Saturday, May 30, 2009

Demand that Obama Actually Fix the Economy By Taking the Power to Create Money Away from Private Bankers

Ellen Brown - trial attorney and the author of the book Web of Debt - has launched an initiative to urge Obama to save the economy by taking the power to create money away from the bankers, and give it back to the government as the Founding Fathers intended.

Brown's ideas have been endorsed by many very smart and independent financial experts.

Click here and vote Brown's proposal up.

This is a brief introduction to Brown's idea. See this for more information.

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"The Sexual Humiliation Of Iraqi Prisoners…Was Not An Invention Of Maverick Guards, But Part Of A SYSTEM Of Ill-Treatment And Degradation"

Government apologists are still trying to blame the torture and rape which occurred at Abu Ghraib on "a couple of bad apples".

However, as the Guardian wrote in 2004:

The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said ... British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques...

Using sexual jibes and degradation, along with stripping naked, is one of the methods taught on both sides of the Atlantic under the slogan "prolong the shock of capture", he said.

Indeed, it has been confirmed that the "SERE" torture techniques deployed as official policy by the U.S. government (you know, the techniques developed by the communists to force prisoners to make false confessions) included the routine use of "sexual humiliation" and "sexual degradation" (this also includes the famous leading of naked prisoners around on a leash, as well as religious humiliation and degradation, such as urinating on copies of the Koran).

The forced masturbation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (which is documented in this video as well as the Taguba Report) is almost certainly a form of "sexual humiliation" or "sexual degradation".

But what about the rapes which U.S. soldiers, translators and other personnel participated in? Was that also part of the SERE torture program?

In a way, it does not matter.

Since Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, General Miller and other top Bush administration military and civillian officials created a program in which sexual humiliation and sexual degradation were mandated as part of a systemic program, they had the legal obligation to ensure that things did not spiral even further out of control.

It is a long-established legal doctrine that people can be held liable for failing to properly supervise agents and employees, or for using U.S. personnel who they knew or should have known were dangerous, or for failing to conduct adequate background checks.

Indeed, the above-linked Guardian article said that the chance of someone being driven crazy from the normal application of the SERE sexual humiliation techniques was high.

If "bad apples" committed rape without express authorization, the officials who created the SERE torture program are - at the very least - guilty of criminal negligence in failing to place anyone but the most highly-trained, stable and disciplined personnel available.

Put another way, whether or not Cheney and the boys specifically ordered rape, they are war criminals for creating the environment in which it could occur.

Print-Friendly Articles

You can now print articles from this website in a very print-friendly format.

Printing in Firefox gives you an extra benefit: the links are automatically shown in parentheses next to the linked words themselves. For example, instead of seeing this:

This has been confirmed.

You would see this:

This has been confirmed (

So people looking at a printed out version would see the link refers to an article on CNN.

Give it a spin. For example, go to a link-intensive article such as Top Interrogation Experts Agree: Torture Doesn't Work, and print it out in Firefox.

This is a great resource for handing out print copies of roundups of vital information.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

I Love My Wife

My wife doesn't read my blog, so much as weigh it by the pound.

Specifically, she basically scans it to see how much I write ... If I write a lot in a given week, she reminds me of my family obligations.

(She, like me, is very busy with her day job - and we're busy raising kids. As anyone with busy jobs and family situations knows, fighting for liberty, truth and justice and keeping your life in balance is tough).

I've been writing so much about serious stuff like torture, the economy, etc. I just wanted to give a shout out to my wife, and tell her I love her.

There's a Reason that Jon Stewart is the World's Most Popular Truth-Teller

Jon Stewart does more truth-telling than any other mainstream reporter.
There's a reason for that.

Oscar Wilde said:
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.

The Socratic Method of 9/11 Truth

An ancient philosopher discovered that his students learned more if he asked a series of questions than if he gave them the answers.

By asking questions which challenged his students' faulty beliefs, and allowing them to think through it themselves, Socrates moved them slowly - using a series of questions - from false thinking towards truth.

