Archive for July, 2007

July 31st, 2007

Murdoch/Fox are buying Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, Barron’s …

Posted in Money, These United States by ed

There is something deeply & sickly apt about Murdoch’s lunge for the Dow Jones business media empire getting the OK as the markets totter on the verge of a system wide crisis. Look for the Dow Industrials to be down 400 points tomorrow …

murdoch.jpg
And then think about a world where Citizen Murdoch runs The Wall Street Journal, the Dow Jones newswire, MarketWatch (online) and Barron’s.

July 31st, 2007

Doom & Gloom Nightly — Your Sour Wall Street Source

Posted in Money by ed

This DOOM & GLOOM SCENARIO is brought to you by www.newcombat.net, where the glass is always empty — Waiter!?

In light of the recent turmoil in the markets,

A FRIEND WROTE: So is this a turning point, a sea change, the beginning of high interest rates, low to no growth, maybe stagflation?

NEWCOMBAT ANSWER MAN: Yes. These things have been on the worry-horizon. Now they will be realized.

FRIEND WROTE: Is this all Warren’s fault?

(That is: Warren J. Spector, an old mutual college friend currently on the hot seat at Bear Stearns (BSC), where he is President and co-Chief Operating Officer. Bear had two “hedge funds” specializing in mortgage bonds fail this past month, and today announced it has forbidden redemptions by investors in a third.)

ANSWER MAN: Well. Maybe it is somewhat Warren’s fault. But it also seems he was a victim — paid, according to Forbes Online, about $35 million in 2006 — of a nationwide network of venal mortgage brokers who bent rules to write mortgages for (i) “subprime” humans (FICO credit scores less than 625 more or less) and (ii) “Alt-A” humans, like me, who don’t have normal jobs and thus are sent to the “Alt-A” mortgage pool when looking to gamble on real estate.

But, well, they were only able to sell the stuff because peeps like Warren atop the food chain were packaging and selling them worldwide. Why would a German Landesbank want to own American mortgages? Salesmanship, I guess. Was Warren a salesman? I don’t know.

After the Tech Crash, peeps lost some confidence in the stock markets. Wanted to put money elsewhere. And when Greenspan knocked rates down to near nothing, all the more so, peeps needed a place to put money where some return could be expected. For all these reasons American real estate seemed perhaps the best bet.

And that sudden tap into worldwide cash yearning for yield is what suddnely drove real estate here thru the roof across the decade. Ie a much larger pool of credit was suddenly able and willing to fund mortgages here, and this juiced the buying, kicking in the ahistoric upward jag that perhaps now has seen its top.

One of the spectacular failures is happening today. American Home Mortgage. (AHM). A specialist in Alt-A mortgage lending. Stock was trading at $20 two weeks ago; today closed at $1.04. You can get a chart to see what it looks like at:

http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/advchart

Also check out Countrywide (CFC), which specializes in subprime mortgages. And check out the titans of Wall Street. Merril Lynch (MER). Goldman Sachs (GS). Lehman Brothers (LEH). Bear Stearns (BSC). Barclays (BCS).

And Citibank (C). Bank of America (BAC). JPMorgan Chase (JPM). Wachovia (WB). Capital One (COF).

These boys are too big to fail (aren’t they…?). But they’re not used to being pushed around like this.

The Dow Industrials were down 300 last Thursday, 200 on Friday. Up 80 yesterday. Down 100 or so today. And it seems will be down several hundred tomorrow, at least in the morning, on the AHM failure.

SO WHAT’s ALL THE NOISE ABOUT?

ANSWER MAN: It’s more than a typical “liquidity” crisis (ala when the huge “hedge fund” Long Term Capital Management failed in late 90s).

The difference this time is that the mortgage-bond failures have demonstrated that the Rating Agency (Moody’s, S&P, Fitch) “models” (ie spreadsheets) for evaluating and thus rating “asset-backed securities”, “collateralized debt obligations” and other complex “structured finance” bonds sare seriously flawed.

The implosion nationwide of the housing market, following upon a great expansion of credit under Greenspan (which expansion was possible in good part BECUASE of the structured finance revolution that began in the 80s with the advent of personal computers and spreadsheets) — this implosion, I say, was the first extreme test of the Rating Agency models, and they flunked.

I.e,. mortgage bonds rated AAA (the best) have been failing as wildly as the BBB- bonds (bottom rung of so-called “investment grade”).

Upshot: The global finance system is loaded with more than a trillion dollars worth of these complex bonds and at the moment no one is sure what they’re worth.

You won’t hear this Rating Agency methodology problem talked about on CNN or in the Wall Street Journal yet. For now it’s the mortgage bond failures and the failures these are causing among “hedge funds” and the big lenders in the affected spheres.

But the rating methodology problem is the underlying failure, and it seems likely to cause riotous panic. (Unless everybody decides to ignore it. Say, via a Price Control program instituted by the Fed …)

The mortgage and credit-card businesses rely ENTIRELY on their ability to sell the risk through asset-backed securities. If the market for those securities dries up (as it may well have already — it’s hard to tell because the markets are not public) — the businesses will contract in ungodly fashion. Very hard to get a mortgage or credit card, unless you reside in Richistan and need neither.

Before it’s over we may have to go back to the 1930s for a similar scenario re crisis credit contraction and its dire sequelae.

Ie I should sell my apartment yesterday.

July 31st, 2007

New Book: THE ZENITH SECRET by Captain Bradley E. Ayers / Rebuttals to BBC piece re CIA goons at RFK murder

Posted in JFK, Reading, Sorrows of Empire by ed

1. Lisa Pease, a respected JFK researcher, responds negatively to Shane O’Sullivan’s recently unveiled alleged video evidence that CIA goons David Morales, Gordon Campbell and George Joannides were at the Ambassador Hotel in California the evening RFK was murdered. See her blog.

