Naomi Klein: Bailout = Bush's Final Pillage

By Naomi Klein, The Nation. Posted October 31, 2008.

The bailout has been designed to keep stealing from the Treasury for years to come.

In the final days of the election, many Republicans seem to have given up the fight for power. But that doesn't mean they are relaxing. If you want to see real Republican elbow grease, check out the energy going into chucking great chunks of the $700 billion bailout out the door. At a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Republican Senator Bob Corker was fixated on this task, and with a clear deadline in mind: inauguration. "How much of it do you think may be actually spent by January 20 or so?" Corker asked Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old former banker in charge of the bailout.

When European colonialists realized that they had no choice but to hand over power to the indigenous citizens, they would often turn their attention to stripping the local treasury of its gold and grabbing valuable livestock. If they were really nasty, like the Portuguese in Mozambique in the mid-1970s, they poured concrete down the elevator shafts.

Its Friday and Peacenik is feeling mellow. Paulson is ripping everyone off; giving $70 billion of public funds for bonus money to the same incompetent, corrupt bankers who caused this crisis. Bankrupting the U.S. treasury so that social security and medicare can be cut back or eliminated. And Harper no doubt is eyeing the same playbook in Canada. Whatever. Time for a couple of beers.

Black hole gapes for pensions

By Henry C K Liu
More than three years before the current financial crisis, in a series Greenspan, the Wizard of Bubbleland that began on September 14, 2005, I warned:
Through mortgage-backed securitization, banks now are mere loan intermediaries that assume no long-term risk on the risky loans they make, which are sold as securitized debt of unbundled levels of risk to institutional investors with varying risk appetite commensurate with their varying need for higher returns. But who are institutional investors? They are mostly pension funds that manage the money the US working public depends on for retirement. In other words, the aggregate retirement assets of the working public are exposed to the risk of the same working public defaulting on their house mortgages.

Peacenik wonders what it will take before the sheeple get out their pitch forks. This article in the Asia Times documents the downward spiral not only of pension plans but of all savings. And the recent talk in the Toronto papers about helping Canadian pension plans may not help them at all. Peacenik doubts that there is enough money in the whole world to fill the black hole. Have a good weekend.


Debt Rattle, October 29 2008: The Lone and Level Sands

Ilargi: Remember the bans on short selling? In the US, 19 major financial institutions were protected from the practice. Now we see that many of them, though they never tire of knee-jerk denying, lose an aggregated $30 billion on shorts they bought on Volkswagen. But does it amtter anymore? They’ll just hold out their hands and get more of your money from the Fed and Treasury. Nice play by Porsche, though. Nice denial too.

As I said before, 'moral hazard' concerns have long since been thrown away with the bathwater of the meek and innocent. All it took was a few ass clowns shouting 'crisis' and Mayday. Jim Kunstler this week asked why we hardly ever see terms like 'fraud' and 'swindle' in the media. Well, because we have a crisis, of course. First things first. The Fed will lower interest rates to levels so low that banks get paid (even more) just to take money from the public trough.

Read on...

The Dow is up this morning. The TSE is up this morning. Enquiring minds want to know if Peacenik thinks the financial crisis in contained. Peacenik thinks the crisis in uncontainable and that most of the existing efforts are designed to rip off the pubic and prevent a total collapse until after the U.S. election. Peacenik remains bearish and frightened.


Canada needs a Liberal-NDP-Green Coalition

by John Ryan

Canada’s last two elections are proof positive that we have a flawed electoral system. Does it make any sense that it’s impossible to get a government that reflects the views of the majority of our population? How is it that a little more than a third of the electorate can determine who forms Canada’s government?

There is no question that Canada has a dysfunctional political system in which the views of the majority of Canadians cannot be represented by a single political party. Although almost two-thirds of Canada's voters in the last two elections opposed the platform, policies, and philosophy of the Conservative party, it is the Conservatives who have formed the government. The majority vote was split amongst four parties, thereby thwarting the predominant will of the people and making a mockery of democracy. And this may very well continue into the future. If the NDP and the Greens keep getting progressively stronger, it will guarantee a split vote, resulting in an unending series of Conservative governments. Moreover, if Gilles Duceppe should retire it would weaken the Bloc Quebecois and we would then get majority Conservative governments.

So what do we do? How do we get out of a system that seems to ensure an unending regime of Conservative governments – governments that do not have the support of the bulk of our population? In the best interests of Canada, it's up to progressive-minded citizens to urge the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens to form a coalition. It will then be up to these parties to act responsibly, to set aside narrow partisan politics, and to establish a formal coalition. It's only then that the majority of Canadians would be in a position to vote for a political entity that would reflect their views, values, and interests.

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punditman says...I couldn't agree more, although I don't what the chances of it happening are. Better still, why not Proportional Representation?

Brace yourselves - George Bush will soon be free to do just what he wants

The raid on Syria is a dark portent. The current president has three long, unaccountable months to cement his legacy

Jonathan Freedland

We are about to enter the twilight zone, that strange black hole in political time and space that appears no more than once every four years. It is known as the period of transition, and it starts a week from today, the time when the United States has not one president but two. One will be the president-elect, the other George Bush, in power for 12 more weeks in which he can do pretty much whatever he likes. Not only will he never again have to face voters, he won't even have to worry about damaging the prospects of his own party and its standard bearer (as if he has not damaged those enough already). From November 5 to January 20, he will exercise the freest, most unaccountable form of power the democratic world has to offer.

How Bush might use it is a question that gained new force at the weekend, when US forces crossed the Iraqi border into Syria to kill Abu Ghadiya, a man they said had been funnelling "foreign fighters" allied to al-Qaida into Iraq. That American move has touched off a round of intense head-scratching around the world, as foreign ministers and analysts ask each other the time-honoured diplomatic query: what did they mean by that? To which they add the post-Nov 4 question: and what does it tell us about how Bush plans to use his final days in the White House?

Read on...

Peacenik thinks there is nothing scarier than George Bush cementing his legacy. Peacenik doesn't know whether to be more worried between now and the election or more worried between Nov. 5 and Jan. 20. Bush has perfected the Kissinger/Nixon crazy man theory. That and war crimes are his legacy.


The End of International Law?

posted by Robert Dreyfuss on 10/28/2008 @ 10:35am

A parallel new Bush doctrine is emerging, in the last days of the soon-to-be-ancien regime, and it needs to be strangled in its crib. Like the original Bush doctrine -- the one that Sarah Palin couldn't name, which called for preventive military action against emerging threats -- this one also casts international law aside by insisting that the United States has an inherent right to cross international borders in "hot pursuit" of anyone it doesn't like.

They're already applying it to Pakistan, and this week Syria was the target. Is Iran next?

Peacenik wonders if Iran would accept "hot pursuit" by the U.S. into its territory. Peacenik wonders what the effect would be of an escalating military crisis with Iran just days before the vote. Bush has never taken a moderate or honourable course when he had a chance to placate the hard neocon right. With their power dwindling will Bush roll the dice. Peacenik wishes Peacenik was confident something very weird wasn't going to happen, very soon.

U.S. Calls Raid a Warning to Syria

By Ann Scott Tyson and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post staff writers Tuesday, October 28, 2008

U.S. troops in helicopters flew four miles into Syrian territory over the weekend to target the leader of a network that channels foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq, killing or wounding him and shooting dead several armed men, U.S. officials said Monday.
U.S. officials have long complained that the Syrian government has allowed Arab fighters to pass through the country to enter Iraq, but since last year, top military leaders have praised Syrian efforts to curb the flow. In recent months, officials have estimated that as few as 20 fighters a month have been crossing into Iraq, down from more than a hundred a month in 2006.