Indeed, law schools today primarily use this "Socratic Method" of teaching.

A 9/11 activist wrote a good example of the use of the Socratic Method for 9/11 truth in an email:

Here is a question I use as answer to those insisting this is all "Conspiracy theory". I mention this here because it has worked every time: Please feel free to use these ideas as your own and pass them on to others! When people say that it's all "Conspiracy theory", I ask them:

"If YOU were President of the United States of America, and had to go to war for the most legitimate of reasons, wouldn't you be pacing the floor and sweating, with tears in your innermost heart, thinking it over for a number of sleepless nights before you sent our soldiers to harm's way? Could YOU send our kids to war for lies, yourself?"

The answer is a stony-faced "no" every time when I ask the last question.

"Therefore, if Bush sent our soldiers to war based on a lie, why would he NOT do such a thing as pre-arrange the 911 events? How can we put this past him?"

I point out that it's not ordinary and normal psychology at work, that murderers lack empathy and remorse for their victims, as is known in mainstream psychology. There is a technical term for it, called "Antisocial Personality Disorder".

I ask them to think about it as a possibility when he sent our kids to war for a lie, surely he could fit into that category of murderer without regret? Something to think about at least. Denial is dangerous, often leading addicts to their graves, as well as those of us addicted to our blissfully care-free existence.

It's asking these particular questions, not making statements, that I have seen work every time. I have used [this Socratic Method of 9/11 Truth] even at the grocery check-out counter at Safeway.
Post your suggestions for 9/11 truth questions below.

RL McGee has these two:

"Was al-Qaeda behind the anthrax attacks?"

"Is there hard evidence linking bin Laden to 9/11?"

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Psychologists and the Mitchell Effect

John Mitchell was the Attorney-General during the Nixon administration.

His wife - Martha Mitchell - told her psychologist that top White House officials were engaged in illegal activities. Her psychologist labeled these claims as caused by mental illness.

Ultimately, however, the relevant facts of the Watergate scandal vindicated her.

In fact, psychologists have now given a label - the "Martha Mitchell Effect" - to "the process by which a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health clinician mistakes the patient's perception of real events as delusional and misdiagnoses accordingly".

The authors of a paper on this phenomenon ( Bell, V., Halligan, P.W., Ellis, H.D. (2003) Beliefs About Delusions. The Psychologist, 6 (8), 418-422) conclude:

Sometimes, improbable reports are erroneously assumed to be symptoms of mental illness [due to a] failure or inability to verify whether the events have actually taken place, no matter how improbable intuitively they might appear to the busy clinician.
In other words, psychologists who haven't taken the time to examine for themselves the claims of their patients will tend to label as delusional anything which they "intuitively" feel is improbable.

Many psychologists - just as Martha Mitchell's - will tend to assume any claim of conspiracy is improbable. However, conspiracies are actually common occurences which are well-recognized by the law.

Psychologists are even more apt to label government conspiracies as improbable. However, as Martha Mitchell's psychologist learned, they do happen. Watergate, for example, was a conspiracy.

Psychologists who have attempted to label as delusional those who raise the possibility of government conspiracies do not have even a basic understanding of the Martha Mitchell Effect, or have not examined whether or not there is any factual basis for their patient's claims.

Obviously, some people are delusional, and see conspiracies where none exist. But it is equally true that when millions of scientists, military leaders, historians, legal scholars, intelligence officials and other rational people say the government is lying, psychologists who dismiss similar claims by their patients are falling prey to the Martha Mitchell Effect. They are too busy and/or arrogant to actually examine their assumptions as to whether or not the claims which feel improbable to them are true.

Major General Antonio Taguba: Photos Show Sodomy, Rape and Sexual Assault With Wire and Various Blunt Instruments

Major General Antonio Taguba - the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib prison abuse in Iraq - told the Telegraph that the photographs which Obama is refusing to release show:

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

(A truncheon is a baton or billy club).

As the Telegraph notes:

Maj Gen Taguba’s internal inquiry into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, included sworn statements by 13 detainees, which, he said in the report, he found “credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses.”