(Navigation note: The blog link actually takes you to the Comments to Pease’s “review” of O’Sullivan, rather than her review itself. For the latter, click the “Show Original Post” link you’ll see atop the Comments page.)

Also note that the Comments include a reply by O’Sullivan.

On its face Pease’s rebuttal lacks substance, in that she doesn’t engage the substance of O’Sullivan’s report.

Rather, she says in rather a priori fashion that she cannot believe the CIA would be dumb enough to send men involved in JFK’s murder to kill his brother. The premises underlying this statement seem to me likely false. She would do better to directly address O’Sullivan’s evidence.

She also implies guardedly that O’Sullivan’s thesis doesn’t congrue with new evidence re RFK’s death currently in her hands but unpublished. One senses this is the gist of her negative reaction.

Nevertheless, she is someone to consider seriously in these matters. Also see her journalistic website — Real History Archives.

And see the earlier, excellent, site about the JFK murder primarily — Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination, or CTKA — which came out of PROBE magazine, which Pease produced with Jim DiEugenio.

2. A stronger rebuttal has been published by Jefferson Morley (journalist well acquainted with these matters — see his article, posted as the second Comment here) and David Talbot (founder of Salon.com and author of this year’s very good book, focused on Robert Kennedy’s experience post JFK murder, entitled Brothers).

Then again, if you follow up to a great resource page you will find that O’Sullivan’s own rebuttal to Morley/Talbot also has merit.

For now I tend to agree with Sullivan that the Morley/Talbot piece is off-center of its supposedly intended target.

The O’Sullivan BBC video (12 minutes) is also linked at the resource page.

3. O’Sullivan’s video relies heavily on the career and investigations of Bradley E. Ayers — a former Army Ranger captain who was dealt by the Pentagon into the cesspool of the early 60s CIA to train the anti-Castro cubans the CIA was still organizing post Bay of Pigs to harass Cuba.

Ayers has just this year published a book — THE ZENITH SECRET. Which I have just completed reading cover to cover. Despite the microscopic type in which it was set.

ZENITH SECRET is uneven but full of important things. Must be read.

It was published by Vox Pop, a Brooklyn bookstore run by Sander Hicks, the founder of Soft Skull Press and publisher of J.H. Hatfield’s FORTUNATE SON, the must-read biography of baby Bush.)

Having just read ZENITH SECRET and the rebuttals of O’Sullivan’s BBC piece by Morley, Talbot and Pease, I’m in a bit of a Barbaric Bog, sans solid opinion. So for the moment will cease trying to have one.

Instead, a few observations:

(a) Ayers writes in his Epilogue that after

multiple viewings of the Ambassador Hotel ballroom videotapes … my initial identifications [from photos] of Morales and Campbell were confirmed for the record. (p262).

Ayers never mentions Joannides in his book, and I guess he never met him. But he was well acquainted with Morales and Campbell.

(b) Morley/Talbot write, in their short piece:

Gordon Campbell, it turns out, was not the deputy station chief in the CIA’s Miami operation, as O’Sullivan reported. He was a yachtsman and Army colonel who served as a contract agent helping the agency ferry anti-Castro guerrillas across the straits of Florida, according to Rudy Enders, a retired CIA officer, and two other people who knew him.

This contradicts a ton of detail in Ayers’ memoir.

Ayers does identify Gordon Campbell as deputy station chief at JM/Wave (the CIA Miami station), second in command to Ted Shackley, and relates many detailed encounters with both Shackley and Campbell, as superiors to whom he had to report and clear actions.

I don’t grasp why Morley/Talbot find the point worthy of such attention. Even if they are correct re Campbell’s job description, it hardly touches on the core controversy re the identities of the three men in the Ambassador footage.

And that they cite Rudy Enders as authority seems a bit ludicrous.

(c) Morley/Talbot then report, perhaps gloating, that Enders told them that Gordon Campbell died in September 1962. So he could not have been in Los Angeles in 1968, as O’Sullivan suggests. They provide a photostat death certificate.

But again — the “Gordon Campbell” who Anders says died in 1962 cannot be the deputy chief of station using that name that Bradley Ayers worked with in Miami beginning summer 1963. And this man is the one Ayers has identified in the Ambassador footage.

It seems either Ayers is spewing insane fiction, or Morley/Talbot have been fed the wrong Gordon Campbell, or similarly confused, by their CIA sources.

Nevertheless, Mr Morley in particular is somone whose views in these matters I respect.

4. Another GORDON CAMPBELL Curiosity: His adjutant KARL

(a) Karl in High Company

Ayers reports at length on Gordon Campbell’s Man Friday at JM Wave — a francophone (native french or belgian, he seemed) named Karl.

Ayers had several close encounters with Karl. And reports once seeing him having lunch, at a remote roadhouse between Miami and the Keys, with David Morales, David Atlee Phillips (senior CIA Psy Ops dude, protege of E. Howard Hunt) and Johnny Roselli (mobster hired by high CIAist Bill Harvey to get ihis lame-brained Castro assassination program off the ground).

Recall: Morales, Roselli, Harvey and Phillips are already all near the center of the JFK murder mystery.

At the time Morales was covert ops chief at the Miami station.

Phillips, much senior, had supposedly stepped down to be chief of the Mexico City station, where, he confessed publicly in 1977, he had something to do with the falsification of evidence putting Oswald at the Soviet embassy in October 1963. See Lane’s Plausible Denial.

