Stonewalling in Style: Bank of America Subpoenaed

NY Attorney General Says Ken Lewis Refuses to Say Who Got Bonuses


In just one day, the president of Bank of America, Ken Lewis, managed to defy both President Barack Obama and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

On Thursday, Lewis refused to provide a list of bonus payments to the New York Attorney General, after arriving in New York in his $50 million corporate jet. Earlier this week, President Obama said the days of bank executives flying corporate jets "were over." Not for Bank of America.

Peacenik isn't going to feign outrage or anger. The Bank of America is insolvent. Bankrupt. Zombified. The BofA has accepted billions of taxpayer dollars so that it can pretend to be an ongoing concern. If anyone could figure out how to deal with the fallout from a bankrupt BofA, the lights would be out already.

Peacenik has to go back and read about the behaviour of the rich during the Russian revolution or the French revolution. Could they possibly have been as out of touch with reality as Ken Lewis is today? He doesn't get it. The public, with pitchforks, will be storming the BofA and Ken Lewis will be on the phone to the caterers complaining that the soup was cold. No, Peacenik isn't angry at Ken Lewis. Peacenik thinks this is all part of an inevitable conflagration. And everyone is playing their role to perfection.

James Galbraith: Obama Isn't Doing Enough to Solve the Financial Crisis

By Nick Baumann, MotherJones.com. Posted February 27, 2009.

There are six things Obama needs to fix as we approach "a long, profound, painful process of change."

The financial crisis is even worse than people think (and people already think it's pretty bad), and we aren't doing enough to stop it, economist and Mother Jones contributor James K. Galbraith told the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday morning. From his prepared testimony:

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote, "The world has been slow to realize that we are living this year in the shadow of one of the greatest economic catastrophes of modern history." That catastrophe was the Great Crash of 1929, the collapse of money values, the destruction of the banking system. The questions before us today are: is the crisis we are living through similar? And if so, are we taking adequate steps to deal with it? I believe the answers are substantially yes, and substantially no.
Galbraith pointed to six significant problems with the Obama administration's response to the financial crisis. First, he said, the White House is being way too optimistic:

Peacenik looked and looked and looked and looked for some good news to head into the weekend. Peacenik found the Leaf score. Toronto 5, N.Y. Islanders 4. Other than that it is all bad. Bad foreign policy. Bad economic policy. Bad judicial policy. And the wingnuts are still dominating the airwaves and framing the debate. How Newt Gingrich or Karl Rove get on tv is beyond Peacenik. This article by Galbraith echos the comments of some of the now popular doomers. The status quo is not coming back. Business as usual is not coming back. A consumer driven economy is not coming back. Obama probably know this. If he tells the truth will that make things worse? Peacenik doesn't think maintaining the illusion is helpful at this point. Time for reality. Have a good weekend.


Very Bad News: Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base Will Be Obama's Guantanamo

By Stephen Foley, Independent UK. Posted February 22, 2009.

The Afghan air base is to undergo a $60 million expansion, allowing it to hold five times as many prisoners as remain at Gitmo.

Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed "Obama's Guantanamo."

In a single-sentence answer filed with a Washington court, the administration dashed hopes that it would immediately rip up Bush-era policies that have kept more than 600 prisoners in legal limbo and in rudimentary conditions at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

While Peacenik watches the world economy crumble, Peacenik also unfortunately is watching Obama adopt more and more of Bush's policies. Obama gets props for saying he will close Guantanamo, then he blythly turns Bagram air base into a new Guantanamo. And remember, no one really knows who the enemy is in Afghanistan. The enemy is anyone unlucky enough to get picked up by the U.S. or its allies, which unfortunately includes Canada. Is due process being followed? What kind of interrogations are taking place at Bagram? Afghanistan is a quagmire. It is time for Canada to bring the troops home.

Obama's very own quagmire

Will Barack Obama provide a way out of Afghanistan? Perhaps. But I'm not optimistic. The new U.S. president talks about the importance of diplomacy and development. However, his actions so far have focused on extending the war.

Obama is continuing the policy, started by his predecessor George W. Bush, of bombing suspected Taliban hideouts in Pakistan. As well, the U.S. has sent about 70 military "advisers" into that country.

We shouldn't be surprised. When he was campaigning for the presidency, Obama promised to vigorously pursue the Taliban into their Pakistani sanctuaries. At the time, he was criticized as naive. The smart money said he'd never follow through. Apparently, the smart money was wrong.

In fact, Obama's Afghan strategy seems remarkably similar to that of Bush. Bush, too, embraced the so-called three D's, defence, development and diplomacy, all of which have been U.S. and NATO orthodoxy since 2003.

It's true that in the early years of the war Bush focused solely on force of arms. As then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously noted, America wasn't in the business of nation-building.

But by 2003, that began to change. As the Taliban regrouped, the U.S. realized that it was caught in a full-scale insurgency that required a more sophisticated response.

Keep Reading

punditman says...It is nice to see some honest analysis of the Afghanistan situation within the mainstream media. Given the economic position that the US and Canada and the entire western world finds itself in, it seems rather counter intuitive to spend even more money on another hopeless war. People need to stop putting Obama on a pedestal and take a hard look at his actual policies rather than his rhetoric. Is there any difference between his and Bush's approach to the Afghan quagmire? Punditman can't see it, at least not so far.


Economic Brushfires for a Planet at the Brink

by Michael T. Klare

The global economic meltdown has already caused bank failures, bankruptcies, plant closings, and foreclosures and will, in the coming year, leave many tens of millions unemployed across the planet. But another perilous consequence of the crash of 2008 has only recently made its appearance: increased civil unrest and ethnic strife. Someday, perhaps, war may follow.

As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. (The list could, in the future, prove long and unnerving.) If the present economic disaster turns into what President Obama has referred to as a "lost decade," the result could be a global landscape filled with economically-fueled upheavals.

Read on...

Peacenik listened to Obama last night. The cadence of his speech was great. Content, not so much. Obama is stuck in the role of cheerleader. He can play that role very well. But the world needs leadership and solutions, not cheerleading. Oh, and did Peacenik forget to mention that there are no solutions? Equally absurd was Bobby Jindal's Republican response. Bobby is oblivious to the fact that 30 years of Republican/Neo-Conservative policies led us to today. And the TV pundits? Peacenik thinks they may be really crazy as they continue to attempt to frame the present crisis in the context of their limited grasp of past crises. Globalization, the global economy, global trade, the global financial system is no more. Wake up Obama. Look at Klare's list of economic hotspots. Missoula Montana is next, along with the rest of America. The DOW, perversely was up 250 points yesterday. Lots of window dressing and cheerleading coming down the pipe today. Will the world buy it? Will the DOW soar? Is that really all the world needed, some confidence and cheerleading? Peacenik thinks not.


Message To The President

Dear Sir:

You and your team have very little time left to pull an "about face" on your fatally flawed plans to save the world. Your tactics, including spending trillions "stimulating" a dying economy, doing anything in your power to save the insolvent corpse of a banking system and to prop up a failed automobile industry, feigning confidence and strength in the face of devastation, will not work. They cannot work. The numbers, unlike you and your team, cannot conceal the truth for much longer. You are the President of the United States of America, and yet you are behaving, as all of your predecessors seem to have behaved before you, like the President of Bullshit Nation. Unfortunately for you, the bullshit cannot alter the coming realities.

Sir, virtually all of the banks of the world are, essentially, bankrupt. They have no capital. Capital has been summarily destroyed over the years by falling interest rates, rampant bond speculation and governmental check-kiting, fraudulent accounting, fraudulent valuation, the elimination of reserve ratios, the creation of money by federal decree (fiat currency), hidden off-book "assets" in the tens of TRILLIONS of dollars, a shadow banking system driven by derivative betting scams that globally reach toward half a QUADRILLION dollars in scope, etc. As Secretary Geithner embarks on his supposed banking "stress tests", and if he does so in earnest, you'd best be fully prepared for what you must uncover: Trillions upon trillions of pieces of worthless paper. If Assets = Liabilities + Equity---and in a world where many if not most of these institutions are leveraged 30:1, 40:1 and beyond---then the majority of assets currently held by the world's banks are worthless. Are you ready to tell the people the truth, sir? I fear not.

