Thursday, October 20, 2011

I've moved to Wordpress

Here's the link. Please go there and sign up to continue to get emails of posts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In case you missed it -- important development with Bank of America

Lifted from Zero Hedge. The original post with links is here. Notable that OWS is seen as the go-to place to deal with this criminal behavior.

Many people are furious that the Federal Reserve and Bank of America have initiated a coup to dump billions of dollars of losses on the American people (and see this).

Many are suggesting that the “Occupy” protesters rally to stop this robbery.

One of the top stories currently on Reddit (one of the top social media sites), is:

OWS and 99%: Please pay attention to this and stop it from happening (BofA and Fed socializing losses)
I understand that the Occupy protesters are, in fact, currently debating making a statement on this theft.

Currently, there are two competing draft statements. This one is from someone very savvy on understanding how the average American thinks:

A portion of the 53 trillion dollars of derivatives (yes that’s with a t, about the size of the entire global economy) transferred to Bank of America’s parent company from Merrill Lynch in 2008 has recently been transferred to Bank of America.

Derivatives contracts in a bank are paid before anyone else gets paid.

Therefore, these derivatives contracts would be paid before depositors receive their money. These people just cut in front of you.

It's very simple, the reason that banks and trading houses were originally separated was to prevent this sort of thing. What’s really going to happen is that the government is going to end up bailing out the FDIC … so this will end up being a government bailout.

You’ll end up getting shafted, either by derivatives holders cutting in front of you or by your having to bail out the FDIC so it can bail out banks depositors. Either way, this is yet another instance of looting by the big banks and big government.

Just say no … don’t let this stand.
And this one is from two people who are experts on the technical issues involved:

We denounce Bank of America’s transfer of high risk derivatives to its federally insured accounts. This is yet another example of systemically dangerous institutions, big banks like BofA and JPM, once again attempting to shift potentially substantial losses onto the backs of hardworking Americans. The fact that the Federal Reserve supports this action demonstrates Ben Bernanke’s complicity and/or gross incompetence in supporting the Wall Street elite at the expense of tax paying citizens.
Updates as they develop …

Moving to WordPress

Please go to the new blog and sign up on the upper right for email notifications.


1. I've noticed that the chimpster's email has not been getting to me -- the reason for my silence to any messages you've sent. That is fixed, but given the limited email list google allows, it would be better if you could go to the blog directly, or get the RSS feed into your reader. Alternatively, I'm going to set up a conduit to twitter which could be used.

2. Often for some of you, there is no link visible in the email version of the blog post-- that has to do with your email program which doesn't seem to capture the html coding for whatever reason. The solution in this case is always to click on the link in the signature line which will take you to the blog page.

3. I am soon going to move to wordpress in order to integrate with Twitter -- due to the obvious recent developments in political life. I am hoping that will be relatively seamless, though I haven't assessed its email/listserv function.

I heartily recommend investing the time to learn about how twitter works -- it's just another tool in the box.

Marxism Raising Its Ugly Head?

Nassim Taleb on Bloomberg, essentially saying that poor capitalist management has endangered capitalism.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taibbi on Rush Limbaugh

I never thought I’d see it, but some of the dukes and earls high up in America’s Great Tower of Bullshit are starting to blink a little bit.

The right realizes they risk being unmasked. The rest of the post here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Video of the People Arrested For Trying to Close Their Citibank accounts

The authorities seem to be getting twitchy. Cops in the service of the megabanks doesn't have such good "optics", as they say in certain business circles.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quite Something

Even 8 years ago during the anti-Iraq War mobilizations, I don't recall the coordination being this crisp.

Even in my teenage dreams I couldn't have imagined that some person would write text into a computer reaching millions to say this:

People of the World, Rise Up!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wow, Watching George Will and Peggy Noonan de-fanged by OWS is Really Something

The guy who demolished the Fox News interviewer, Jesse LaGreca, makes it to the media bigtime.

But the cloying concern of Peggy Noonan for the working class is nauseating and amusing at the same time.

OWS -- Lifted from the comments at Calculated Risk

Went to WalMart tonight - wore my convexity pig sweatshirt. An employee restocking fruit asked me about it - I told him. He said "Cool - so that's about the mortgage bust and Wall Street, right?" My jaw about dropped... 'Yup'.
We then talked awhile - he pretty much had the story down except he was more of a gubbmint was at fault not the banks meme kinda guy ... I told him that was what Wall Street wants you to believe, they were all in it together.
But think about this - stock boy at Walmart, in rural flyover, early part of the evening shift.
There is your measure of OWS's effect.

A lot of anger built up over the last 3 years. And its all over the country

Not That You Need Juan Cole to Tell You That Hilary and Barack are Full of S*#t on This Iran Terrorist Plot

But here's the takedown. The terrorist appears to be a nutcase.

The DOJ complaint says that Arbabsiar boasted that his cousin (Gholam Shakuri) was a “general” in Iran but did plainsclothes work abroad and “had been on CNN.”

Since two out of three of these allegations are obvious falsehoods, why should we believe anything else Arbabsiar said about his cousin? Note that it is the speculation of the DOJ that Arbabsiar’s description of his cousin suggests that Shakuri is a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. He is not so identified by Arbabsiar, who simply says he is a general who travels in civilian clothes. There is no such general.

Since Arbabsiar clearly does not have a firm grasp on reality, to indict the IRGC with these rambling and preposterous claims would be highly unwise.

I am frankly shocked that Eric Holder should have brought us this steaming crock, which is now being used to make policy at the highest levels. That a Mexican former drug runner being paid by the US taxpayers might have thought he could advance his career by playing mind games with a somewhat crazy Iranian expatriate is no surprise. That you could put fantastic schemes in Arbabsiar’s mind if you worked at it seems obvious. That anyone in the DOJ or the US foreign policy establishment would take all this seriously is not plausible. I conclude that they are being dishonest, and that this is Obama’s turn to wag the dog as he faces defeat at Romney’s well-manicured hands next year this time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Watch the News from Burma

A lot of moves, each seemingly innocent, but together they add up. Looks to me like the US and India are trying to wean the generals from Beijing's orbit.

Hmmmm..... wonder what message that "swimmer" who snuck in to see Aung San Suu Kyi awhile ago was carrying..

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein begins a four-day visit to India on Wednesday. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is an ally of China. Beijing has invested heavily in Myanmar’s infrastructure and mining projects in recent years. India would also like to invest in Myanmar’s gas sector but has largely lost out to China.

Recent tensions between Myanmar and China could give India a window of opportunity. Earlier this month, the head of a major Chinese company behind a controversial dam in Myanmar said the project’s suspension by the Myanmar government was a surprise that “will lead to a series of legal issues.

The full story, from the WSJ, mostly about the emerging India-Vietnam axis, is here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Obama's Crashing Support Among African-Americans

I suspected that Cornel West's verbal assault on Obama last spring was a leading indicator. Looks like I might have been right.

58 percent. For Obama, that’s more than alarming. That’s an air-raid siren at dawn.

With the voters in the focus group, the disappointment was heartbreaking. My friend called it “one of the most memorable discussions I’ve ever witnessed in hundreds if not thousands - of hours of focus groups.”

The article here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Funny how a single spark can start something

Occupy Together is a site serving as a clearinghouse.

They list 1146 cities with Occupy meetups set up.

Spread the word, a new newspaper

Occupied Wall Street Journal

Alan and Yves

From NC:

The efforts to discredit OWS are intriguing and reveal a deep seated sense of vulnerability among the powers that be. Despite the high level of press coverage, relatively few people have yet to participate in these gatherings. But this effort is applying pressure on the deepest fault line in American society, is not going away and continues to gain ground. Even if OWS does not mature into a political force, it is already having an impact, by shifting the nature of discourse and unearthing rotting corpses that the top 1% and their allies in the chattering classes hoped to keep buried: the fact that ordinary citizens have been on the wrong side of the greatest transfer of wealth in history, and virtually all of their supposed protectors stood by or had their hands in the till. No wonder those at the top of the food chain feel so threatened.

Couldn't agree more. The rumblings of a volcano. Up for grabs: the 30% of Americans who according to several recent polls are "sympathetic" to the Tea Party.

