then, when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his VP candidate, the Dems, and their Propaganda Machine, badly overreacted. Their vicious attacks on Palin have turned Middle America off. (4)

Just look at this latest poll. In North Carolina, the McCain-Palin ticket is ahead by by a staggering “20 points!” This is the same state that the disgraced ex-Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) calls home.

During the 2000 presidential election debates, I vividly recall Al Gore’s on-camera TV persona. He came off as a smart ass college professor talking down to his students. George W. Bush, a disgrace to humanity, nevertheless, was much better prepped by his handlers. He looked into the camera and talked directly to the voters as if he were standing in their living rooms. Bush came off as sincere and authentic; Gore as wooden and pompous. Gore also made a huge mistake in choosing that raving Likudnut, Joe Lieberman, then a Dem from Connecticut, as his VP running mate.

In the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), too, should have easily run Dubya out of the ball park. He didn’t. Kerry put on a don’t-rock-the-boat-presidential campaign. A Vietnam War Vet, he campaigned as a Pro-Iraq War Lite. He inspired no one! As a result, he blew an election that could have been his for the taking.

Enter Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). He came roaring into the state of Maryland in the early primary season. He beat the dickens out of Hillary, and the local Political Machine headed by that hot dog of a governor, Martin O’Malley, and windbag U.S. Senator, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). I thought: Sen. Obama has the right stuff! He appeared a master at converting his audience to his candidacy. (5) Then, unfortunately, he began letting “others” define him. (6)

When that royal-pain-in-the ass, Richard Cohen, a ranter for the “Washington Post,” criticized Sen. Obama’s then pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the senator quickly caved into the pressure. He tossed his pastor overboard and abandoned a church which had been his spiritual home for over 20 years! For the folks who reflected deeply at this affair: Sen. Obama came off, in his knee jerk response, as weak and disloyal. These are character flaws which are alien to Sen. John McCain’s projected persona. He comes off, whether you like him or not, as reliable and strong. Can anyone imagine JFK, in 1960, leaving his RC church, in Boston, because of what some half-baked pundit said about his priest?

Sen. Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” crack didn’t help him either. It reinforced an image of himself that isn’t very presidential. The line, however, that really offended tens of millions of potential voters for the Dems, especially with rural America, was the one from Sen. Obama, which came while he was campaigning out in California. He remarked about the residents of the “small towns in Pennsylvania,” which have been seriously damaged by out sourcing. He disparaged them as “bitter” gun owners, clinging to “religion or antipathy to people” who are unlike themselves. This is the language of an elitist that you expect to hear from somebody who is a card carrying member of the Council on Foreign Relations or the Trilateral Commission: the New World Order boy-ohs. Even though Sen. Obama didn’t mean his comment exactly the way that it came out, it has put him on the defensive with many voters.

I spent some time in Pennsylvania this summer, mostly in the rural areas, up around Centre County. It is primarily farm country. There are also plenty of those “small towns” in the region that Sen. Obama was referring to in his remarks. The resentment there from gun owners against Sen. Obama runs very deep. If you ask them about it, they will let you know quickly, and in no uncertain terms, that Sen. Obama isn’t their candidate. Period! You will also see plenty of lawn signs in central Pennsylvania, and beyond, that read: “I’m a ‘bitter’ gun owner, and I vote.” The NRA is now funding a $40 million Fall blitz targeting Sen. Obama for defeat. (7) He can only blame himself for this sorry mess.

