September 29, 2008

TED Spread Yikes!

The TED spread is an indicator of perceived credit risk in the general economy. The bigger the TED spread, the greater fear among banks that an over-night loan from one bank to another won't be paid back.

The TED spread is the difference between the three-month T-bill interest rate and three-month LIBOR (LIBOR reflects the credit risk of lending to commercial banks, where as T-bills are considered risk-free... we'll see how long that lasts).

During the summer of 2007, the Subprime mortgage crisis ballooned the TED spread to about 1.5-2.0%.

On September 17, 2008, the record set after the Black Monday crash of 1987 was broken as the TED spread exceeded 3.0%.

Today, we're looking at a TED spread of 3.5%. Yikes!


Wikipedia so it must not be true.


September 26, 2008

McCain Incorrectly Equates a Military Tactic with a Strategy

McCain exposed his own lack of understanding about the difference between a "tactic" and a "strategy" after he accused Senator Obama of not knowing the difference:
I'm afraid Senator Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.

I'm certain that Obama does understand the difference. A strategy is the big picture goal and approach. Tactics are the smaller actions taken to implement the larger strategy.

It's not clear that McCain understands the difference. McCain exposed his lack of understanding in the September 26 debate when he equated a "tactics" used to implement the troop surge with a "strategy":

There is social, economic progress, and a strategy, a strategy of going into an area, clearing and holding, and the people of the country then become allied with you.

"Clearing and holding" areas is an example of a military tactic. The "strategy" was the broad goal of stabilizing the security situation so that the Iraqi governance system could become functional. The troop surge could be considered either a sub-strategy or major military tactic to support the larger stabilization strategy.

But "clearing and holding" is definitely not a strategy. It might even be considered a sub-tactic of the tactical surge designed to meet the "strategy" of bringing a period of stability to Iraq. McCain clearly displayed his lack of understanding of strategy and tactic.

Don't take my word for it. Consider what former Director of the National Security Agency, William E. Odom, LT General, USA, Ret., said in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 2, 2008.

It is an honor to appear before you again. The last occasion was in January 2007, when the topic was the troop surge. Today you are asking if it has worked. Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability.

(Full Testimony)

McCain's muddled brain is further exposed by his circular thinking about strategies:

This strategy requires additional troops, it requires a fundamental change in strategy and I fought for it.

McCain's idea of a "strategy" was to have "a fundamental change in strategy"? Oh Kayeee. I'm not impressed with this so-called straight talking maverick. McCain's a phony.


Los Angeles Times, Full Transcript of the First Debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, September 26, 2008.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Testimony of William E. Odom, April 2, 2008. [PDF]


September 25, 2008

Pakistani Civilian Deaths

Here is a statistic that gives some perspective.

"Earlier this week, Pakistan's military reported that suicide attacks have killed nearly 1,200 people — most of them civilians — since the July 2007 army attack on militants holed up in Islamabad's radical Red Mosque."

This doesn't even count the civilians killed by US flying robots.


Associated Press, UN raises Pakistan security after hotel bombing, October 2, 2008.


September 24, 2008

McCain: Evidence He is Whacko

Many of us have had the following experience. We have a series of exchanges with a person in which the communication seemed very clear and we felt like we were on the same page. Then, the person later does something, or fails to do something, that shocks us, making you think, "Whoa. What the heck? Is this person nuts?" or "WTF?"

Here's such an exchange between Obama and McCain:

  • On Tuesday night Obama received a phone message from Republican Sen. Tom Coburn who suggested that Obama and McCain make a joint statement outlining their shared principles on the financial crisis.
  • On Wednesday morning, after conferring with aides, Obama placed a call to McCain to run the idea by him and left a message.
  • At about 2:30 p.m., Obama received a return call from McCain, which lasted about five minutes. They discussed the joint statement idea and exchanged contact information so their campaign aides could follow up.
  • On that call McCain also raised the idea of suspending his campaign and delaying the debate. Obama said he didn't rule out either option, but told McCain he wanted to see how events unfolded and suggested the candidates first address the immediate priority of speaking with one voice before Bush's address.
  • About 20 minutes later, McCain publicly announced his proposal to delay this Friday's debate.
  • Obama's jaw drops. He stammers and thinks, "Whoa. What the heck? Does McCain have a screw loose?"
  • When pressed by reporters Obama'a aides refused to accuse McCain of bad faith. "No, John's just a little Whacko sometimes."