Her post has a nice video clip of Grayson on Bill Maher confirms the spreading media presence of the OWS "message"

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What is to be done?

A friend sends an email:

Many of the kids I spoke to at the demonstration are well beyond extending forgiveness to the Democratic Party leadership or directing their protest to more receptive members of the ruling class. The more conscious and sophisticated among them are clearly intent on organizing wider groups of people. That being said, it's clear that the method of operation in the park is strongly influenced not only by a commitment to participatory democracy, but also to other, more idealized and romanticized notions of what, for lack of a better word, amounts to anarchism. Yet I say this not having spent at any one time more than a couple of hours at the site. And while it is my impression from afar that the current, global wave of decentralized dissent has run up against serious limits in places like Spain, I don't really have enough concrete information to argue that perspective with certainty.

the decision of the unions to get involved and the broad sympathy with which many ordinary working-class New Yorkers have greeted the protest is something we should keep our eye on. The Wednesday march was, in my opinion, much more energetic than labor movement rallies of recent years for two reasons (and surely others I've failed to see). First, it included a substantial number of physically and emotionally energetic young people, but second, it was visionary: numerous demands for reforms were voiced and written a wide variety of posters, but so, too, were calls for the radical transformation of American society -- and that apparently stirs people who are now ready to move on the basis of that possibility. Yes, we certainly need broad, realistic demands and more focused, savvy leadership, but we also need the "vision thing," as someone on the other side once called it.

A few semi-random thoughts in response.

Clearly OWS must avoid the horrible dynamics of front group/sectarian organization or vanguard/masses which dominated the 20th century on the left. More than anything I've always viewed that legacy as a reflection of a pretty good "scientific" understanding of revolutionary dynamics derived from the Jacobin experience: simplistically, as the legitimacy of the state erodes, it can get pretty chaotic and tight organization and discipline will win over time. And I suppose the level of participation and democracy that remains after the revolutionary ebbtide is a function of the underlying intellectual and technical development of the society, and since we are not going to be dominated by peasants from Texas, that in itself is a reason for optimism.

However, the right's hysterical screams about this last week (see Anne Coulter's rant) about the inevitable road to dictatorship was not as crazy as it seemed. (Though in their case it reflects a guilty conscience in a "Takes one to know one" kind of way, along with the worry that they'll lose much of the Tea Party mass base and with it a democratic veneer and be forced to stand naked with their true stripes for all to see.) And it's certainly unsurprising how everyone left of center is orienting to OWS due to the leadership vacuum that has existed for the last several years; this exchange between Yves Smith and Krugman yesterday about elite hijacking of OWS is interesting in this regard and worth a read. For instance Van Jones risks being an agent of the existing order given his contacts and network within the Washington crowd, whatever the source of his motivation to "lead". We could ourselves be agents of old thinking and be sent off to rectification camps (albeit with fresh mint tea, an MP3 player and a packed vegan lunch)

While us greyhairs may have wisdom to impart, we also have to stay humble and open to the possibilities of new thinking: as the saying goes, "funeral by funeral, theory advances"

I have no doubt that twitter and mobile computing are as transformative of politics as the printing press. If there isn't one already, there will soon be an app for getting resolutions vetted and submitted followed by instant votes by cellphones. At that point things could get pretty interesting at a General Assembly. These could turn into councils of significant influence. With some growth and evolution, not so crazy to imagine that the GA's in every town became a competing source of political legitimacy and authority. Many issues to overcome, but direct participatory democracy would return to the front burner. Do we need delegation of authority and responsibility? the experience of a lifetime suggests we do, but...

It's early stages. I daresay we are all being hopeful and cautious and excited at the same time, but mostly tempered by the disappointments of 40 years. Still, without serious credit writedowns and a rebalancing between labor and capital, there will be no democratic solution to the global economy anytime soon. So even if this movement fades with the bitter winter winds, remember 1905. I suspect that the average age of the revolutionaries in 1776, 1789 or 1917 was likely 24.

Perhaps foolishly, I expect that soon a staggering burst of human creativity will be stepping onto the historical stage. And perhaps out of that will come another cycle of political structures, social arrangements and productive technologies. Perhaps.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How to Handle Fox News

This guy impressed me with his relentless, polite, smiling, in-your-face attitude towards the Fox reporter.

A lot of talent in the streets is a good omen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The CBC tries to be "Fair and Balanced".

Chris Hedges on the CBC

Didn't realize this venerable institution has Foxified itself lately. Sad.

Occupy Wall Street

Many swirling thoughts;

I could see General Assemblies of occupiers sprouting in most major towns in America in the next month, and linking up in real time for specific actions or statements. That would be revolutionary even with relatively small numbers, especially if norms for decision making and communication emerge.

The internet connecting directly in real time to protesters in the streets of Greece and Spain is powerful and has enormous potential, especially as the G20 meetings occur.

The discussions of micro and macroeconomics which are being triggered on twitter feeds and on blogs are unlike anything I remember from the 60's and 70's.

Add it all up, and it really is a new century.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind is Blowing

Check out the Twitter feed for Occupy Wall Street as the union support march gets underway.

Those of you just reading on email may have to go to my blog site to find the active link.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Big News from South Asia

Undoubtedly all the sabre rattling out of Washington this past month was being coordinated with this move by India. Although Karzai might be chafing under the US bridle, the Indian foreign policy establishment can't seem to do anything really contrary to US wishes, so I doubt this was done without Uncle Sam's blessing.

Looks like the squeeze is on for Pakistan to accept a US-India security umbrella or else. The alternative is an outright and somewhat hostile move to an exclusive alliance with China, which would cost the nonmilitary elite dearly in various cultural terms. Let's see if they have the inclination, or if the rifts inside Pakistan's polity worsen.

From the Indo-US perspective, this strategy has the merit of being multifunctional -- good vis a vis China and also good if Pakistan breaks up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It may not be Tahrir Sq on Wall Street

But it's a YouTube event nevertheless. The write up and the comments suggest things are bubbling. Undoubtedly the Tea Party of the Left will continue to get special treatment. But cellphones are dramatically changing things in these kinds of events which will be increasing in our own upcoming low dishonest decade.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Multi-trillion Euro Bailout -- Ambrose Doesn't Mince Words

"There is no plan, and we don't need one. The banks are very solid. None of them is hiding any toxic assets," he said.
What is the point of uttering such rubbish? The markets know this is untrue, and so does the IMF. It is an almost surreal refusal to recognize that investors are - for good reasons - terrified about French bank exposure to Italian sovereign debt. Mr Noyer encapsulates the mixture of stubborness and amour propre now threatening the world with disaster, and which is so like the French reflex as everything collapsed in mid-1931. Funny how they never change.

The rest here.

The interesting thing will be how the cultural and political differences between Europe and the US will be reflected in the structure of the bailout.

Ambrose talks of the French "seizing" banks to recapitalize them. Taxpayer bailouts or "recapitalizations" of the banks really warrant public control, especially if the banks are insolvent and the remaining equity is zilch -- new money should own 90%+.

Now in the US, given Obama's disgusting worship of financiers, the idea of actually forcing through some serious change never was really on the table. But with the FDP's electoral loss in Berlin, and the potential revolt of the backbenchers, a government of national unity with the Social Democrats is a possibility; and the Social Dems support the European project, but I'm not sure that they are going to be as banker friendly as all the Goldman Sachs alumni running things in the US. So we may actually see a publicly funded bailout in Europe that reflects the public interest a bit more.

If they really go down that path, forcing the bondholders (banks) to take their losses, and then printing to neutralize the deflationary impact, then the Eurozone may actually emerge stronger than anyone imagines.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nice tune from the Global Now

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Train Wreck Dead Ahead?

The latest missive from GEAB 2020.

The key thesis is that the market turmoil in Europe represents a struggle by the Euroland polity to leash the banks and force them to take losses. These guys seem to think that greater integration is inevitable and that the Euro will survive. The results of the recent elections in Berlin certainly support the view -- with a "Leftward" rejection of the euroskeptic position of the FDP -- that the public wants to continue the integration project, but presumably not being held hostage by finance capital.