Peacenik wonders what would happen if Obama stepped up and stated the truth. The truth as Dan W. sees it in this post. Dan W. and Illargi, and Mish and Soros are talking about the need to create a whole new system. Scary times. Who do you trust to create a new system? And how wrecked does the present system have to be before you can start building a new system? The fringe bloggers are talking about systemic collapse happening very quickly and soon. Obama and his advisors are acting like they believe the same thing. Obama and our leaders are acting like they are holding on to the edge of the abyss by their fingernails. They are not making Peacenik confident about tomorrow....or today.

The Abyss Stares Back

Jim Kunstler

The public perception of the ongoing fiasco in governance has moved from sheer, mute incomprehension to goggle-eyed panic as the scrims of unreality peel away revealing something like a national death-watch scene in history's intensive care unit. Is the USA in recession, depression, or collapse? People are at least beginning to ask. Nature's way of hinting that something truly creepy may be up is when both Paul Volcker and George Soros both declare on the same day that the economic landscape is looking darker than the Great Depression.
Those tuned into the media-waves were enchanted, in a related instance, by Rick Santelli's grand moment of theater in the Chicago trader's pit last week when he seemed to ignite the first spark of revolution by demonstrating that bail-out fatigue had morphed into high emotion -- and that the emotion could be marshaled against public policy. The traders in the pit on-screen seemed to color up and buzz loudly, like ordinary grasshoppers turning into angry locusts preparing to ravage a waiting valley. "Are you listening, President Obama?" Mr. Santelli asked portentously.

In August Peacenik thought some of Peacenik's doom and gloom posts were satiric and over-the-top. Today Peacenik is unable to imagine how bad things will be by the end of the day. The future has arrived in a hurry. AIG needs $60 billion to get through the week. Auto makers are putting a gun to the heads of world leaders and demanding a bigger bailout. The banking system stress tests which are supposed to determine which banks will survive the week are exposed as little more than kindergarten colouring tests. George Soros and Paul Volker have declared the financial system defunct. The DOW and TSX approach levels that only the fringe doomers dared predict. Today the DOW will probably crash the 7000 level, to the downside. Pensions, 401k's, RRSP's, REIT's, and mutual funds are evaporating. Unemployment is soaring. And the Leafs are only 12 points out of eighth place and are starting their annual push to almost make the play-offs. And it is sunny out. It is time for everyone to slowly, carefully, and quietly, step back from the abyss.


One More Time!

The Intelligence is Wrong


Iran has zero nuclear weapons capability! Worse still, for the Chicken Littles in the media and government, they don't intend to have nuclear weapons!

Federal officials are frothing over the disclosure by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has underestimated the amount of low-level enriched uranium (LEU) it has produced. This is ignorant melodrama, replete with warnings from the State Department that certain unspecified measures must quickly be taken against Iran.

The IAEA says the underestimation of Iran’s production of LEU results from a technical measuring error, and that it has been carefully recorded with remote cameras installed to supervise the stockpile. If the Iranians intend to transport enriched uranium to a secret location for further processing, the IAEA's inspectors will find out immediately. Moreover, Iran has slowed down its uranium enrichment program.

Those plumping for another American war once again have their facts completely wrong when alleging threats of WMDs. Low-enriched uranium CANNOT be used in a nuclear bomb. LEU is 4% enriched, while weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium (HEU) must contain a 90% or greater concentration of uranium. Significant major further enrichment is required to have a nuclear weapon, which would require 2 to 5 years. Iran has not chosen that path, which requires construction of massive new centrifuge facilities that would be detectable by our satellites. Iran would have to buy centrifuges on the international black market, which the CIA would quickly discover if they chose divulge their intelligence.

The new Israeli government warmongers and its sycophants in the White House and Congress are ginning up for war against Iran which will destroy what's left of the global economy. It is being built on groundless speculation and lies and will be fought from the depths of the Second Great Depression, using our unemployed children.

Be forewarned.

Terry Lodge is an attorney in Toledo, Ohio. He can be reached at tjlodge50@yahoo.com.

Treasury: Major U.S. banking institutions "Well capitalized"

Here is a joint statement by the Treasury, FDIC, OCC, OTS and the Federal Reserve:

The U.S. government stands firmly behind the banking system during this period of financial strain to ensure it will be able to perform its key function of providing credit to households and businesses. ... we reiterate our determination to preserve the viability of systemically important financial institutions so that they are able to meet their commitments.

This is exactly what Peacenik was talking about in the previous post. Peacenik asked for the truth and then sees this announcement from the US government. Every sentient person knows this announcement is a lie. The question is: When you know you are being lied to, what should you do? The public is now so used to being lied to that the public, the sheeple, yawn. But if you read this announcement and then invest your money in CITI bank, for example, and CITI bank goes broke next week, who has committed a fraud? The US government announcement is a fraud. Is anyone going to get arrested?

Why Bankruptcy For Autos But Not Banks?

The news this morning would be amusing if it weren’t so sad.

The Obama administration is undergoing a battle between its own good instincts with those of its Treasury Secretary.

Away from Treasury, on the side of intelligence, new policies, a clean break from the Paulson/Bush plans — I believe during the campaign, it was called CHANGE — and inevitability, are prepackaged bankruptcies, clean balance sheets, and a fresh start. This is reflected in the Fed exploration of $40 billion in bankruptcy funding for GM.

On the side of more of the same, bad decision making, regulatory capture, worshiping sacred cows, and a hard-to-understand goal of saving the banks rather than the financial system, is the utterly absurd proposal to somehow spend 10X the market cap of Citigroup for a 40% stake in the apparently insolvent firm.

The fact that this discussion about the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler and the insolvency of CITI and BofA is not surprising is the biggest surprise of all. Just months ago, the economy was sound according to our lying leaders. Just months ago, the banking system was strong according to those same leaders. Just months ago GM and Chrysler had survival plans: they were going to sell 10 million vehicles this year. They will be lucky to sell 2 million.

wants to know the following answers: Will those who know the truth and have the facts start telling the truth? Would someone start cataloguing the lies we've been told? Is the Canadian banking system solvent? Are Canadian pension plans solvent? What happens to GM and Air Canada and countless other pensioners if their pensions go poof? It is time for citizens to be told the truth. It is time for citizens to demand the truth.


Straight Talk at the Smokeshop

punditman says...

This morning Punditman went to his local variety store to pick up a copy of the Toronto Star, which sometimes contains some interesting content and perspectives that Punditman may have missed in his online probes. In fact, the Star is about as far as you can go within North America's old dead tree information and doctrinal system of media enslavement before the strictures of institutional self-censorship kick in. Europe of course is a different story with a wider range of permissable opinion. Enough Chomsky-speak.

As Punditman stood in line, the man in front of punditman (MFP) noticed that the debit machine said "Chase" on it. The store owner (SO) is East Asian and speaks broken English. Here is their conversation as heard by Punditman:

MFP (pointing to the debit machine): "Chase. They're the bad people. Money, money, money."

SO: "Money, money, money."

MFP: "That's the Rockefellers. They're the ones responsible for this 'national debt.'"

SO: (chuckles).

MFP: "But there's no national debt. It's bullshit. The MFP then gathered up his groceries and said, "Thank you sir," and departed.

Punditman considered adding his two cents worth but was not yet caffeinated; who knows what gibberish may have flowed from Punditman's logy Sunday morning brain? Punditman considered striking up a conversation, because he was interested in discovering how the MFP arrived at his conspiracy theory regarding Chase Bank (and no doubt the Federal Reserve Board too—as being responsible for yet another "engineered" economic crisis as well as every war since 1914—I'm guessing the MFP had heard that one too).