There are others things which are hurting Sen. Obama’s chances. For example, the idea that Barbara Streisand had a fundraiser for him, on Sept. 16, 2008, in glitzy Beverly Hills, CA, where one ticket cost $28,500, had to turn off a lot of working class folks. Americans are losing their jobs and their homes to foreclosures, by the millions. The economy, thanks to Alan Greenspan’s gross incompetence at “The Fed,” is in a virtual meltdown. (8) Many see the Streisand-Hollywood-related-megabucks stunt, as way over the top. They also see Sen. Obama as being out of touch for permitting it. His endorsement, too, of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, may be the final straw for many who saw him as their knight in shining armor. (9)

Getting back to Ms. Sheehan. She put it concisely in her “Open Letter to the Democratic Congress,” when she explained why she was leaving the Democratic Party. She wrote, on May 28, 2007, “You have completely failed those who put you in power to ‘change’ the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to a safe harbor.” (1)

Finally, in 2000, Gore lost an election that he should have won. Then, Kerry, in 2004, followed suit. And, now, Sen. Obama, incredibly, in 2008, is on that same losing path. When he goes down, the Dems, like the Whigs before them, will fall hard with him. Look for the result to be Third Parties rising Phoenix-like! (10)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Before You Get Out Your Hankie for the Bankers...

Portion below; whole thing here:

So how does his demise compare with the other fallen idols who have now fled the crashing debris in Wall Street? They may have driven their banks – and their shareholders – into enormous losses. But the former Masters of the Universe will never know what it's like to live in a subprime home.

By the end, 62-year-old Fuld was Lehman's biggest individual stockholder. Despite the crash, he stands to leave with about $65 million, based on Lehman's Friday morning stock price of $3.73. This tally includes 8.6 million unrestricted shares worth some $32.1 million as of Friday morning – though they had been worth $582 million last November before the credit crunch hurricane struck.

Chuck ("I'm still dancing") Prince left Citigroup with a package said to be worth $40 million. He also received a pension of $1.74 million and another one million stock options – worthless at the time of his departure. Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal spent much of last summer perfecting his golf swing, confident that his trusty lieutenants at Merrill could avoid those subprime bunkers. It turned out to be a bad call.

HE WAS ousted last October as the first waves of the credit crunch struck, with a retirement package reckoned at more than $160 million.

Jimmy Cayne, 15 years at the top of Bear Stearns, was said to be on the golf course in June 2006 just as the bank dropped the first of many clangers, with a 10 per cent dive in profits. Worse followed, with the bank having to put up $3.2 billion to try to rescue its imploding hedge fund.

By mid-March last year, when the bank collapsed, Cayne, who would rush from Wall Street by chopper to the private Hollywood Golf Club in New Jersey to play 18 holes before dark, had already relinquished the reins, handing over the chief executive's role to Alan Schwartz.

When Schwartz went cap in hand to the New York Fed for a $30 billion bail-out, Cayne was said to be competing in the North American Bridge Championship in Detroit.

Cayne and his wife, Patricia, sold all their 5.6 million shares in Bear Stearns – worth as much as $1.2 billion in January 2007 – for $61.3 million at the end of March this year. The couple recently bought two adjacent apartments in New York's plush Plaza building for $28.2 million.

He left with a $30 million "golden goodbye" – enough to do up his Park Avenue property and a mock Tudor mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. But it emerged that the mansion, set in 2.3 acres of land, was surplus to requirements. "It no longer meets his needs,'' said the local estate agent, trying to sell it for $6.15 million. He was forced to cut the asking price.

That's how tough it gets at the top in Wall Street.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Afghanistan: U.S. Killed Civilians After False Tip

Portion below; whole thing (via Angry Arab Newservice) here:

KABUL, Afghanistan - An American bombing that killed up to 90 Afghan civilians last month was based on false information provided by a rival tribe and did not kill a single Taliban fighter, the president's spokesman said Sunday.

The claim contradicted a U.S. contention that the Aug. 22 raid on the western village of Azizabad killed up to 35 Taliban fighters.

"There was total misinformation fed to the coalition forces," Humayun Hamidzada, the spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, told The Associated Press.

Afghan police arrested three suspects accused of giving the U.S. military false intelligence that led to the bombardment, the Interior Ministry has said.

An Afghan government commission found that up to 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, a finding backed by a preliminary U.N. report.

Bombing has strained relations
The bombing strained the U.S.-Afghan relationship but the countries remain committed allies, Hamidzada said.