But if taxpayers have to bailout sovereigns and private capital takes massive haircuts, the effect on growth will be severe unless interest rates are cut drastically and the ECB prints. This would send the euro towards dollar parity, at least until the federal budget talks crash in Washington. And export more of the strain to China.

So it looks like a race to the bottom. Maybe the Europeans are biding their time waiting for the Anglo-American train wreck to become visible to all. Certainly GEAB's view that November-December in Washington will be chaotic as the supercommittee takes over the stage sounds about right.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Left-Right Pro-Euro Alliance in Germany?

An interesting idea, but without some serious leashing of the German banks, will the electorate actually go for a bailout and print run?

From the blog Notes from the Underground

I caution that the rise in the SPD may mean that Merkel moves to form a coalition with the PRO-EURO labor group as the EUROPHOBIC FDP is losing its standing in Germany. As the German electorate becomes more disillusioned with the DEBT CRISIS, it is not moving toward the anti-European FDP but rather to the SPD and Greens. The movement is paving the way for Frau Merkel to get the legislation necessary to enhance the EFSF that she has promised others in the EU. Even though Geithner was rebuffed it doesn’t mean that Europe–under the protective umbrella of Chancellor Merkel–won’t do the bailouts that will support the banks in Germany and France. Isn’t it IRONIC that the more Merkel loses the more probable the bailouts?

Can't Wait to Get My Hands on This Book

The juicy info in it is evidence that we're still a democracy. Clearly a lethally dysfunctional one, however.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Radio Silence due to Blogger Issues

I've been unable to access blogger through my old safari bookmarks for about 2 weeks now, but just discovered that Firefox on my WIndows machine lets me in. I was just about ready to integrate my personal and professional identities when this happened and was considering a new blog anyway. Now I will reconsider.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rethinking Austerity

The Powers That Be are now facing the abyss (To borrow from the wizened old stock broker in "Wall Street").

Christine Lagarde this weekend warning of a downward spiral and now Bill Gross urging the UK govt to soften its austerity

Gross, the world's bond king made a seriously wrong bet that the deficits would cause a rise in interest rates, and so famously exited Treasuries recently, when in fact rates have plunged due to fears of another financial crisis and return to recession. He recently admitted his error.

More to the point he and Lagarde are suggesting more stimulus from the US -- something that Obama will likely offer this week.

The question is whether the Tea Party Republicans or the stubborn Germans will listen to this Keynesian advice. If not, back to the liquidationist policies of Mellon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

CDS on RBS higher than 2008

"I think we are heading for a market shock in September or October that will match anything we have ever seen before," said a senior credit banker at a major European bank."

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Enigma on Arrival

Stepping off the plane used to be the first hit of the smells of India. The dust, a faint whiff of diesel, and the pungent naphtha whenever passing a lavatory in the dimly lit hallways of the airport while walking the long stone corridors which echoed with footsteps.

The new airport is now open, a good as any in the world, I'm told. and indeed, stepping off the plane, you have no clue where you are. The sealed doorway efficiently keeps the night air out; the carpeted hallways with moving sidewalks and the brightly lit shopping arcade with all the same brand name storefronts could be anywhere, on any continent, in any time zone. So there is no doubt that Delhi airport has finally arrived, arrived into the timelessness of the shopping mall which all airports have become, cloned identical twins of the arcades of Las Vegas, with the menace which only the security apparatus of the state can provide now comfortably hidden behind the glittery invitation to consumption.

Friday, August 19, 2011

As the clever hopes expire of a low dishonest decade

Well, we knew this, but somehow it's always reassuring when the latest newfangled tehnique confirms one's bias!

Network analysis indicates that a small elite has disproportionate control of the world economy.

The graph is certainly pretty.

Add to this the latest rehabilitation of Karl Marx coursing through the twitterverse, even at bastions of capitalism like UBS:

Justin Lahart
Not just Roubini singing Marx's praises - UBS economist George Magnus says Marx offers "still relevant insights"

And then add the increasing undercurrent of violence from the radical right all over the world, and I start trying to convince myself that Romney might not be that bad.....

I'm feelin' like it's time to dust off the Auden as I head off to the Maine coast....

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Philly Fed craters and software bots nowhere to be seen...

My friend Mark has talked about the value of an AI program to scan news releases and trade rapidly off of them.

Naturally I assumed this had been long ago done given all the chatter about computerized trading...

Today, I loaded the Philly Fed release at precisely 10 am and scanned it in about 3 seconds. Then I waited. and waited....
and waited for the news to hit the major blogs and bloomberg, etc.

The market had already plunged on the jobless numbers, but it stayed flat for a full 5 min after the release.

I guess the bots aren't out there yet.....


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Empire Manufacturing Data is In, and the Winners Are....

The Double Dippers!

The future new orders and shipments indexes dropped to their lowest levels since September 2001.

Now it's Japan's Q3 rebound vs New York's Q3 slide... who will win the round?

"The Name is Bond, Euro Bond"

This Yahoo piece summarizes the state of play of the top issue of the moment.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Recession Watch

John Hussman's composite recession predictor has been flashing red for about 10 days, and it's been very good. It did not falsely flag last summer's swoon as an oncoming recession, while it nailed the 2008 decline in Dec 2007.

This graph (h/t Zero Hedge) shows that the consumer's confidence is cratering rapidly, so the fabled "70% of the US economy is the consumer" meme implies a real implosion of final domestic demand.

Add to that the austerity in Europe which is reducing external export demand (based on the new export figures, Q2 GDP looks to be revised to under 1% -- far below "stall speed") and then also the credit crunch strengthening the dollar, and you have a recipe for a serious slowdown in US corporate overseas profits.

This chap at Stanford seems to agree.

So while I've been spectacularly wrong about the timing of these things and have lost money making one-way bets, I certainly wouldn't want to be invested in equities right now. Having cash on hand to buy later (average decline in the S&P in a recession is 40%) makes a lot of sense. The current rebound in the market might be an opportunity to lighten up portfolios. Even gold may go down quite a bit in that instance, though not for long.

Of course, once Benny and the Feds start serious QE3, which I now believe is inevitable, we will see a rerun of the asset inflation of the past 2 years, but whether enough and early enough to avert a serious further dive in stocks is uncertain.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Clever Ben Makes Another Call to the Confidence Fairy

So the ECB kicked the can down the road, hoping that Germany will buckle in September when faced with the choice between the financial armageddon of european disintegration or a fiscal union with serious money printing a la the USA trying to ward off debt deflation while still protecting the banks.

Meanwhile, the Fed does something interesting. I was blindsided and lost all the profits I made yesterday when I re-entered bearish positions after their announcement. Where was QE3? nowhere, or so I thought... I thought we're headed down -- and the first hour after the announcement that seemed to be true. But the roar back is probably not dumb money (I was the dumb money).

For an excellent analysis of what the Fed did today check out a guy named "Trader Dan": Got gold?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A showdown between the capital markets and the world's central bankers.

Tonight is one of the more significant moments in financial history. Certainly at least as much as several of the Sundays in 2008, but in many ways even more so, since the geopolitical stakes for systemic hegemony are much greater and obvious.

While the ECB has just announced Italian bond purchases -- and while some are saying they have committed "to do what it takes", it's not clear that this is the "bazooka" that the Fed used in 2008. So I'm not sure they got the memo. If they did, and are going to provide an unlimited backstop to the national euro bond markets, then this will set up a large devaluation of the euro, inflation in the several year time frame, and a continuing surge in gold prices. It would also be another salvo in the currency wars, and might over time lead to trade tensions and tariffs and GD 2. Hard to believe the Germans will accept monetization of bad Club Med debt, though, so I suspect this will continue to be a muddle through attempt with ongoing unresolved crisis. Either way it seems that we are looking at systemic crisis either short term or longer term.