Washington Post, Obama: Debate Should Go On, Shailagh Murray, September 24, 2008.


Diamond's Collapse and Today

Guest Blog Entry from Readingnerd:

The following is a reflection on contemporary lessons from Jared Diamond’s "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed"

Late one night, I finished Chapter 8, “Norse Greenland’s End,” only to find a chilling

Thus, Norse society’s structure created a conflict between the short- term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole . . . what the chiefs and clergy valued proved eventually harmful to the society . . . The Greenland Norse did succeed in creating a unique form of European society, and in surviving for 450 years as Europe’s most remote outpost ... Ultimately, though, the chiefs found themselves without followers. The last right that they obtained for themselves was the privilege of being the last to starve.

Diamond attributes many causes for this collapse (including environmental damage and climate change), but what I find most compelling is his description of the behavior of those in power. Chiefs and clergy used the labor of the islanders to satisfy luxury
appetites in Europe: raising sheep (wool); hunting walrus (ivory), polar bears (live bears or their skins), and narwhals (tusks). Ships exported these to be exchanged in Europe for a few necessities (iron, good lumber, tar for a wood preservative), luxuries for the church (bells, stained glass windows, candlesticks, communion wine, linen, silver, churchmen’s robe, jewelry) and other luxuries for the wealthy (pewter, pottery, glass beads, honey, salt). These luxuries enabled Greenlanders to retain their identity as Christian Europeans. However, Diamond posits, this firmly entrenched cultural identity also prohibited them from trading with, learning from, or getting along with the Inuit. Instead, they killed them. Unlike the history of American colonists’ wars against the natives, in Greenland, the Inuit survived; the “Europeans” did not.

Diamond’s subtitle reminds us of the importance of the choices every society makes. Aren’t we now choosing to bail out the bankers on the backs of the workers? Did peasant Greenlanders feel so intoxicated by their identity as Christian Europeans that their starvation at the hands of poor decision makers was ameliorated? Are modern wage earners opposing abortion, gay marriage, and “elitism” ready to support the party which facilitated our current financial disaster which resulted for many (and for more to come) in the loss of jobs, homes and health insurance?

Another cause for Greenland’s collapse was the loss of trading partners. Wonder how much more debt the Chinese can stomach?


September 22, 2008

LIes: Now We See Them

Remember all of the lies about our fundamentally healthy economy? Some of us saw past them.

Now, they continue to tell lies. In this case, regarding our wars:

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the attack [on the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan] showed the need for Pakistanis, Afghans and the U.S. to redouble efforts against extremists in the region.

"This was a heinous act that was committed by terrorists who have no interest in anything other than maiming and killing innocent civilians. And we're going to step up our efforts and work with the Pakistanis to do what we can," he said.

Not True. The "terrorists" have many stated interests other than "maiming and killing innocent civilians." Unless we can get past these kind of establishment lies repeated by the establishment media our "nation" risks traditional-security collapse on the same level as the on-going economic collapse (not just a "financial" collapse).

Wake-Up America.


Photo Credit: Bloody Media Lies

Associated Press, Did Pakistan soldiers shoot at US helicopters? CHRIS BRUMMITT, September 22, 2008.


Contact Congress: We want a Family and People's Economy

We're witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remake the corporate economy into a family and people economy.

Contact your senators, US representative and others. Get on the phone with this
message and tell them that we hold them accountable.

Pass the word that our voices need to be heard in Washington or we risk having the Wall Street system more securely locked in for generations to come.

Contact Congress:

US House: E-mail Forms

US Senate: E-mail and Phone Numbers



September 18, 2008

Fire the SEC Chair: Great Idea John

In another example of his poor judgment, John McCain says:
"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public's trust," McCain told a rally in this battleground state. "If I were president today, I would fire him."

Imagine. We're in the middle of a spiraling crisis and John wants to put the #2 in place at the SEC. SEC Chairman Cox responded diplomatically:

Cox said the financial crisis was "presenting new challenges on an hourly basis" and that "steadiness and reduction of uncertainty" is what the U.S. and the world needed.