The operation, conducted by U.S. Special Forces and Afghan soldiers, targeted Afghan employees of a British security firm and their family members — the reason the U.S. military recovered weapons after the battle, Hamidzada said.

The U.S. has said its forces were fired on first during a raid that targeted and killed a known militant commander named Mullah Sidiq. But villagers say their homes were targeted because of false information provided by a rival tribesman named Nader Tawakil.

An Afghan parliamentarian has said Tawakil is in the protective custody of U.S. forces. The coalition has declined to comment.

"How the information was gathered, how it was misfed, and their personal animosity led to trying to use the international forces for their own political disputes, which led to a disastrous event and caused a strain on the relationship of the Afghan government and international forces," Hamidzada said.

"Not a single Talib was killed," he added. "So it was a total disaster, and it made it even worse when there were denials, total denials."

The U.S. at first said that 30 militants and no civilians were killed. A formal military investigation found that the operation killed up to 35 militants and seven civilians.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"The Almighty and U.S. Elections" -- By P. Sainath

Hang in There Ralph! 79 Per Cent of Americans Believe in Miracles!!

Portion below; whole thing here:

Barack Obama made sure his eyes looked unblinking into the TV camera as he said: "I believe (in) -- Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through him." Barely an hour later, John McCain said from the very same platform (into the same television cameras) that being a follower of Christ "means I'm saved and forgiven. We're talking about the world. Our faith encompasses not just the United States but the world." Whatever it means to Obama and McCain, it means God is alive and well and a frontrunner in US election campaigns.

Both Presidential candidates were confessing their faith to Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church. This was in mid-August and their first major public appearance on the same platform - though not together but one immediately after the other. Both were reaching audiences of millions, but were basically aiming at a large religious constituency. Both knew what they had to say and how to say it. Neither had a problem with the idea that two potential presidents of the United States could submit themselves to interviews and (absolution?) on a religious platform of one faith.

It is of course legitimate for candidates to harbor religious beliefs. It is also true that this was probably the first among modern nations to have a written constitution making a strong and sharp separation of church and state. Among the founders of the United States were those who had seen religious persecution in Europe. Hence their wall between Church and State. It's precisely that separation that begins to erode in such public displays of faith.

Let's suppose this had happened in, say, Pakistan. Say Zardari and Sharif or whoever, had had their opening debate at the Grand Mosque. You'd never have heard the end of it in the US media. It would have been the 'aha' proof, if any were needed, of religious zealotry, bigotry, fundamentalism and the rest of it. Here though, the swamp of analysis in the mainstream media that followed the Saddleback event had no such conclusions to draw. Not even in mild, diluted terms.

The media not only fear (and sometimes suck up to) the religious right, they also factor in what they see as vital sensitivities of their audiences. For all its world leader status and excellence in scientific research, far more people in this country believe in the Devil than in Darwin, as one late 2007 poll put it. Belief in (literal) Hell and the Devil was firm amongst 62 per cent of those surveyed. Darwin, complete with evolution / 'natural selection' clocked in with a poor 42 per cent. (About the same as Obama's rating in his latest polls.)

Also noteworthy: 79 per cent believed in miracles, 75 per cent in heaven. Witches and UFOs draw roughly the same score, with about a third of the populace believing in them. The UFOs have it by a short head among the general population 35 per cent against 31 per cent for witches. But witches outclass UFOs amongst born again Christians - amongst whom Darwin fares worse than both, with a mere 16 per cent. (You've got to hand it to the Harris pollsters. Someday, someone must pull off this exercise at the level of the Indian political class with its godmen and tantriks.)

The religious (and spiritual-moral) motif in the US presidential race extends far beyond Saddleback, though. And not just in terms of prayers at the Conventions of both Republicans and Democrats. The choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate had a lot to do with it, too. It was a move aimed at getting unhappy Evangelicals to board the McCain bandwagon. To that extent, it's even a move that has worked, apart from putting the Obama camp into confusion and despondency. The more so since the Democrats have tried hard to broaden their base amongst 'faith voters' for some time now.