Read on...

Punditman had this story yesterday. Today the Washington Post continues to quote unnamed sources to justify the raid. Is Bush trying to escalate the already out of control violence in the Mideast. Does this help McCain. Peacenik hopes a war crimes tribunal will be convened on November 5th.

US Faces International Condemnation in Wake of Syria Strike

While the White House has declined comment and other US officials defended the strike on a Syrian border town yesterday which killed eight, international condemnation rained down on the strike from a number of sources. The Syrian government, which already summoned the US Charges d’Affaires to complain about a strike which they labeled as “serious aggression,” had further condemnations and a warning today. Foreign Minister Wallid al-Muallem condemned the strike as an act of “criminal and terrorist aggression” and warned that his government “would defend our territories” in the event of a future attack.

The Lebanese government, which has been on shaky terms with Syria, also harshly condemned the move. Prime Minister Fouad Seniora released a statement condemning the attack as “dangerous” and “unacceptable” and “constitutes a violation of Syrian sovereignty.” Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh likewise condemned the raid as a violation of international law.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...Even Punditman gets a little shell-shocked when he occassionally watches the TV news. It's amazing how far down the road to pimpdom they have gone.

Case in point: the world may condemn a US action, but don't for one second believe that this matters -- at least not within the elite corridors of Big Media. In fact, just tonight, Katie Couric told me on CBS News that the US attacked Syria in order to kill a “smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq” which apparently they did do (trust them, right!). No mention of anything else. No dead construction workers or anyone else. No violation of sovereignty. No mention of a possible eight civilian deaths. No, it's simply the end of the story. Certainly no comment from Syria is allowed, despite this interesting tidbit over at antiwar.com:

The attack comes as particularly surprising considering the US was reported earlier this month to be mulling lifting sanctions against Syria in light of their indirect peace talks with Israel. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem had said there was “good progress” in a dialogue aimed at improving US-Syrian relations. Syria has reportedly summoned the US Charges d’Affaires to officially complain about what it calls an attack on its sovereignty.

So, consider this: if you were a news organization that actually cared about giving some context to international events in order to fulfill your mandate to educate, inform and act as government watchdog, or you were, perhaps, merely interested in the intrigue behind an event, you just might offer up some of the above as background.

Alas, we don't live in such a world, as I was so bluntly reminded earlier this evening. No, instead I am to infer from CBS that there is nothing else to this event other than what the US military told us and what the lame-ducked, lying war criminals in the White House who have no business even sitting in office anymore, refuse to talk about.

CBS: you suck!


Easthampton Burning?

by Jim Kunstler
In the typhoon of commentary that's blown around the world a step behind the financial tsunami that's wrecking everything, two little words have been curiously absent: "fraud" and "swindle." But aren't they really at the core of what has happened? Wall Street took the whole world "for a ride" and now a handful of Wall Street's erstwhile princelings have shifted ceremoniously into US Government service to "fix" the problem with a "toolbox" containing a notional two trillion dollars. This strange exercise in financial kabuki theater will shut down sometime between the election and inauguration day, when the inaugurate finds himself president of the Economic Smoking Wreckage of the United States. What will happen?

I have thought for some time that things could get dangerously out of hand in America, despite our exceptionalist notion that we are immune to the common plot-lines of history. For starters, inauguration night will seem more like Halloween, as those two little words fly in to haunt the new president. So, a large and looming question is: who will be appointed the next attorney general of the US (to replace the human sash-weight currently occupying the office), and how soon will the federal marshals be scouring the wainscoted hallways of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, not to mention a thousand Greenwich, Connecticut, hedge fund boiler rooms, with man-sized nets?

Kunstler seems to think that unemployed, hungry, homeless, hopeless sheeple may not react well to the new economic order. Peacenik hopes that Kunstler is wrong. Meanwhile financial planners are working overtime trying to reassure their clients to sit tight and trust the markets. Trust?

Debt Rattle, October 26 2008: Merciless

Ilargi: The IMF has agreed on a $16.5 billion loan for the Ukraine. After seeing the terms demanded for a loan to Pakistan, which costitute a de facto economic take-over of that nation, one must wonder what the terms for the Ukraine are. Since the country looks to be two steps away from a civil war, there's no doubt that strict 'guarantees‘ have been built in, as well as interest rates worthy of credit card issuers. Kiev has signed away its independence as a nation.

History has shown us time and again that the IMF and the World Bank have one objective only: power over countries, their populations and most of all their resources. In name they are international organizations created for the benefit of struggling economies. In reality they are 100% controlled by the US government and American corporations eager to benefit from countries’ economical problems.

Peacenik survived his off-grid adventure on the weekend and returned to civilization to discover that civilization still exists. But bad news continues do dominate. More countries -- that's right, countries, not companies -- need bail outs; the U.S. military adventures into Syria; the Hong Kong index is down 12 percent overnight; the U.S./Nato continues to eye the Ukraine and in doing so rattles the Russian bear's cage. Oh, and Russia may be broke too.

On the bright side, the Leafs looked very good in trouncing Ottawa.


US Helicopters, Commandos Attack Syrian Border Town Killing Nine

In a report from local witnesses later confirmed by a Syrian government spokesman, Two US helicopters landed in the Syrian border town of Al-Sukkariya while others remained in the air and eight American soldiers exited. The soldiers killed at least nine people in the attack, and wounded 14 others before reboarding the helicopters and returning to Iraqi territory.

The US military has yet to officially confirm the strike, which would be the first US strike on Syrian soil, and MSNBC reports that they were told there has been no comment and “there will be no comment.” Israel’s Channel 10 reports that unnamed western defense officials told them that the troops were carrying out a military operation against “al-Qaeda activists” in Syria. Witnesses say those killed were construction workers.

It has been speculated that the attack might be related to US military operations in the area, but there really haven’t been any. Major General John Kelly described security incidents in that area of Iraq as “almost meaningless now” and was reportedly optimistic about cutting troops in the area.

Keep Reading...

punditman says... It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. What will Syria have to say?

Update: there's been a reaction. Buried have way down the biased page, of course. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. Syrian commandos storm into Texas to knock of some extremists and accidentally kill a bunch of construction workers and their kids. Oh wait, we're not allowed to think of things that way.


Debt Rattle, October 23 2008: A Massive Ugly War

Ilargi: US home prices have a record drop, and foreclosure filings have a record surge, to 10.000 every day. James Lockhart says the Freddie and Fannie debt is explicitly guaranteed by the US government, while the September 7 legal document that outlines the takeover of Fannie and Freddie explicitly denies any such guarantee.

Meanwhile, the FDIC claims that the US government will start guaranteeing bad mortgages. That may seem nice and all, but is it really such a great idea for the US taxpayer to start buying up grossly overvalued real estate, that will keep on losing value regardless?

This is quite a litany of fiscal nightmares that Ilargi lists. Including Roubini forecasting the closure of the markets and wide spread panic. Which seems to have just happened. Peacenik is only hours away from going off-grid and out of touch. It should be a couple of interesting hours. BTW, in the face of this news, 80 % of the commentors on The Big Picture say they will be buying stocks today. Peacenik guesses that is good news.

Futures off 6.5%: Look out Below!

U.S. futures are trading down 6.5% -- thats limit down on S&P Futures -- the percentage trigger where trading halts has been hit.

Looks like quite the free fall this morning -- Dow Futures off 5%, following the announcement of a contraction of GDP in the British economy. A global sell off has ensued.