Among the graphic statements, which were later released under US freedom of information laws, is that of Kasim Mehaddi Hilas in which he says: “I saw [name of a translator] ******* a kid, his age would be about 15 to 18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [name] who was wearing the military uniform, putting his **** in the little kid’s ***…. and the female soldier was taking pictures.”

The translator was an American Egyptian who is now the subject of a civil court case in the US.

Three detainees, including the alleged victim, refer to the use of a phosphorescent tube in the sexual abuse and another to the use of wire, while the victim also refers to part of a policeman’s “stick” all of which were apparently photographed.

From the Taguba Report - originally published in 2004 - we know that a translator named Abu Hamid committed sodomy on prisoners under the supervision - and with the participation - of several soldiers. One of the prisoners sodomized may have been Hilas, who also reported sexual abuse with a "phosphoric light". Hilas describes all of these events being photographed. Here is Hilas' sworn affidavit, which was part of the Taguba Report.

Other prisoners, such as Mustafa Jassim Mustafa, also confirmed in sworn declarations rape with a "phosphoric light".

This anonymous prisoner's affidavit shows he was sodomized with a police baton.

Hilas also alleges sodomy by military personnel of an Iraqi boy. Given that Taguba says that he has seen the photographs corroroborating the other portions of Hilas' and the other prisoners' testimony, Hilas' statements regarding the sodomy of the boy are quite credible.

The head of the prison blamed top military and civillian leaders "for the methods that were used to humiliate detainees".

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"If You Want Total Security, Go to Prison"

President and General Dwight Eisenhower said:

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.

Psychologists Weigh In On 9/11

An article published in U.S. News & World Report (originally written by the Society for Science and the Public) quotes a couple of psychologists, one sociologist and one historian to argue that people who question the government's version of 9/11 are prone to false thinking.

Initially, remember that while most psychologists and psychiatrists are good and honorable, psychologists helped to create the U.S. torture program, and actively participated in it (and see this)

Also, psychologists - such as Freud's nephew Edward Bernays - have been central to propaganda efforts for a century (see this, this and this).

Moreover, many mental health professionals have concluded that the official version of 9/11 is false, and that those who believe the official version suffer from emotional problems or defense mechanisms. For example:

  • Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, as well as Radiology, at Duke University Medical Center D. Lawrence Burk, Jr., MD
  • Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Ruters University Barry R. Komisaruk
  • Professor Emeritus of Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies Ralph Metzner
  • Retired Professor of Psychology at Oxford University Graham Harris
  • Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nebraska and licensed Psychologist Ronald Feintech

Marc Faber: “I Am 100% Sure that the U.S. Will Go Into Hyperinflation”

PhD economist Marc Faber says:

“I am 100% sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation.”
On the other hand, Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said last Thursday that the risk of deflation is currently more of a concern than inflation.

Use Parody To Wake the Sleeping Masses

Because some people are too stubborn or too stuck in dysfunctional thinking patterns to hear the truth even when it hits them over the head, I suggest that we try a different approach: parody.

When a comic, like Stephen Colbert, does satire -- an exaggeration of what's being said -- it can wake us up, so that we can see the truth and laugh at how we've been acting. That can give us the freedom to stop doing the same dumb thing and to try something new.

So put satirical slogans on stickers, emails and freeway blogs to snap people out of their coma, like (by way of example only):

The Only Way to Get Money Into the Hand of the Little Guy is To Give It To the Biggest Corporations!

The Golden Rule Is To Torture Others, Right?

Don't Reign In the Financial Giants . . . They've Done A Great Job of Stabilizing the Economy!