"History will judge the quality of our response to this economic crisis, but now is not the time for those of us in the trenches to be distracted by the ebb and flow of the current election campaign," Cox said. "And it is precisely the wrong moment for a change in leadership."

McCain has 26 years of experience in Washington, but that doesn't imply he has good judgment.


Associated Press, McCain says he would fire SEC chairman, GLEN JOHNSON, September 18, 2008.


Debt Absorption Entity: Your Grandchildren

Oh boy! The banks on Wall Street are so happy. The Dow Jones stock index shot up 400 points on news that the Republicrats might create an entity to absorb banks' bad debt. The name of that entit? "Your Unborn Grandchildren."

This is another abuse of the US Constitution, the preamble of which is supposed to provide for "ourselves and our posterity."

A friend of mine is suggesting that we use this financial crisis to call for a restructuring of the Constitution... to shift more of the power from the elite, who have benefited greatly from the bubble economy, to the ordinary people. My guess is the elite would coopt the process and even if we got a better constitution it would also be ignored.


September 16, 2008

Watch These States on November 4

A sporting event is far more exciting to watch when you know something about the teams and players before watching the event. On November 4, 2008 the presidential election will be an exciting event. It will be more exciting for those who are watching the results come in for the top ten states that are presently "undecided" on the candidates.

Battleground States and their Electoral Votes:

  • Colorado (9)
  • Florida (27)
  • Indiana (11)
  • Iowa (7)
  • Missouri (11)
  • New Mexico (5)
  • Nevada (5)
  • North Carolina (15)
  • Ohio (20)
  • Virginia (13)

Check out the yahoo political dashboard for up-to-date statistics. It also allows you to play "what if" scenarios, turning switching the combination of red and blue states to see the effect on the electoral vote count.


September 15, 2008

The Second Coming: A Statement on the Global Economy?

The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


This poem popped into the head of economist Paul Krugman as he thought about the unraveling economy. Interpretations of William Butler Yeats' poem consider things like a failing empire. Sound familiar?


Krugman Column that cites this poem, The Widening Gyre, October 26, 2008 (might require logging into the NY Times web page).

Image Credit: Ravensdawn


September 14, 2008

Suddenly Regulators are the Good Guys

I recently wrote about the Death of the Free Market, by which I meant the free market fundamentalism in which regulation was bad. Watch how quickly the free market touts run from that unquestioned economic principle, which has dominated for the past three decades. You'll hear revisionist statements from both Democrats and Republicans, "We never really meant "free" markets. We've always recognized the necessary role of regulation."

Sorry. Too late. The damage has been done. Now the regulators are attempting to ride to the rescue. Unfortunately, after years of being the bad guys, having budgets and staff cut, the regulators probably don't have the tools and experience needed to do the job.

In response to news about the negotiations to control the collateral damage from the Lehman Brothers' implosion, J.P. Morgan economist Jim Glassman said,
For us to know there's a comprehensive approach going on, that's a constructive theme for the markets.... It's in everyone's interest to take a stab at this and be good public citizens because if this problem keeps spreading, eventually it's going to engulf everybody.

In other words, "The invisible fist of the market is about to pummel us, so we better forget about free market competition and work collectively, outside of the economic paradigm, to resolve this social crisis." Milton Friedman's free market fundamentalism is dead.


Washington Post, Major Financial Players Map Out Lehman Options, September 14, 2008.


September 13, 2008

Who Constitutes the US "Financial Oligopoly"?

Here's a clue to the answer:

Participants in Saturday's discussions about the failing Lehman Brothers included executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch.

So much for fairy tales about the so-called "free market." Ah. But don't worry. It's all for our own good. Ever feel like saying "baaaaa"?

I like this one:
Global fears intensified Saturday that the collapse of the country's fourth-largest investment bank would stagger markets and undercut confidence in the U.S. financial system.

As if it hasn't already effectively collapsed. That's today's defininition of a "Free Market;" it's free fall for people with a health-care crisis who are subjected to Senator Biden's Bankruptcy "reform" law, but not for the upper crust free marketeers. OOOoooo "Change is coming." Of course, McCain/Palin are worse.