Stocks tumbled around the world. South Korea's Kospi Index sank 10%; Japan off about 10%, and Europe Indices fell about 6%. The MSCI World Index lost 3.6%. Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index slid 6.3%, and the MSCI Asia Pacific Index sank 6%.

Read on...

Just a quick post here from The Big Picture to mark an historical event. Futures trading has been halted. There is speculation that the market may not open. Peacenik doesn't know what to say.


Bipartisanship and Threats of War Toward Iran

by Glenn Greenwald

Two former Senators -- conservative Democrat Chuck Robb and conservative Republican Dan Coats (that's what "bipartisan" means) -- have a jointly authored Op-Ed in The Washington Post today decreeing what the U.S. must do towards Iran. The essence: Iran must be prevented, using any means necessary, from not only obtaining nuclear weapons, but also denied even "the ability to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon," which means "the complete cessation of enrichment activities inside Iran," even for civilian purposes.

To achieve that, the Patriot Act should be used to block all Iranian banks from any involvement in the U.S. economy and "our European allies [must] sever commercial relations with Tehran." And this is what we should immediately prepare for:

The U.S. military is capable of launching a devastating strike on Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure -- probably with more decisive results than the Iranian leadership realizes.

Read on...

Peacenik hoped he could go off-grid for the weekend without thinking about war with Iran. Then Peacenik read this. Peacenik will be taking several bottles of beer with him to calm his psyche. And enough supplies to last a month.

Debt Rattle, October 22 2008: Shelling

Ilargi: Stocks are plummeting once more all around the world, and if you think that trend will stop anytime soon, then you haven’t been paying attention. As long as there is maybe $1 of real money for every $25 dollars (or $100, or $200) of funny virtual money, stocks have a long way left to fall. Especially since what little real money is left tends to stay away from the crap tables.

And that is what the exchanges, make that the entire economy, have become. As Deepak Chopra put it, ".. less than 2 percent of the $3 trillion to $4 trillion that circulates in the world's markets daily is used for goods and services. The rest is trying to make money off money.[..] Our financial structure which, of course, is an American system but is now global, is pure speculation. It's gambling."

Read on...

Peacenik watches the tv bubbleheads predicting the bottom then reads Ilargi. Peacenik wonders if there is a bottom.

Society's downward spiral must play out first

Written by Jan Lundberg
Culture Change Letter #206, Oct. 18, 2008

Society's sad and terminal state is not an abstraction of issues or dollars. It is the wasted human potential of the intelligent, charitable individual who is stifled and hemmed in. Yet, our many wonderful members of society are creatures of artificial "comfort." Convenience comes at costs such as cancer and heart disease that were rare diseases until the last hundred years. Forced by the present economy to be self-centered, we also suppress our creativity and innate potential for triumphing over a clear threat.

For the most part the modern human being labors in exchange for essentials handed over at whatever the market will bear. Food, shelter and clothing are not won or collected from nature, or in cooperation with helpful tribe members, but rather obtained in exchange for becoming a kind of slave. Neuroses from overcrowding are apparent, but none dare call it overpopulation.

Peacenik can't remember the hippies call to action or non-action. This essay has echoes of it though, and though it is generally downbeat it has a glimmer of hope. Times are changing and maybe society's reaction won't be all bad. Turn on, tune in, drop out. That's it. As a matter of fact Peacenik is going off-grid for the weekend. Have a good weekend.

Waiting for Nov. 4th

by Larry David

I can't take much more of this. Two weeks to go, and I'm at the end of my rope. I can't work. I can eat, but mostly standing up. I'm anxious all the time and taking it out on my ex-wife, which, ironically, I'm finding enjoyable. This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it's worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there's still a potential cure. With this, there's no cure. The result is final. Like death.

Five times a day I'll still say to someone, "I don't know what I'm going to do if McCain wins." Of course, the reality is I'm probably not going to do anything. What can I do? I'm not going to kill myself. If I didn't kill myself when I became impotent for two months in 1979, I'm certainly not going to do it if McCain and Palin are elected, even if it's by nefarious means. If Obama loses, it would be easier to live with it if it's due to racism rather than if it's stolen. If it's racism, I can say, "Okay, we lost, but at least it's a democracy. Sure, it's a democracy inhabited by a majority of disgusting, reprehensible turds, but at least it's a democracy." If he loses because it's stolen, that will be much worse. Call me crazy, but I'd rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one. (It's not exactly a Hobson's choice, but it's close, and I think Hobson would compliment me on how close I've actually come to giving him no choice. He'd love that!)

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punditman says...
Thanks to my friend "Tallahassee Lizzie" for the above article. Hilarious!


Wall Street Hustlers Built a $100 Trillion House of Cards and Stuck You with the Fallout

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted October 22, 2008.

Deregulation brought us hugely "leveraged" investments, and they brought us panicked markets and pain.

Debate over who is most to blame for the financial meltdown rages on against a backdrop of economic pain and anxiety that's unprecedented in the post-war era.

The bottom line: There was a feeding frenzy that drove housing prices far beyond what the fundamental laws of supply and demand would dictate. People certainly got in over their heads, but the ultimate responsibility for that lies with the investment bankers who cooked up exotic new ways to make risky investments look more secure than they actually were (I wrote about it recently here).

While the U.S. housing market is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 trillion, it was Wall Street's wheeler-dealers -- and their lobbyists and allies who kept regulators out of their business -- who built a house of cards out of "exotic" mortgage-backed securities and other "derivatives" worth as much as 60 times that figure -- paper wealth backed by little more than the irrational belief that what goes up will never come down.

Read on...

Peacenik thought this was a pretty straightforward explanation of the root causes of the current financial crisis.

Growing Doubts About McCain's Judgment, Age and Campaign Conduct

Obama's Lead Widens: 52%-38%


Barack Obama’s lead over John McCain has steadily increased since mid-September, when the race was essentially even. Shortly after the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, Obama moved to a 49% to 42% lead; that margin inched up to 50% to 40% in a poll taken just after the second debate. Currently, Obama enjoys his widest margin yet over McCain among registered voters, at 52% to 38%. When the sample of voters is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Obama leads by 53% to 39%.

Obama’s strong showing in the current poll reflects greater confidence in the Democratic candidate personally. More voters see him as “well-qualified” and “down-to-earth” than did so a month ago. Obama also is inspiring more confidence on several key issues, including Iraq and terrorism, than he did before the debates. Most important, Obama now leads McCain as the candidate best able to improve economic conditions by a wider margin (53% to 32%).

Read on...

Peacenik thinks it is going to be very tough to steal this election through the normal wingnut mechanisms; Voter suppression, electronic voter fraud, and outright cheating. Only a black swan event can stop Obama now.

How Helpful

by Digby

Nothing like deploying a bunch of cops on the streets of American cities, looking for marauding African Americans to help get out the vote:

Police departments in cities across the country are beefing up their ranks for Election Day, preparing for possible civil unrest and riots after the historic presidential contest.

Public safety officials said in interviews with The Hill that the election, which will end with either the nation’s first black president or its first female vice president, demanded a stronger police presence.

Peacenik is trying to imagine a worst case scenario for election day in the U.S. This post by Digby certainly illustrates some of the forces that will be at play. There will be social disorder. There will be a police over-reaction. The media will stoke the fire. The wingnut effort to delegitimize an Obama presidency has already begun. Obama will be taking over the presidency in the midst of the biggest U.S. crisis since the civil war. But Peacenik cannot see any scenario that denies Obama the prize, however tainted it is.