Be Very Afraid, But Don't Ask Questions . . . The Government Will Protect You If You're Good Little Boys and Girls

Everything Is Fine With the Economy . . . and Santa Claus is Real

Detaining People Forever Without a Trial Is The Way To Protect Our System of Justice

Obama Appointed The People Who Got Us Into The Economic Crisis to the Top Economic Posts ... Because They Know What They're Doing

In Order to Protect Our American Values, We Have to Become Worse Than Our Enemies and Throw Away Our American Values

The Government is Giving Trillions of Our Taxpayer Dollars to Giant Corporations . . . But Only a Traitor Would Ask Where That Money is Going

The Government Lied About Iraq, The Government Lied To You About Torture The Government Would NEVER Lie To You

Torture Protects Us By Making the Whole World Love and Respect Us

Obama Is Bringing Change By Doing The Same Old Things

The 9/11 Commission Said the Government Lied About What Happened . . . They Must Be Conspiracy Theorists!

The Constitution is a Banned Document, Don't Read It

The Founding Fathers Were Terrorists, Don't Listen to Them
Good luck waking people up . . . and have some fun doing it.

If you think of good parody statements, share it with others by posting a comment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Big Banks Have ALREADY Killed Reforms

Many mainstream pundits are claiming that a wave of regulation and reform of the banks and the financial industry is on its way.

On the other hand, some alternative news writers are saying that real reform may never really happen (see this, for example).

Indeed, Obama has appointed to most of the key economic posts the people most responsible for deregulation in the first place.

In fact, in at least one area - one of the most important causes of the financial crisis - reform has already been defeated.

By way of background, the derivatives industry has volunteered (once again) to regulate itself.

As Newsweek noted April 10th, the big boys were using bailout money to aggressively lobby against the regulation of credit default swaps:

Major Wall Street players are digging in against fundamental changes. And while it clearly wants to install serious supervision, the Obama administration—along with other key authorities like the New York Fed—appears willing to stand back while Wall Street resurrects much of the ultracomplex global trading system that helped lead to the worst financial collapse since the Depression.

At issue is whether trading in credit default swaps and other derivatives—and the giant, too-big-to-fail firms that traded them—will be allowed to dominate the financial landscape again once the crisis passes. As things look now, that is likely to happen. And the firms may soon be recapitalized and have a lot more sway in Washington—all of it courtesy of their supporters in the Obama administration...

The financial industry isn't leaving anything to chance, however. One sign of a newly assertive Wall Street emerged recently when a bevy of bailed-out firms, including Citigroup, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, formed a new lobby calling itself the Coalition for Business Finance Reform. Its goal: to stand against heavy regulation of "over-the-counter" derivatives, in other words customized contracts that are traded off an exchange...

Geithner's new rules would allow the over-the-counter market to boom again, orchestrated by global giants that will continue to be "too big to fail" (they may have to be rescued again someday, in other words). And most of it will still occur largely out of sight of regulated exchanges...

The old culture is reasserting itself with a vengeance. All of which runs up against the advice now being dispensed by many of the experts who were most prescient about the crash and its causes—the outsiders, in other words, as opposed to the insiders who are still running the show.

And today, Treasury gave the financial giants exactly what they wanted. As Bloomberg writes in an article entitled "Wall Street Derivatives Proposals Adopted in Treasury Overhaul ":

Wall Street’s largest banks are getting what they want in the U.S. Treasury’s plan to regulate over-the-counter derivatives by making all market participants adhere to the same capital requirements...

The banks appear to wish to maintain the intra-dealer market and raise barriers to new entrants to keep the OTC business as compartmentalized as possible and to protect their profitable market conditions,” said Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. “The Street’s lobbyists appear to be asking for a ‘club’ structure in OTC trading.”...

The bank-written plan, titled “Outline of Potential OTC Derivatives Legislative Proposal” and dated Feb. 13, said the systemic regulator “shall promulgate rules” requiring “capital adequacy,” “regulatory and market transparency” and “counterparty collateral requirements.”

Hintz said Wall Street revenue from trading fixed-income, commodities and currency swaps in the over-the-counter market may be reduced by 15 percent under the Treasury’s changes. “Limiting potential competition” in the market “may not be an unreasonable position to take” by the banks due to the potential loss of income, he said...

Investment banks fought regulation of OTC derivatives for more than a decade because the contracts provide a significant portion of bank earnings.