Dow futures are down 236 points right now, and the S&P 27 -- better than at the open. Expect central bank interventions all night....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Designated Bagholder: The European Central Bank

So far in this cycle, the Europeans have been the designated bag holders -- clinging to their sound money policy while the US devalued and China used its peg to boost exports to the Eurozone. It been amazing to watch German industry compete in the face of these headwinds -- but effectively they've used the sovereign debt crisis on their periphery to good advantage ie keeping their currency from a moonshot, even tho its strengthened this year.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost and either the euro implodes and Germany loses its Latin shell, or else the ECB will have to step in and buy all that dreck. The euro will decline a lot, and US exports will decline as a result. US-Chinese tensions will rise once more.

It looks like a recession is unfolding -- it will be obvious in about 6 weeks methinks.

2012 is going to be a grim year in the US. As for BHO's re-election, it will take a lot of propaganda bought with Wall Street donations to get him past the finish line.

The obvious move for the Left is to try to split the Tea Party movement (not the superstructure) towards left-wing populism.

If there were a Left.....

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bonfire of the Vanities, an Auto da Fe of the People

Jane Hamsher:

7:02: Timothy Geithner holds a debt ceiling celebration party with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,Financial Services Forum, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, American Insurance Association, Financial Services Roundtable, American Council of Life Insurers, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, American Bankers Association and the National Retail Federation. I feel compelled to mention that this is not snark.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A New Dawn for the Chimps?

Things are moving fast and furiously behind the scenes regarding the new form of energy production reported out of Italy by Rossi.
Others are reporting excess energy production using somewhat different materials and methods, although none are as stupendously high as that of the "E-Cat" technology of Rossi.

While there are many skeptics, most vociferously present in the comments section of the blog NextBigFuture, I can report that there are growing numbers of technologically sophisticated believers. I have reason to think that within the next 6 -8 weeks we will have strong, credible confirmation here at a US facility or a definitive refutation. Moreover, I'm hearing that serious money is being committed. As Bob Dylan said, "Money doesn't talk, it swears".

It appears that we may be at pivotal moment in human history, and if so, many things about the future of Planet Earth will have to be reassessed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Those who take the meat from the table

As Brecht said, ruling is too difficult for ordinary men.

This from The Newark Star Ledger's guest blog (h/t Jesse)

Ryan and his companions occupied the table directly across from us, and soon after arriving, they ordered two bottles of the most expensive wine on the menu, a $350 French grand cru Burgundy. At first we joked about it: What could you buy with $700? But thinking a little more about it raised uncomfortable questions about how many hours a person would have to work at different salary levels to earn $700 in a week.


One of Ryan’s dinner companions, economist and hedge fund manager Clifford Asness (whom I did not recognize at the time), shouted that he had ordered the wine (which was true) and that he intended to pay for it. I asked Asness if he was a lobbyist, since members of Congress are not permitted to accept expensive meals and gifts from lobbyists. As it turned out, Asness was not a lobbyist, but as a hedge fund manager, he had access to high-ranking political decision-makers such as Ryan. Being confronted about the wine purchase enraged Asness, who subsequently shouted obscenities at me.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Et Tu, Conrad?

Who woulda thunk I'd agree with a former UCC student and convicted criminal Conrad Black. From the Guardian's live blog on Rupertgate, the best source on the fast moving developments:

"It would be astonishing if some News International employees had not engaged in crimes, revelling in the climate of immunity that has been the group's modus operandi for decades. Successive UK governments of both major parties supinely truckled to him. The more vituperatively his titles slagged off the royal family, the more certain were their books to be excerpted in the Sunday Times.

Although his personality is generally quite agreeable, Mr Murdoch has no loyalty to anyone or anything except his company. He has difficulty keeping friendships; rarely keeps his word for long; is an exploiter of the discomfort of others; and has betrayed every political leader who ever helped him in any country, except Ronald Reagan and perhaps Tony Blair.

There must be a reckoning with decades of establishment cowardice towards someone whose nature has been well known throughout that time. The fault is the British establishment's and it must not be seduced and intimidated, so profoundly and durably, again."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

teetering on the abyss

When China stops buying Spanish bonds, it will mark an important inflection point in the European debt crisis

teetering on the abyss

When China stops buying Spanish bonds, it will mark an important inflection point in the European debt crisis

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It appears the world has changed

I have been following this story in detail for the past week. I have had to brush up on my nuclear physics. I am in touch with people who are close to this story, and it is getting harder and harder to view this as a complete scam and fraud. Rossi appears to be a bit dodgy, but I think that is a matter of style and personality. There are many skeptics who are complaining about the lack of disclosure of scientific details -- and it is clear that the inventor has no clue about what is going on at the atomic level.

Yet Defkalion seems to have their own boxes to test and are about to submit some to the Greek government for safety approvals. It looks real. If so, as this technology is refined, science fiction applications will become fact. We humans seem to be one lucky species of chimp.

Two short interviews recorded after Defkalion's press conference. from Giacomo Guidi on Vimeo.

He says they already have 5 years of orders....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Nobel Laureate Weighs in on Rossi's Energy Catalyzer

These senior emeritus types tend to be unconstrained by conventional wisdom -- which has both good and bad aspects. Josephson is being pretty fair in his judgements it seems to me.

I, too, have trouble understanding how Rossi's business plans would make sense as a scam.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unity in the Community, Farrakhan edition

Contradictions continue to evolve.

The Root reports on Farrakhan calling Obama a "murderer".

VIDEO: Minister Farrakhan: "That's a Murderer in the White House"

By: Nsenga Burton | Posted: June 15, 2011

A YouTube video of Minister Louis Farrakhan taking President Obama to task over the war in Afghanistan and the bombing of Libya is making its way around the web. In the video, Farrakhan admonishes the president for turning into someone else. Farrakhan says, "We voted for our brother Barack, a beautiful human being with a sweet heart and now he's an assassin. They turned him into them."

We find it interesting that this video from May is surfacing just as Minister Farrakhan is set to address the United Nations. Nonetheless, the words used to describe the president are brutal. He raises important points like questioning why we're still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan if the intelligence proved false and how a peacemaking mission to Libya turned into bombing mission. We've examined how black leaders romanticize dictators like Quaddafi and this is a major example of it. Perhaps Minister Farrakhan should consider the fact that he's offering support to his brothers in the Middle East and North Africa while tearing down his brother in the White House? If there's a murderer in the White House, then what do you call Quaddafi?

The Root post and youtube video is here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

JFK and the Unspeakable

The book I'm reading.

A mind-blowing summary with many recently disclosed facts, but most importantly, a work with the necessarily broad view of history with which to view the assassination.

This panel discussion is about it:

So maybe humanity isn't doomed

As you may know, I have been following this story with interest and growing excitement. Despite the low odds, I haven't seen anything that smells fishy -- other than the low odds themselves, which is a major caveat. Nevertheless......

From the NextBigFuture blog:

Brian Ahern getting 8 Watts for over four days of operation in a Low Energy Nuclear Process

Brian Ahern replicated the work of Arata where Arata got small amounts of power without adding any power into his cold fusion set up.

Brian Ahern received his PhD in material science from MIT, holds 26 patents and was a senior scientist for 17 years in research and development at USAF Rome Lab at Hanscom Air Force Base.

Brian Ahern is attempting replications of Rossi and Forcardi and he is getting 8 watts of continuous power output (for over four days of operation) from 10 grams of metal nanopowder. The good news is there is no radiation detectable above background levels . It is also worthy to note that there were no precious metals involved the alloy was Zr66%-Ni21%-Cu13%. The Zirconium becomes Zirconium dioxide when it is baked.

An email at vortex where Ahern provides some description of the processes he used that generated 5 watts for a few days

There is an as yet undisclosed spillover catalysts that amplifies the process. The LENR community is directing its attention to this nanoscale opportunity.

So Brian Ahern is getting some success replicating Rossi and Focardi. Brian Ahern plans to make some adjustments to what he is doing to attempt to get the higher power levels that Rossi and Forcardi have claimed to achieved over the last year or so.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Humans Seeking Change on a Changing Planet.

This group in Spain is interesting. One of their posts discusses a "wikiparliament" in formation.

Whatever the outcome, and however provisional the initial steps, it seems a spirit of experimentation and pursuit of radical change is bubbling.

Castells stirring things up in Spain

I guess I better pull "Network Society" off my bookshelf this summer and finally read it!