It occurred to Punditman that the MFP may be a reader of Punditman and perhaps MFP has read one too many of Peacenik's posts, followed a link or two and ended up at From the Wilderness' Peak Oil Blog? Then Punditman realized that if that were so, MFP would have been doing his grocery shopping at the Bulk Barn instead of a variety store. Punditman also noticed that the MFP was buying a copy of the Toronto Sun and so immediately dismissed the notion that the MFP was a Punditman reader. Perhaps the MFP has read the Turner Diaries and trains with some far-right, wingnut survivalist group on the edge of town? One never knows.

Punditman has decided there are three types of people in the world:

1. People who get most of their information and formulate most of their opinions by surfing the internet, which contains a broad range of perspective, including everything from wingnut to the best of the best. At least these people are thinking.
2. People who get most of their information and formulate most of their opinions by reading newspapers, which generally contain a narrow range of perspective. At least these people are trying to think (or think they are trying).
3. People who don't read but get most of their information and formulate most of their opinions by absorbing sponge-like, news soundbites from TV. These people have stopped thinking.

As far as reliable sources, Punditman trusts #1 more than #2 and laments the fact that #3 is even a category.


Europe's entire banking system on the edge of the abyss [Updated]

by gjohnsit Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 11:53:56 AM PST

This headline is scary enough.

European bank bail-out could push EU into crisis The article talks in vague terms about "secret reports". The problem is that the article has been changed. A Google search will reveal it's original headline which is much scarier.

European banks may need £16.3 trillion bail-out, EC document warns.

gjohnsit's diary:

The Telegraph changed more than the headline. They had also removed two paragraphs from the original news article. Fortunately other blogs had captured those missing paragraphs.

Read on...

It is the weekend, and Peacenik is enjoying Hockey Day in Canada, particularly Montreal playing well. Punditman encourages Peacenik to not post on the weekends. But when Peacenik sees the word "ABYSS" in a headline, Peacenik cannnot help Peacenik's self. The situation is so DIRE, (another word that Peacenik can't resist) that the media is censoring itself. That's right, the world is on the verge of PANIC (Peacenik like word). The BLACK HOLE OF DEBT (Peacenik's favorite) is insatiable. Peacenik hopes gjohnsit maybe had too much to drink on the weekend and is just being ALARMIST. But Peacenik continues to prepare for DOOMSDAY in any case. Go Leafs Go. And Peacenik thinks Sundin deserves to be cheered tonight.


Binyamin Netanyahu to be Israel's next Prime Minister

From Times Online February 20, 2009

Israel was today poised for its most right-wing government in decades after Binyamin Netanyahu was asked to be the country's next Prime Minister.

In a move that will cause huge disappointment in Washington, President Shimon Peres confirmed that he had asked the Likud leader, who finished a close second in the country's election, to build a coalition.

Giving an acceptance speech which did not mention the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process or a two-state solution, Mr Netanyahu instead placed much of his focus on Iran's enrichment of uranium.

If you haven't already started burying money in your backyard, and shelfloading necessities, and digging a bomb shelter, and hoarding gas, and planting a garden, Peacenik recommnends you do so...immediately. The Neo Con's Neo Con is now in charge in Israel. Netanyahu has already ramped up the anti-Iran rhetoric. Add a world war to the global depression and your talking....Peacenik doesn't know what word to use. Bad. Scary. Hopeless. Maybe even Doomsday. Can Obama reign in Bibi? Peacenik hopes so. Have a good weekend.


Foreclosure Prevention? BS! More Fraud Coverup!

Karl Denninger

So Obama comes out with his "plan" to try to halt foreclosures.

It won't do it, but it sure sounds good.

I will give him an "F" for substance but an "A" for effort.

Why an "F" for substance? Because what he's trying to do fundamentally cannot be done.

Here's the outline, in condensed form from Bloomberg:

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $275 billion to a program that will cut mortgage payments for as many as 9 million struggling homeowners and expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in curbing record foreclosures.

The plan also will help as many as 5 million homeowners refinance loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, according to a White House fact sheet. Treasury will buy as much as $200 billion of preferred stock in the two mortgage companies, twice as much as previously promised, the announcement said.

Another Obama attempt at a solution and another thumbs down from the pundits. Peacenik is losing track of all of Obama's initiatives. Lets see. Continue Bush DOJ policies. Escalate in Afghanistan. Give zillions of dollars to the bankers and banks. Waiver on torture policy. Waiver on investigating the Bush years. Give billions of dollars to the automotive industry that is dead as a dodo bird. Cave in to wingnuts at every opportunity. Yes Obama is in an impossible position. But continuing with Bush policies, and turning his back on the progressive movemnent is not the way forward. And now Obama is visiting Canada and talking up the tar sands. As if there is a solution to the environmental problems of the tar sands. Oh yeah. Obama is still talking about a growth economy. This, as another 600,000 Americans lost there jobs last month. Can someone remind Peacenik of one slam dunk good thing Obama has done?


LIVE WIRE AC/DC Tribute Band: "If You Want Blood"

punditman says...This fun-loving rocker's explosive and infectious beat by this AC/DC clone band could easily be the soundtrack for Peacenik's posts. I can't decide whether to file it under "Songs to Riot by," or "Bang Your Head Against the Wall" ;-)

Swift, Steep Downturn Crosses Globe

Economists See Hope Dry Up

By Tomoeh Murakami TseWashington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, February 18, 2009; Page A01

NEW YORK, Feb. 17 -- Markets around the world plunged Tuesday as evidence mounted that the global economic crisis is worsening.

Japan is suffering its worst downturn in 35 years. The British economy is facing its sharpest decline in almost 30 years. Germany is slumping at its worst pace in nearly 20 years. Meanwhile, the job market in the United States, at the epicenter of the global downturn, is the worst in decades. And emerging economies are contracting at a pace few had predicted just months ago. Even China, whose economy still is growing at a 6.8 percent annual pace, is grappling with vast numbers of the unemployed, raising fears of unrest.

The sharpness of the global slowdown has alarmed economists, who see no obvious engine for recovery.

This dear readers is not from theautomaticearth, or Mish, or Denninger. This is from the Washington Post ferchrissakes. Which is sounding postively Doomsday like. Peacenik doesn't know what to think. Oh yeah, the DOW and TSX are both red. And ugh, the November bottoms have not held. Peacenik thinks the markets will rally shortly. Peacenik thinks, if there is a rally, it will be your last chance to cash out.

Who's Telling the Truth About Iran's Nuclear Program?

by Muhammad Sahimi

Since February 2003, Iran's nuclear program has undergone what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself admits to be the most intrusive inspection in its entire history. After thousands of hours of inspections by some of the most experienced IAEA experts, the Agency has verified time and again that (1) there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, and (2) all the declared nuclear materials have been accounted for; there has been no diversion of such materials to non-peaceful purposes. Iran has a clean bill of health, as far as its nuclear program is concerned.

This is not what Israel, its lobby in the United States, and its neoconservative allies had expected. Such a clean bill of health deprives them of any justification for advocating military attacks on Iran. The illegal act of sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council and the subsequent, highly dubious UNSC resolutions against Iran have also not been effective. So what is the War Party to do?

It has resorted to an international campaign of exaggerations, lies, and distortions. This campaign involves planting lies in the major media and on the Internet, making absurd interpretations of what the IAEA reports on Iran, and issuing dire – but bogus – warnings about the speed at which Iran's uranium-enrichment program is progressing. Such warnings have been around for over two decades. In 1984, West German intelligence predicted that Iran would make a nuclear bomb within two years.