At least the following statement regarding "bad bets" is half-honest:

Bad bets on real-estate holdings — which have factored into bank failures and taken out other financial companies — have thrust the 158-year-old firm in peril.

True, the decisions were "bets" as are made in gambling halls, now called "trading floors". But they were not "bad" they were "stupid."


Emergency meeting on Lehman rescue resumes


Spoonamore 2005: How Does Your Vote Get Counted?

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore explains the steps from voting machines, county tabulators, and aggregators, all "totally hackable." There is no chain-of-custody documentation. (5 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: How Does Your Vote Get Counted?, Clip 1 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: Vote Tabulator is Unknown Black Box

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore gives the analogy to describe how electronic vote tabulators work today: Our votes go into a room, the door is locked, the "wizard of Oz" counts the votes, the Oz comes out and announces the results without anyone being able to verify the count. (5 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: The Great Oz Vote Counter, Clip 2 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: Diebold Machines Could be Hacked by Foreigners

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore explains all systems can be hacked. The US government sent out an alert saying that Diebold machines pose a national security risk due to being vulnerable to foreign hacking. He also points out lies Diebold has perpetrated. (2 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: All Systems are Hackable, Clip 3 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: What's Inside the Vote Tabulators

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore explains that every function of electronic banking are open to inspection, but the vote tabulator functions are not. Why? (5 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: Why Hide How Our Vote Tabulators Work?, Clip 4 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: Transmission of Votes to Tabulator

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore explains that votes can be sent in many ways from precincts to the county tabulator that adds them up. There is no chain-of-custody guaranteed, and no way to audit what happens in the tabulator, which are huge vulnerabilities. (3 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: Vote Transfers to Tabulators, Clip 5 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: Easy Ways to Change the Voting Results

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore explains the "forced balance" hack; given 6 of 7 county results, change one so that the grand total (the balance) comes out with your candidate the winner. He gives a classic example used to steal money in the banking industry. What's the 51.6% magic number about? (3 min video).

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: Easy Hacks, Clip 6 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: Electronic Voting is Not Complex

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore points out that Diebold makes very complex auditable ATM banking software. Voting is much simpler, therefore the computer code for a citizen auditing capability would be easy. He suggests why the electronic voting machine industry wants us to believe it is complex. (5 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: Electronic Vote Counting is Simple, Clip 7 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Spoonamore 2005: A Simple Solution

Computer security practitioner, and Republican, Stephen Spoonamore asks why the electronic voting systems don't have the same well established audit functions as the electronic banking systems. He tells us why he believes they do not. (4 min video)

Stephen Spoonamore 2005: A Simple Solution, Clip 8 of 8


Velvet Revolution Interview, 2008.


Palin: Alaska Independece Party, Checking

I appreciate the concept and challenge of FactCheck's work; however, it seems in their effort to be "objective" they narrow their summaries into sound-bites made easy to abuse.


FactCheck Says: "She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She’s been registered as a Republican since May 1982."

Issue dismissed.

But Wait. Palin demonstrates a pattern of involvement with AIP, which isn't captured in the summary.

Deeper reading of FactCheck reveals, "her husband was a member for years, and she attended at least one party convention, as mayor of the town in which it was held." In addition, "As governor, Palin sent a video message to the 2008 convention, which is available on YouTube, and the AIP says she attended in 2006 when she was campaigning."

In her brief video to the 2008 AIP convention, Palin says, "we have a great promise to be a self-sufficient state...." Is this code for saying the State should strive to secede from the union?

It's starting to look like Palin might share the views of AIP, like someone who shares the views of the Green Party but registers Democrat.

A little more balanced shading of the FactCheck summaries might help place the "facts" into a more "factual context." And what about that title, "Sliming Palin: False Internet claims and rumors fly about McCain's running mate."

Contact FactCheck
and let them know what you think.


FactCheck, Sliming Palin: False Internet claims and rumors fly about McCain's running mate


September 12, 2008

McCain: Phony Reformer

The phony biographical background on McCain is that after the Keating Five incident, McCain switched sides to become a "maverick" who fights the kind of corruption in which he earlier engaged. The only problem with the story is that it's make-believe.