Harvey had come back from Europe a few years before to be Deputy to Angleton at counterintelligence HQ in Langley, where inter alia they solicited help from MI5′s Peter Wright in assembling an assasination team, mentioning Castro by name. See Wright’s Spycatcher. Harvey was then dispatched to Miami, where Ayers encountered him several times from summer ’63 on, often accompanied by Roselli.

Ayers writes that he wondered immediately how it was that Karl ranked to be found in such elevated Company company. He did not see Karl’s superior, deputy station chief Campbell, at the lunch.

(b) Karl Murdered by, it seems, CIA

A few months later — Ayers was compelled to be in attendance at Karl’s murder.

?!!?

Ayers writes that he and Karl were taken in a helicopter to reconnoiter the Florida coast, looking for new training grounds for the angry and teeming cubanos.

But then the unknown (to Ayers) leader of the flight pulled a pistol — and forced Karl out the copter door, sans parachute, to his death. Over the wide empty spaces of Eglin Air Force base.

Ayers speculated at the time that he was chosen to witness the execution because his superiors were beginning to worry abou his (Ayers’) attitude: a caution to shut his mouth and get back to work. Since he did not go to the police about the murder, he became, technically, an accessory to it, which he felt left him open to blackmail thenceforth.

(c) Karl a Doppelganger for Lee Oswald

Shortly after Karl’s murder Ayers had his mind blown when he saw replays of the press conference and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on TV — and realized that Karl was a doppelganger for Oswald. (Recall that an Oswald imposter seems to have been central to the creation of the CIA cover story.)

5. It was only years later, when Ayers read the Warren Commsision Report and realized it was a pack of lies, that he began a career as an investigor of JFK’s murder. The second half of ZENITH SECRET is about this.

His evidence and conclusions, such as they are, in a nutshell:

– Morales was a protege of right-wing Senator Barry Goldwater, the leading militarist in the Senate of the day and GOP presidential candidate in 1964.

Morales grew up dirt poor in Arizona. But found work as a teenager in the Goldwater family empire, and came to Barry’s notice. Goldwater then paid to put Morales through college in Arizona and California.

– In 1963, Morales was a flamboyant visitor to Goldwater’s senate offices. Bursting in without appointment. Embracing the staid Senator …

– Goldwater participated in JFK’s murder by ordering the transport of two suitcases of campaign contribution cash from Las Vegas (given to the courier by Robert Maheu (ie Howard Hughes) and mobster Joe Bannano), one suitcase to a man using the name Gordon in a Dallas motel and the other to David Morales in a New Orleans motel.

(a) MORALES BIOGRAPHY

Note that Ayers is the primary researcher of Morales’s life and career, upon whom the likes of Noel Twyman (Bloody Treason), Pease and now Shane O’Sullivan have all relied.

Morales was Director of Operations (dirty work) in the Miami CIA station during the 18 months or so Ayers was there as director of combat training for cubano insurgents. Morales was the infamous leader on the ground of the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala and of Bay of Pigs martyrs on the beach in 1961.

Ayers reports that Morales was also one of the first six men hired, in 1948, as black ops operatives by the fledgling CIA. And that he was a fearsome figure in Miami 14 years later — that even Shackley, chief of station, often withered in his presence.

Morales was subpoenaed to appear before the House of Representatives Select Committe on Assassinations in 1978. Instead he died, at age 53.

Ayers gently doubts this story, noting that Morales’s gravesite in Arizona seems to have been fiddled with.

Possible, perhaps, then, that Morales’s death was faked in 1978 to avoid the HSCA subpoena and to ease his transit into retirement and another identity.

Which brings to mind Rudy Enders telling Talbot/Morley that “Gordon Campbell” died in 1962, and waving a piece of paper in their faces to prove it.

(b) BARRY GOLDWATER?

Ayers produces a source — a smart and circumspect Phoenix woman named Pearl, daughter of a man on Goldwater’s business staff for nearly 30 years — who at length details the alleged involvement of Goldwater in the JFK murder.

She says that her father — Pepe — told her, shortly before his death, that he was asked by Goldwater in November 1963 to drive up to Nevada to collect a large cash campaign contribution. (Goldwater was running for Pres in 1964.)

Pepe did so — collecting two suitcases of cash from Robert Maheu (infamous mysterious US intelligence agent then serving as chief exec of Howard Hughes’s business empire in Las Vegas) and Las Vegas mobster Joe Bananno.

Pepe then drove to Dallas, called a phone number, and delivered one suitcase to a man in a Dallas motel going by the name of Gordon, the day before JFK’s murder.

(Recall: Morita Lorenz, the woman at the heart of attorney Mark Lane’s PLAUSIBLE DENIAL case — in which Howard Hunt sued a magazine for libel (without success) for running a story that placed him in Dallas during the JFK murder …

Recall, I say, that Lorenz testified in court that she drove from Florida with CIA assassin Gerry Hemming, CIA and mob goon Frank Sturgis, and several cubans, with two trunk-loads of guns, and that they were paid by E. Howard Hunt for those guns with lots of cash in a Dallas motel the night before the murder.

(The obvious tasty speculation, of course, is that the cash Pearl’s father delivered to Gordon [Campbell? Or Hunt using that name?] in a Dallas motel the day before the murder was the cash that Hunt gave Hemming, Lorenz & co for their guns in a Dallas motel the evening before the murder.)

Pepe then drove to New Orleans and delivered the second suitcase to David Morales in a motel there early on November 22, 1963.

======

Curious.

Too tired however to try to make more of this at the moment.