The campaign uses all the instruments of the U.S. political establishment to advance its agenda. The Bush administration routinely talked about "Iran's nuclear weapon program" or "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," without ever bothering to present any credible evidence for their assertion. Iran's drive for nuclear weapons has become an article of faith even to President Obama, who, in my opinion, is not pro-war. LeonPanetta , the new CIA director, recently said, "From all the information I've seen, I think there is no question that they [Iranians] are seeking that [nuclear weapon] capability." What information, Mr.Panetta? Enlighten us, please.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...I would guess that the vast majority of people out there, despite their political affiliation, would simply assume that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon and is playing a game of Monty Python's Olympic Hide-and-Seek with the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency. You, dear reader, may be one of these people. The only problem is that there is no evidence for such an assumption. None.

Punditman also makes the safe assumption that most people do not know that even the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate of December 2007 said Iran "halted" its nuclear weapons program in 2003; and, if they don't know that, then Punditman would bet his fictitious dividend cheque that most also don't know that this same report did not present any evidence that an Iranian nuclear program has ever existed (none, ever)so it couldn't be "halted" in the first place!

This speaks to the power of media- and political-propaganda, working in tandem.

Is Punditman defending Iran? Not at all. Does Punditman trust Iran? Punditman does not trust any State. Punditman is simply defending the facts.

The future is Amish, not Mad Max: interview with Bart Anderson of EB

by Laurent Courau

The French La Spirale is "an e-zine for the digital mutants." According to their About Us page, they were born in the early 90s as part of the Cyberpunk movement, and subsequently expanded their coverage to "the obscure side of contemporary popular culture."

They say they are guided by the idea that "the eccentrics of today foreshadow the world of tomorrow and that the most interesting cultural currents appear systematically in the margins, far from dozing institutions and mass media."

It could begin like a remake of Mad Max II… “In an indefinite future, oil reserves are exhausted and violence reigns. An ex-highway patrolman goes to the aid of a community under attack by hordes of motorized punks. The battle takes place around the storage tanks of a refinery.”

In spite of the expected end of fossil fuels, Bart Anderson of The Energy Bulletin is reassuring. The post-industrial apocalypse will not happen tomorrow. At the risk of disappointing the more hardcore fringe of La Spirale's readership, less anxiety-producing outlooks are possible.

[Energy Bulletin provides an] inventory of our current situation, possible futures and case studies. It suggests ways out of the crisis which evoke the lifestyle of Amish communities rather than the outrageous violence of Mel Gibson's first films. On the silver screen, Humungus and his dogs of war can continue on the path of sound and fury - the future will do without their services.

Peacenik is sorry Peacenik panicked yesterday. But Peacenik is fine. When Peacenik got home and the news was full of GM laying off 47,000 people, Peacenik was fine. But feeling bad for the 47,000. When overnight commenters on Calculated Risk foresaw a rapid and imminent collapse of the world economy, Peacenik was fine. But slightly apprehensive. When Greenspan called for the nationalization of the banks, Peacenik was fine. But wondering why Greenspan wasn't in jail. When Peacenik's google alerts for bird flu and food shortages starting filling Peacenik's inbox, Peacenik was fine. But will visit the drug store today. The future is a state of mind. It won't be Mad Max. Peacenik is fine if the future is Amish. It won't be doomsday. Read the interview. And prepare for a Black Swan. And all will be well.


Update: Russia Exchanges Closed

Posted by Karl Denninger at 07:21

Both the MICEX and RTS exchanges have been closed - lock limit down.
The markets have rendered their decision on the G7, Geithner and Obama's administration thus far, as expressed by Rick Santelli on CNBC this morning. As a picture is worth 1000 words, here 'ya go:

CNBC was running Terminator II theme music as their bumper this morning; that's pretty accurate. There is no chart support left between here and (unfortunately) the 500s in the SPX, and there's an argument to be made that the next real support is down around that dreadful 210 target that I laid out a couple of weeks ago.

Obama's administration must stop dicking around with asset prices. The "credit freeze" is manufactured as a consequence of idiotic actions of government; by at the same time threatening to support asset prices and destroy their value they have blown bid/offer spreads out to the point that trades cannot take place.

Ok, Peacenik has calmed down. (See previous post) This is only information afterall. Nothing Peacenik can do about it. So what if Russia had to close its stock exchange. So what if the markets are tanking and voting thumbs down on Geithner's stimulus plans. Pogge is starting for the Leafs tonight. And Canadian Tire has a sale on portable generators. And Peacenik still has some beer in the fridge. Life is good.

California, Almost Broke, Nears Brink

By JENNIFER STEINHAUERPublished: February 16, 2009 LOS ANGELES —

The state of California — its deficits ballooning, its lawmakers intransigent and its governor apparently bereft of allies or influence — appears headed off the fiscal rails.

Since the fall, when lawmakers began trying to attack the gaps in the $143 billion budget that their earlier plan had not addressed, the state has fallen into deeper financial straits, with more bad news coming daily from Sacramento. The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

This is or was the 5th biggest economy in the world. This is not Iceland, or Latvia. Events are running out of control. By the time Peacenik posts this, Ireland could have defaulted, and GM could have declared bankruptcy. The inability of politicians to compromise, or face reality is shocking. This is what happens when the ideologues rule. Here's what Krugman's says on his blog:

"Apocalypse now"
"Everyone should be paying attention to the political/fiscal catastrophe now unfolding in California. Years of neglect, followed by economic disaster — and with all reasonable responses blocked by a fanatical, irrational minority.
This could be America next."

Can any country survive a default by America? Or California? This is Canada's biggest trading partner. Peacenik neeeds to calm Peacenik. Peacenik is not a Doomer. Peacenik is not a Doomer. Peacenik is not a Doomer.

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (and Neighbors)


A while back there was a study that suggested that it is more expensive to be poor in the US in some ways, than it is to be rich. And to anyone who has actually been poor, this probably made perfect sense. Among the ways that being poor cost you money:

1. Your infrastructure is limited, so you are limited to what fits in your infrastructure - for example, you don’t have a car, so you can only shop at the convenience stores or those on your bus line, which are more expensive than the Walmart outside town. Your house or apartment is underinsulated, so your utility bills are extremely high. You have to have food and heat, so you pay them, and struggle.

2. You are less likely to have insurance, or to have exhausted your safety nets, so you are more likely to find yourself paying for acute costs because of things you’ve let go - instead of routine dental care, you don’t got the dentist until there’s a major crisis, involving multiple root canals. You can’t afford to have the roof replaced, so you wait until things start falling on your head.

Read on...

Peacenik finds something almost reassuring about Sharon Astyk's description of the poverty of people and states. The process, the road to poverty is the same. And people and states are now poor, although many are still in denial. Sharon is talking about community and social capital. These are the things that will insulate society from the Mad Max scenario. Society still has choices that it can make. It looks like right now society's leaders are choosing to side with the wealthy. Leaders are still determined to protect the bankers and brokers. Peacenik things society will eventually side with the poor. How quickly society's leaders make this transition will determine which scenario plays out.

Making LBJ Look Like a Piker

Who Remembers Guns and Butter?


President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policy of Great Society spending and Vietnam War is credited with the rising American inflation that persisted until checked by President Reagan’s supply-side policy.

In Johnson’s time the American economy and the US dollar were strong, and there was no current account deficit. Yet, LBJ’s policy of guns and butter did long-term harm.

The Bush/Obama 21st century policy of guns and butter makes LBJ look like a piker. The 2009 and 2010 federal budget deficits will be monstrous even without guns. But Obama is exiting (apparently) the Iraq War in order to start two, possibly three, more wars.

Obama has announced a doubling of US troops in Afghanistan. Widening that war will require the US to occupy, or attempt to occupy, parts of Pakistan. The disrespect for Pakistan’s sovereignty will further radicalize that large, nuclear-armed country and bring Pakistan, or at least parts of it, into armed conflict with the US.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...Is there something about the US presidency that automatically divorces the holder of the office from reality? The US economy is going off a cliff. So -- time to crank up the belligerent rhetoric and escalate military actions. Is there something in the White House water supply?


Decade at Bernie's

Published: February 15, 2009

By now everyone knows the sad tale of Bernard Madoff’s duped investors. They looked at their statements and thought they were rich. But then, one day, they discovered to their horror that their supposed wealth was a figment of someone else’s imagination.