A McCain "Win" Will Be Theft, Resistance Is Planned

by David Swanson

If your television declares John McCain the president elect on the evening of November 4th, your television will be lying. You should immediately pick up your pre-packed bags and head straight to the White House in Washington, D.C., which we will surround and shut down until this attempt at a third illegitimate presidency is reversed.

A McCain "win" will not be illegitimate because I disagree with his policies, but because he himself has rendered it illegitimate. He and his campaign and allied supporters have sought to illegally remove hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls, fraudulently registered people as Republicans without their knowledge and against their will, obstructed voter registration drives, falsely warned students against voting where they attend school, falsely accused community groups of voter registration fraud, falsely alleged the widespread existence of voter fraud, and encouraged supporters to falsely believe McCain's opponent is a foreign terrorist through speeches, recorded phone messages, and flyers. Already in early voting in a number of states there have been cases of votes on electronic machines visibly flipping to McCain or McKinney when intended for Obama. We will see McCain supporters on November 4th challenging people's right to vote, seeking to force people to vote on provisional ballots, and seeking to have provisional ballots discarded. And we will see electronic vote counts wildly out of step with the most recent polls, although not with exit polls -- which we will be denied any access to unless they have been "adjusted" to match the official counts.

Keep reading this rant!...

punditman says...
Although this is obviously a partisan article in support of Obama, I concur with its basic conclusion: that the Republicans will try to win by hook or by crook, just as they have in the past. And yes, that includes cheating. Peacenik, who is predicting an Obama landslide, should definitely pay closer attention to the vote count scandals of the 2000 and 2004 elections, including black box voting. I have confidence that Peacnik will look this up.

Chomsky on the economy

Noam Chomsky's kindles

It's a Beer Market!

The days of wine and Rose's may be over, but the hoisting, historically, continues apace, good times or bad

by Tom Acitelli

What drink best complements a recession?

"The prevailing view is that beer isn't affected that much by economic ups and downs," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, in a Friday email.

The trade group measured taxable beer barrels produced by domestic brewers from 1985 through 2005. In 2001, during the tail end of the last national recession, breweries produced more beer barrels than they had annually in any of the seven years before--over 180 million or a watering 5.58 billion gallons. To find a year when breweries last cleared that mark, you'd have to go to the early 1990s, in and around another recession.
In a time of timorous spending habits and inflated costs amid shrinking job security, beer remains virtually recession-proof.

Peacenik found some good news! Peacenik found some good news!

Iran Readies Its End-Game Iraq Strategy

by Robert Dreyfuss

The U.S. embassy and military command has once again started to raise accusations about Iranian "meddling" in Iraq. Of course, one man's meddling is another man's pursuit of national interests, but whatever you call it, there does indeed seem reason to believe that Iran has stepped up its power-play in Iraq as part of what you might call an "end-game" strategy.

Why end game? Because like everyone else, Iran has figured out that Barack Obama will be the next president, and they're positioning themselves for what will be a struggle for power and influence in Baghdad. Among other things, as I was told often during my visit to Iran last spring, Tehran sees Iraq as kind of a bargaining chip in its relations with the United States.

Read on...

Peacenik thought Ray McGovern's article, posted yesterday, was mildly reassuring that Iran would not be attacked before the election. But after reading Barbara Starr's unsourced report on CNN in this article, it strikes Peacenik again that there are a lot of people who really want war with Iran. And those same people are still in a postition to cause a war.

The Disillusioned Reality of the American Choice

Chomsky - People should vote against McCain and for Obama - but without illusions. There is no shame in voting for the lesser of two evils.

by Paul Jay

The question posed by ABC's George Stephanopoulus "is not whether elites should rule, but which elite should rule?" It's a candid question that reflects the disillusioned reality of the looming American election. In an interview with Noam Chomsky, the renowned professor urges the voters in swing states to vote against McCain, therefore for Obama, while maintaining realistic expectations about the Democratic candidate.

Read on...

Peacenik recalls that Chomsky earlier said he thought McCain would win this election. Now he is urging voters to vote for Obama. Peacenik doesn't know if Chomsky's endorsement helps with centrist voters but it is another signal of a wider movement to Obama. Peacenik stands by his prediction of an Obama victory. A sweeping victory.


What Now?

by Jim Kunstler

It's fascinating to read the commentators in mainstream journals like The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal all strenuously pretending that "the worst is over" (maybe... we hope... fingers crossed... hail Mary full of grace... et cetera). The cluelessness would be funny if it didn't involve a world-changing catastrophe. All nations that have reached the fork-and-spoon level of civilization are now engineering a vast network of cyber-cables that lead directly from their central bank computers to the Death Star that is hovering above world financial affairs like a giant cosmic vacuum cleaner, sucking up dollars, euros, zlotys, forints, krona, what-have-you. As fast as the keystrokes create currency-pixels, the little electron-denominated units of exchange are sucked out of the terrestrial economies into the black hole of money death. That's what the $700-billion bail-out (excuse me, "rescue plan") and all its associated ventures are about.

To switch metaphors, let's say that we are witnessing the two stages of a tsunami. The current disappearance of wealth in the form of debts repudiated, bets welshed on, contracts canceled, and Lehman Brothers-style sob stories played out is like the withdrawal of the sea. The poor curious little monkey-humans stand on the beach transfixed by the strangeness of the event as the water recedes and the sea floor is exposed and all kinds of exotic creatures are seen thrashing in the mud, while the skeletons of historic wrecks are exposed to view, and a great stench of organic decay wafts toward the strand. Then comes the second stage, the tidal wave itself -- which in this case will be horrific monetary inflation -- roaring back over the mud flats toward the land mass, crashing over the beach, and ripping apart all the hotels and houses and infrastructure there while it drowns the poor curious monkey-humans who were too enthralled by the weird spectacle to make for higher ground. The killer tidal wave washes away all the things they have labored to build for decades, all their poignant little effects and chattels, and the survivors are left keening amidst the wreckage as the sea once again returns to normal in its eternal cradle.

Read on...

Peacenik reads Kunstler and wonders what Peacenik should do. Can Peacenik save himself from hyperinflation? Can he save himself from deflation? Can anyone? Will the near future be peaceful? Peacenik watched War of The Worlds last night and was surprised at how orderly people were in the face of an alien attack. But Peacenik also read Cormac's The Road. The future may be scary and it may be soon.

Seymour Hersh: The Man Who Knows Too Much

He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib... No wonder the Republicans describe Seymour Hersh as 'the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist'. Rachel Cooke meets the most-feared investigative reporter in Washington

by Rachel Cooke

Every so often, a famous actor or producer will contact Seymour Hersh, wanting to make a movie about his most famous story: his single-handed uncovering, in 1969, of the My Lai massacre, in which an American platoon stormed a village in South Vietnam and, finding only its elderly, women and children, launched into a frenzy of shooting, stabbing and gang-raping. It won him a Pulitzer prize and hastened the end of the Vietnam war. Mostly, they come to see him in his office in downtown Washington, a two-room suite that he has occupied for the past 17 years. Do they like what they see? You bet they do, even if the movie has yet to be made. 'Brad Pitt loved this place,' says Hersh with a wolfish grin. 'It totally fits the cliché of the grungy reporter's den!' When last he renewed the lease, he tells me, he made it a condition of signing that the office would not be redecorated - the idea of moving all his stuff was too much. It's not hard to see why. Slowly, I move my head through 180 degrees, trying not to panic at the sight of so much paper piled so precipitously. Before me are 8,000 legal notepads, or so it seems, each one filled with a Biro Cuneiform of scribbled telephone numbers. By the time I look at Hersh again - the full panorama takes a moment or two - he is silently examining the wall behind his desk, which is grey with grime, and striated as if a billy goat had sharpened its horns on it.

