January 25, 2012 archive

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We All Sing With The Same Voice

And The Nominees Are

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It’s that time of the year. No, not the State of the Union address. pfffttt. The Academy Awards nominations were announced this morning. It’s Oscar time, you silly gooses!

The 84th Academy Awards will be presented on February 26th hosted by one of the best hosts since Bob Hope, Billy Crystal and will air on the ABC network at 7 PM EST/ 6 PM CST.

As we did last year, we here at Stars Hollow, will be hosting a live blog and Oscar party. Prior to the big night, I will once again have food and drink suggestions that will entertain your palate as you watch the festivities. So get ready there is barely a month to prepare.

And here are the nominees:

Best Picture

“The Artist”

“The Descendants”

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”


“Midnight in Paris”

“The Help”


“War Horse”

“The Tree of Life”

Best Actor

Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”

George Clooney, “The Descendants”

Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”

Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Best Actress

Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”

Viola Davis, “The Help”

Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”

Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

(The rest below the fold. We wouldn’t want to hog the stage. 😉

Obama’s War On Whistlerblowers

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Barack Obama once again has gone after a whistle blower while letting the criminals completely off the hook or walk away with a slap on the wrist. Since taking office Obama has waged unprecedented war on whistleblowers despite campaign promises to have a transparent government.

Former CIA Officer John Kiriakou Charged with Disclosing Covert Officer’s Identity and Other Classified Information to Journalists and Lying to CIA’s Publications Review Board

   A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was charged today with repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities, Justice Department officials announced.

   The charges result from an investigation that was triggered by a classified defense filing in January 2009, which contained classified information the defense had not been given through official government channels, and, in part, by the discovery in the spring of 2009 of photographs of certain government employees and contractors in the materials of high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The investigation revealed that on multiple occasions, one of the journalists to whom Kiriakou is alleged to have illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that information to a defense team investigator, and that this information was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel. There are no allegations of criminal activity by any members of the defense team for the detainees.

Like she did with the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame-Wilson, Marcy Wheeler, along with Jim White at emptywheel, dissects this case exposing the hypocrisy of the government and the cover up of the real crime, a war crime, torture, here, here, here, here and here. In those articles they expose the weakness of the DOJ’s case against Kiriakou and that Obama has covered for and refused to prosecute war crimes committed by CIA agents and covers up military war crimes by hiding the evidence under the guise of national security.

A prime example of this hypocrisy it outrageous that has allowed war criminal to get off with just a tap on the wrist while the commanding officers were not even mentioned:

Marine accepts plea deal in Iraqi civilian deaths

January 23, 2012 – CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) – A Marine sergeant who told his troops to “shoot first, ask questions later” in a raid that killed unarmed Iraqi women, children and elderly pleaded guilty Monday in a deal that will carry no more than three months confinement and end the largest and longest-running criminal case against U.S. troops from the Iraq War.

The agreement marked a stunning and muted end to the case once described as the Iraq War’s version of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. The government failed to get one manslaughter conviction in the case that implicated eight Marines in the deaths of 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha in 2005.[..]

Kamil al-Dulaimi, a Sunni lawmaker from the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, called the plea deal a travesty of justice for the victims and their families. “It’s just another barbaric act of Americans against Iraqis,” al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press. “They spill the blood of Iraqis and get this worthless sentence for the savage crime against innocent civilians.”

This is a disgrace.

Obama is not upholding his oath of office and that is an even bigger disgrace.

On This Day In History January 25

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 25 is the 25th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 340 days remaining until the end of the year (341 in leap years).

On this day in 1905, the world’s largest diamond is found. At the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, a 3,106-carat diamond is discovered during a routine inspection by the mine’s superintendent. Weighing 1.33 pounds, and christened the “Cullinan,” it was [the largest diamond ever found.

The Cullinan diamond is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found, at 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g).

The largest polished gem from the stone is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.1 g) was the largest polished diamond in the world until the 1985 discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond, 545.67 carats (109.13 g), also from the Premier Mine. Cullinan I is now mounted in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross. The second largest gem from the Cullinan stone, Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa, at 317.4 carats (63.5 g), is the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. Both gems are in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.