One has to read Ayers’ book to develop confidence in his reportage. It does seem however that to dismiss him in toto — as Lisa Pease does — would be to conclude he is a raving maniac writing whole-cloth fiction.

And that is certainly not my impression.

Rather, he reminds me of Col. Fletcher Prouty, whom I admire and whose writings have not only withstood the test of time, but become more and more apt to our increasingly unhinged sociopolitical landscape.

July 31st, 2007

Citigroup CEO dancing while Rome burns

Posted in Money by ed

The following (from a story by David Weidner at Marketwatch.com) neatly expresses the American corporate mindsoul:QUOTE

A few weeks ago, Charles Prince, Citigroup’s CEO, famously said the bank was gladly lending even though there have been ample observations, from even the most modest of sources, that the credit market was overheated. See full story.

“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated,” Prince told the Financial Times. “But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”

chasprince.jpg

The problem, of course, is that Citigroup is bracing to be stuck holding more leveraged bridge loans than it bargained for. If Citi can move the debt off its balance sheet, it’s likely the bank will have to pay a premium to dump it on some other investor, Citi’s CFO, Gary Crittenden said. That, of course, is going to mean charges and other costs when the bank reports in the third quarter.

As one Citigroup insider said to me the other day: no one’s dancing anymore.

END QUOTE

July 30th, 2007

Henry Miller re new Dark Ages

Found some good solid desespoir in a letter by Henry Miller to Max Frankel, included as a preface in the 1936 edition of the latter’s novel Bastard Death.
Miller wrote:

“Today the great majority are unaware that their relationship to the world about is false, and hence dead. Even more flagrantly true is this of the artists in our midst. They are not sufficiently oriented to theinsane logic which rules the day. They continue blithely composing their little pieces, their nocturnes, their mazurkas, their polkas, their schottisches. Each day brings a train of fresh calamities which leave them untouched except in the reportorial centers. Each day the ranks are swelled, each day the reading public grows larger. At the heart is a despair never known before. A handful of men, the truly creative spirits of our time, find it difficult to capture an audience of even a hundred. And so, by a strange paradox, we have in this most modern age a condition reminiscent of the Middle Ages, though without the benefit of salvation.

“We have entered into the creation of a myth and we leave it to future mythologists to unravel. And so, my dear Frankel, taking Bastard Death warmly by the hand, I go down with you into the tomb to await the hour of resurrection.”

Henry Miller, November 15, 1935, in Paris

July 29th, 2007

JFK secret servicemen called off limo as it enters Dealey Plaza

Posted in JFK, Sorrows of Empire by ed

I’ve never seen this footage before. Clearly showing the Secret Service men who ride or trot at the rear of the presidential limo being ordered off their station as the car turns into (apparently) Dealey Plaza.

It seems to be the right hand turn onto Houston Street, which was shortly followed by a sharp left turn onto Elm Street, where the murder occurred.

July 28th, 2007

Nursing home cat knows when people are about to die

Posted in Death by ed

According to the New England Journal of Medicine. The BBC reports:

Cat ‘predicts patient deaths’

A US cat that is reportedly able to sense when a nursing home’s residents are about to die is baffling doctors.

Oscar has a habit of curling up next to patients at the home in Providence, Rhode Island, in their final hours.

According to the author of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two-year-old cat has been observed to be correct in 25 cases so far.

Staff now alert the families of residents when he sits down next to their ailing loved one.

Oscar the cat

Oscar meows in protest if removed
from the room of a dying patient

“He doesn’t make many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” David Dosa, a professor at Brown University who carried out the research, told the Associated Press news agency.

Oscar was adopted as a kitten at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre.

The cat is said to do his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses at the home, but is not generally friendly to patients.

Although most families are grateful for the warning Oscar seems to provide, some relatives ask that the pet be taken away while they say their last goodbyes to their loved ones.

When put outside the room, Oscar is said to pace up and down meowing in protest.

Thomas Graves, a feline expert from the University of Illinois, told the BBC: “Cats often can sense when their owners are sick or when another animal is sick. “They can sense when the weather will change, they’re famous for being sensitive to premonitions of earthquakes.”

A doctor who treats patients at the home said she believed there was probably a biochemical explanation, rather than the cat being psychic.

July 26th, 2007

SICKO and NO END IN SIGHT

SICKO is great. Hats off again to Michael Moore.

And NO END IN SIGHT — out this weekend in New York — about the war in Iraq, is going to kick butt.  People like Larry Wilkerson (regular army colonel, chief of staff to Colin Powell as Secretary of State) sounding off loud and clear about Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz — the creators of the war.
Here’s the NY Times review.

July 26th, 2007

War of various sorts

Posted in Mideast & Oil, Money by ed

For the first time French fighter jets land on an American aircraft carrier (the Enterprise (dispatched as noted two weeks ago) in the Mediterranean — exercising).

Meanwhile Dow INdustrials were down 300+ half an hour ago, currently down 265.

Wells Fargo has closed its third-party subprime mortgage  business.  Ie will no longer take such loans from mortgage brokers.

Meanwhile the Wall Street houses are melting.  Lehman (LEH), Goldman Sachs (GS), Bear Stearns (BSC), Merrill Lynch (MER) and Barclarys (BCS).  Melting.  As the yen surges against hte dollar.

Here’s a report from Bennet Sedaca at Minyanville.com :

QUOTE Whenever I want some really good, really accurate market color I go to a friend of mine with 35 years of experience including 15 years as a head Treasury trader for two major ‘primary dealers’. So I just called him and got the following response about ‘structured product’. It ain’t pretty.