Read on...

Peacenik thinks if Bush and Cheney ever face war crimes charges we can thank Hersh. BTW Colin Powell who just endorsed Obama was involved in the investigation of My Lai. And not in a flattering way.

Attack on Iran Off the Table?

by Ray McGovern

On Sept. 23, the neo-conservative chiefs of the Washington Post's editorial page mourned, in a tone much like what one hears on the death of a close friend, that "a military strike by the United States or Israel [on Iran is not] likely in the coming months." One could almost hear a wistful sigh, as they complained that efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program has "slipped down Washington's list of priorities...as Iran races toward accumulating enough uranium for a bomb."

We are spared, this go-round, from "mushroom clouds." But racing to a bomb? Never mind that the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a formal National Intelligence Estimate last November that work on the nuclear weapons-related part of Iran's nuclear program was halted in mid-2003. And never mind that Thomas Fingar, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's deputy for national estimates, reiterated that judgment as recently as Sept. 4. Never mind that the Post's own Walter Pincus reported on Sept. 10 that Fingar added that Iran has not restarted its nuclear weapons work. Hey, the editorial fellows know best.

Read on...

Peacenik was feeling reassured by this article until the last section. The last section lays out why an attack may still happen and it sounds logical. Two weeks to go. Two weeks for Peacenik to hold his breath and hope the crazies don't do something crazy.

Debt Rattle, Oct. 19, 2008: Deadly Sins and Screaming Givaways

Ilargi: Ah, the blessings of globalization... I made a list yesterday of countries known to be in deep financial trouble: Spain, Argentina, Pakistan, Ecuador, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Switzerland.

Today, an article in the Independent adds a few more (it also misses some of mine). Hence, I’ll add these countries to the list: South Korea, Russia, Australia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Brazil, India, Indonesia and China.

Of course, as the list gets longer, the problems become more diverse in shape and form. I don't yet see, for instance, Russia or China in immediate danger, while Hungary, Latvia and the Ukraine certainly are.

Read on...

Remember when Peacenik thought it odd that Canadian banks seemed to be immune to the fiscal chaos swirling around the world. Then they suddenly needed 25 billion dollars. Peacenik gets the feeling that the financial press is conspiring to hide the enormity of what has happened. Ilargi lays it out. Peacenik hates frightening people on a Monday morning. But Peacenik is frightened.


Pakistani Taliban Offers to Lay Down Arms for Peace

Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Maulvi Omar has offered negotiations with the Pakistani government “without any conditions.” The Pakistani government has previously offered such negotiations, but demanded that the TTP first lay down their arms and agree to expel all foreigners from the tribal areas.

Maulvi Omar seemed open to the possibility, saying that the TTP would be willing to lay down arms so long as the Pakistani government ceases its offensives against them. He also said his faction would be willing to cooperate with the government in driving out foreigners and preventing infiltration into Afghanistan. He also was open to promising the TTP would not cross into Afghanistan to fight there, saying the Afghan Taliban was powerful enough on its own.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...It is important to point these things out to illustrate the complex, nuanced situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. You don't get that in the mainstream media, and you don't get that inside most people's heads -- where everything is good guys (us) vs. bad guys (meaning whoever the government and the military says are the bad guys) .

The Great Reagan Pyramid Scheme Comes Crashing Down

by Juan Cole

The Republican Party that Nixon invented melded the moneyed classes of the Northeast with the white evangelicals of the South. This odd couple went on to simultaneously steal from and oppress the rest of us. The moneyed classes were happy to let the New Puritans impose their stringent morality, since they could always just buy any licentiousness they wanted, regardless of the law. And the New Puritans were so consumed with cultural issues such as homosexuality, abortion, school prayer and (yes) fighting school desegregation that they were happy to let the northeastern Money Men waltz off with a lion's share of the country's resources, consigning most Americans to stagnant wages and increasing debt. The Reagan revolution consolidated this alliance and brought some conservative Catholic workers into it.

These domestic policies at home were complemented by wars and belligerence abroad, which further took the eye of the public off the epochal bank robbery being conducted by the American neo-Medicis, and which were a useful way of throwing billions in government tax revenue to the military-industrial complex, which in turn funded the think tanks and reelection campaigns of the right wing politicians. The Reagan fascination with private armies and funding anti-communist death squads contributed mightily to the creation of al-Qaeda, blowback from which fuelled even bigger Pentagon budgets, spiralling upward and feeding on itself. Terrorism is much better than Communism as a bogey man, since you can just intimate that there are a handful of dangerous people out there somewhere, and force the public to pay over $1 trillion to combat them. In fact, of course, less US interventionism abroad would create less blowback, and genuine threats are better addressed through good police work by multilingual FBI agents than by a $700 billion Pentagon budget.

Read on...

Peacenik likes Juan Cole's opinion on regulation, the war on drugs, decriminalization of drugs and much more. An interesting take on how the U.S. and world got in the economic and social mess it is in.

US diplomacy tainted by 'militarization'

By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - While the Pentagon's budget has risen to heights not seen since World War II, United States diplomatic and foreign aid assets have largely wasted away and must be quickly rebuilt by any new administration that takes office in January, said a new report released in Washington this week by former senior foreign service officers.

The report, written by the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) and the Henry L Stimson Center, calls for a nearly 50% increase in the number of diplomats and aid and development specialists recruited into the foreign service over the next five years.

Read on...

Peacenik isn't surprised that the U.S. diplomatic core has been hollowed out. The whole fucking world has been hollowed out by the Bush administration policies. Given the state of the world economy its nice that someone is thinking positively about the future. Peacenik is encouraged.


US Journalists & War-Crime Guilt

By Peter Dyer October 15, 2008

Editor’s Note: This year, the U.S. news media cheered the opening of the $450 million Newseum in Washington, a self-congratulatory celebration of American journalism.

However, rather than giving themselves that expensive pat on the back, the major U.S. media organizations might have done something to show remorse for their complicity in the Bush administration’s propaganda that justified the invasion of Iraq.
As freelance journalist Peter Dyer notes, prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed such journalistic support for war crimes to be a capital offense:

October 16 is an anniversary that should hold considerable interest for American journalists who have written in support of ”Operation Iraqi Freedom” – the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Sixty-two years ago, on Oct. 16, 1946, Julius Streicher was hanged.

Streicher was one of a group of 10 Germans executed that day following the judgment of the first Nuremberg Trial – a 40-week trial of 22 of the most prominent Nazis.

Each was tried for two or more of the four crimes defined in the Nuremberg Charter: crimes against peace (aggression), war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy.

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Peacenik thinks this article should give wingnut media cheerleaders reason to pause. Thanks to George Bush, the concept of war crimes seems to have been irradicated thanks to the "war on terror." Unless of course you're an enemy combatant. Peacenik is trying to get his head around the idea of O'Reilly or Krauthammer in the Hague.

Dion gets no lift from raising glass with Greens

October 15, 2008

Stéphane Dion may have been toast the moment Elizabeth May offered to bring the wine.

Election watchers say the Liberal Leader made a strategic miscalculation backing the Green Party throughout the campaign.

In helping her bid to join the televised debate, observers say, Mr. Dion gave her a platform to draw away votes his party desperately needed to unseat the Conservative government. Her performance in the forum raised her profile and that of her party, and appears to have bled votes from Mr. Dion in several close races.

Read on...

Peacenik doesn't particularly agree with this article. Peacenik didn't make it a secret that he supported the Liberals in this vote in the Guelph riding. There will be lots of analysis and lots of blame being tossed around. Keeping Harper to a minority is a huge accomplishment given the tenor of the campaign. Peacenik is concerned that so many voters seem to buy into the Conservative anti-tax, anti-green ideology.