This is partly based on the dangerous and fragile notion that the Left-inclined, the anti-Bush voters, those angry over the economy will vote Democrat anyway. So let's target the 'faith voters' a bit more.

"First US-Mex Fence: Fewer Migrants, More Violence" -- AP

Reminds me of another fence; you?
Portion below; whole thing here:

When the first stretch of wall went up, made of material recycled from landing strips left over from Vietnam, Boites was a teenager living in San Diego. Back at his family home, the fence cut off the view of the United States.

Little changed in Colonia Libertad. Smugglers cut holes in the fence and drove their vans through. Migrants scrambled over the wall, using the corrugated ridges like the steps of a ladder.

But to people in Colonia Libertad, it was still a slap in the face, proof the gringos weren't willing to acknowledge that they needed Mexicans to cut their lawns and take care of their kids.

"Sometimes we get the feeling that we aren't wanted over there," Boites says, gazing at the graffiti-covered wall.

Americans saw the fence as a necessity because millions of undocumented workers and tons of illegal drugs were streaming into their cities.

But it had consequences they never intended: Seasonal workers unable to easily go back and forth built permanent lives north of the border. Migrants were pushed into the searing desert of Arizona, and more than 1,600 have died, often of thirst and exposure.

In Tijuana, the United States kept increasing security, using the area to test new anti-smuggling methods and expanding the ones that worked. It added a second layer of fencing at some points, redesigning each barrier to make it more difficult to overcome.

Smugglers responded by charging migrants more money and becoming more violent. They used slingshots to launch rocks, bottles, nail-studded planks, Molotov cocktails. Sometimes they wanted to hurt border agents, but mostly they were trying to create diversions while they moved people or drugs across at another point.

Since last October, there have been 340 assaults on Border Patrol agents patrolling the California border. The Border Patrol says it doesn't know whether any agents were injured in those attacks.

The response, however, has taken a toll. In 2005, an 18-year-old Mexican boy was fatally shot by the Border Patrol. In August, a Mexican man was shot and wounded by an agent trying to disperse a group of rock throwers at a dry, concrete-lined gulley near Colonia Libertad.

During one assault, agents fired pepper and tear gas across the border into Colonia Libertad.

In a ramshackle house that uses the border fence as its back wall, Esther Arias' eyes began to water, her throat burned and she couldn't catch her breath. Her 3-week-old grandson screamed in pain, confused by the air that singed his tiny lungs.

A tear gas canister punched a hole in her father's house across the street and landed on the floor.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Presente -- Peter Camejo -- A Good Guy


It is with great sadness and regret that we have to inform you that
Peter Camejo died this morning. Peter decided that he would be more
comfortable at home, and the doctors agreed. Arrangements were made,
and ultimately Peter returned home yesterday. Peter’s health had
declined rapidly over the last two days due to the aggressiveness of
his cancer and the strength of the drugs used to combat his disease.
His wife was at his side when he passed peacefully this morning.

Peter is survived by his wife Morella, his daughter Alexandra, his
son Victor, three brothers Antonio, Daniel, and Danny, and three
grandchildren Andrew and Daniel and Oliver.

Arrangements and memorial services will be announced at a later date.
As a courtesy, the family requests that there be no calls at this time.

The Camejo Family

"An Epidemic of Capital Destruction" -- NYTimes

“You have to think of this like there is an epidemic going on — an epidemic of capital destruction,” said James L. Melcher, president of the hedge fund Balestra Capital, who has been bearish on the stock market.

Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/business/14spiral.html?pagewanted=all

As Lehman Brothers raced to find a buyer on Saturday, federal officials and Wall Street chieftains mapped out options to prevent an abrupt collapse of the crippled bank and arrest the downward spiral threatening other financial companies.