The Cullinan diamond was found by Frederick Wells, surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, on January 26, 1905. The stone was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the diamond mine.

Sir William Crookes performed an analysis of the Cullinan diamond before it was cut and mentioned its remarkable clarity, but also a black spot in the middle. The colours around the black spot were very vivid and changed as the analyzer was turned. According to Crookes, this pointed to internal strain. Such strain is not uncommon in diamonds.

The stone was bought by the Transvaal government and presented to King Edward VII on his birthday. It was cut into three large parts by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam, and eventually into 9 large gem-quality stones and a number of smaller fragments. At the time, technology had not yet evolved to guarantee quality of the modern standard, and cutting the diamond was considered difficult and risky. In order to enable Asscher to cut the diamond in one blow, an incision was made, half an inch deep. Then, a specifically designed knife was placed in the incision and the diamond was split in one heavy blow. The diamond split through a defective spot, which was shared in both halves of the diamond.


Unnatural History

Greek Default Assured

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Not that I personally think their analysis is all that sound, but the second of the big three rating agencies has announced their intention to declare a CDS triggering event regardless of how the negotiations continue.

As we are constantly reminded by the Banksters, the intent of a Credit Default Swap is as insurance against a default in payments.  In fact they are used to make side bets on outcomes and their notional value almost always exceeds the actual underlying asset by orders of magnitude.

So the question is- will they pay off?

In the 2008 financial collapse the chief issuer of these instruments, American International Group, went bankrupt and only massive intervention by the U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank allowed them to make good their obligations at face value.

This was Insurance Fraud on a historic scale.  The rules require you to cover your policies.

Because we don’t know the actual amount of CDSes it is difficult to predict whether they will be honored or not but that’s only the first wave of the problem.  Spain, Portugal, and Italy also face default because of the usurious interest rates currently being demanded and a Greek default is only likely to increase their vulnerability.

European policy makers have shown no indication that they actually understand the magnitude of the difficulty and every response so far has been wrong headed austerity.  The fundamental reality is that their economies can no longer support the inflated, leveraged, fictional values the holders of these worthless scraps of paper demand and the reckoning is going to come from their pockets simply because they’re the ones holding the hot potato.

It’s coming.  It’s coming soon.  A lot of people and institutions that considered themselves quite well off are going to find their estimations substantially reduced.

Greek Debt Talks Still Without Resolution; Bondholders Make Final Offer

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Monday January 23, 2012 6:20 am

The debt talks between Greece and their bondholders, thought to be a done deal late Friday, spilled into the weekend and still found no resolution as of today. The short version is that the creditors want a higher coupon, or interest rate on the new bonds they’ll accept in exchange for taking at huge hit on the bonds they currently hold.

At a low interest rate, the creditors would then call the deal involuntary, a credit default swaps would trigger. However, according to the Fitch rating agency, there is no such thing as a voluntary debt restructuring, and they would read any deal as a default event. This is why Noriel Roubini says we will see “a credit event” in Greece either way.

The bondholders presented what they called their "maximum" offer over the weekend. Charles Dallara, the managing director of the Institute for International Finance, who has been negotiating on behalf of the creditors, said that both sides were at a “crossroads” and the “limits of a voluntary deal.” Interestingly, the biggest holdout could be the European Central Bank, which holds 55 billion euros of Greek debt and doesn’t want to take any losses on it. The EFSF, the European bailout fund, may have to buy the debt off the ECB at par to get a deal structured.

Greece has already said they would change the terms of the bonds by law, if need be, but then some creditors would hold out and there would be litigation and CDS triggering.

Anything controversial or unmanageable out of Greece would risk contagion elsewhere in Europe, especially in Portugal, probably the next most-threatened country on the periphery. The dangers in Europe are very much apparent here.

