Archive for November, 2008

November 23rd, 2008

The Dollar: China Syndrome

Here’s a good if convoluted chat about the current macro picture as the various economic powers twist in the breeze and try to protect themselves.

China in late October increased by several orders of magnitude its verbal attacks on the dollar. But in the wake of the G20 meeting it seems to have softened its own currency (by buying dollars) in an attempt to prop up its domestic industrial enterprises (which are suffering for lack of consumers in, to begin, the U.S.).

The dollar has been going up  for a month or so, generally speaking.  A good deal of this is flight from minor currencies (like Argentina’s, alas) based on fear that the local banks will collapse.

This component of the dollar’s recent surge won’t last.  Best guess is that soon enough the dollar will continue its plummet, and that long-term the chinese currency will rise.

The current dollar boost, then, might be imagined as the point in the sinking of the Titantic where the bow suddenly goes under the waves and the stern ascends to bring the ship nearly vertical — until it shaps amidships — upon which the stern falls like a brick into the sea.

And, as the dollar turns and sinks, the cost of oil (denominated in dollars) will go back up.

A debased dollar is good for people who make things with dollars and sell them in other currencies.  And for debtors, in general (assuming they can make their payments).  Otherwise it’s rather bad.

November 14th, 2008

Afghanization or Escalation?
Escalation => War in Pakistan?

Ed Note:  See comments below to follow this question thru time as Obama takes office if not control.  And see here for more recent background re troubled US-Pakistan relations.

These reputable talking heads neatly outline the Afghan question:  Princeton, escalation.  Harvard, Afghanization.

I vote Hahvud.

But it seems the owner-operators are Black and Orange — real Tigers — and that Obama is in their stands.

See the 2nd comment below re CIA director Hayden’s shocking speech yesterday.  It clarifies things.  (Unless, err … it muddies the waters.)

In particular:  The reality of the coming “Afghan Surge” — which both Obama and McCain sold throughout the campaign — seems a big western ground war in the Tribal Areas of northwest Pakistan early next year.

This will be the most distracting and dangerous thing on BHO’s plate.

The JFK precedent in wild, blasted bloom?  See the 3rd comment below.

November 13th, 2008

Kemal Bakarsic:
The Libraries of Sarajevo …

saraHP

There has never been a place on TNC to post comments about “The Libraries of Sarajevo and the Book that Saved Our Lives” by Kemal Bakarsic.

Now, thoughts may be posted here below.

November 13th, 2008

Journalist Gary Webb speaks
Tell YourObama to purge the CIA

webb.jpg  It’s almost four years since journalist Gary Webb was suicided.

Here he speaks.

Webb in the mid 90s had re-broken in a big way the big story of the CIA’s involvement in the international drug trade — updating old tales from Vietnam by documenting CIA-NSC responsibility for the Crack explosion in American cities during the Reagan years.

Webb’s serial newspaper reportage in 1996 bore the name Dark Alliance, and was republished in a book of the same name.

Those were the Clinton years; the stories not only got published, but drew widespread attention from the major media.

But Webb himself was soon and suddenly fired by his San Jose newspaper — which also destroyed its web archive of the Dark Alliance story.  Soon it was clear that the author had been blacklisted out of the business.

A month after Bush-Cheney were re-installed in 2004, Webb was shot twice in the head and died.  Suicide, the coroner reported.  Neither Little Jimmy Grimaldi nor Webb’s friends believe that.

Read his book.

And think about Daniel Moynihan in 1991 …

“The time has come to ask, with the Cold War over, can we purge the vestiges of this struggle from our laws, our bureaucracy, and most importantly from our way of thinking,” Moynihan said. “Can we muster the will to redefine ourselves?”

And then tell YourObama to purge and reform the National Security Apparat.

November 13th, 2008

Little Jimmy Grimaldi:
What the heck now?
Obama’s proposed Civilian National Security Force

Posted in American Gestapo by ed

Here’s someone worrying about the political consequences, perhaps unintended, of Obama’s three-million-person internet social network.