Do you get it?

Instead of "blowing up or burning" over-the-counter CDS - as nobel economist Myron Scholes urged - or making any other real changes which would help the economy and the consumer, the rule changes are mainly a p.r. effort by the derivatives industry itself (like the stress tests were a p.r stunt by the banking industry.) The "changes" will do virtually everything the derivatives industry asked for, including guaranteeing the big banks' profits in selling CDS by keeping out smaller competitors.

Regulation of over the counter CDS has already failed.

Double-Dip Depression

As MarketWatch writes:

Consumers clearly believe the worst is behind this economy and the market, when it's not clear at all to the experts that the U.S. can avoid another leg down -- or worse -- en route to a broad-based recovery.

Even the happy talk dispensers at CNBC admit, as the headline states: "US Economy at Risk for Double-Dip Recession":

If this crisis has permanently altered consumer attitudes toward debt, it would put a considerable drag on growth because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

The other anchor is interest rates. Christian Broda, an economist with Barclays Capital, said higher borrowing costs "are an inescapable feature of the post-recovery world" as public deficits and spending grow.

Already, huge government debt issuance is raising questions about long-term U.S. fiscal stability. Concerns grew last week that the country could be stripped of its top-tier AAA credit rating after Standard & Poor's said it was considering downgrading Britain's sovereign rating...

If the economy climbs out of one recession and into another, it wouldn't be the first time. It happened most recently in the early 1980s, when the United States endured two recessions in less than three years.Regardless of what triggers a relapse, the Obama administration won't stand idly by, Banc of America's Rosenberg said.
Of course, given that the U.S. has actually been in a depression, we're really talking about the possibility of a double-dip depression.

One of the Military's Top Interrogators Says Torture Cost Hundreds 'If Not Thousands' Of American Lives

One of the top military interrogators, head of an elite interrogation team in Iraq, who oversaw more than 1,000 interrogations, conducting more than 300 in Iraq personally, says that the use of torture has cost “hundreds if not thousands” of American lives.

“Torture does not save lives . . . And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool…These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse….literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives.”

Moreover, he says that many — as many as 90 percent — of those captured in Iraq said they joined the fight against the United States because of the torture conducted at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

But perhaps most damning of the policy of torture is his statement that:

“The American principles of freedom and democracy are cherished in the Muslim world and the idea, at least, of America is still a seductive one. But it is the behavior of the Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and secret prisons around the globe that undercuts that image, allowing Al Qaeda to make the argument that America isn’t what it stands for.”

“One of Al Qaeda’s goals, it’s not just to attack the United States, it’s to prove that we’re hypocrites, that we don’t live up to American principles,” Alexander said. “So when we use torture and abuse, we’re playing directly into one of their stated goals.”

Watch the video:

See this and this.

More Proof that Credit Default Swaps Caused the "Credit Crisis"

I have argued for a long time that the credit default swap counterparty risk held by banks is the primary reason that they stopped lending to each other, you know, the so-calloed "credit crisis" or "liquidity crisis", which is reflected in the interbank lending rates (Libor) shooting through the roof.

Indeed, as the Financial Times wrote on October 7th:

Banks are hoarding cash in expectation of pay-outs on up to $400bn (£230bn) of defaulted credit derivatives linked to Lehman Brothers and other institutions, according to analysts and -dealers.

As Fox News wrote:

Massive positions are just starting to be unwound in the credit default swaps market as tens of billions of dollars worth of these contracts are now getting settled in the aftermath of several high-profile flops.

Banks are hoarding cash in expectation of expected payouts on anywhere from $200bn to $1 tn–no one knows the amount, adding to volatility–for defaulted credit derivatives linked to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the government’s seizure of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government’s rescue of American International Group, and the failure of Washington Mutual.