  • ‘Massive loss of confidence among young traders that have never seen a lack of liquidity’
  • ‘There aren’t enough seasoned, weathered traders to deal with this mess’
  • ‘Traders don’t know how to deal with illiquity as they are used to a permanent bid and always tighter spreads’
  • Dealers are bidding 10 points back of normal because they already have too much inventory’
  • ‘In many cases there is no market’
  • Inventories at the banks is huge and they will have to get marked to market next week causing many funds to go under’
  • ‘We need one headline like ‘Buffett to buy Chrysler deal at X price’ to clean up market’

He said he tried to sell $25,000,000 of an A rated CDO and his desk bid 75 even though they believed it was worth 90.

END QUOTE

July 26th, 2007

Quicky update re danger in financial world

Posted in Money by ed

It’s already been a wild week and more seems in store this morning, as the dollar breaks down against the Yen.

The very cheap (re borrowing rates) Yen has been a mainstay of western banks — they borrow it for 0.50% (or lower across recent years) then change it into dollars or euros and lend it out at much higher rates.  The “yen carry trade.”

But when the Yen suddenly strengthens, this trade trembles, and the western banks with it.

And they’re already trembling — mightily — because of the confidence crisis (confidence in rating agency ratings of the trillions of asset-backed securities and similar “derivatives” out there) that the collapse of the subprime mortgage bond market has set off.  The booked losses are bad enough; but to call the rating agency system into question has the potential to seize the entire high finance system.

Evidence of such seizure abounds this week.  Two big LBO deals — Chrysler (being sold after a few years by Daimler) and Alliance Boots (big Brit footwear outfit) — have both now been postponed because the banks were unable to float the loans to support them.

Major chaos for the stock market, because much of the latter’s health this year has been based on the astouding “private equity deals” (known in 80s and 90s as “leveraged buyouts” but I guess the term has been deemed derogatory by the corporate press).   That well is suddenly dry, and the markets are trembling.

July 25th, 2007

Conoco wants piece of Iraqi Oil pie — offending Sisters?

Posted in Geopolitics, Mideast & Oil by ed

NOTED HERE IN MAY ’twas Greg Palast’s detailed report on the rift between the Oil Mafia and the Likud Lobbyists within the Cheney-Bush White House as to whether or not to “privatize” Iraq’s oilfields and take them out of OPEC.

To remind: Palast reports persuasively, in his 2006 book ARMED MADHOUSE, that the Likud Lobbyists created and foisted this plan, as a way to undermine OPEC/Saudi power. And that the Oil Mafia resisted the plan, and in late 2003 crushed it, since it profits mightily from the OPEC structure.

But then in 2006 the privatization plan took shape again under Wolfowitz’s hand at the World Bank. And Iraqi legislature such as it is passed a vague law going that way in … April, if memory serves.  See here for more background.

NOW TODAY we have what seems to now be the third largest U.S. integrated oil giant, Conoco-Phillips (COP on the NYSE), saying, heck, we’d like a piece of that stuff:

ConocoPhillips CEO signals interest in Iraq’s oil business

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — ConocoPhillips (COP) CEO Jim Mulva said on a conference call with analysts that the company is interested in investing in Iraq’s oil industry.

With the Iraqi government grappling with oil legislation, Wall Street Access analyst Bernie Picci asked about the company’s aspirations in the country.

Mulva said the company continues to work with Lukoil — its Russian partner in which it owns a 20% stake — to confirm a West Purna contract in Iraq.

Mulva said the company hopes to set up projects once, “security is sorted out and the rules and regulations of oil and gas policy are sorted out.”

Mulva also said, “We’d like to invest, but of course obviously, as you know, things have to sort out first before we can do that.

July 25th, 2007

Strange bedfellows? Israel and the Sauds

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

A question long among wandering thoughts has been:  What “stable” structure can possibly take shape in the mideast given the havoc wrought by Cheney-Bush?

An answer that floated by about a year ago:  Israel and pragmatic Sunnis in alliance against the Shia (leading a coalition of islamic faithful).

Today a story along those lines, however vaguely:

Official: Israel ‘not far’ from meeting with Saudis
By Barak Ravid and Shahar Ilan

Israel is “not far from a photo op with the Saudis,” a senior government source said yesterday following a historic visit to Jerusalem on behalf of the Arab League by the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan.

The source added that talks with the Saudis have been taking place via a third party for some time.

July 23rd, 2007

Dollar in dire straits

Posted in Money by ed

Here’s a chart of the DXY index (which abstractly measures the dollar against, if memory serves, six other prominent currencies) showing the steady decline under baby Bush to the point where the low set in 1994 seems about ready to be breached.

dollar1.jpg

click to enlarge

Finance people (especially bond traders like Bill Gross of PIMCO) have been saying ever since the budget broke in 2003 (to fund the mideast war) that the only way out at this point is massive devaluation of the dollar.

(By the way — the Washington Post just ran a 20,000 word piece in several installments arguing in detail the thesis that Cheney has been defacto president for all but a handful of domestic issues.)

The buck’s down about 37% against the Euro since the latter’s premier in 1999.

And tonight setting new lows against the Pound and Euro. And suddenly dropping against the Yen (from 122 to 120 or so since the weekend ended).

A Pound in London buys $2.06 this evening. A Euro buys $1.38. Brave new world …

July 18th, 2007

Jefferson re Banks

Posted in Money, These United States by ed

If the American people ever allow banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property, until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied. The issuing of money should be taken from the banks and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs.

Thomas Jefferson.