This is a translation of the conclusions of the speech in Spanish of the sociologist Manuel Castells, professor at Berkeley University (California) and researcher at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), on May 27 at the Plaza of Catalonia – to support the camps around the world and enumerate the conditions necessary to achieve real democratic change.

“Fearful around the world, but united in the Web”

We are in a society where everything needs to be fast, but when we arrive at home we colapse. Therefore we should do what we want to do, like for instances create a new democracy, but slowly. Nobody is in a hurry, we have to make history, there is not need to rush. Others can run, we don’t, because we are advancing systematically. If not we will become the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, running always with the clock. My long experience in social movements, starting with the May of 68 in Paris, where I participated actively, tells me that what we are living here, and in 706 camps more around the world, has substance, has roots, and whatever forms it takes and whatever will happen, this movement will continue. It will attempt to bring profund changes. Precisly because it is a movement of people not of organisations. People are neither created nor destroyed, only transformed. But is not going to be easy. When the powers that be realise what is going on is serious (because for the moment they don’t believe this is serious), they will react. And they will react probably violently because there are too many interests at stake. That is why it is essential that this process be slow and profund to reconstruct democracy. It must also have non-violence as a fundamental principal, which is already expressed and put into practice.

Non-violence is fundamental. What camps are proving all over Spain, is that after 11 days there has been not a single violent incident. And until the police come, there is not going to be violence. To the likely violence from the system, we should propose people use non-violence. To do this, a lot of courage is needed, becauase to reply to violence with violence, is to respond from fear: you are attacked and you defend youself. We will need to help people who would be so scared that would became violent. We should help them to advance towards a superior level of courage, which requires one to overcome fear. Overcome fear from the acceptance of the funtamental fact that fear is a part of life. The only way to overcome fear is by leaving solitud. Fear is a disease caused by loneliness. The only cure is joining others. And without fear and without violence, all is possible. Some days ago, I asked a good friend, and a great neuroscientist, Antoni Damasio: “Do you think it is true that if we overcome fear things would change?” And he replied “Absolutly” because fear is human nature and have to recognize it.

Therefore if now I had to propose a slogan, I would say: Fearful around the world, but united in the Web. United, because together the only thing you can lose is your fear. And if we do it, this may be the start of a new participatory internet based democracy, yet to be invented, which will be born. Thanks for your antention, and we can continue discussing this after the talk.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How things really work in this country

During the meeting, Roark says, she warned Hayden that no court would uphold the program. Curiously, Hayden responded that he had already been assured by unspecified individuals that he could count on a majority of “the nine votes”—an apparent reference to the Supreme Court. According to Roark’s notes, Hayden told her that such a vote might even be 7–2 in his favor.

Roark couldn’t believe that the Supreme Court had been adequately informed of the N.S.A.’s transgressions, and she decided to alert Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, sending a message through a family friend. Once again, there was no response. She also tried to contact a judge on the FISA court, in Washington, which adjudicates requests for warrants sanctioning domestic surveillance of suspected foreign agents. But the judge had her assistant refer the call to the Department of Justice, which had approved the secret program in the first place. Roark says that she even tried to reach David Addington, the legal counsel to Vice-President Dick Cheney, who had once been her congressional colleague. He never called back, and Addington was eventually revealed to be one of the prime advocates for the surveillance program.

“This was such a Catch-22,” Roark says. “There was no one to go to.” In October, 2003, feeling “profoundly depressed,” she left Washington and moved to a small town in Oregon.

Read more

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Remnick redeems himself a bit

The New Yorker's coverage of West Asia was quite bad leading up to the Iraq war, so it's a good thing, though culturally an easier thing, that he does some plain speaking here.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The most important number on earth

350 ppm

From Dr Saini's Cardioblog, which is here.

McKibben is building a mass movement quite well.

Some of my elderly friends have told me they don't want to live long enough to see the outcome, but those of us who have no choice have no choice.

This speech is good.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don't forget about Fukushima even if the media have

I am not certain this means what I think it means. But it is very sobering and requires attention.....

Busby - Fukuparticles2

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There are many roads to socialism

From the Associated Press:

China, one of Cuba's biggest backers, praised the island's ruling Communist Party on Tuesday for approving sweeping economic and social reforms.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said those decisions were sure to have a "profound and far reaching impact on the development of socialism in Cuba."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm sure Brecht would do outstanding flashmobs

But everyone is still learning, with interesting results.

Bill Black on the Intersection of Stupidity and Injustice

I end on the fundamental problems with Geithner’s immunity doctrine and Yglesias’ support for it. The policy represents the intersection of the curves of injustice and stupidity at their respective maxima. Those curves have intersected to produce Secretary Geithner’s policy of protecting from prosecution the elite C-suite criminals who caused the financial crisis and the Great Recession. It is stupidity of truly epic proportions to leave felons in charge of banks. Doing so cannot stabilize a financial system – it is certain to cause recurrent, intensifying crises. When I was a regulator during a financial crisis our agency’s top priority was to prevent frauds from controlling S&Ls. Our second priority was to support the prosecution of those fraudulent leaders.

The injustice of Geithner’s “elite frauds go free” doctrine is every bit as extreme as the stupidity of believing that giving fraudulent CEOs de facto immunity is the road to financial stability. It is a travesty that I have to defend the importance of integrity and justice. No nation can be great if it allows its elites to loot with impunity and prosecutes its whistleblowers. Geithner is destroying the things that made America great. He did so as part of Bush’s wrecking crew and he is doing so now as part of Obama’s wrecking crew.

Bill Black serves as one of the key people documenting the viability of an alternative -- not for current politics, which is too far gone for rehabilitation, but for the historians. The whole post at Naked Capitalism is worth a read.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Durbin moves up a notch

This letter to the CEO of JP Morgan Chase has a nice combination of specific details about debit cards (I learned something) and a firm tone which is sorely lacking in a certain house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Housewives of NYC --Another must read Taibbi piece

Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley's investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences. Yet the Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income.

The technical name of the program that Mack and Karches took advantage of is TALF, short for Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. But the federal aid they received actually falls under a broader category of bailout initiatives, designed and perfected by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, called "giving already stinking rich people gobs of money for no fucking reason at all." If you want to learn how the shadow budget works, follow along. This is what welfare for the rich looks like.

Read the whole thing here.

Has Obama Grown a Spine?

Hard to believe, but Al Ahram is reporting that he's sticking it to Netanyahu:

In this article, citing Israeli reports in Yediot Ahronot. A brief perusal of Ynet News doesn't show the story, but it may be in Hebrew.

US President Barack Obama announced a decision to recognise the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, adding that the US will vote as such in the United Nations, reported the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

One of the newspaper’s head commentators, Nahum Barnea, stated that “senior” US officials attribute the president’s latest stance to “the revolutions storming the Arab world.” This coupled with resentment at Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu for failing to take genuine steps towards a settlement with the Palestinians reportedly inspired the president to adopt his latest position.

Barnea expects relations between Washington and Tel Aviv to head down a rather dangerous road, wherein “a US approval for the declaration of a Palestinian state would cause confusion and extreme embarrassment for Israel.”

Obama, according to Barnea’s sources, has “completely lost his trust in Netanyahu” and has not replied to the prime minister’s correspondence which stressed that approval of the latest peace proposal would lead to the collapse of Tel Aviv’s ruling coalition. It also noted that Israel cannot make any “geographical” compromises as this is its strongest playing card.

Obama proposed that Netanyahu provide him with a secret pledge showing the latter’s willingness to withdraw from the West Bank, but Netanyahu refused thereby exacerbating their crisis, Barnea explained.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The steam engine of the 21st Century?

My excitement remains, as the implications are nothing short of miraculous: nuclear energy without hazardous radiation. For the sake of life on earth, threatened by our stupid species, I am praying that it is real.
50 gms of nickel and 0.11 gms of hydrogen gave the energy equivalent of burning 3 liters of oil.

I don't know that any of my friends are science wonks, but regardless, here are the details of the operation from the report of the Swedish scientists: You should skip to the last 2 paragraphs if numbers scare you or bore you.