This has just been verified yet again, this time by the chief economist at a large Japanese bank:

“It’s premature to judge that the credit meltdown is fully over,” said Kazuto Uchida, chief economist in Tokyo at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., a unit of Japan’s largest bank. “Banks remain wary of extending credit to each other due to strenuous concerns about counterparty risk.”....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Senator: “The Government Could Buy Citicorp for a Fraction of What We've Already Obligated the Taxpayer For"

Basketball star and former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley succinctly summarized something a lot of us have previously said:

The market capitalization of Citicorp is $17 billion. So the government could buy Citicorp for a fraction of what we've already obligated the taxpayer for. And in buying Citicorp, as an example—there could be one or two others—the government would announce in four to six months that it is going to sell the good assets of the bank back to the public.

Its Not Just Big Banks . . . Some Small Banks in Trouble Also

The Wall Street Journal recently conducted its own "stress tests" on small and medium sized banks. The Journal used the same mild assumptions as used by the Fed for larger banks.

The Journal concluded that 600 small and midsize banks could see their capital disappear.

CNN also writes that many smaller banks are becoming zombies:

Many experts wonder how so many small regional and community lenders that are capital starved and overwhelmed by escalating loan losses are able to stay in business...

In metropolitan Atlanta and the state of Florida, for example, more than 50 banks reported non-performing asset levels of 10% or more of total assets as of the end of March, according to the Raleigh, N.C.-based investment bank Carson Medlin... In more normal economic times, non-performing asset levels remain below 1%.

Up to this point, small lenders, which serve as the primary source of credit for large parts of the country, were considered a picture of health in the banking industry. Most avoided the toxic mortgage products that ruined so many of their big bank peers ... But the outlook for this corner of the nation's banking industry has been tempered in recent weeks as small lenders endure rising losses, partly as a result of exposure to areas like commercial real estate and small business loans.

CNN correctly notes:

Next Wednesday, Wall Street will get a clearer sense of what kind of shape the industry is in when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. publishes its first-quarter assessment of the industry. One closely-watched part of that report is the agency's so-called "problem bank" list.

The Iraq War Really Is a Crusade

According to French President Chirac, Bush told him that the Iraq war was needed to bring on the apocalypse:

In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."

Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:

"This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins"...

There can be little doubt now that President Bush's reason for launching the war in Iraq was, for him, fundamentally religious. He was driven by his belief that the attack on Saddam's Iraq was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophesy in which he had been chosen to serve as the instrument of the Lord.

And British Prime Minister Tony Blair long-time mentor, advisor and confidante said:

"Tony's Christian faith is part of him, down to his cotton socks. He believed strongly at the time, that intervention in Kosovo, Sierra Leone – Iraq too – was all part of the Christian battle; good should triumph over evil, making lives better."

Mr Burton, who was often described as Mr Blair's mentor, says that his religion gave him a "total belief in what's right and what's wrong", leading him to see the so-called War on Terror as "a moral cause"...

Anti-war campaigners criticised remarks Mr Blair made in 2006, suggesting that the decision to go to war in Iraq would ultimately be judged by God.

Given that the Iraq war really was a crusade, the fact that the Pentagon is now saying that it may have to leave troops in Iraq for another decade shows that the crusade is still ongoing under Obama.

Dallas Federal Reserve: Unfunded Pension and Health-Care Liabilities Exceeds $99 Trillion Dollars

You've heard some big numbers thrown around.

For example, total U.S. government liabilities are at least $65 trillion dollars.

But the head of the Dallas Federal Reserve bank says:

[There is a] "very big hole" in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities built up by a careless political class over the years.

"We at the Dallas Fed believe the total is over $99 trillion," he said in February.

Over $99 trillion? That's a serious shortfall.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Senator: "We're Talking About Rape And Murder Here. We're Not Just Talking About Giving People A Humiliating Experience"

In 2004 , discussing images of torture of Iraqi prisoners:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld . . . warned that videos and photos yet to come could further inflame worldwide outrage...

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters, "The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Open Thread

I'll largely be out of pocket this weekend.

Post what's on your mind.