Several possibilities began to emerge as top Wall Street executives met under the guidance the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department. One would involve major banks and securities firms providing a financial backstop to facilitate a sale of Lehman. Another option would involve an agreement among Wall Street players to keep trading with Lehman as the bank seeks an orderly liquidation.

Those briefed on the talks said the situation was still fluid and other options could emerge.

Adding urgency to the discussions were growing concerns that other big financial institutions like the insurance giant American International Group and Merrill Lynch might face a similar crisis and also need billions of dollars in capital to strengthen their businesses.

The spreading troubles were the latest sign that even the government’s extraordinary interventions into private enterprise during the last year have not been enough to halt the unraveling of the financial system.

As the trading week ended, top officials from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department called an emergency meeting in Lower Manhattan with the heads of major Wall Street firms to insist that they find a way to rescue Lehman because their own companies might be next. The meetings, which involved top executives from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and other financial companies, continued on Saturday.

The group was working on two main contingency plans in case Lehman is unable to strike a deal to sell itself to one of several suitors — Bank of America or two British firms, Barclays and HSBC. Under one possibility being discussed, major financial firms would jointly inject new capital into Lehman, allowing it to spin off its portfolio of troubled securities into a separate company.

Under another option, Lehman would start an orderly liquidation of its assets on Monday. Its major competitors would agree to keep doing business and trading with Lehman as it unwound its business and portfolio.

The Fed’s call for Wall Street institutions to support one of their own comes at a time when many of them are also short on capital. And yet entities that do have cash ready to invest, namely private equity firms, are not at the table.

Regulators do not want those firms, which borrow money to buy companies, controlling major financial institutions that provide the financing for their acquisitions. Many foreign investors, for their part, are reluctant to buy now after having seen earlier investments drop sharply in value.

For months, Lehman and other companies assured investors that they had a handle on troubled assets tied to real estate. But those assets turned out to be worth less than the firms had thought.

As a result, many investors are no longer sure what such financial companies are worth, and they do not want to invest in them until they do. Many hedge fund managers and other traders have profited handsomely from bets that these stocks would fall in value.

Companies that took the biggest risks and used debt aggressively to build their businesses stumbled first, and now healthier companies are coming under pressure. Loans that were considered far better than the subprime mortgages, which kicked off the panic, turned out to be only marginally safer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Michael Palin for President! -- via Counterpunch

You Can Put Lipstick on a War Criminal, But He's Still a War Criminal -- Arthur Silber

Portion below; whole thing here: http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2008/09/you-can-put-lipstick-on-war-criminal.html

Consider my headline to be the extent of my concession to the trivial stupidity of the moment. Don't worry; it will probably be supplanted by an equally or still more trivial stupidity before this post is even published. This is not to say there are no issues worthy of attention here. Certainly, the emergence of primal misogynistic hatred in the glorious year when a hell of a lot of men (and women) revealed how much they fear and loathe those stupid, trashy, slutty females deserves mention -- and I've more than mentioned it here. Follow the links for a nauseatingly good time. But this latest lipstick-pig episode...well, there is one issue I want to address that has received scant attention. I'll get to it later. With only a handful of exceptions, no one has offered two intelligent words on the subject. Here's one exception, with some further links for those interested. As I say, I'll explore a related point when my revulsion subsides.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has repeatedly told us that Afghanistan and Pakistan is where the real action ought to be. He's restated the identical program many times over the last year and more. In August 2007, Obama said:
When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Given recent developments, Obama should be feeling as mindlessly blissful as a pig in shit. Oh, my. Did I say that? Why, yes. Yes, I did.

"Taking the fight" to Afghanistan and Pakistan is the "good" war. Contemplate only one of the unending horrors of the "good" war:
Every day, the shame mounts, the lies grow more brazen and more brutal, and the dishonor spreads and deepens -- ineradicable, like a white garment soaked with blood.