Surfing around, I found some complaints about the lack of MSM coverage in the US on this -- my take is that it is just the imperial attitude (rapidly becoming a provincial attitude as the empire fades) that there is no news unless we make it.

Prior to startup, the hydrogen bottle with a nominal pressure of 160 bars was connected for a short moment to the device to pressurize the fuel container to about 25 bars. The air of atmospheric pressure was remaining in the container as a small impurity. The amount of hydrogen with the assumed container volume of 50 cm3 is 0.11 grams of hydrogen. The electric heater was switched on at 10:25, and the meter reading was 1.5 amperes corresponding to 330 watts for the heating including the power for the instrumentation, about 30 watts. The electric heater thus provides a power of 300 watts to the nickel-hydrogen mixture. This corresponds also to the nominal power of the resistor.

Initial running to reach vaporization.
The temperatures of the inlet water and the outlet water were monitored and recorded every 2 seconds. The heater was connected at 10:25 and the boiling point was reached at 10:42. The detailed temperature-time relation is shown in figure 6. The inlet water temperature was 17.3 °C and increased slightly to 17.6 °C during this initial running. The outlet water temperature increased from 20 °C at 10:27 to 60 °C at 10:36. This means a temperature increase by 40 °C in 9 minutes which is essentially due to the electric heater. It is worth noting that at this point in time and temperature, 10:36 and 60°C, the 300 W from the heater is barely sufficient to raise the temperature of the flowing water from the inlet temperature of 17.6 °C to the 60 °C recorded at this time. If no additional heat had been generated internally, the temperature would not exceed the 60 °C recorded at 10:36. Instead the temperature increases faster after 10:36, as can be seen as a kink occurring at 60 °C in the temperature-time relation. (Figure 6). A temperature of 97.5 °C is reached at 10:40. The time taken to bring the water from 60 to 97.5 °C is 4 minutes. The 100 °C temperature is reached at 10:42 and at about 10:45 all the water is completely vaporized found by visual checks of the outlet tube and the valve letting out steam from the chimney. This means that from this point in time, 10:45, 4.69 kW power is delivered to the heating and vaporization, and 4.69 – 0.30 = 4.39 kW would have to come from the energy produced in the internal nickel-hydrogen container.

The experiment was continually running from 10:45 to 16:30 when it was stopped by switching off the heater and increasing the cooling water flow to a maximum of 30 liters per hour. On two occasions during the steam production phase, David Bianchini tested the radiation level which did not differ from the normal level in the room. The temperature at the outlet was controlled continually to be above 100°C. According to the electronic log-book it remained always between 100.1 and 100.2 °C during the operation from 10:45 to 16:30 as can be seen in figure 7. Between 11:00 and 12:00 o’clock, control measurements were done on how much water that had not evaporated. The system to measure the non-evaporated water was a certified Testo System, Testo 650, with a probe guaranteed to resist up to 550°C. The measurements showed that at 11:15 1.4% of the water was non- vaporized, at 11:30 1.3% and at 11:45 1.2% of the water was non-vaporized. The energy produced inside the device is calculated to be (1.000-0.013) (16:30-10:45) 4.39 =25 kWh.

Since we do not have access to the internal design of the central fuel container and no information on the external lead shielding and the cooling water system we can only make very general comments. The central container is about 50 cm3 in size and it contains 0.11 gram hydrogen and 50 grams nickel. The enthalpy from the chemical formation of nickel and hydrogen to nickel hydride is 4850 joule/mol [6]. If it had been a chemical process, a maximum of 0.15 watt-hour of energy could have been produced from nickel and 0.11 gram hydrogen, the whole hydrogen content of the container. On the other hand, 0.11 gram hydrogen and 6 grams of nickel (assuming that we use one proton for each nickel atom) are about sufficient to produce 24 MWh through nuclear processes assuming that 8 MeV per reaction can be liberated as free energy. For comparison, 3 liters of oil or 0.6 kg of hydrogen would give 25 kWh through chemical burning. Any chemical process for producing 25 kWh from any fuel in a 50 cm3 container can be ruled out. The only alternative explanation is that there is some kind of a nuclear process that gives rise to the measured energy production.

Cautiously getting excited

via the Next Big Future blog:

They're calling it a "new kind of physics" which is "enigmatic".

Of the 3 possibilities of fraud, error, or scientific revolution, the probability of error is now much less. If it's a fraud, it'll be one of the great scientific frauds in history. If it's real, it will mark a turning point in human history.

Meanwhile the Italians seem pretty confident. They have shrunk the reactor down to improve some of its performance and remain on track with their plan to connect 300 of these in various series and parallel circuits to build a 1 Megawatt generator. Target is Oct of this year, so their confidence is high. They apparently have a customer.

Details from a Swedish newspaper, NyTeknik:

The reactor itself, which is loaded with the nickel powder and secret catalysts pressurized with hydrogen, has an estimated volume of 50 cubic centimeters (3.2 cubic inches). The reactor is made of stainless steel.

At a first meeting with Rossi at the end of February they were given access to a sample of the pure nickel powder, intended for use in the energy catalyzer, and another sample of nickel powder which, according to Rossi, had been used in the reactor for 2.5 months.

Their analyses showed that the pure powder consists of essentially pure nickel, while the used powder contains several other substances, mainly 10 percent copper and 11 percent iron.

“Provided that copper is not one of the additives used as catalyst, the copper isotopes 63 and 65 can only have been formed during the process. Their presence is therefore a proof that nuclear reactions took place in the process,” Kullander said

Analyses of the nickel powder used in Rossi’s energy catalyzer show that a large amount of copper is formed. Sven Kullander considers this to be evidence of a nuclear reaction.

For copper to be formed out of nickel, the nucleus of nickel has to capture a proton. The fact that this possibly occurs in Rossi’s reactor is why the concept of cold fusion has been mentioned – it would consist of fusion between nuclei of nickel and hydrogen. A term that many consider to be more accurate, however, is LENR, Low Energy Nuclear Reaction.


Kullander: Provided that copper is not one of the additives used as catalyst, the copper isotopes 63 and 65 can only have been formed during the process. Their presence is therefore a proof that nuclear reactions took place in the process. However, it’s remarkable that nickel-58 and hydrogen can form copper-63 (70%) and copper-65 (30%). This means that in the process, the original nickel-58 should have grown by five and seven atomic mass-units, respectively, during the nuclear transmutation. However, there are two stable isotopes of nickel with low concentration, nickel-62 and nickel-64, which could conceivably contribute to copper production. According to Rossi copper is not among the additives. 100 grams of nickel had been used during 2.5 months of continuous heating with 10 kW output power. A straightforward calculation shows that a large proportion of the nickel must have been consumed if it was ‘burned’ in a nuclear process. It’s then somewhat strange that the isotopic composition doesn’t differ from the natural.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bhadrakumar is now blogging

A direct link to excellent insights into the Asian diplomatic scene. Of course I assume he'll still be published at Asia Times Online.

This one on the Pakistan-Bahrain relationship is worth a read.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Green Party Surges to 24%

From the FT:

The outcome in Baden-Württemberg could see the country’s first Green state premier elected, after the party more than doubled its vote. Claudia Roth, joint national leader of the Greens, called it a “turning point” in German politics, and a “slap in the face” for Ms Merkel’s centre-right coalition.

The Green vote rose from 11.7 per cent at the last state election in 2006 to more than 24 per cent in Sunday’s poll, while the CDU dropped from 44.2 per cent to 39.3 per cent, according to the latest forecast.

Not sure what their policy positions are anymore.....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

And moving now to Syria

Lifted frm Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria:

Following are some comments (via Reuters) on what may lie ahead for Syria.

Maha Azzam, associate fellow at Chatham House: "Frictions will increase between the Assad regime and some in the army. But it is difficult to say what direction the army will take. It has been closely controlled by the regime and it has vested interests in the status quo. If it sees the Assad family as a liability, the army may feel it is in its interests to move against the regime. But I think you would need a greater momentum on the streets for that to happen. For now they'll wait to see if the regime can bring reforms. My view is that the reforms would have to be drastic to be accepted by the people."