The Paxon One scandal is more recent evidence that McCain is not who he claims to be.


September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin: False Narrative Exposed

Everyone in the blogosphere knows that Peggy Noonan believes McCain's choice of Sarah Palin represents "political bull shit about narrative" (See Noonan Video). What's the narrative? The "narrative" is that the McCain ticket represents fundamentalist christian "values" and "maverick" politics.

A "narrative" is a "story" and the McCain/Palin story is make-believe. It's a false narrative, an attempt to dupe the American public.

McCain isn't the champion against the powers-that-be that his Maverick false-image claims. One "story" is that McCain was "born again," becoming a crusader against Washington corruption, after he was caught trying to strong-arm savings and loan regulators in the 1980s to protect family friend, and criminal, Charles Keating (Keating Five Scandal). Not True. Keating eventually served time in jail and McCain didn't really learn his lesson.

Remember Vickie Iseman (Photos)? Most people don't realize that the Vickie Iseman intrigue involved much more than questions about a potential sexual tryst. It exposed a more recent attempt by McCain to strong-arm regulators while he was Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee responsible for telecommunications. In this case, an August 2000 investigation concluded that McCain violated rules by trying to influence a decision of the Federal Communications Commissioners (FCC) on behalf of Paxon Communications for whom Iseman was a lobbyist.

The narrative about Sarah Palin is also being exposed. She opposed the $400 million dollar US taxpayer funded bridge to the town of Gravina (pop. 50) after she supported it (Fact Check) - Bridge to Nowhere Video Montage - Wall Street Journal Article (Sept. 9, 2008).

Thanks, but no thanks, we don't buy the false narrative about Palin opposing the bridge to nowhere as evidence she is a "maverick" politician.

What about the claim that Palin enforces ethics, even against members of her own party? For example, Palin filed ethics charges against an oil commissioner who used an official e-mail account for political campaign activity. Unfortunately for the "narrative" Palin was caught sending campaign e-mails on her city hall account while serving as mayor of Wasilla. The real narrative might be ruthless politician who is a hypocrite.

It wasn't too long ago that vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle criticized the TV sitcom character Murphy Brown for having a child out of wedlock. It set a bad example. The christian right cheered Quayle, while the rest of the Nation rolled its eyes recognizing things like that happen. Now the christian right is cheering Sarah Palin, a national champion on abstinence-only birth control policies, for being normal saying, you guessed it, "things like this happen." If not "false" it's certainly a forced narrative.

OK, things like pregnancy out of wedlock happen. But what are we to think of the Palin "family values"? It would clearly be an embarrassment if the 17-year-old daughter of a conservative christian family became pregnant. Imagine how it would feel for a conservative christian girl to have friends and family you know she was unable to abstain and did ... well, "did the deed." Now imagine exposing that to the world? Everyone looking at her pictures, knowing what she did, wondering ... all sorts of things.

What kind of mother would subject her daughter to the kind of humiliation a 17-year-old conservative christian would predictably feel by having her situation splashed across the world? What kind of mother would bear a child with downs syndrome five months ago and run off to the campaign trail, and possibly Washington DC, knowing that this child will need a lot of... mothering? Perhaps a ruthless, power-hungry mother. Again, does that square with the "narrative" of Sarah Palin setting an example as the "family values" candidate? Sounds like another false narrative.

I could go on and on, but the corporate media, which craves such money-generating titillation, is well out ahead on this.


Palin's Ethics Scrapes May Undercut Pledge to End Old Politics,, September 11, 2008.


September 10, 2008

The Unregulated "Free Market" is Dead

It is now officially acceptable to laugh at anyone who promotes unregulated "free markets." Free markets are promoted by three groups of people: Criminals who are willing to use exploitation to amass wealth, ideologues who operate on deeply held belief systems and are thus blind, or those who lack enough knowledge to understand how the world works.

Unregulated markets allow people to do anything to make money, including changing laws to legalize criminality. Consider the current example of the mortgage brokers who made home sales over the past decade without checking credit. With each house they sold they got fees and had no risk if the mortgages they sold failed. The higher the house price, the bigger the fee. Not all mortgage brokers were exploitative, but the system in which they worked became increasingly corrupt. First line "banks" that underwrite the mortgages were quick to unload the mortgages to avoid risk.