Unfortunately, that’s a pretty good metaphor for what happened to America as a whole in the first decade of the 21st century.

Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households. The bottom line is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: the net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.

Read on...

Peacenik is thinking some people think Peacenik is a Doomsdayer. Particularly after Doomers made the front page of Sunday's Toronto Star and Peacenik sometimes uses the language of Doomers. But as Peacenik said, Peacenik just reads the news and comments. Here we have Krugman again talking about the illusory surge in asset values over the last decade. And the simutaneous real surge in personal and corporate debt. Peacenik asks everyone to read Dan's post at theautomaticearth. Everyone is broke. Every state. Every city. Every town. Every business. And every individual. Peacenik asks the reader to just scroll through Illargi's post at theautomaticearth. Read the red headlines. GM and California and Ireland and Latvia will probaby declare bankruptcy this coming week. Peacenik read the headlines. Peacenik thinks this is the worst economy anyone living has ever seen. Imagine that. The financial industry has created more debt than the world's GDP. Banks, pension plans and countries are broke. These are facts. Does that make Peacenik a Doomer?


Obama Administration Accuses Iran of Pursuing Nuclear Weapons

Accusations Show New Administration's Clean Break From Intelligence Estimate


It has been 15 months since the release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which determined that the Iranian government had halted all efforts to create a nuclear weapon, and the outgoing chairman of the National Intelligence Council reaffirmed those findings only two months ago. The Obama Administration didn’t seem to read those reports, however.

President Obama accused Iran of “development of a nuclear weapon” during a press conference. Incoming CIA director Leon Panetta declared during his testimony that “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

While the Iranian government continues to express its desire to improve relations, Obama and associates just keep hurling accusations at Iran’s civilian nuclear program. There’s one thing the administration is missing though, and that’s evidence. Officials concede there is no evidence that undercuts the 2007 findings, but like the Bush Administration, the newcomers don’t seem to want fact to get in the way of good rhetoric.

punditman says...This does not surprise Punditman in the least; unlike a common assumption out there amongst the sheeple, there is no structural change in US foreign policy just because Obama is in charge.

So long as there is no fundamental change at the institutional level, it appears impossible for a US President to not huff and puff and threaten Iran. It's been going on since the CIA organized the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and installed the Shaw in 1953.

Current tensions between the US and Iran are far from resolved and have the potential to become a very hot crisis. Or, the Obama administration can stop misleading the public and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton can save the day by taking Iranian overtures seriously and open a serious dialogue that could lead to detente.

What scenario is more likely, the former or the latter? Punditman is unsure but the former will make financial armageddon look like a picnic.

Failure to Rise

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: February 12, 2009

By any normal political standards, this week’s Congressional agreement on an economic stimulus package was a great victory for President Obama. He got more or less what he asked for: almost $800 billion to rescue the economy, with most of the money allocated to spending rather than tax cuts. Break out the Champagne!

Or maybe not. These aren’t normal times, so normal political standards don’t apply: Mr. Obama’s victory feels more than a bit like defeat. The stimulus bill looks helpful but inadequate, especially when combined with a disappointing plan for rescuing the banks. And the politics of the stimulus fight have made nonsense of Mr. Obama’s postpartisan dreams.

Let’s start with the politics.

It is Friday the 13th and the world economy still exists. Financial Armageddon has been avoided for another week. Peacenik feels a generalized sense of anxiety as Peacenik surveys the financial press. Krugman has a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as he contemplates the stimulus and the economy. Peacenik is beginning to think that minus some Black Swan event, everything will just unravel, slowly. Just like all of George Bush's efforts were to prevent a total collapse until he was out of office, Obama's efforts will delay the end. Buy time. Hope for the best. But the psychology is locked in. Peacenik doesn't think the public thinks the good old days are coming back. Peacenik thinks more and more people are agreeing with Peacenik. And that is a very worrisome development, on Friday the 13th. Have a good weekend.


Down the Rabbit Hole

Sharon February 11th, 2009

“It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits.” - Alice in Wonderland
Rod Dreher has a fascinating observation over at his blog. He talks about watching an interview on CNBC with Taleb and Roubini:

“Both men are notorious bears, and called the current crash long in advance. Both, CNBC tells us, were the hottest tickets at the recent Davos gathering. CNBC called them in to discuss the crisis. Roubini and Taleb were both trying to make their case for why what’s wrong with the economy is radical, is fundamental, goes to the very base of all our economic assumptions.

The CNBC twits just wanted stock tips and investing advice.”

The more I think about his point, the more I think that it epitomizes something fundamental about the intellectual shift we have to make - and about how hard it is to make it. Moreover, it caused me to think about how hard it will be to unmake that shift. I commented on the piece at Rod’s blog, and said,

Peacenik thinks this is an intersting post by Sharon Astyk. It is time for Peacenik to get Peacenik's head around a whole new paradigm. Peacenik doesnt' like the word paradigm. It is a word that has been used by the crooks on Wall Street and in the banks to assure the sheeple that investments were safe. Dot Com bubble. New paradigm. Housing bubble. New paradigm. Credit bubble. New paradigm. If Peacenik criticized the markets, it was because Peacenik couldn't grasp a new paradigm. But now there may actually be a new paradigm. One that Wall St. and the Banks will want to deny. A paradigm where sheeple believe the stock market is not safe and cannot return the 8% return necessary to fund either sheeple's retirement or of course big profits and commissions for the brokers and bankers. That is a scary paradigm. That is reality. That is why Peacenik reads about survivalism and balcony gardening. That is why Peacenik is looking for a backyard to bury Peacenik's coin collection in.


The Final Countdown

The Triangle on that chart has a target ~3700 points lower, or if we were to break it tomorrow, approximately DOW 4200.

And that's the most bullish of the primary indices, all of which are sporting similar formations, and all of which closed right on the bottom boundary. Those of you who read The Ticker regularly know what my target is on the downside for the S&P 500 if this triangle breaks.

For the record, December closed at 8776 on the Dow Jones. The target on this technical formation is for a loss of another 50% from there, and as I said, that's the most bullish of the primary indices.

That would be back-to-back roughly 50% losses.

Read on...

Click thru to see the charts referred to above. Denninger doesn't think Obama is on the right track. The Dow tanked almost 400 points after the unveiling of Obama's plan yesterday. Peacenik didn't see too many pundits who thought things would get better today. But the Dow always surprises. Peacenik thinks capitulation could be this week. But investors may decide to keep pretending for a bit longer that there is value in the financial industry and the market. The world is on the edge of Doomsday.....Financial Armageddon. Will the world muddle through? Ask Peacenik on Friday.


Opposing the Troop Surge in Afghanistan

punditman says...Highlights from the speech below include the fact that, unlike the propaganda we constantly hear, most of the Taliban are made up of unemployed young men with no ideological axe to grind; their interests are local. And yes, Western troops are committing atrocities. It's time to get with the program and wake up. Punditman is wondering where the next big antiwar demonstration will be and Peacenik is working on starting up a Pubs for Peace movement. Who is with us?

David Markland is author of a blog on Afghanistan. He spoke at a recent forum held in Vancouver on the U.S. escalation of troops in Afghanistan.|

17:49 minutes (16.32 MB)

Stunning job losses mean EI must be improved

Georgetti says situation is urgent

OTTAWA - The Canadian Labour Congress has responded to news that Canada lost 129,000 jobs in January with a renewed call for the federal government to make urgently-needed improvements to the Employment Insurance program.

"This is stunning," says Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress. "It's an economic tsunami for Canadian workers and there's more to come. We have now lost 213,000 good full-time jobs in the past three months and the unemployment rate is at 7.2 percent."

Georgetti says many laid-off workers and their families will be left out in the cold because governments have changed the rules for EI, making it harder to qualify and chopping the benefits for those who do.