Too many voters don't seem concerned that the Conservatives believe what Bush believes. Peacenik thinks they will be concerned very soon. Liberals and progressives have to start positioning themselves now. They will be picking up the pieces of what is left of the Canadian economy once the Harper/Bush policies play out.


Afghan war is unwinnable


The main purpose of British generals, it sometimes seems, is to say aloud the things that American generals (and British diplomats) think privately but dare not say in public. Things like: "We're not going to win this war."

That was what Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the senior British commander in Afghanistan, said last week at the end of his six-month tour in command of 16 Air Assault Brigade. His force saw a great deal of combat and lost 32 killed, but it didn't lose any battles. Regular troops rarely lose battles against guerrillas. But there were no lasting successes either — which is also typical of wars where foreign troops are fighting local guerrillas.

Carleton-Smith did not say that the foreign forces in Afghanistan will lose the war. He said that they could not deliver a "decisive military victory." The best they might do, over a period of years, would be to reduce the Taliban insurgency "to a manageable level . . . that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan Army."

This will not be news to any professional soldier who knows the conditions in Afghanistan. The question is whether it comes as a surprise to American and British politicians (including Barack Obama) who still promise "victory" in the Afghan war. Because if victory is not possible, then in the end the Afghan government will have to talk to the Taliban and negotiate a peace settlement.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...The West has allied itself on one side in what is essentially an ethnically based civil war. It isn't working and ultimately, it won't work. A regional peace settlement is the only workable solution.


The world is at severe risk of a global systemic financial meltdown and a severe global depression

Nouriel Roubini Oct 9, 2008

The US and advanced economies’ financial system is now headed towards a near-term systemic financial meltdown as day after day stock markets are in free fall, money markets have shut down while their spreads are skyrocketing, and credit spreads are surging through the roof. There is now the beginning of a generalized run on the banking system of these economies; a collapse of the shadow banking system, i.e. those non-banks (broker dealers, non-bank mortgage lenders, SIV and conduits, hedge funds, money market funds, private equity firms) that, like banks, borrow short and liquid, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and illiquid and are thus at risk of a run on their short-term liabilities; and now a roll-off of the short term liabilities of the corporate sectors that may lead to widespread bankruptcies of solvent but illiquid financial and non-financial firms.

On the real economic side all the advanced economies representing 55% of global GDP (US, Eurozone, UK, other smaller European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan) entered a recession even before the massive financial shocks that started in the late summer made the liquidity and credit crunch even more virulent and will thus cause an even more severe recession than the one that started in the spring. So we have a severe recession, a severe financial crisis and a severe banking crisis in advanced economies

Read on...

When Peacenik looked at the Globe and Mail this morning it occurred to him that the Harper government has been downplaying the seriousness of this crisis in the hopes of getting re-elected. Canadian stocks are down 30.6 percent since Jan. 1. General Motors is down 80.9 percent since Jan. 1. This is a global crisis and Canada is part of it. The policies that led to this crisis, Reaganism, deregulation, Bushenomics, globalization, Cronyism and corruption have been embraced and defended by Harper. Harper put his re-election ahead of the welfare of the country. Wake up people! Peacenik says vote Liberal. Whoever wins will inherit a mess, but at least the Liberal party still believes in a social safety net. Peacenik is going off grid for the long weekend to practice survivalism. Peacenik hopes the skills he practices aren't needed. Have a good weekend.


The Secret History of the American Empire

Punditman says...

A good outline of the "secret" empire built by economic hitmen in support of the Corporatocracy -- as described by insider John Perkins.

Yet it is "secret" only to the ignorant, the brainwashed, and the incurious.

No Depression?

Don't worry, be happy - at least it won't be a Great Depression:

No Depression This Time, Uncle Sam Has Got Our Back, by Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Perry Mehrling, Commentary, Washington Post: Global markets have not been reassured by the coordinated interest rate cuts of several central banks or by recent congressional action, but they should be. Our bet is that financial markets will return to normal in short order and that the U.S. economy will squeak by with a moderate recession. Recapitalizing the banks and working out mortgages will take time, but the financial system will not collapse -- the government won't let it.

The markets, of course, seem to be factoring in some probability of collapse. Why is this wrong?

For starters, the biggest subprime mortgage gamblers have already failed, been nationalized or been married off, shotgun-style, to banks run by grown-ups. Yes, lots of small shoes may still drop, but the Paulson "buy-up" bill, and, ultimately, the Fed's ability to print money, provides the Treasury and Federal Reserve all the tools they need. The media don't seem to have noticed, but Section 113 of the bill authorizes government capital infusions into the banking system as necessary... That means any bank with a viable business will not be allowed to fail simply because it is temporarily undercapitalized.

Read on...

Peacenik finally found a semi-optimistic article about the economy. But stop reading after the first section. The following section offers an alternative scenario. The good news is that there are rational arguments that things might not get as bad as is possible. On the other hand Peacnik was shocked this morning to see news that Canadian banks are suddenly in need of some aid. Peacenik thought Canadian banks were an oasis of responsible banking. Didn't he?


Bulking up Pentagon North

October 07, 2008
Linda McQuaig

With the prospect of a Harper majority hanging menacingly over the country, the mind inevitably turns to the question: Just what is the "secret agenda" lurking behind the friendly sweater?

Actually, I don't believe there is one. The truth is that Stephen Harper has already laid out an agenda that would fundamentally change this country – in ways most Canadians would oppose.

While this agenda is not "secret," my guess is few Canadians know about it. That's because Harper, realizing it would be unpopular, unveiled it when Canadians weren't paying attention – in fact, we were sleeping. Sometime in the dark of night last June 20, the Harper government posted a plan on the Department of National Defence's website – called Canada First Defence Strategy – to spend an eye-popping $490 billion over the next 20 years on the military.

Given all the recent buzz about the size of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in the United States, it's striking to note that Ottawa quietly announced a plan to spend nearly half a trillion dollars on the military, almost in passing.

Steven Staples, a defence analyst with the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, says that Canada's military spending is already 27 per cent higher than in 2001.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...490 billion over 20 years? You caught that didn't you, folks? Damn, that's a tad bigger than the average, bloated NHL salary that Canadians complain about endlessly.

It is amazing how the opposition parties have all but ignored this boondoggle. Seems they've become so afraid to offend the military. That alone is a scary thought...which reminds me of a certain country and a certain article below....

Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out "Crowd Control"

By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet. Posted October 8, 2008.

Members of Congress were told they could face martial law if they didn't pass the bailout bill. This will not be the last time.

Background: the First Brigade of the Third Infantry Division, three to four thousand soldiers, has been deployed in the United States as of October 1. Their stated mission is the form of crowd control they practiced in Iraq, subduing "unruly individuals," and the management of a national emergency. I am in Seattle and heard from the brother of one of the soldiers that they are engaged in exercises now. Amy Goodman reported that an Army spokesperson confirmed that they will have access to lethal and non lethal crowd control technologies and tanks.

George Bush struck down Posse Comitatus, thus making it legal for military to patrol the U.S. He has also legally established that in the "War on Terror," the U.S. is at war around the globe and thus the whole world is a battlefield. Thus the U.S. is also a battlefield.

Read on...

Peacenik wonders if one brigade will be enough when people start going to their banks and find out their money has evaporated.