Secondary "financial institutions" that amass mortgages and either sell them in bulk or turn them into bonds to be sold passed on the risk and took their huge profits.

Brokerages that buy and sell such bonds made money on every transaction, never holding any risky mortgages. All the while they told investors the bonds were secure, because the "the real estate is collateral" and the bond rating companies say they're good. Never mind the obvious fact that the real estate was way over valued. This is not a debatable point; not a quibbling point. Few people on earth have not heard, or said themselves that, "If I had to buy my house today, I couldn't afford it"? That's the main street definition of over-valued real estate.

As noted, the bond rating companies are paid handsomely to say the bonds are high grade. Their employees are part of the Wall Street class; gotta be paid a lot to live in Manhattan.

The law firms and lobbyists make sure it is all technically legal by getting corrupt or ideological or stupid elected officials to make it so. Lobbyists got very wealthy carrying the messages between Wall Street and Washington (another no-risk middleman benefiting from the "free market"). Ain't the unregulated free market great for these folks? They've got to love it.

Communications firms, like the ones who produce magazines that touted Enron in the early 1990s, write glitzy stories about maverick businessmen who created "innovative risk diversification systems." These "innovative risk diversification systems" were just fancy ways to "pass the buck" on to pension funds and other investors. The unregulated "free market" seemed so legitimate despite some of us knowing it was a huge scam.

A similar analysis of other industries reveals the same pattern of corruption through all sub-sectors as described above; they all have their lawyers, their accountants, their marketing arms; we saw it in the energy "market" with Enron. That market, by the way, is still totally corrupt. The financial industry, with unregulated hedge funds, is the same. Energy, Real estate, financial, all central to what we call our "economy" and all totally corrupt.

We are now all collective deers staring into the headlights of reality. Obama and McCain will both try to paper over this fundamental failure of "the system". They will do this by bailing out the "free market" and passing the cost to future generations of tax payers; the crisis will magically end, a huge debt will be passed on to future generations, and the corrupt system will continue.

It's an old story, seen as recently as the 1980s Savings and Loan Scandal, even more recently if you count Enron (cost California energy rate payers alone at least $10 Billion). It will change when Americans get very angry with the realization that a small number of people get really really rich off of these "free market" scams. Then, perhaps with very little control, these angry people will do what ever is necessary, using any means available, to put a stop to the corrupt unregulated "free market".

The alternative would be to make real change, far beyond what either major political party is contemplating. That's unlikely because the system is so deeply corrupt it has become a danger to itself and those very few people who benefit from it.

An unregulated "free market" is corrupt by definition, because if there are no rule (regulations) the law of the jungle prevails. Unregulated commerce will inevitably pass debt onto future generations. This is a massive form of exploitation by a minority of the commerce class. Is the majority of our civilization really so easily duped?


September 8, 2008

Attack of the Flying Robots: New Mafia Tools

You are in a remote place with majestic mountains inhabited by people with strong family and community values. Religious faith is very important to the community. You are poor by international standards but rich in family and community traditions. Multi-generational struggles to preserve your traditions are a part of life. People come and go from the sprawling compound that you make your home, some of them are involved in the armed struggle.

One day, with no warning, what you come to learn are two flying robots appear from no where to fire three screaming rockets at two homes and a school. The aftermath is enough to make a seasoned soldier vomit as women and children, clothes blown away, lie in taters, limbs strewn, innards splattered about.

You come to learn that the flying robots, drones, were sent from a nation far away that has a history of trying to control the affairs and natural resources of the region. Those controlling the drones sit in sterile, air conditioned buildings thousands of miles away. To you it seems like horrible science fiction come to life.

You also come to learn that the justification given for the horror you've experienced was to kill an aged man in ill-health named Jalaluddin Haqqani. Uncle Haqqani had an extended family including several "wives" to whom he was committed to care for.

Those killed included one of the several wives of Haqqani, his sister-in-law, a sister, two nieces, eight grandchildren and a male relative. A son-in-law of Haqqani was wounded.