Bill Gross: America Will Lose Its AAA Credit Rating

Bloomberg writes:

Treasury Secretary Geithner said the Obama administration is committed to reducing the federal budget deficit after concerns rose that the U.S. debt rating may eventually be threatened with a downgrade.

“It’s very important that this Congress and this president put in place policies that will bring those deficits down to a sustainable level over the medium term,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. He added that the target is reducing the gap to 3 percent of gross domestic product or smaller, from a projected 12.9 percent this year.

The dollar, Treasuries and American stocks slumped today on concern about the U.S. government’s debt rating. Bill Gross, the co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said the U.S. “eventually” will lose its AAA grade...

Gross said in an interview today on Bloomberg Television that while a U.S. sovereign rating cut is “certainly nothing that’s going to happen overnight,” financial markets are “beginning to anticipate the possibility.”

Here's the video.

Cheney Defending Torture is Like Charles Manson Defending Murder

Cheney was the main architect of the torture policy (according to the number 2 man at the State Department and others).

So of course he would defend torture - he's trying to keep his behind out of the defense chair at a war crimes tribunal.

Cheney defending torture is exactly like Charles Manson appearing on all of the news shows defending murder as a public policy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"The Odds on the Dollar, Treasury Bonds and the U.S. Government’s AAA Grade All Heading for the Dumpster are Shortening"

I've written numerous essays on the facts that the dollar is losing its status as world reserve currency, the bubble in treasury bonds may be ending, and the U.S. may very well lose its AAA sovereign credit status.

Bloomberg writer Mark Gilbert addresses all three facts today:

The odds on the dollar, Treasury bonds and the U.S. government’s AAA grade all heading for the dumpster are shortening.

While currency forecasting is a mug’s game and bond yields can’t quite decide whether to dive toward deflation or surge in anticipation of inflation, every time I think about that credit rating, I hear what Agent Smith in the “Matrix” movies called “the sound of inevitability.”

Several policy missteps suggest that investors should stop trusting -- and lending to -- the U.S. government. These include the state’s pressure on Bank of America Corp. to buy Merrill Lynch & Co.; the priority given to Chrysler LLC’s unions over the automaker’s secured creditors; and the freedom that some banks will regain to supersize executive bonuses by giving back part of the government money bolstering their balance sheets...

“All currencies are being debased dramatically by their central banks at extraordinary speeds and so in relative terms it appears there is no currency problem,” Lee Quaintance and Paul Brodsky of QB Asset Management said in a research note earlier this month. “In reality, however, paper money is highly vulnerable to a public catalyst that serves to acknowledge it is all merely vapor money.”...

Why pick on the dollar, though? Well, not necessarily because the U.S. economy is in worse shape than those of the euro area, the U.K. or Japan. The biggest problem is that external investors -- particularly China -- have more skin in the dollar game than in euros, yen or pounds, which makes the U.S. currency the most likely candidate to meet the cleaver in a crisis of confidence about post-crunch government finances...

“When the government parks its tanks on capitalism’s lawns, that spells trouble for those who invest, add value and create jobs,” says Tim Price, director of investments at PFP Wealth Management in London. “Trillion-dollar bailouts do not only leave massive public-sector deficits in their wake, they also leave the presence of the heavy hand of government all over industry and markets, so the outlook for government bonds is less promising than the economic textbooks on deflation would have us believe.”...

For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts a record deficit of $1.75 trillion, almost four times the previous year’s $454.8 billion shortfall and about 13 percent of gross domestic product. Bear in mind that the target demanded of European nations wanting to join the euro was a deficit no greater than 3 percent of GDP.

David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general, wrote in the Financial Times on May 12 that the U.S.’s top credit rating looks incompatible with “an accumulated negative net worth” of more than $11 trillion and “additional off-balance-sheet obligations” of $45 trillion. “One could even argue that our government does not deserve a triple A credit rating based on our current financial condition, structural fiscal imbalances and political stalemate,” he wrote...

Dropping the U.S. from the top rating grade, though, wouldn’t mean the nation is about to default on its debt obligations; there’s a subtle distinction between ability to pay and propensity to fail to pay. There’s also a compelling argument that no government should be enjoying the benefits of a top credit grade in the current financial climate.