Seven Years in Afghanistan: From "War on Terror" to "War of Terror"


October 7, 2008. Seven years ago today the U.S. began the assault on Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban regime and produced the present mess. Abetted by U.S. bombing and commando operations, the Northern Alliance took Kabul on November 13, 2001. This was the initial U.S. response to 9-11, an assault on the U.S. by Saudi Islamist fanatics based in Afghanistan. The al-Qaeda attacks killed 3000 people. By March 2002 the U.S. bombing had produced that many Afghan civilian fatalities. This was just the beginning.

The invasion produced little change in the daily life of the average Afghan. Fanatical Sunni leaders who’d had a genuine social base and had been able to control 95 per cent of the country with minimal outside help were driven back to their villages. They were replaced by other fanatical Sunni leaders---those who had toppled the “leftist”
government in 1993, then been overthrown themselves by the Taliban in 1996. These Northern Alliance forces had been nurtured in the duration by India, Russia and Iran as their idea of the better bet among competing Islamist fundamentalists.

But in the seven years since, this collection of tribal-based warlords has been unable to stabilize Afghanistan---even though they’re propped up by tens of thousands of foreign troops who’re told that they’re there to fight terrorism and help create “democracy.” Indeed, its hold on power becomes more tenuous every year, while a resurgent Taliban with no foreign government’s support exacts an ever heavier price
from the foreigners and their local allies.

According to the United Nations, 1,445 civilians were killed in the war from January through August this year---a rise of 39 per cent over 2007. At least 577 of these deaths were due to the actions of pro-government forces. Deaths from air strikes have tripled since 2006. “Mistakes by the US and Nato have dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan government and the presence of international forces providing security to Afghans,” declares Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Francesc Vendrell, a Spanish diplomat with eight years’ experience in Afghanistan, recently noted that civilian deaths at the hands of foreign forces have created “a great deal of antipathy” and the situation in the country is the worst it’s been since 2001. Members of the Afghan Parliament have staged a one-day walkout to protest the civilian casualties.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...
This is a great summary -- both from an historic and present-day perspective. It puts the lie to all the nonsense and mythology about the war in Afghanistan, how we got there and where it is all going. And for Canadians, there's this to consider:
Washington’s reported bid to take over sole command of the Afghan war, cutting NATO out of the command structure, will likely fuel European and Canadian opposition.

McCain does nothing as supporter calls Obama a "terrorist"

John Aravosis (DC) · 10/06/2008 04:35:00 PM ET ·

ANOTHER UPDATE from Joe: We'll hear it said that McCain can't be held responsible for what people in his audiences say. Right. Cause it's never happened before. Oh wait, it did. When an audience member asked, speaking of Hillary Clinton, "How do we beat the bitch?" McCain said it was "an excellent question." McCain fosters hatred and negativity by not standing up to it. He should know better. It's appalling and is destroying whatever is left of his reputation.
UPDATE: Ambinder heard it too. I'm just wondering what McCain's supporters are going to do next, now that McCain and Palin have convinced them that Obama is a terrorist. A reader writes in our comments:This is dangerous, very, very dangerous. There are nutjobs out there, with just a little bit of encouragement, will do something very bad. The Secret Service needs to take action to put a stop to this type of behavior now.

Read on...

Peacenik is never suprised by how revolting the electoral process is. Both in the U.S. and Canada. But labelling your opponent a terrorist is beyond the pale. Digby on Hullabaloo comments yesterday that the wingnuts will go nuts if they lose. Particulary after 30 years of propaganda blaming liberals for everything. Is the U.S. immune from violent cultural war? Peacenik doesn't think so.

Radical Policy Steps Necessary to Avoid a Systemic Meltdown: Interview with the Council on Foreign Relations

Nouriel Roubini Oct 7, 2008

Here is below the text of an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations; the interview took place on Sunday October 5th but the message and policy recommendations that I proposed to prevent a systemic financial and corporate sector meltdown are still very relevant as the Fed and other central banks are still fiddling while Rome is burning. As discussed in this Global EconoMonitor forum Friday and yesterday Monday radical policy action is urgently necessary to avoid a systemic meltdown and a severe economic depression. The global economy is now already in a recession (as GDP is now contracting in all advanced economies and sharply slowing down in emerging market economies). We need now to take steps avoid a global depression.

Read on...

Peacenik sees some good news here. Roubini is acknowledging that there are steps that can be taken to solve the problem. This is progress. So far governments seem to be flailing about. But Peacenik has a question. Is it plausible that the banking system in every western country seems to be in a state of crisis, but the Canadian banks seem not to be? What is Peacenik missing here?


A Futile Bailout as Darkness Falls on America

by Paul Craig Roberts

America has become a pretty discouraging place. Americans, for the most part, will never know what happened to them, because they no longer have a free and responsible press. They have Big Brother’s press. For example, on September 28, 2008, a New York Times editorial blamed the current financial crisis on “antiregulation disciples of the Reagan Revolution.”

What utter nonsense. Every example of deregulation that the New York Times editorial provides is located in the Clinton Administration and the George W. Bush administration. I was a member of the Reagan administration. We most certainly did not deregulate the financial system.

The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial from investment banking, was the achievement of the Democratic Clinton Administration. It happened in 1999, over a decade after Reagan left office.

It was in 2000 that derivatives and credit default swaps were excluded from regulation.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...
I was no fan of Reagan -- that's for sure. But I am also no fan of historical inaccuracy. Paul Craig Roberts sets the record straight on how the US got into this mess, how the bailout is a sham and he poses this question:

"At what point do America’s foreign bankers decide that the additions to US debt exceed what can be repaid? Does the world have a blank check for America’s mistakes? This is the same world that is faced with American demands that countries support with money and lives America’s quest for world hegemony. Europeans are dying in Afghanistan for American hegemony. Do Europeans want their banks, which hold US dollars as their reserves, to fail so that Paulson can bail out his company and his friends?

Finally, from further on in the above article: "The current crisis required more than bad loans. It required securitization and its leverage. It required Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s inappropriate low interest rates, which created a real estate boom. Rapidly rising real estate prices quickly created home equity to justify 100 percent mortgages. Wall Street analysts pushed financial companies to improve their bottom lines, which they did by extreme leveraging."

All Fall Down

by Jim Kunstler

God knows what manner of deals went down this past weekend in the Hamptons wine cellars and below-decks among the Chesapeake Bay sailboat fleet. All these hidey-holes must have been dank and fetid with the sweat of mortal fear. Will the US Government declare itself a subsidiary of General Electric? Will Vlad Putin be roped in to save Goldman Sachs? Meanwhile, the whole noisome rat maze of international counter-party deals was taking on sewer water and rodents of every nationality were seen leaping for daylight all over the fusty old motherlands of Europe. A cascading collapse of international finance is underway. While many fixers may jump heroically into the tumbling wreckage hoping to rescue this-and-that, the outcome by Friday is liable to be an unrecognizable smoldering landscape of the G-7's hopes and dreams.

Some big questions for the week: will the Euro survive as a currency? Will the rush into the US dollar continue even as the US financial system dematerializes in a Fibonacci fever of accelerating de-leveraged infinitude? Will the remaining Big Boyz, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan succumb to the counter-party hemorrhagic fever? Will great rows of lesser banking dominoes now start clacking onto their faces? Will all fifty states follow the leads of California and Massachusetts and line up at the US Treasury's hand-out window. Will the entity that calls itself the civilized world be left at week's end with anything resembling money?

While Peacenik continues to look for some cheerful good news, have a look at Kunstler's point-of-view. Peacenik has a question: after the events of last week, does Kunstler's article sound like the ravings of a doomsdayer, or the considered opinion of a realist? A week ago no one thought the world economic system would be where it is today. What do you think?