July 17th, 2007

Bear Stearns funds nearly worthless

Posted in Money by ed

Wow. News this evening that the two Bear Stearns hedge funds specializing in mortgage bonds that have been in the news as very troubled for several weeks are all but worthless.

A complete wipe out.  Something like 1.9 billion up in smoke.  As the mortgage bonds default (because people are not paying their mortgages) and lose their value in the secondary market where institutions buy and sell such bonds.

Bear (BSC) is down about five dollars in the after market on the news.

But the big worry is for the health of the entire “asset-backed securities” markets, upon which the mortgage and credit card industries are now (ie since the mid 80s) founded.

The stuff has been flying for a week, with Wall Street keeping a stiff upper lip. It’s now going to be impossible to ignore.

The failure of another large “hedge fund”, Long Term Capital, in the late 90s is something of a precedent. But the underlying cause there was bad management a few huge bad trades.

Whereas the underlying cause here, with the Bear funds, is the failure of the mortgage bonds to endure their stress. And there are zillions of them in the world. And people who can’t pay their mortgages are not likely to be paying their credit card bills or their auto loans (each of which are also packaged into bonds).

This is why Wall Street is trembling. Imagine the consequences if the mortgage and credit card businesses freeze up. We are already in pain due to the housing construction contraction.

This may make it harder for the people running Bush’s foreign policy to attack Iran.

July 17th, 2007

Israeli journalist sees war with Iran on horizon

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

An illuminating interview at dear old Mother Jones with an Israeli journalist who covers the “national security” beat.

He echoes the notion of Mr Cronin in yesterday’s Guardian piece that Tel Aviv (not Washington) is in the driver’s seat as to whether there will be war with Iran. And plainly says yes, there will, unless there’s an unexpected turn.

And he mentions April 2008 as the date Israeli intelligence has deemed to be the point where Iran’s supposed bomb-making machine crosses “the technological threshold.”

For more on what middle-of-the-road Israelis think about all this, see The Jerusalem Post, which always has a section entitled The Iranian Threat.

July 16th, 2007

good colloquoy re mortgage bond mess and rating agencies

Posted in Money by ed

Naked Capitalism is a great one-man band site for trying to understand the techniques and turpitude of spreadsheeters (aka “bankers”). In particular he’s been focusing on the ominous rumblings in the asset-backed securities markets caused by increased mortgage foreclosures. Currently a very good chat here between Mr Smith the proprietor and an anonymous Rating Agency analyst (poor bloke) about how the agencies were caught flatfooted by the foreclosure trend.

And Minyanville is a broader based place to go for more of same and some spirit soothing. A community of sharp people in the business who among other things wonder What’s Going On?

July 15th, 2007

Cheney pushing Bush to attack Iran, as Stocks zoom to moon

1. From today’s Guardian. Thank goodness for the free press. (In Britain.)

Note in particular:

QUOTE: The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

“The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action,” Mr Cronin said. “The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself.” END QUOTE

This is as close to a simple statement that the Israeli war party (including the Likud lobbyists in D.C.) is guiding US policy as I’ve seen in the Anglo-American press since late 2002, when the Iraq war salesmanship was at its height.

2. Also note that the stock market took another rather inexplicable turn north last week, on the heels of a very explicable mini-crash amid several breaking bearish stories. (Housing industry in coma. Asset-backed securities markets trembling as mortgage bonds fail. John and Mary Consumer not shopping as they should.)

Traders have been reporting on such bizarre bullish turns for a long time, and speculating aloud that the US markets are being propped up by a small but very wealthy group of trading accounts, typically using E-Mini S&P futures contracts to goose the markets at crucial moments when it seems they may (and by most lights should) break.

Last week was fine fodder for such speculators to chew on. For example.

This phenomenon — The Market That Won’t Go Down — began in March 2003. Which is when the regional war in the mideast began, with the attack on Iraq.

spx10yr.gif click to enlarge

Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Wurmser et al. began planning this war soon after the Soviet Union fell. (Google “Defense Policy Guidance” & “Wolfowitz.” Google “Clean Break” & “Perle.” Read PRETEXT FOR WAR by James Bamford. Read ARMED MADHOUSE by Greg Palast.)

And Fox News was created about the same time to sell this war (Murdoch & co having gone to school on CNN and the Gulf War).

And so I speculate that the same interest groups may be diligently keeping the stock markets afloat, even as the ship of the american state sinks, to keep Joe Taxpayer on board for war.

Below, the full Guardian story, which also notes the dispatch this past week of a third american aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf.

If the Guardian surmises are accurate, the regional war that was dreamt to pacify Israel’s enemies will be a world war before it’s over. A war neither Israel nor the US can win.

Maybe shares of Exxon will be exchangeable for passports someday.

Or maybe an Exxon employee identity card is already more valuable than any passport.

Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran

· Military solution back in favour as Rice loses out
· President ‘not prepared to leave conflict unresolved’

Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Julian Borger
Monday July 16, 2007
Guardian

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.”

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. “The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern,” the source said this week.

Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

“Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact,” said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

“The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action,” Mr Cronin said. “The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself.”

Almost half of the US’s 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time.

No decision on military action is expected until next year. In the meantime, the state department will continue to pursue the diplomatic route.

Sporadic talks are under way between the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, on the possibility of a freeze in Iran’s uranium enrichment programme. Tehran has so far refused to contemplate a freeze, but has provisionally agreed to another round of talks at the end of the month.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said that there are signs of Iran slowing down work on the enrichment plant it is building in Natanz. Negotiations took place in Tehran last week between Iranian officials and the IAEA, which is seeking a full accounting of Iran’s nuclear activities before Tehran disclosed its enrichment programme in 2003. The agency’s deputy director general, Olli Heinonen, said two days of talks had produced “good results” and would continue.