Using the definitions outlined by Standard & Poor’s, a one- step cut into the AA rated category would nudge the U.S.’s creditworthiness into a “very strong” capacity to fulfill its commitments, just weaker than the “extremely strong” capabilities demanded of AAA rated borrowers. That seems an appropriately nuanced sanction -- albeit one that the rating companies might turn out to be too cowardly to impose.

The statement that "paper money is highly vulnerable to a public catalyst that serves to acknowledge it is all merely vapor money" sounds a lot like what the gold bugs - like Darrell Schoon and Antal Fekete - have said for years.

Columbia Space Shuttle Investigation Cost $175 Million. Challenger Investigation Cost $100 Million. 9/11 Investigation Only Got $15 Million

Many people have written on the 9/11 Commission's budgetary constraints. See this.

Want to Know has a great new summary of the Commission's scandalously inadequate budget:

The 9/11 commission was originally allotted only $3 million. Eventually, after much begging and haggling, the commission was given $15 million. Yet a CNN article lists the cost of the Lewinsky investigation at $30 million. A Los Angeles Times article states the cost of the Columbia space shuttle disaster investigation was $175 million.

How could 9/11 – the greatest disaster in American history – be given such a small budget for investigation?

FBI Agent Accusing "Synagogue Bombers" Previously Pressured a Wounded Boy to Finger an Innocent Man as a Terrorist, Causing that Guy to be Tortured

The Village Voice writes:

The FBI agent with a high-profile role in yesterday's arrests of four men for plotting a terror attack in New York has a pretty interesting -- and controversial -- track record.

Special Agent Robert Fuller, whose name appears at the top of the federal criminal complaint in the case, had a hand in the FBI's failure to nab two of the 9/11 hijackers, had one of his informants set himself on fire in front of the White House, and was involved in misidentifying a Canadian man as a terrorist leading to his secret arrest and torture -- a case that is now the subject of a major lawsuit.
As if that isn't bad enough, it turns out that Fuller pressured (and perhaps tortured) a wounded boy prisoner into wrongfully identifying the Canadian guy as a terrorist:

Fuller was involved in the earlier Canadian case as the man who interrogated a wounded Afghani teenager named Omar Khadr ... Under Fuller's interrogation, Khadr dubiously identified a Canadian citizen named Maher Arar as someone he had seen in Afghanistan. Arar was then shipped to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year. It's now been proven that Arar could not have been in Afghanistan when Khadr, under intense pressure from Fuller, said he saw him there.

In January, Fuller took the witness stand in Khadr's trial at Guantanamo Bay. He testified that during the interrogation at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Khadr identified Arar from a photo and said he had seen him in Afghanistan.

Under cross examination, though, Fuller disclosed that Khadr didn't actually identify Arar. Instead, he first said Arar "looked familiar," and then "in time" he felt he recognized the man in the photo, according to Fuller's testimony....

According to Steven Watt, one of Arar's lawyers now with the ACLU, Khadr's identification should have been treated as highly suspect... "Khadr would have been about 14, blind in one eye and suffering from serious wounds," Watt says. "It was totally ridiculous."

Fuller also dropped the ball before 9/11:

Fuller was also on the team that was tasked to track down two of the 9/11 hijackers in August, 2001, prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The New York Observer reported that after the CIA told the FBI that the two hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hamzi were in the United States, Fuller was assigned to bring them into custody on Aug. 23, 2001, 19 days prior to the attacks.

A fellow agent, the Observer reported, had labeled the lead "routine," meaning that Fuller had 30 days to catch them. Fuller went through local databases, checked Mihdhar's New York hotel and then let it drop. Standard procedure, the papers said, held that he also should have search commercial databases, but he did not.

He later claimed that he consulted ChoicePoint database on Sept. 4 or 5, but the 9/11 Commission later concluded that the FBI did not consult that database until after the attacks, the newspaper said.