And, geez.  Webster Tarpley is not pleased.  Sees Obama as a “post modern” Mussolini, and his loyal legions as fascists (using the term as narrowly as possible, to indicate the bunches — “fascisti” — of zealous bumpkins that Musso rode to power).

As wild as Tarpley’s theses may seem, here’s another worry that lends them some support: Obama’s campaign pledge to create a massive Civilian Security Force:

“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve gotta have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded.”

( Who the heck put this bee in his bonnet?

See here.  A film from Alex Jones. Worth watching. )
A big national plainclothes police force, you mean?
Err … Wouldn’t that be the FBI?

So, err … you mean another FBI?  You mean two heads might be better than one?

Err … I thought that’s what went wrong on 9/11?

One might hope that the One has in mind a kind of public works project — an army of unarmed retired folk rolling through their local streets late at night in fuel-efficient “Community Observation Patrol” cars.

Recouping recent losses in their retirement accounts …

But that picture doesn’t fit the caption: a “national security force” as “powerful” as what the Pentagon presides over.  Some have glossed the notion by reference to Britain’s MI5.

Charisma perhaps comes at a price.

November 13th, 2008

Little Jimmy Grimaldi:
Palin & co. re “Real” America
is prep for martial law

Ed Note:  This was first posted on Halloween.  I bump it up because the Terror-watch drumbeat is getting so very loud.  See comments below.

—————
Little Jimmy Grimaldi is out with his Halloween Message.

Tonight’s topic: Creeping Fascism.

.
halloween.jpg

November 12th, 2008

New book on John Mitchell
provokes Watergate chat

Posted in Reading, Sounds of Silence by ed

The Strong Man, a biography of John Mitchell, Nixon’s atty general and campaign manager, and one of the first and largest bodies to fall from the heavens as the Watergate scandal unfolded, came out earlier this year.

Jim Hougan (author of two important books, Spooks and Secret Agenda, the latter about Watergate) and others commented on the new Mitchell book at the Education Forum, which across the years has housed perhaps the best discussion of inter alia the JFK murder.

I posted a comment in response to Hougan’s overview of the book, and asked him three questions. He replied.  All visible here.

The discussion may not be entirely rooted in nostalgia. There is a tenuous Bush family connection that reaches, yet alive, into the present day. If looking for a quicky — here.

November 11th, 2008

Roe v Wade
and Christian thought

I posted a comment (the 9th) at my friend Peter Gilbert’s site, De Unione Ecclessiarum.

The discussion there had moved from Peter’s thoughts about the election to consternation among some readers about changes in abortion law perhaps forthcoming.

My comment is about three strata of legal principles underlying Roe v Wade — and about how the trimester scheme of Roe corresponds in a way to old Christian principles about how and when a fetus becomes “animated”  (by a soul).

November 11th, 2008

Gitmo Gitmo Got to Go!
Prosecutions pending?

There is talk in the air (at least on MSNBC) of shutting down the Guantanamo prison ASAP.

But the NY Times came out against the idea with a page-one story the day before the election.  (And I note that, since, the Times has softened the story on its website.  The lead was much stronger — suggesting closing would be ill advised — on November 3.)

Obama of course is a lawyer and taught some constitutional law.  He may be concerned not only to set things aright, but to prevent his own administration from being tainted by the prison.

I’ve wondered elsewhere if Robert Gates may not be kept on at Defense — so goes the rumor  — to oversee the (glorious) dirty work of shutting the prison down and purging the Pentagon of those responsible for it.

I can’t think of anything Obama might do on Day One that would more effectively set the new tone and set the country back on its course.

Gitmo Gitmo Got to Go!

And then perhaps some sort of prosecution, preferably here but if not then abroad.