Faysal Itani, deputy head of Middle East and North Africa Forecasting at Exclusive Analysis: "The regime really doesn't have any good options. It is placing enormous pressure on the mainly Sunni army by ordering it to fire on Sunni demonstrators. With the exception of the Alawi Republican Guard, the army is a Sunni conscript force. If the unrest continues at this pace the Syrian army is not going to be able to maintain cohesion."

Karim Emile Bitar, research fellow at the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations: "The Syrian regime will have to reform itself radically if it wants to survive. No country in the region is immune in the face of this revolutionary wind that is blowing from the Atlantic to the Gulf. The Syrian regime is attempting to make promises such as a potential lifting of the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963, a record in the Arab world. But if this happens it will be the end of a whole system, prisoners will have to be released, the press will be free ... when this kind of regime considers relaxing its grip, it also knows that everything could collapse. I think the army and the secret services will remain faithful to al-Assad right until the end, for reasons that are essentially sectarian (i.e. preservation of minority Allawite rule)."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Runaway Climate Change

Humans think linearly, nature acts nonlinearly. If methane clathrates weren't enough (google it), now Siberian larchs (or more accurately the lack thereof) are the problem.

Larch trees drop their needles in the fall, allowing the vast snow-covered ground surface of winter to reflect sunlight and heat back into space. This helps keep the climate in the region very cold. But evergreen conifers, such as spruce and fur, retain their needles year round. These trees absorb sunlight, which causes ground-level heat retention. This creates ideal conditions for the proliferation of evergreens, to the detriment of the leaf-dropping larches. The result is a northward progression of evergreens and a farther-northward retreat by the larch forests.

What's not to like about more pretty christmas tree forests? Read the rest here:

Russian Boreal Forests Undergoing Vegetation Change, Study Shows

Preaching Austerity

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Foolhardy or Insane or Breathtakingly Confident?

This 9 minute footage is amazing. With the benefit of the hindsight of knowing what happened all over the Honshu coast, I kept wondering about this person's sanity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

We Are One People

You have no idea how proud this makes me --- the Royals and I go way back.

Bollywood will meet English Waltz at the 'wedding of the decade', with Indian choreographer Sandip Soparrkar performing at the London reception of UK's Prince William and fiance Kate Middleton.

Soparrkar and wife, model Jesse Randhawa, will perform at the reception which will be attended by 600 of the world's most high profile leaders and celebrities, said sources close to the dancing couple.

The choreographer has already made a selection of 10 Bollywood numbers and the organisers will choose four songs from the repertoire for the performance.

"Bollywood is a big thing in the UK thanks to the Indian diaspora and the performance will be the last dance and they wanted it to be a fun way to end the evening," added the source.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Road to Cairo

From Rortybomb:

There’s a three-prong approach in Governor Walker’s plan that highlights a blueprint for conservative governorship after the 2010 election. The first is breaking public sector unions and public sector workers generally. The second is streamlining benefits away from legislative authority, especially for health care and in fighting the Health Care Reform Act. The third is the selling of public assets to private interests under firesale and crony capitalist situations.

This wasn’t clear to me at first. I thought this was about a narrow disagreement over teacher’s unions. Depending on what you read, you may have only seen a few of these parts, and you may have not seen them put together as a coherent whole. This will be the framework that other conservative governors, and even a few Democratic ones, will use in their state, so it is good to get a working model in place. In order to frame where it stands now, I’m going to chart this and give a set of descriptions and must-read links:

The rest here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The thesis is sound

Although, I don't know if the facts align with it just yet. I have maintained for some time that the globalization of the manufacturing supply chain meant Karl Marx's vision of the source of social agency and a new phase of human history was obsolete-- unless some labour leadership emerged which was able to organize around the world via the 'net. The ricochets back and forth from Egypt to Wisconsin are undoubtedly too rhetorical to make a substantive difference.....

But since the GFC I routinely peek in on the Tokyo markets in the evenings, and the London market in the wee hours when I wake up. Capital never sleeps, which is why capital is revolutionary. You say you want a revolution? go 24/7.

I'm still waiting for the first net mobilized labour action across all time zones. But maybe we won't have to wait too long. If can do it, why not labour? Then watch the elites soil their knickers.

From Matt Stoller via Yves at NC):

Egyptians are trying to throw off the IMF-imposed austerity measures that created such a system for their country. The new government there is proposing raising taxes on oligarchs, increasing food subsidies, and reducing inequality. Their new cabinet is letting more people apply for “monthly portions of sugar, cooking oil, and rice.” The previous cabinet, “which was comprised of businessmen and former corporate executives”, had refused this.

And look at how Egypt is treating public employees: “Temporary workers who have spent at least three years working for the government will now be given permanent contracts that carry higher salaries, and benefits such as pension plans, and health and social insurance.”

Pension plans, health, and social insurance, oh my! How are they planning to pay for this? One member of a left-of-center party made it quite clear:

Confiscating wealth looted by cronies of the former regime, more egalitarian distribution of wealth, gradual taxation, better government oversight, and placing “a reasonable ceiling” on profitability of goods and services sold to the public are among the measures that should restore an economic balance to society, he said.


Perversely, people may be so beaten down that they only want to side with institutions that are visibly and aggressively advocating for them. This might lead them to recognize that middle class interests are aligned with those of labor, which was the widespread view in the first generation after World War II. However, that also means that the de facto business unionism of the 1970s onward isn’t appealing. People might only like unions when they see strikes, otherwise all they hear about is backroom negotiations. Perhaps effectively striking is actually the way to force people to ask questions about what kind of country they want to live in. I haven’t seen this much labor coverage since, well, ever in my lifetime. There seems to be multiple feedback loops at work: political, global, and economic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The AP tends to be right wing on foreign affairs

But maybe not on domestic issues, or else this was just too juicy to pass up. I wonder if Fox will mention it --- probably not .. too close to home...

On prank call, Wis. governor discusses strategy

AP – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talks to the media at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Feb. …
By RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press – 13 mins ago
MADISON, Wis. – On a prank call that quickly spread across the Internet, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was duped into discussing his strategy to cripple public employee unions, promising never to give in and joking that he would use a baseball bat in his office to go after political opponents.
Walker believed the caller was a conservative billionaire named David Koch, but it was actually the editor of a liberal online newspaper. The two talked for at least 20 minutes — a conversation in which the governor described several potential ways to pressure Democrats to return to the Statehouse and revealed that his supporters had considered secretly planting people in pro-union protest crowds to stir up trouble.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mark Your Calendars

Saudi dissidents are calling for a much bigger 'Day of Wrath’ on March 13 to press for political freedoms.

All eyes on Bahrain as Gulf tremors frighten oil markets

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gaddafi looks to be a goner

Al Jazeera's live blog has a lot of details:

February 21

1:00am: Saif El Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader's son, is speaking live on Libyan state television. He says he will address the nation without a written speech, in the Libyan dialect.

He says the media has greatly exaggerated the events in Libya, and says the number of casualties is 14, adding that he regrets the deaths of civilians. He also says unions and Islamic groups are beind the protests - and they are benefiting from the situation.

Translated snippets of his speech as he gives it are below:

"Citizens tried to attack the army and they were in a situation that was difficult. The army was not used to dealing with riots," he says.

"Libyan citizens died and this was a tragedy.

"There is a plot against Libya. People want to create a government in Benghazi and others want to have an Islamic emirate in Bayda. All these [people] have their own plots. Of course Arab media hyped this. The fault of the Libyan media is that it did not cover this.

Libya is not like Egypt, it is tribes and clans, it is not a society with parties. Everyone knows their duties and this may cause civil wars.

Libya is not Tunisia and Egypt. Libya has oil - that has united the whole of Libya.

"I have to be honest with you. We are all armed, even the thugs and the unemployed. At this moment in time, tanks are driven about with civilians. In Bayda you have machine huns right in the middle of the city. Many arms have been stolen.

"No one will come to Libya or do any business with Libya.

"We will call for new media laws, civil rights, lift the stupid punishments, we will have a constitution... We will tomorrow create a new Libya. We can agree on a new national anthem, new flag, new Libya. Or be prepared for civil war. Forget about oil.