At the UN, the US, Britain and France are trying to secure agreement from other security council members for a new round of sanctions against Iran. The US is pushing for economic sanctions that would include a freeze on the international dealings of another Iranian bank and a mega-engineering firm owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Russia and China are resisting tougher measures.

July 13th, 2007

Iran tells Japan to Pay for Oil in Yen (not dollars). This means war?

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

Two tid bits:

– Bloomberg is reporting (below) that Iran is requesting Japan to begin paying, immediately, for oil in Yen rather than dollars to avoid problems re frozen assets should things get worse diplomatically with the dolts in Washington. Casus Belli.

– A THIRD aircraft carrier strike force was dispatched to the Persian Gulf this week. (The Enterprise group.) Navy says it will be replacing the Nimitz group.

The Bloomberg story:

Iran Asks Japan to Pay Yen for Oil, Start Immediately

By Megumi Yamanaka

July 13 (Bloomberg) — Iran asked Japanese refiners to switch to the yen to pay for all crude oil purchases, after Iran’s central bank said it is reducing holdings of the U.S. dollar.

Iran wants yen-based transactions “for any/all of your forthcoming Iranian crude oil liftings,” according to a letter sent to Japanese refiners that was signed by Ali A. Arshi, general manager of crude oil marketing and exports in Tehran at the National Iranian Oil Co. The request is for all shipments “effective immediately,” according to the letter, dated July 10 and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The yen rose on speculation for an increase in demand for the currency, the result of Japan’s annual 1.24 trillion yen ($10.1 billion) of oil imports from Iran. Central bankers in Venezuela, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates have said they will invest less of their reserves in dollar assets because of the weakening currency.

“What else can Japan do but to accept the request, once the oil producer sent its wish?” said Hirofumi Kawachi, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The tensions between the U.S. and Iran are escalating, and it’s Iran’s measure to hedge risk.”

A spokesman for Iran’s oil ministry in Tehran said he could neither confirm nor deny that the letter had been sent. Most Japanese oil refiners have until now used U.S. dollars to pay Iran for oil, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified by name because of government policy.

Yen Advances

The yen advanced to 122.07 per dollar at 2:30 p.m. in New York, from 122.42 late yesterday.

Iran is cutting its U.S. dollar reserves to less than 20 percent of total foreign currency holdings, and will buy more euros and yen as tensions with the U.S. increase, Central Bank Governor Ebrahim Sheibany said on March 27.

The United Nations Security Council is preparing for another round of sanctions against Iran because of the nation’s nuclear research.

The Islamic republic, holder of the world’s second-largest oil and gas reserves, has refused to halt uranium enrichment that it says is for use in nuclear power plants to produce electricity. The U.S. says Iran seeks instead to develop an atomic bomb. Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear fuel or build nuclear weapons.

Iran isn’t alone in wanting to drop the dollar for pricing oil. Russia has been examining plans to price the Urals oil export blend in rubles to curb currency risks. The nation plans to open the Energy Stock Exchange in St. Petersburg in the first half of next year to trade oil in rubles, UBS AG reported June 14.

`New Payment Mechanism’

Iran asked the refiners to use the yen exchange rate quoted at the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ on the date oil cargoes are loaded. The use of yen-based letters of credit for oil “has finally been approved” by the Iranian central bank and the NIOC, according to the letter, titled “New payment mechanism for Iranian Crude Oil Cargoes.”

Japan imported 1.59 million kiloliters of Iranian crude oil in May, the least since June 2006, according to government data.

Only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are larger oil suppliers to Japan than Iran.

July 5th, 2007

NIST investigating “blast events” as cause of WTC collapse

http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2007/7/emw537622.htm

NIST Exploring 9/11 “Blast Events” for WTC-7; New Witness Confirms Scholars Previous Findings

The National Institute for Standards and Technology appears to be moving in the direction of a conspiracy theory about the destruction of WTC-7. This comes as a new witness reports explosions inside the building early that morning, long before the building would be destroyed at 5:20 PM. This reinforces Scholars for 9/11 Truth previous finding that WTC-7 was a controlled demolition, which they believe the government is trying to conceal.

Madison, WI (PRWEB) July 5, 2007 — The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) appears to be moving in the direction of a “conspiracy theory” about the destruction of WTC-7 on 9/11 just as a new witness has emerged reporting extensive destruction inside the building many hours before it would be demolished. According to James Fetzer, the founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, these turns of events provide further confirmation for the conclusion that WTC-7 was brought down by a controlled demolition at 5:20 PM/ET. “Anyone who googles WTC-7 will see an event that looks exactly like a controlled demolition, just as Peter Jennings and Dan Rather reported at the time. That is why this event makes NIST so uncomfortable.” Controlled demolitions require elaborate preparation.

WTC-7, a 47-story building also known as the Soloman Brothers Building, collapsed about 7 hours after the Twin Towers were demolished. It was hit by no jet aircraft and had no jet-fuel based fires. “It did have a few modest fires, which could have been easily contained but were allowed to burn,” Fetzer said. “Remarkably, the fire alarm system in WTC-7 was turned off at 6:47 AM/ET and placed on ‘TEST’ status for a period of eight hours.” In its latest press release (29 June 2007), NIST acknowledges that NIST is “considering whether hypothetical blast events could have played a role in initiating the collapse . . . (and) led to (WTC-7′s) structural failure” (http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/wtc_062907.html). Blast events would be consistent with a controlled demolition.