Re the latter:  It would signal a techtonic power shift — akin to the shift already underway in global finance in the wake of the still shocking demise of the big five Wall Street brokers –  were Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith or … whatsisname, Curious George, to be arrested, say, in Germany, to be tried for crimes against German citizens.

Will be curious to see if they dare travel abroad once out from behind the White House fence.

November 9th, 2008

The Wall cracked
Nineteen years ago

I’ve revamped my little memoir of that happy week or so, with a lot more photos and a bit more scrip.

turk1small.jpg

November 9th, 2008

NYROB High Five:
Cheney, Soros, Olmert

Recent MUST READS in the NY Review of Books:

On Cheney.

On the financial crisis — by George Soros.

And the full interview that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave before resigning — in which he renounces militarism as a possible basis of Israeli security.

November 9th, 2008

Britain pressing Police State
measures like nobody’s business

Posted in American Gestapo, Geopolitics by ed

Ed Note:  This was first posted October 19.  I’m bumping it up because twice since — see comments below — news has leaked of OTHER major police-state measures that somebody in Whitehall is apparently trying to ram through. 

What the heck is going on?

———

October 19. Times of London calling.

Britain will require passports to buy cell phones — to allow their version of the NSA to identify all callers instantly.

The plan’s champions are explicit about the aim: to improve surveillance of the general populace.

Washington will not be far behind.

Or … Piece says the plan has been tabled until next year in London due to some resistance within Whitehall.

I had come to think of jolly old Britain as the last refuge of the old English liberties.  Perhaps the more deceived …

November 7th, 2008

American automakers to be
born again as Green
“gov’t-sponsored entities”?

The President Elect met with his econoteam and then answered press questions for the first time today.

Meanwhile the people running GM and Ford told the world that time is running out.

Brusque types are saying “Let them go.” Down the drain.

But the employment consequences nationwide would be catastrophic, and it’s clear that Hammerin’ Hank Paulson, after fucking the globe royally with Lehman, is on the case.  A Treasury spokesman indicated that some of the TARP $700 billion might get thrown over the automakers to keep them dry awhile.

The full resolution may be nationalization (perhaps through the equity-kicker provisions of the TARP) — leaving something like Airbus in Europe:  a unified quasi-nationalized auto company.

Such an enterprise could be effectively directed by the incoming Donkey regime to the ends often indicated across the campaign years: a native auto industry fully dedicated to green cars.

Similar initiatives were crushed by the Reaganites immediately upon assumption of power in 1981, as they shut down Jimmy Carter’s Energy Department in support of the Oil Mafia status quo ante.

It illumines American democracy to look back across that expanse of time — lost time — and to think that it may take the triple whammy of high oil prices, a ruined financial system and bankrupted Ford and GM to finally pry loose the Oil Mafia’s grip on Washington.

(It’s often left unsaid that the core of the OM’s political power these many decades has been the Pentagon — which cannot run its tanks and aircraft on natural gas or the sun or the wind or nuclear power.)

The first Earth Day was in 1968.  Everything in the way of knowledge needed to act on our energy problems was known in the wake of the oil crunches of the 70s. Instead we got Reagan.  This time … We shall see.

November 5th, 2008

The Morning After

Click here for first reactions, pro and con.

Then comment below.

timesquare.jpg

November 4th, 2008

Election Day

Well, as always, the experience of voting here in leafy, historic Brooklyn Heights was rather moving.

One feels the heady funnelling effect, as people come together along the sidewalks heading for the polling place.  Why does going to the grocery store not feel at all the same?

Like the locusts.  Every four years the members of the Community emerge from their burrows to engage in strictly programmed reproductive rites, behind curtains.

After glancing at the GOP column for familiar local names (none there), I pulled the pure Democrat line.

There was also a Proposition on the NY ballot making it easier for war veterans to claim benefits — an attempt to overcome roadblocks thrown up by Bush-Cheney.  Hell yes.