"The effects of the government's economic stimulus package won't kick in for months but workers who are innocent victims of this recession need help right now," says Georgetti.

He says that workers and their unions are going to keep the pressure on the government to improve the EI program. "People have paid their premiums believing that they would receive their insurance when they find themselves unemployed. Rainy day funds are supposed to be there for rainy days."

Analysis of Senior Economist, Sylvain Schetagne

Unprecedented deterioration of the labour market is confirmed.

Canada lost 129,000 jobs in January 2009, a deterioration well beyond anything seen in the past three decades.

About a quarter of a million full and part-time jobs (234,000) have been lost in the past three months. Canada is now back to levels of employment experienced 15 months ago, in October 2007.

The unemployment rate increased by 0.6% in January to 7.2%, up sharply from 6.6% in December. The unemployment rate is back to where it was about five years ago. It would have been even higher if 29,000 workers had not left the labour market last month.

Most of the jobs lost were full-time (114,000), but many part-time jobs (15,100) were lost in January as well. The biggest job loss occurred in Ontario (71,000), British Columbia (35,000) and Quebec (26,000).

Jobs were lost in both the public and private sectors. The majority of sectors experienced a decline in their level of employment in January, with a significant decrease concentrated in manufacturing (100,900).

Canada now has 1,310,100 unemployed, an increase of 100,000 newly- unemployed people in January alone.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca


Sylvain Schetagne, Senior Economist, 613-526-7412
Dennis Gruending, Communications, 613-526-7431, and 613-878-6040


Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans

by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus - and a firm denial by a White House official - of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months.

The Petraeus account, reported by McClatchy newspapers Feb. 5 and then by the Associated Press the following day, appears to indicate that Obama is moving away from the 16-month plan he had vowed during the campaign to implement if elected. But on closer examination, it doesn't necessarily refer to any action by Obama or to anything that happened at the Jan. 21 meeting.

Read on...

After Bush spent years glorifying Petraeus and building him up into a MacArthur like figure, Obama has a real problem on his hands. Petraeus wants to parlay his supposed military prowess into a political career. If Petraeus does not support Obama's strategic plan he should resign. Instead he plays politics and obviously would like to be fired so he could kick off his run for the presidency as an aggrieved general. It would certainly play well to the christian right and the redneck wingnuts. What should Obama do? Peacenik would fire Petraeus' sorry ass and take his chances. The military must not be allowed to engage in politics, while in the military.

Insanity Prevails

The New York Times is reporting Geithner Said to Have Prevailed on the Bailout.

The Obama administration’s new plan to bail out the nation’s banks was fashioned after a spirited internal debate that pitted the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, against some of the president’s top political hands.

In the end, Mr. Geithner largely prevailed in opposing tougher conditions on financial institutions that were sought by presidential aides, including David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, according to administration and Congressional officials.

On Monday evening, new details emerged after lawmakers were briefed on the plan.

Read on...

Everyone knows Peacenik has already been mezmerized by foolishly looking in the black hole of debt. Trillions and trillions of dollars of debt. Debt that can never be repaid. There isn't enough money in the world to pay this debt. Peacenik thinks a better bank bailout plan would be to guarantee the deposits in these banks. Thus helping regular people. Guarantee the pension investments in these banks. Thus helping regular people. And let the risk takers, who gambled in the belief that the government (regular people) would bail them out, get wiped out. Then put the management of these companies in jail and confiscate their property and bank accounts, on shore and off shore. Shut the banks down. Promote tellers and janitors to positions of management and start over. They could not do a worse job. And regulate the financial industry so that it is not a casino but rather a place to deposit your paycheck and to borrow to buy something at a reasonable rate of interest. That's what Peacenik would do.


Tenth Academic Freeze Out

Is the Boss Lost or is the Prof Lost?

punditman says...

Punditman sometimes wonders why he didn't become an academic when he could have. Then he finds himself reading some over-the-top poppycock by some ivory towerist, and he is glad he did not join the academy lest he'd be spending his many off hours composing similar feats of mental masturbation. A prime example is this baffling piece on Counterpunch, entitled "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Springsteen," (translation: One People, One Reich, One Springsteen). The author, David Yearsely, draws a direct parallel between Bruce Springsteen's performance at the Super Bowl and the Nazi Party Congress of 1937:
A darkened stadium massed with tens of thousands of fanatics in precise formation, marching in place to patriotic music of the homeland. Powerful searchlights sending their columns up into the inifinity of the night sky in a display seen for miles around and in striking shots from an overhead Zeppelin to be used for propaganda. Nuremberg 1937 and the Nazi Party Congress?

No, it’s Tampa 2009 and the Superbowl halftime show.
As you can see folks, the resemblance is uncanny ;-)

Seriously, Yearsely sees a direct lineage from Nazi architect and Armaments Minister Albert Speers' Cathedral of Light to the modern half-time show. It begs the question: what is with the omnipresent Nazi fixation anyway? Why does everyone reach into their quiver for this broken old arrow whenever they don't like something? "You're a Nazi." "That's fascist." "That's what Hitler would do." When are we ever going to move on?

So there I was some eight days ago, enjoying the half-time show for a change because the stage was given to a great rock n' roll artist whose kick-ass music and socially conscious lyrics have touched millions for decades. How dumb of me and millions of other "plebes" to not realize that "The Boss" was actually in the pay of the Dark Side. Alas, all fans of low culture, we apparently lack the great insights of the esteemed music professor from Cornell.

Do not misunderstand: Punditman certainly recognizes that the Superbowl -- with all its militarism and jingosim -- is largely superficial capitalist hype heavily laden with American propaganda. You have to be an idiot not to see it. In fact, under his real name, Punditman wrote a piece for Counterpunch back in 2002 that questioned the meaning behind Paul McCartney's song "Freedom" at that Super Bowl. I am certainly not the first to see the propaganda value of the event, and I suspect that's why many don't watch; but let's get our accusations on target, shall we? In this case, why go after Bruce and the lighting crew?

Why not go after the symbolism of General David Petraeus ("Betray Us") as the ceremonial coin tosser? That's pure propaganda given his role in the Iraq War. But Bruce Springsteen singing Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out>Born To Run>Working on a Dream>Glory Days? That's high energy, heartland rock n' roll. Why does it have to mean more? Sometimes a guitar is just a guitar and a light show is just a light show. Aren't they?

"Working on a dream" is a new Springsteen song, but for Yearsely, "The Boss’s decision to include the title track from his new album was canny product placement."

A Bruce fan, Yearsely clearly is not.

The good professor, it turns out, has written a book about Bach, and is a performer himself with a new CD out. One wonders, does he not play new material in concert?

Is Yearsely inferring that any musician who performs at the Super Patriotic Bowl is, wittingly or not, an accomplice to the military-industrial complex and fascism? Are "tens of thousands of [football] fanatics" no different than Nazi storm troopers? This thesis may get a passing grade in Music & Culture 101, but Punditman gives it a failed leap-of-logic grade in Philosophy 101.

If I was to presume something, I may think that this Springsteen-rock-bashing episode is simply the rantings of a classical music snob, the likes of whom are right up there with jazz snobs. Everyone else knows you just can't talk to these people about music. But then again, such a presumption would be unfair.

It's a football game. It exists because gamblers bet on it, corporate America wants to sell more junk and some actually like the sport. The half-time show is often the best (or the only part) worth watching -- when the musicians can deliver.

But Yearsely says that "mass spectacle is by definition ideological." I find that to be a stretch (the county horse show, pub darts and dragon boat races come to mind), but okay, I will pretend I'm back in Grad school and for sake of argument, say, "Point well taken." But then Yearsely goes seriously off the rails when he hyperbolizes to the 10th degree:
With one eye on the past and the other on the future, the Superbowl strove to outdo Nazi precedent with the massive effusions of fireworks that punctuated the show at the climax of songs, then finally and orgasmically after Springsteen and co’s twelve minutes were up and the mock referee ran on stage to throw a penalty flag and bring the show to a close. That was when all hell broke loose in a mighty fusillade. With the Nazi imagery clearly in one’s head, the rockets’ red glare was pure Eastern Front.
Nazi imagery clearly in one's head? Well, inside the head of at least one professor with a big imagination -- that much is clear. I can just see the Superbowl planning committee sitting around watching Festliches Nürnberg and trying to figure how to out-do it.