Germany takes hot seat as Europe falls into the abyss

We face extreme danger. Unless there is immediate intervention on every front by all the major powers acting in concert, we risk a disintegration of global finance within days. Nobody will be spared, unless they own gold bars.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Last Updated: 11:05AM BST 06 Oct 2008

Investors will learn today whether the Paulson bail-out - fattened to $850bn (£480bn) by Congress - can begin to halt the death spiral in the credit system. So far, the response looks terrible.

Germany is now in the hot seat. The collapse of a rescue deal for Hypo Real Estate on Saturday threatens a €400bn (£311bn) bankruptcy that nearly matches the Lehman Brothers debacle for sheer scale.

A bit of hysteria from Ambrose Evan-Pritchard in the London Telegraph. Will today be black monday? Peacenik is feeling optimistic and thinks it's time for some good economic news. When Peacnenik finds some it will get posted.


Eagles - Last Resort

punditman says...
My television last night told me that California may need a $7 billion federal loan. Aside from all the other financial and political mayhem in the news, and beyond the fact that I have always loved this song, I thought it was also somewhat appropriate to post it. Below are the lyrics:

She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island
Where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air.
She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee,
Just as her father came across the sea.

She heard about a place people were smilin',
They spoke about the red man's way, how they loved the land.
And they came from everywhere to the Great Divide
Seeking a place to stand or a place to hide.

Down in the crowded bars out for a good time,
Can't wait to tell you all what it's like up there.
And they called it paradise, I don't know why.
Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high.

Then the chilly winds blew down across the desert,
Through the canyons of the coast to the Malibu
Where the pretty people play hungry for power
To light their neon way and give them things to do.

Some rich man came and raped the land, nobody caught 'em,
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes and, Jesus, people bought 'em.
And they called it paradise, the place to be,
They watched the hazy sun sinking in the sea.

You can leave it all behind and sail to Lahaina
Just like the missionaries did so many years ago.
They even brought a neon sign 'Jesus is Coming',
Brought the white man's burden down, brought the white man's reign.

Who will provide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine?
'Cause there is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here.
We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny and in the name of God.

And you can see them there on Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about what it's like up there.
They called it paradise, I don't know why.
You call some place paradise - kiss it goodbye


Financial and Corporate System is in Cardiac Arrest: The Risk of the Mother of All Bank Runs

Nouriel Roubini Oct 3, 2008

It is now clear that the US financial system - and now even the system of financing of the corporate sector - is now in cardiac arrest and at a risk of a systemic financial meltdown. I don’t use these words lightly but at this point we have reached the final 12th step of my February paper on “The Risk of a Systemic Financial Meltdown: 12 Steps to a Financial Disaster” (Step 9 or the collapse of the major broker dealers has already widely occurred).

Yesterday Thursday a senior market practitioner in a major financial institution wrote to me the following:

Situation Report: So far as I can tell by working the telephones this morning:

LIBOR bid only, no offer. Commercial paper market shut down, little trading and no issuance. Corporations have no access to long or short term credit markets -- hence they face massive rollover problems. Brokers are increasingly not dealing with each other. Even the inter-bank market is ceasing up.

Read on...

This Roubini article is very scary reading. Peacenik doesn't think doomsday is funny. Roubini thinks today may be doomsday. Peacenik is looking forward to the weekend. Have a good one.

Chomsky: "The Majority of the World Supports Iran"

By Subrata Ghoshroy, AlterNet. Posted October 3, 2008.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview, Chomsky discusses the global politics of Iran's and India's attempts to become nuclear powers.

On Wednesday night, in a vote of 86 to 13, the U.S. Senate passed a historic nuclear deal with that will allow the United States to trade with India in nuclear equipment and technology, and to supply India with nuclear fuel for its power reactors. The deal is considered hugely consequential by its supporters and opponents alike -- and a significant victory for the Bush administration.

Last month, Subrata Ghoshroy, a researcher in the Science, Technology and Global Security Working Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, met with Noam Chomsky in his office at MIT, where he is the institute professor of linguistics. "Before we started our discussion," Ghoshroy writes, "Professor Chomsky asked me to give him a little background information. I told him that I was researching missile defense, space weapons and the U.S.-India nuclear deal." Ghoshroy is a longtime critic of the U.S. missile defense program and a former analyst at the Government Accountability Office who in 2006 blew the whistle on the failure -- and attempted cover-up -- of a key component of the program: a $26 billion weapon system that was the "centerpiece" of the Bush administration's antimissile plan.

Peacenik was disappointed that Governor Palin didn't blow a head pipe on tv last night and can't bring himself to comment further, other than to say she was very bad and Biden was very good. So Peacenik is reading other stuff this morning.


War on Two Fronts, Without Railways

by William S. Lind


One way to look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is to see them as one war with two fronts. Germany fought two-front wars twice in the 20th century, and it was almost able to prevail because it had the advantage of interior lines. The German Army could quickly shift divisions and corps from the Eastern to the Western front or vice versa, using the superb German rail system. Unfortunately, the US lacks the advantage of interior lines in its ongoing two-front war. No railways run from Baghdad to Kabul.

US commanders in Afghanistan have reportedly requested an additional 10,000 troops. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was recently quoted in the Washington Post as telling the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I believe we will be able to meet that commanders’ requirement, but in the spring and summer of 2009…we do not have the forces to send three additional brigades to Afghanistan at this point."

The only source for additional troops for Afghanistan is Iraq. The September 2008 issue of Army magazine quotes Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen as saying, "I don’t have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach, to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq."


punditman says...

Add to this, a debt-ridden, sinking ship of state, and one wonders how many years US military primacy can last. Or should I say months? Days, perhaps?


Bird Flu??? What dat????

How does Peacenik unwind when he's not tracking political corruption, fiscal incompetence, peak oil, haywire weather, wars, economic collapse and the travails of the Leafs.. Peacenik likes to stay on top of the coming bird flu pandemic.

In case you're not up to speed, the H5N1 virus is a virus that is killing birds all over the world, but not yet in Canada. Humans who are in close contact with infected birds also are getting the H5N1 virus, particularly in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Egypt. Some are dying from it. The fear is that when the virus mutates and there is effective human-to-human transmission a pandemic may be unleashed. To date there has been some human-to-human transmission, but it has remained contained.

Governments, corporations and NGO's are all monitoring and making recommendations on how to prepare for a possible pandemic. People who attend presentations on the coming pandemic invariably are shocked by what they learn. Governments and businesses are stockpiling Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug that lessens the effect of the H5N1 virus, but does not provide immunity.

Why should you be concerned? When there is a pandemic, there is a possibility of societal collapse. Kids don't go to school. People don't go to work. Food stops being delivered to the grocery store. Hydro plants stop being maintained. Water plants stop being maintained. People die faster than they can be buried. The police stay home. Read John Barry's "The Great Influenza" for a good history about the Spanish flu, the last great pandemic.

But you can make up your own mind. Should you be prepping? Should you have some Tamiflu? Should you be worried? Check out some of these links. It's hard to stay in a state of heightened concern forever. Peacenik was more concerned about and prepared for birdflu three years ago. Has Peacenik let his guard down? Or is birdflu one of those over-hyped doomsday scenarios that never happens? Why does Peacenik have cartons of Kraft dinner in his closet?

An excellent website for tracking birdflu.

This is a nice science fiction like read about life in a pandemic in Kingston, Ontario.

The canadian goverment information site.

A good general site for pandemic preparedness.

The World Health Organization.

Check out Dr. Grattan Woodson's "Preparing for the coming Influenza Pandemic". It tells you what medicine you would need in a pandemic.