I recall the letter my father — a Korea COMBAT veteran — received from the Veterans Admin circa 2004, while fighting cancer that killed him in 2006, that his medical benefits were being curtailed.  The opening line:  “As you know, America’s priorities have been changing since the attacks of 9/11 …” or very similar words to same effect.

The clunky mechanical voting machines are set up in the basement of a local public school.  What better venue?

And the associated PTA always has a bake sale — goodies and coffee for people who may find themselves waiting in line.  I got two pineapple muffins and a piece of lemon coconut cake. Let the celebration begin.

After voting I filled out an exit poll.   ABC and CNN were on the header with other organs.

I confessed that I had thought the Donkeys would do best to nominate Hillary.  And, re religion:  None.

I think I made only one boo boo — when asked about who was “qualified” to be First Lady.  Michelle, or Cindy, or Both, or Neither.

I said Neither.   A bit odd, given that the only qualification seems to be marriage to the president.  (Or might somebody someday shack up in the White House?  Stranger things have happened there.)

I guess the correct answer was Both, and that my hasty response was rooted in mild, superficial — unwarranted — dislike for both the wives.

Mrs Obama will do fine.  And, in that she seems to represent more fully than her husband (who along with Boz Scaggs is actually a martian) the cause of African-Americans, I’ll be happy and proud to see her assume the duties of high office.  What a day that was …!

Or … Am I tempting fate with this loose chatter?

It’s 6:14 pm.

November 4th, 2008

Santa Claus (?) he comink: Fed
doing another trillion or bust (?) to $3 tees before New Year’s Day

Posted in Money by ed

A recent review of Fed actions to date recalled that roughly a year ago the Fed’s (self manufactured) assets were roughly $900 billion — and, as a result of its rescue attempts since, they’ve gone to $1.8 trillion — about $1.3 of which is wounded bonds and similar that the Fed has taken off the hands of wounded financial instituitons.

Today, one of the supposedly hawkish members of the Fed board — ie, an Inflation Fighter typically damning the torpedoes — said in public that it’s likely the Fed’s balance sheet will rise to THREE trillion.  ?!?

Before the year is out.

?!?!?

Perhaps in reaction, the dollar (rebounding lately against the euro, sterling) tanked today, and gold (and oil, of course) shot up.

The picture is reminiscent not only of what the Fed tried to do between 1929 and 1932 (discussed here a number of times across the past year) — but also, atmospherically at least, of the Weimar Republic’s death-by-inflation throes.  People in the streets with wheelbarrows of evanescent cash, trying to spend it before it becomes completely worthless  …

What happens when countries go bankrupt?
I’m not saying, even, what the Fed is doing is wrong (although there are plenty of people doing so — saying in effect that the Fed is fighting the LAST great depression instead of today’s — fighting a Liquidity Crisis in the banking system when in fact the problem is a Debt-Insolvency Crisis).

Me — I don’t know.  It’s just noteworthy and shocking to watch this stuff happen and fly.

Here is a Gold Bug, Lance Lewis, at Minyanville.com, discussing today’s Fed speak:

$3 Trillion Fed Balloon?

This morning, the Fed’s supposed inflation hawk, Dallas Fed President Fisher, said the “Fed’s balance sheet may expand to $3 trillion by year’s end.”

That means the Fed would have to take its balance sheet up over $1 trillion in just 7 weeks from the current $1.97 trillion (which had already doubled over the past 6 weeks from under $1 trillion). The next question is how would they do this?

Thus far, the Fed has not been actively monetizing government debt in the open market by creating cash out of thin air and buying treasury bonds. Instead, the Treasury has been playing a game whereby it has issued debt and then placed it on deposit with the Fed for the Fed to use as it pleases. This is still inflationary but not quite as inflation as if the Fed was in reality physically running the printing presses.