The atrocity in Azizabad, an Afghan village hit by an American airstrike on the night of August 22, is by no means the worst depredation of the so-called "War on Terror," which has left more than million innocent people dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia over the past seven years. But the mass death visited upon the sleeping, defenseless citizens of Azizabad encapsulates many of the essential elements of this global campaign of "unipolar domination" and war profiteering: the callous application of high-tech weaponry against unarmed civilians; the witless attack that alienates local supporters and empowers an ever-more violent and radical insurgency; and perhaps the most quintessential element of all -- the knowing lies and deliberate deceits that Washington employs to hide the obscene reality of its Terror War.

In the days following the attack, the American-backed Afghan government, local officials with long-standing relationships with American forces, and representatives of the United Nations declared that at least 90 civilians, most of them women and children, had been killed by American bombs in Azizabad. The Pentagon and White House adamantly denied the eyewitness accounts of their own allies on the scene. Washington claimed that "only" five to seven civilians had been killed in what the Pentagon claimed was a successful Special Forces operation against a Taliban stronghold. [Think of that: "only" five to seven civilians killed! How far have we become steeped in blood, when the obliteration of half a dozen innocent human beings can be dismissed as a trifle.]
That's just the beginning of this installment in the perpetual nightmare. It gets much, much worse.

Statement to Global Community from Free Gaza Campaign

September 11, 2008
Free Gaza Movement Calls for Wide International Participation to Break the
Siege of Gaza

The Free Gaza Movement calls upon the international community to join the
Movement’s efforts to help end the human suffering created by Israeli’s
strangulation of Gaza.

On August 23, 2008, 44 ordinary people from 17 countries sailed from
Cyprus to Gaza on two small wooden boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS
Liberty. The Free Gaza Movement did what our governments would not do –
take action to defend the health, lives, and dignity of 1.5 million
Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip. We proved that Israel cannot
sustain its illegal blockade in the face of widely reported humanitarian
efforts by non-violent activists acting in accordance with international
law. Today we call for a much broader effort; specifically, we are
calling on other members of the international community – governments,
non-governmental organizations, and others dedicated to protecting human
rights – to join us by providing their own ships, humanitarian goods, and
human capital to throw open wide the sea link to Gaza.

Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military
presence from Gaza in August and September 2005, Israel maintains
“effective control” over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying
force with certain obligations (1). Among Israel’s most fundamental
obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the health, safety,
and welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has
a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well
as maintain hospitals and other medical services, “to the fullest extent
of the means available to it” (Fourth Geneva Convention, arts. 55, 56).
This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the
wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International
Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is
that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden
(Fourth Geneva Convention, art. 33).

Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only
neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian
population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the
Palestinians of Gaza, policies which have created a humanitarian crisis.
From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of
hospitals to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery
through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel’s policies towards the Gaza
Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster.

When a massive earthquake rocked China and cyclones ravaged Myanmar, the
world responded. Governments and civilians alike rallied to help, as they
did when other recent natural calamities occurred. Yet world governments
have watched a man-made humanitarian catastrophe unfold before our eyes in
Gaza and have remained silent. Karen Koning Abu Zayd, head of the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has asserted that "Gaza is on the
threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a
state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some
would say – encouragement of the international community."

It’s time to end this silent complicity. On September 22, 2008, the Free
Gaza Movement will once again set sail for Gaza. However, the humanitarian
needs in Gaza are overwhelming, and the continuous operation of our two
small boats cannot even begin to meet those needs. Gazans need medical
supplies and basic life support systems, and hundreds if not thousands
need to leave Gaza for medical care that Israel continues to block. We
have proven that the sea link to Gaza can be viable and should be
available to the Palestinian people. We urge governments,
non-governmental organizations, and any others who are in a position to
alleviate the shameful suffering caused by Israel to provide ships,
materiel, health care professionals, lawyers, and all other forms of
humanitarian aid immediately, and to join us in asserting that the
Palestinian people have a right to access the outside world. The world
cannot stay silent as the Palestinian people are deliberately starved and
humiliated; Palestinians have a right to life with dignity.