A new eyewitness inside WTC-7 on the morning of 9/11 heard explosions before either of the Twin Towers collapsed. He was summoned to the Office of Emergency Management Operating Center (OEMOC), also known as “Rudy’s Bunker,” on the 23rd floor of the building. The center had been especially prepared for the Mayor and other officials to gather in case of a terrorist attack or other emergency. Some have wondered why Giuliani did not go to the OEMOC but instead remained some distance from the World Trade Center. This witness, who testified at official hearings and whose identity will be revealed in the general-theater-release version of “Loose Change,” has information that sheds light on this and other questions about WTC-7.

Rolf Lindgren, former Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin and independent scholar of the events of 9/11, transcribed the testimony and edited it for clarity of English. The complete transcript is below. The witness went to WTC-7 after the first plane struck the North Tower and before the second hit the South Tower. When he arrived at the 23rd floor, he found half-eaten sandwiches and still-steaming coffee. He made some phone calls and was told to leave “right away.” Someone ran into the Center and led him to a stairwell. “When we reached the 6th floor, the landing that we were standing on gave way; there was an explosion and the landing gave way.” He had to climb back up to the 8th floor to find a way out. When he got to the lobby, “the lobby was totally destroyed. It looked like King Kong had come through and stepped on it.. And it was so destroyed I didn’t know where I was . . . (and) they had to take me out through a hole in the wall, . . . a hole that I believe the fire department made to get me out.”

WTC-7 has been widely regarded within the 9/11 research community as the most blatant of all “smoking guns” that disprove the official account. According to David Ray Griffin, a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and the movement’s leading representative, the building showed all the characteristics of a controlled demolition: an abrupt, complete, and total collapse at freefall speed, which was perfectly symmetrical and into its own foundation, as he has explained in his latest book, Debunking 9/11 Debunking (2007). “NIST has yet to explain it,” Fetzer observed. “The ‘blast events’ this witness is describing are not ‘hypothetical’ but actual. Only actual events can bring about effects. So it’s a bit labored for NIST to say it’s considering whether ‘hypothetical’ blast events could have played a role in initiating the collapse. They could not. That requires real blast events.”

The witness, who was interviewed by Dylan Avery (with audio clips played on Alex Jones’ and on Dylan’s shows), has expressed his puzzlement over the destruction of the building. “Well, I’m just confused about one thing and one thing only,” he said, “why World Trade Center 7 went down in the first place? I’m very confused about that. I know what I heard; I heard explosions. The explanation I got was it was the fuel oil tank. I’m an old boiler guy. If it was the fuel oil tank, it would have been one side of the building.” But the collapse was symmetrical. “There was a large tank of diesel in the building,” Fetzer said, “but diesel burns at a low temperature and diesel is not explosive. It cannot have brought about this collapse.”

In his opinion, anyone who has watched the building come down can appreciate that it has all of the characteristics of a controlled demolition. Even James Glanz, a reporter for The New York Times, admitted in an early story (29 November 2001) that the collapse of WTC-7 is even more perplexing than is the destruction of the Twin Towers, because no reinforced, steel structure high-rise building had ever collapsed due to fire in the history of structural engineering. “Indeed, no steel structure high-rise collapsed due to fire before 9/11 nor after 9/11 – nor, if our research is correct, on 9/11,” Fetzer said. “None of these fires burned long enough or hot enough to cause steel to weaken, much less melt. It must be embarrassing for the scientists at the NIST to defend these ridiculous theories.”

Lindgren, who has extensive experience with press releases, added, “Friday afternoon is the best time of the week for the government to bury unpleasant news. Since NIST insists it has found ‘no evidence’ of a controlled demolition, it must not consider the videos of WCT-7′s collapse as ‘evidence,’ because they leave no room for doubt. The fires in Building 7 provide a good cover story to hide the fact that powerful explosives brought it down.” He is also not impressed with Giuliani’s excuse for not going to his command center, which is that another plane could have been headed for it. “But if another plane was headed toward the World Trade Center, then he should have directed that the firemen be removed from all the buildings, which he did not do.” (See http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/entity.jsp?entity=rudolf_(_rudy_)_giuliani ).

There were other oddities related to WTC-7, including Larry Silverstein reporting (during a PBS interview) that he had suggested to the fire commander that the best thing to do might be to “pull it” (where, he said, “They made the decision to pull, and we watched the building come down”) and the BBC broadcast of a report of the collapse of “the Solomon Brothers Building” at least 23 minutes before the event would actually occur. “This was stunning,” Fetzer said, “because you could see WTC-7 in the background over her left shoulder as she reported its collapse. It is hard to imagine a more revealing demonstration of the entanglement of the intelligence agencies, the administration, and the mass media. And a ‘terrorism drill’ was scheduled for the next day.” The PBS interview and the BBC report are archived on the Scholars site at http://911scholars.org

“If Rosie O’Donnell had talked about ‘blast events initiating the collapse of WTC-7,” Fetzer said, “she would have been labeled a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ But then the official government account of 19 Islamic fundamentalists hijacking four commercial airlines, outfoxing the most sophisticated air defense system in the world to perpetrate these atrocities under the control of a guy in a cave in Afghanistan is only the most ‘outrageous’ conspiracy theory of them all. I guess we should be grateful that NIST is moving inch by inch toward a more adequate explanation of what actually happened on 9/11, which bears no relationship at all to what we have been told. Given the cumulative evidence, we are not ‘conspiracy theorists’ but ‘conspiracy realists.’”

WTC 7 Eyewitness Testimony Transcribed by Rolf Lindgren (edited for clarity with notes): Go to http://911scholars.org and click on “Press Releases” at the top.