"The country will be divided like North and South Korea, we will see each other through a fence. You will wait in line for months for a visa.

12:11 am: Libya's ambassador to China, Hussein Sadiq al Musrati, has just resigned on air with Al Jazeera Arabic. He called on the army to intervene, and has called all diplomatic staff to resign.

He made claims about a gunfight between Gaddafi's sons and also claimed that Gaddafi may have left Libya. Al Jazeera has no confirmation of these claims.

12:01 am: The European Union calls on Libya's government to refrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators and address its people's demands for reform.

February 20

11:59 pm: Lebanese officials say Libya is jamming Lebanese TV stations because of their reporting on the crackdown on protesters in the North African country.

11:54 pm: Further reports suggest the 500,000-strong Tuareg tribe in south Libya has heeded the call from the million-strong Warfala tribe to join the uprising. Protesters in Ghat and Ubary, home to Libyan Tuareg clans are reportedly attacking government buildings and police stations.

11:25 pm Online reports claim remaining pro-Gaddafi militia in Benghazi, around the Elfedeel Bu Omar compound, "are being butchered by angry mobs". It is impossible to verify the claims, though Al Jazeera has spoken with several people in the city who say protesters control the city, as security forces flee to the airport.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Turning the Tide for Labor?

God knows, it's been a long cold and lonely winter.

Madison, Wisconsin Friday night. (h/t Daily Kos)

Friday, February 18, 2011

The ruling family of Bahrain: May they rot in Hell

But even as they fled in headlong panic, a helicopter sprayed gunfire at them and more fell. Paramedics from ambulances that had rushed to the scene darted forward to help the wounded, but they too were shot at.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


(h/t Warren Senders)

A surgeon needs a doctor

From the Guardian:

Sadiq al-Ikri, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, was in an intensive care ward after being attacked at the roundabout camp, then handcuffed and repeatedly kicked in the head. Al-Ikri had talked with the Guardian only hours before the attack, inside the small hiking tent he had bought to use as a triage facility for any demonstrators with minor ailments. "We are not looking to overthrow the regime," he had said, offering dried apricots and nuts. "They just simply have to be more accountable, and the king has to play a role as a constitutional monarch."

Colleagues say al-Ikri's tent was slashed open by charging riot police who first handcuffed him then kicked him savagely about the head. As he was being treated by his colleagues, most of the others from the camp who had been wounded were in nearby wards, many with broken limbs and gaping wounds.

I hope the US press is covering this, but I no longer bother to check, they are so captured by the imperial mindset.

Thugs called "Rulers"

Sleeping people, including children, attacked in the middle of the night with live ammunition. No warnings given.

Smite them, O Lord.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jeff Sachs Off the Reservation

Whatever happened in Russia, he seems intent on redeeming himself. His response to the Obama budget.

More from Amar -- a hopeful analysis

What I find most persuasive is that his analysis makes so much more sense of the actual events we saw with our own eyes than anything else I've read.

It is crucial to remember that this uprising did not begin with the Muslim Brothers or with nationalist businessmen. This revolt began gradually at the convergence of two parallel forces: the movement for workers’ rights in the newly revived factory towns and micro-sweatshops of Egypt especially during the last two years, and the movement against police brutality and torture that mobilized every community in the country for the last three years. Both movements feature the leadership and mass participation of women (of all ages) and youth (of both genders). There are structural reasons for this.

The rest here.

The analysis of Paul Amar looks to be enlightening

Many international media commentators – and some academic and political analysts – are having a hard time understanding the complexity of forces driving and responding to these momentous events. This confusion is driven by the binary “good guys versus bad guys” lenses most use to view this uprising. Such perspectives obscure more than they illuminate. There are three prominent binary models out there and each one carries its own baggage: (1) People versus Dictatorship: This perspective leads to liberal naïveté and confusion about the active role of military and elites in this uprising. (2) Seculars versus Islamists: This model leads to a 1980s-style call for “stability” and Islamophobic fears about the containment of the supposedly extremist “Arab street.” Or, (3) Old Guard versus Frustrated Youth: This lens imposes a 1960s-style romance on the protests but cannot begin to explain the structural and institutional dynamics driving the uprising, nor account for the key roles played by many 70-year-old Nasser-era figures.

To map out a more comprehensive view, it may be helpful to identify the moving parts within the military and police institutions of the security state and how clashes within and between these coercive institutions relate to shifting class hierarchies and capital formations. I will also weigh these factors in relation to the breadth of new non-religious social movements and the internationalist or humanitarian identity of certain figures emerging at the center of the new opposition coalition.

The whole post here.

Matt Stoller on the Egyptian Revolution

In a rush, but this post at NC caught my eye -- and the Paul Amar reference needs to be looked at...

The political architecture of the Mubarak regime was directly pulled from the neoliberal shadow government model, right down to the political rhetoric of toughness as a mask for theft. Paul Amar has by far the most persuasive account of the Egyptian revolution. Amar goes beyond the absurdist Facebook revolution narrative, and points out that what is going on is in effect a youth-driven labor uprising, combined with fights between Mubarak-centric Rubinite elites and the domestic nationalist business community tied to the military. Mubarak had made tight alliances with the Islamic right, while slashing the social safety net and bringing in international investors to open low wage manufacturing (this is part of Mubarak’s son’s Bank of America training, more on that below).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Grammy for the Chocolate Drops

Carolina Chocolate Drops put an exclamation point on a triumphant year Sunday night, winning a Grammy Award.

The Triangle-based old-time group won the best traditional folk album category for last year's "Genuine Negro Jig," over a formidable field of nominees that included 14-time winner Ricky Skaggs.

Read more:

Trends bubbling around us

OK, maybe the Social Network is long on breathless money and ego hype and short on values.

Try this:

Collaborative Consumption

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Talk about Burying the Lede

This story in the Independent about the US-Pak diplomatic impasse has a nice summary of a very murky incident.

Counterpunch sleuths made a further contribution by noting:

The Florida Secretary of State’s office, meanwhile, which requires all Florida companies, including LLSs (limited liability partnerships), to register, has no record, current or lapsed, of a Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, and there is only one company with the name Hyperion registered at all in the state. It is Hyperion Communications, a company based in W. Palm Beach, that has no connection with Davis or with security-related activities.

The non-existent Hyperion Protective Consultants does have a website (, but one of the phone numbers listed doesn’t work, an 800 number produces a recorded answer offering information about how to deal with or fend off bank foreclosures, and a third number with an Orlando exchange goes to a recording giving Hyperion’s corporate name and asking the caller to leave a message. Efforts to contact anyone on that line were unsuccessful. The local phone company says there is no public listing for Hyperion Protective Consultants--a rather unusual situation for a legitimate business operation

It seems pretty clear that the guy is an agent. But boy, if the last line of the Independent story is true, then are we really witnessing a covert, slow-motion effort on the part of the CIA to take on the "rogue" elements in the ISI? This suggests a low grade spy-vs-spy war underway.... and more importantly, that the heart of the Pakistani state is now under extreme conflicting pressures.

India and China watching nervously as the US tries to foreclose on the mortgage of its wayward client.

"CAP'N, the dilithium crystals canna take any more! the engine's gonna blow!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Juicy details from Fisk

The Independent:

Last night, a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier's growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.

Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.

Thus when General Hassan al-Rawani told the massive crowds yesterday evening that "everything you want will be realised – all your demands will be met", the people cried back: "The army and the people stand together – the army and the people are united. The army and the people belong to one hand."

Last night, the Cairo court prevented three ministers – so far unnamed, although they almost certainly inc-lude the Minister of Interior – from leaving Egypt.

But neither the army nor Vice-President Suleiman are likely to be able to face the far greater demonstrations planned for today, a fact that was conveyed to 83-year-old Mubarak by Tantawi himself, standing next to Suleiman. Tantawi and another general – believed to be the commander of the Cairo military area – called Washington, according to a senior Egyptian officer, to pass on the news to Robert Gates at the Pentagon. It must have been a sobering moment. For days, the White House had been grimly observing the mass demonstrations in Cairo, fearful that they would turn into a mythical Islamist monster, frightened that Mubarak might leave, even more terrified he might not.