For More Information, Please Contact:
(Brussels) Paul Larudee, Ph.D,+35 799 079 736 / friendsofgaza@gmail.com
(Jerusalem) Huwaida Arraf, Attorney at Law, +972 599 130 426 /
(USA) Thomas H. Nelson, Attorney at Law, +1 503 709 6397 /

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Obama Poll Drop -- Michael Colby

Oh no, guess what? The liberals are nervous. Yep, the obedient lib-Dems are finally starting to realize that the little party they were having in the immediate aftermath of the Sarah Palin selection may have been a bit premature. Oops.

Liberals never learn. Dems can’t seem to win. And the two phenomena are as connected as John McCain’s eyes have been connected to Palin’s ass.

Drunk on their Obama Kool-aid, the lib-Dems have been putting together their fantasy cabinet selections, planning their election-night party plans, and trying to figure out whom to meet or whom to give money to in order to get some prized inaugural dance tickets. In their minds, this presidential race was over before they could even dismantle the faux-stage at their faux-convention.

Cue screeching car sound – as in: The rubber hitting the road.

Because the polling news hasn’t been good. While the lib-Dems have been blogging and pontificating themselves into a stupor over all the stupid stuff about Palin, the American people have been moving away from Obama and toward – say what? – the McCain/Palin ticket. And the movement has been significant enough for the likes of Kos, AmericaBlog and Talking Points Memo – three leading liberal blogs – to use words like “panic,” “worried” and “overestimated” while describing the current state of affairs.

Worse, the lib-Dems are refusing to look in the mirror while trying to come up with a reason for the Obama/Biden slip in the polls and the near-derailment in its messaging. Instead, they keep hitting the whining button and doing what they hate most in their conservative counterparts: Blaming the media and getting slimier and slimier with their personal attacks. Anything, in fact, but face the fact that their candidates and their party have all but abandoned “the issues” at the very moment when voters are beginning to ponder them.

If, as political scientists like to tell us, this is the time when voters start to pay attention, consider what they’re hearing from Obama and the Democratic Party:

On the Iraq War, Obama was pushed into saying that the “surge worked beyond anyone’s wildest expectations” to the Fox News blowhard, Bill O’Reilly. Despite being an inaccurate – if not completely spineless – position, it effectively handed what was the number one issue directly over to Mr. Surge himself, John McCain.

On energy issues, the Dems are in the middle of doing an about-face on offshore drilling. Instead of showing some spine and sanity in the face of the Republican’s new – and scary – hit chant of “drill baby, drill,” the Dems are flip-flopping like McCain on the issue and, according to The Hill, preparing to help pass new offshore drilling allowances.

* On health care, the Obama campaign continues to muddy and muddle through a confusing and all-but-impossible to understand “solution” that will allow the insurance companies and “the market” to remain in control. If it sounds a lot like the Hilary plan of 1993, well, it is. And we all know how that ended up – 15 long years ago. Thanks Dems. Sorry, but any health care plan from the Dems that doesn’t include the words “universal” or “single-payer” is just a pale imitation of the Republicans’ plan. In other words, not much change there.

And that’s what the lib-Dems don’t get: When you talk the talk of change, you’ve also got to walk the walk. Otherwise, you look like John Kerry or Al Gore. You know, two guys who took the voting public for fools by refusing to stand firm on their issues, changed issue-horses in mid-stream and, as a result, were both L.O.S.E.R.S.

Earth to the lib-Dems: This is no time to silence yourselves when it comes to the issues. This is the time to stand firm, talk tough and demand that your beloved Obama/Biden ticket listen to you. You know, kind of like the Christian right threatened to stay home unless one of their own was put on the McCain ticket. And then down came Palin.

Sadly – if not completely predictable – this election is starting to look like a rerun, complete with the liberal “shock, shock, shock!”

Yes, indeed: It’s the issues, stupid.