Uncle Haqqani is well known for being a leader in the struggle dating back to the 1980s when he was an ally of the people who sent the flying robots, the Americans. Haqqani was not present when the drones wreaked their terror. Many surviors believe this was not a mistake. They believe the Americans knew Haqqani was not present and were punishing him for not cooperating, sending a message, conducting remote interrogation. The message is clear: "Give us information we are seeking or more of your family will die."

Uncle Haqqani isn't a perfect man. He has had to do things and order others to do horrible things in the struggle to preserve our heritage against the exploitation of foreigners. I wish the invaders would go away and leave us alone.


Reuters, U.S. drones kill 23 in missile attack in Pakistan
, Haji Mujtaba, September 8, 2008.


September 6, 2008

Sarah Palin: Attempted Library Censorship

According to a female resident of Wasilla, Alaska who wishes to remain anonymous writes:
While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

The New York Times corroborated the attempted firing, as does Shannyn Moore, an Anchorage-based radio talk show host, as revealed in an interview of Ms. Moore by DemocracyNow'a Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: I was just looking at a New York Times piece, “Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics as Usual.” Wasilla, about, what, 7,000, 8,000 people. And it says, “Shortly after becoming mayor [1996], former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.”

“The librarian... pledged to ‘resist all efforts at censorship.’” Palin then fired Ms. [Mary Ellen] Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course when residents made a strong show of support.

SHANNYN MOORE: Yeah, that was—that wasn’t a statewide issue but certainly came up during the campaign with—when she was running for governor, and this whole censorship and this fundamentalism. I mean, when you’re running for mayor in a town in Alaska and one of your platform issues as a nonpartisan mayor is your pro-life stance, that tells you a lot about the town you’re in. And it is a pretty fundamentalist type of town, and—you know, and that plays very well in those towns. You know, this sort of censorship, this sort of “vote for me is a vote for Jesus,” it’s very George Bushian, and it’s very Sarah Palin.

This revelation will hit people in different ways. Some will react negatively to the fundamentalist Christian implications. Others will react mostly to Palin's willingness to censor information that doesn't fit her views. But, those who know of Palin's track record of firing people might be most disturbed by her penchant to abuse power and surround herself with loyalists.


Boston Herald, Palin asked Wasilla librarian about censoring books, September 4, 2008.


Personal e-mail correspondence with resident of Wasilla.

DemocracyNow, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Accepts GOP Nomination, September 4, 2008.


September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin: Pattern of Abusing Power

According to a female resident of Wasilla, Alaska, and others, it appears that McCain's vice presidential running mate has displayed a pattern of abusing power and surrounding herself with loyalists. The Wasilla resident writes:

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

That's the first I've heard of a recall campaign against Palin as Mayor of Wassila. One of the precipitous firings was the attempted firing of the town librarian, Ms. Mary Ellen Emmons (now Baker) who refused to consider removing books from the library at the request of Palin.

The pattern of firings was displayed by Palin's in both roles as Mayor and Governor. According to the same Wassila resident:

Sarah complained about the 'old boy's club' when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of 'old boys'. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State's top cop.

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he 'intimidated' her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

Remember when Hurricane Katrina hit and George Bush said, "You're doing a heck of a job Brownie"? Bush was referring to one of many loyalists that he had installed. "Brownie" is the nickname Bush gave to Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Prior to that role, Brownie had no experience in emergency management. Brown was the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, (IAHA), from 1989-2001. Clearly his primary credentials to head FEMA were "loyalty."

Based on Palin's record, if she becomes US president, we can expect loyalty and adherence to Christian fundamentalism to be the primary basis for her appointments to sensitive federal positions. So, when critics of McCain say he represents "Four more years of Bush," it is more than a catchy slogan.

The Wasilla resident continues:

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

We've all heard about "Hothead McCain's" bad temper and famous (1) physical outbursts (2). His uncontrolled temper is the subject of a recent mainstream news article (3). It appears that Palin also has a vicious streak and lacks proper temperament:

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her 'Sarah Barracuda' because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.


Personal e-mail from Wassila resident.

Item (3) above, McClatchy News Service, McCain's history of hot temper raises concerns, September 7, 2008.