Now, the Treasury isn’t going to be issuing another trillion dollars of debt over the next 7 weeks to place with the Fed, so how is it going to pull this off? Could it be that Fisher is hinting that the Fed will soon be monetizing treasury debt?

I’ve been wondering how the bond market was going to be able to handle the record amounts of treasury debt that are about to wash over it like a tidal wave. Perhaps this is how? The Fed is simply going to buy it all.

Perhaps that’s why gold is up $36 and the dollar has experienced its biggest percentage drop ever against the euro today?

November 3rd, 2008

Wasted in the wilderness

Only thing that I did wrong
Was staying in the wilderness too long
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

The great questions in the air — about how much lasting constitutional and foreign-affairs damage Bush-Cheney have done, about the ways and means of turning things around, and the capacity of the american people to be citizens rather than consumers — leave me for the moment speechless.

I do think the turn in the works is a major turn.

A premise there, however, is that the forces behind the Fascist Shift of the new century are not deeply rooted and are exhausted for now — leaving the new administration a horrible mess, yes, but also a durable mandate and some elbow room.

But — if the premise is false, then four years from now we may see Romney on the verge of victory, and the young Obama already a has-been.

This was one reason why, this past winter, I thought Hillary the better candidate for the Donkeys to nominate — to allow her to absorb the worst of the blast, while holding Obama in reserve.

But …  The hour of doom is at hand.  Let the sun shine

The mandate will not be large.  LBJ in 1964, riding a wave of sympathy re Kennedy’s murder the year before, gathered 486 EC votes and carried 44 states.

Nothing near that is in the cards for Obama.  Rather, somewhere between 289 and 364 votes, with 22 to 27 states, plus D.C.

Clinton got 370 votes and 31 states in ’92. And 379 and 30 in ’96. Plus D.C. in each.

Reagan has the all-time high, against hapless Mondale in ’84, with 525 votes and 49 states.  Then FDR in 1936, against Landon, with 523 and 46 (of 48 total) states. And then Richard Nixon in ’72, contra hapless McGovern.  520 votes and 49 states.

Then again … Even the greatest EC landslides were, roughly speaking, five people voting chocolate and five vanilla.  Fifty-three Pistachio, forty-seven Rocky Road.

Wasted Years

No matter what happens on Tuesday and across the next four years, there is no escaping or re-writing the fact that the failures to apply Due Process in the 2000 election, and to depose Bush-Cheney in 2004, were costly beyond measure and plain evidence that, on the national level, we are not a functioning democracy.

Only thing that we did right
Was the day we began to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

It’s an open question — whether WE can fight at all.

But … Team Obama has. They’ve run an amazing campaign — principled and potent.

Can the example revive an increasingly impoverished and brain-dead citizenry?

Too Long in Exile

Seems all my NY friends are holing up Tuesday night. Me, I think it’s the first thing in the public sphere worth celebrating since …  Can’t recall.

Let’s have a General Strike on Wednesday. And then, to the business of rebuilding.

Til We Get the Healing Done

Where’s my blue suede shoes?

Aha — a final pre-election postscript:  Great overview from a waning & weeping Laissez Faire fellow in the London Daily Telegraph.

November 2nd, 2008

PBS: Torturing Democracy

Posted in American Gestapo by ed

Airing this weekend and/or in the coming days nationwide.

Website includes an archive documenting Bush-Cheney torture policies.

The stuff of criminal prosecution, once the naked man is no longer emperor?

November 2nd, 2008

Election Day a new dawn?

The excitement about election day is palpable in the streets of New York.

Let the sun shine …!

Then all the captains of the West cried aloud, for their hearts were filled with a new hope in the midst of darkness.  Out from the beleaguered hills knights of Gondor, Riders of Rohan, Dunedain of the North, close-serried companies, drove against their wavering foes, pierceing the press with the thrust of bitter spears. 

But Gandalf lifted up his arms and called once more in a clear voice.

“Stand, Men of the West! Stand and wait!  This is the hour of doom!”