Perhaps the issue here is that in the endless search for non-existing inferences, many an acadamic's career can inadvertandly careen into an abyss of obscurity, absurdity, obsolesence and ...see what happens?

Never mind that every rock show since Pink Floyd has used pyrotechnics and has done so for the same simple reason that any fireworks show exists: people like to watch things go boom in the night sky. It's been happening since 12th Century China.

Yearsely makes the broad claim that Springsteen and the E-Streeters were faking it along with a pre-recorded tape. But wait, not so fast! While Jennifer Hudson taped the National Anthem and Country star Faith Hill, who sang "America the Beautiful" was also prerecorded (the NFL has asked for prerecordings for pregame performers since 1993), Bruce's vocals were not taped. But in fairness, it does remain unclear whether or not his songs were prerecorded (a common practice for big events with no time for soundchecks when stages have to instantly appear and then quickly disassemble).

Yearsely concludes by saying, "That all must go down exactly as planned in mass public spectacle is something the Nazis understood better than anyone."

Perhaps. But if I was a choreographer, I may feel insulted by the inference.

The Destructive Center

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: February 8, 2009

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Read on...

Peacenik read a lot about the stimulus plan on the weekend. Peacenik read a list of the stuff that the republicans insisted on stripping out. It was all mildly progressive, good stuff, like food stamps and health care and assistance to students. No one wants financial armageddon. Not even Peacenik. But when you read about the process and you read about the special interests and how they still wield influence it is very difficult to cheer for the success or survival of these cretins. The political process in the U.S. is so broken that it is now counter-productive. The compromise stimulus will fail. The original stimulus might have failed. Do not look in the black hole of debt. Peacenik looked.


Fast Train Revisited: What’s a Doomer Chick to Do?

Sharon February 4th, 2009

You are hearing a fast train. - Van Morrison, sung by the incomparable Solomon Burke

Despite the fact that there are plenty of people out there who view me as wildly apocalyptic, I don’t actually consider myself a doomer. My own feeling is that while radical restructuring awaits us, our future probably won’t look much like _The Road_. I have argued that what we face due to peak energy, climate change and our financial crisis can best be described as “ordinary human poverty” - and we can do much to mediate our experience, that we can experience either an ordinary, survivable poverty or one that becomes pathological, based on our own choices.

On the other hand, compared to the mainstream culture, which tells us endlessly that things will stay the same or get better always, I am, of course, your friendly neighborhood Apocalyptic Dominatrix of Doom. That’s me, cracking the whip over my readers to get their gardens going, food storage in order, learn to darn socks and fix their own roofs, etc… Carolyn Baker was kind enough to mention me as a notable Dystopian chick in her well deserved rebuke to the New Yorker. So even though I often spend time observing “well, I don’t really think that we’re literally going to see TEOTWAWKI” I suppose I qualify as one of Cassandra’s descendents.

Peacenik kind of enjoyed reading this post by Sharon Astyk. Enjoy the weekend.

Army deserter deported from Canada, placed in Whatcom County Jail

By Sam Taylor Bellingham Herald

Cliff Cornell fled the U.S. Army four years ago for British Columbia when his Georgia artillery unit was ordered to serve in Iraq war.

On Wednesday, Cornell was deported from Canada, arrested in the U.S. and booked into the Whatcom County jail.

Read on...

This is not what Peacenik wants to read on a nice sunny Friday, or any day. A minority, unpopular, Canadian government is deporting U.S. army deserters back to the U.S. Peacenik can only assume Ignatieff and the Liberal Party support this action, or they just can't be bothered to raise a finger or word in protest. Are Canadians and Canadian politicans so afraid to appear anti-war, for fear of being labelled anti-military, that they allow this to happen? It didn't take long to turn Canadian society from a society that was proud of its peace keeping tradition into a society that seems proud of its war making ability. A change that Peacenik thinks Canadians will soon regret.

On the Edge

Published: February 5, 2009

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to economic recovery. Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Krugman seems to agree with Peacenik's post yesterday that playing nice with the Republicans is a complete waste of time. Krugman seems to think that the stimulus plan has a chance to succeed, to some extent. But notice how dire Krugman thinks the situation is. Of course Peacenik thinks the situation is even more dire. Peacenik thinks it is too late. Peacenik is going to buy a pot and a pan and a pitchfork. Read Naomi Klein's article on how some simple non-violent protest brought down Iceland's government. Peacenik is ready to protest. Are you?


The Game Is Up

Inquiring minds are noting similarities between the implosion in Ireland and the implosion in California. Let's take a look starting with In Ireland, "the game is up".

DUBLIN — At 2 a.m., with time for compromise running out, the Irish prime minister finally presented his emergency plan for the floundering economy to the country’s trade union leaders.

He proposed an average 7 percent reduction in gross pay for bureaucrats, teachers, police, firefighters, road cleaners and everyone else on the public payroll, in the form of a levy to finance their pensions.

He made clear that without an agreement the government would do it anyway.

Peacknik is noticing a sense of resignation in the blogosphere and the media that there is no acceptable solution to the economic crisis. It seems like nothing has changed.
Check out Denninger. Obama is spinning his tires and the Democratic controlled Congress is acting like they are in the minority. The "bad bank" solution probably won't work, and after weeks of talking about it, there still isn't even a plan. The U.S. senate just removed health care benefits for the unemployed from their stimulus plan. Republican wingnuts continue to dominate the airwaves. The UK is on the verge of the deepest slump in 60 years. The world is in a state of economic collapse.
Obama thought he could work with the Republicans in crafting a solution. That was a mistake. The republicans are only interested in obstruction. And now Obama is stuck with a cabinet and a bunch of advisors who are ill-suited to the task. What task you ask. The task of recognizing reality and coming clean with the American people and the world. And the task of instituting policies that will help the workers and not protect the criminals on Wall St. Peacenik asks again. Is anyone going to jail for the crimes that contributed to this financial crisis? An editorial in the Washington Post is not leadership.

Endless Propaganda

The War on Terror is a Hoax


According to US government propaganda, terrorist cells are spread throughout America, making it necessary for the government to spy on all Americans and violate most other constitutional protections. Among President Bush’s last words as he left office was the warning that America would soon be struck again by Muslim terrorists.

If America were infected with terrorists, we would not need the government to tell us. We would know it from events. As there are no events, the US government substitutes warnings in order to keep alive the fear that causes the public to accept pointless wars, the infringement of civil liberty, national ID cards, and inconveniences and harassments when they fly.

The most obvious indication that there are no terrorist cells is that not a single neocon has been assassinated.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...Once in awhile, you need a dose of Paul Craig Roberts' truth serum to put your brain back on task. There...that feels better.


Whither the Future...

Mad Max?...Baez?...Orwell?

punditman says...

Peacenik's post in which he mentioned a possible Mad Max future versus a non-Mad Max future goes something like this:

Mad Max is a dystopian nightmare with roving gangs, no security and an increasingly violent society. In other words, a failed state where misery is king; one in which Coors' Light is bartered for old Hulk Hogan videos and the Philadelphia Flyers win the Stanley Cup every year. On the other hand, a non-Mad Max future entails communities working together to solve problems. In other words, a hippie paradise where harmony is king, ecologically conscious micro breweries dot a tree-scaped, hemp-infested countryside, jambands fill the air in every hamlet (clean air, that is) and the Leafs win the Stanley Cup every year.

The problem Punditman sees with this either/or future is that it implies that the State either crumbles completely from unknown forces or that it concedes defeat and starts singing "kumbaya" alongside civil society groups who are trying to solve problems. Fat chance of either!

Peacenik then goes on to say in the post below that "There is a tipping point. It is close." But a tipping point into what kind of future?

The Chris Hedges article below points to Sheldon Wolin's "inverted totalitarianism," to sum up the current American cultural and political landscape. Unlike classical totalitarianism like fascism or communism, where politics and messianic leadership dominates economics, inverted totalitarianism means economics overshadows politics. Under "normal" conditions, it more or less works. Consumerism, a decent average standard of living and a vast entertainment industry full of facile distractions tend to keep the citizenry "happy" and politically passive. But what happens if the American imperium quickly unravels, what then?

What will become of the United States if the current economic crisis results in massive, continuing job losses for a prolonged period? What if people can no longer buy the junk that they think brings them joy? What if peak oil means they're unable to fill their gas tanks without long lines and violent confrontations? What if cutbacks cause Entertainment Tonight (ET) to go off the air?

Given the elite attachment to State power and the considerable degree to which the general population is already subordinate, Punditman thinks that people could easily start to turn to demagogues to save them and return ET to its' rightful place in their hollowed out lives. Thus "inverted totalitarianism" could devolve further into the more garden-variety totalitarianism we are familiar with, albeit an American version, where ET is on every channel all day long. In recent years, we've witnessed increasing government control, surveillance and the stifling of dissent. There is little sign that this will reverse itself, notwithstanding Obama's largely symbolic actions (or inactions).

If economic decline continues unabated, if militarism and foreign intervention persists without huge reductions in force and cost; in other words, if no remedies appear that begin to dismantle the corporate/state nexus of domination and corruption, then Punditman sees the Wolinian scenario as rather likely. To coin an old lyric that inspired a certain underground movement, "You don't need a weatherman to know which the wind is blowing." So put away your Mad Max movies and dust off Orwell's 1984.

Or, Americans could always come to the senses, enact major reforms, stem the totalitarian tide and muddle on through to the best of their abilities. With a little luck...

It's Not Going to Be OK

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig. Posted February 4, 2009.

The economic crisis could plunge the U.S. into a long period of social instability. Our democracy is in peril; the threat of totalitarianism is real.

The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

Read on...

In an earlier post Peacenik wondered why there was no rioting in the U.S. as the economy swirls down the toilet. This post, by Chris Hedges, offers up some interesting theories as to why the populace is so passive. And it doesn't bode well. The corporate media and a willingness to be distracted by entertainment all contribute. But Peacenik thinks the collapse will be so profound that violence and riots will occur. The corporate media is losing its influence to the horrible bloggers. Major newspapers are going out of business. The public is finally getting angry about executive compensation. There is a tipping point. It is close.


The Neo Con New York Times

Peacenik looks at the byline of this op-ed piece in the New York Times and Peacenik almost gives up hope. Hope that any world problems can be resolved peacefully. John Bolton is a warmonger. John Bolton is a neo con. John Bolton wants war with Iran. Yet here is John Bolton, blithely offerring up his opinions on Iraq and Iran. Check out this story about Iraq and then decide how wonderful the "surge" has been. A totally discredited, shameless warmonger commands the op-ed pages of the New York Times. John Bolton shouldn't be able to get a letter to the editor of the Parry Sound Beacon published. Peacenik is speechless.

The Whole World Is Rioting as the Economic Crisis Worsens -- Why Aren't We?

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted February 3, 2009.

Americans are rightfully angry about the economic decline, but with a few small exceptions, quietly so. Why? It depends on whom you ask.

Explosive anger is spilling out onto the streets of Europe. The meltdown of the global economy is igniting massive social unrest in a region that has long been a symbol of political stability and social cohesion.

It's not a new trend: A wave of upheaval is spreading from the poorer countries on the periphery of the global economy to the prosperous core.

Over the past few years, a series of riots spread across what is patronizingly known as the Third World. Furious mobs have raged against skyrocketing food and energy prices, stagnating wages and unemployment in India, Senegal, Yemen, Indonesia, Morocco, Cameroon, Brazil, Panama, the Philippines, Egypt, Mexico and elsewhere.

Peacenik has been posting contradictory stories on whether people will riot or not, as they become poor, hungry, homeless and angry. Many commentators think the future will not be Mad Max like. Some commentators think the future will be Mad Max like. What does Peacenik think? Peacenik thinks there will be some rioting. Peacenik isn't sure what effect the violent suppression of rioting will have. The concentration camps are already constructed in the U.S. The police have their Tasers and Lasers. The science of crowd control is well developed. Will Peacenik riot? Will you?


Robert Fisk’s World: When did we stop caring about civilian deaths during wartime?

The mere monitoring of bloody conflict assumes precedence over human suffering

I wonder if we are "normalising" war. It's not just that Israel has yet again got away with the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza.

And after its own foreign minister said that Israel's army had been allowed to "go wild" there, it seems to bear out my own contention that the Israeli "Defence Force" is as much a rabble as all the other armies in the region. But we seem to have lost the sense of immorality that should accompany conflict and violence. The BBC's refusal to handle an advertisement for Palestinian aid was highly instructive. It was the BBC's "impartiality" that might be called into question. In other words, the protection of an institution was more important than the lives of children. War was a spectator sport whose careful monitoring – rather like a football match, even though the Middle East is a bloody tragedy – assumed precedence over human suffering.

I'm not sure where all this started. No one doubts that the Second World War was a bloodbath of titanic proportions, but after that conflict we put in place all kinds of laws to protect human beings. The International Red Cross protocols, the United Nations – along with the all-powerful Security Council and the much ridiculed General Assembly – and the European Union were created to end large-scale conflict. And yes, I know there was Korea (under a UN flag!) and then there was Vietnam, but after the US withdrawal from Saigon, there was a sense that "we" didn't do wars any more. Foreigners could commit atrocities en masse – Cambodia comes to mind – but we superior Westerners were exempt. We didn't behave like that. Low-intensity warfare in Northern Ireland, perhaps. And the Israeli-Arab conflict would grind away. But there was a feeling that My Lai had been put behind us. Civilians were once again sacred in the West.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...
It's amazing what the politics of fear can do. For awhile after 9-11, people were afraid of terrorists popping out from under their beds and putting anthrax in their pajamas. White powder scares brought out SWAT teams in the most obscure locations. Some idiots even bought duct tape to protect their homes from chemical attack. Remember...WTF?

Now with this economic mess, people are turning inward again, afraid of losing their jobs, houses and savings, so they're hoarding lima beans and raising chickens on their balconys. Hmmm...perhaps this crisis is yet another way to keep people afraid and insular so that they won't band together for real change? In other words, it's an engineered crisis. 9-11 has lost its desired affect. WMDs was 99% poppycock. Punditman will have to think about that a little more.

Yet still, the war machine marches on, gobbling up precious resources while bringing death and destruction in its wake. Innocent people are being killed in our names. Does anyone care anymore? Robert Fisk does. Peacenik does. Punditman does.

Iran's nuclear terrorism fears

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

"The commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with greater urgency, it is more likely than not a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013."

This statement was made recently by Graham Allison, one of the authors of "World at Risk", a report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, during his testimony before the US Congress. Sounding alarms about the growing risks of a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States, the report gloomily states that America's "margin of safety has decreased".

Its interesting how egocentric the U.S. and the U.S. media is. The rest of the world barely exists. Unless of course the U.S. wants to wage war against some part of it. Does Iran have its own problems? You'd never know by reading and watching the U.S. media. Peacenik got sucked into believing that the U.S and or Israel would attack Iran before the end of George Bush's term of office. Peacenik is still worried about Israel attacking Iran. The New York Times had an opinion piece on the Iranian threat today. The neo cons still have unrestricted access to the media and to Obama. The neo cons still fan the flames. But Iran does have its own problems. Including a nuclear Pakistan. Can Obama reach out to Iran? Or, will ramping up the rhetoric against Iran turn out to be a convenient distraction for Obama. Peacenik is watching and worried.