S&P: Greek Debt Restructuring Would Be a Default

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Tuesday January 24, 2012 8:55 am

Standard and Poor’s has become the second rating agency to say that, regardless of the conclusion of the Greek debt restructuring, they would judge the country as in "selective default". With two rating agencies – Fitch is the other – now on the record about default, it’s almost certain that the announcement of the deal, if we ever get one, will trigger credit default swaps.

So I see no point in having the negotiations continue. They were predicated on getting bond holders to accept a voluntary haircut, to avoid the triggering of CDS. That will now be impossible. And the Greek government has the ability to change the law and mandate the new payments on debt. So they might as well just do that, at this point. In truth, there never was a voluntary haircut, anyway. So everyone might as well tell the truth.

An S&P official does not believe that a Greek default event would necessarily lead to contagion in the Eurozone. However, we’ve seen the cascading effect play out many times in the past year or so. As much as the regulators want to tell themselves they don’t foresee a problem, one could be staring them in the face.

In fact, we may already by seeing contagion in the form of Portugal’s struggles.

IMF slashes world growth forecast

By Paul Handley (AFP)

3 hours ago

On Monday in Berlin, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde pressed European leaders to build a stronger backstop to prevent the problems in the continent’s weakest economies — Greece, Spain and Portugal — from pulling down others.

“We need a larger firewall,” she said. “Without it, countries like Italy and Spain that are fundamentally able to repay their debts could be forced into a solvency crisis by abnormal financing costs.”

The Fund warned against overly sharp budget-balancing by those countries that can afford to move slowly to reduce their deficits.

Otherwise, they will just create more drag on the global economy.

“Decreasing debt is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist. “Going too fast will kill growth and further derail the recovery.”

The recommendation was pointed at Europe’s largest economies Germany, France and Britain, all of which it said would continue to grow this year, albeit at a weak pace.

Germany’s economy was seen growing 0.3 percent, France’s 0.2 percent, and Britain’s 0.6 percent.

The United States, the world’s largest economy, was projected to grow 1.8 percent in 2012.

The growth downgrades covered the entire world.

The Greek debt talks fall apart

Felix Salmon, Reuters

Jan 24, 2012 04:33 EST

Remember here that Greece itself is basically just an intermediary, stuck between the Troika (EU, ECB, IMF) on the one hand, which is going to fund its deficits for the foreseeable future and therefore can demand anything it wants, and bondholders, on the other. And the problem is that what’s acceptable to the bondholders – a 4% coupon, basically, on restructured debt – is unacceptable to the Troika.

In a way, this is a good thing, because it only serves to clarify the fact that Greece is defaulting in a way that’s going to make its bondholders very unhappy. All the talk of a “voluntary” restructuring was a way of attempting to paper over that fact, and that paper was always extremely thin. Maybe a bit of honesty will help people face up to reality in a way that they’ve been very reluctant to do until now.

No one thinks of this deal as a “one and done” restructuring. Bailing in the ECB or the EFSF at this point would just be denial: it would encourage the EU to think (or at least to say) that the Greek debt problem was solved for perpetuity, when it clearly isn’t. So let’s force the private sector to take its big NPV haircut now. And then the next step can come a few years down the road, when Greece discovers it can’t pay the Troika what it owes.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Blooming 1

Late Night Karaoke

State of the Union

I’m grouchy about 2 things.  First and foremost I’ll be missing the Phineas and Ferb Time Warped series for about the 3rd time.  Secondly, Barack Obama has broken so many false populist promises that watching him talk is not just unconvincing, it’s physically painful.

The most optimistic estimates are that he’ll play some variation on his Osawatomie, Kansas speech which was frankly feckless and weak.  The usual suspects- Klein, Bernstein, DeLong, Sargent are all making the same tired old excuses for inaction at best and Republican policies as the norm.

It’s noteworthy that there has been less leakage of the prepared text which I suspect is due more to the collapse of his sellout to the Banksters on mortgage fraud and robo-signing than his and Holder’s fanatical prosecution of whistle blowers and journalists instead of war criminals and thieves.  The gang that couldn’t shoot straight screws up again, unless you prefer to call them simply evil which certainly matches the facts.

dday has the best preview I was able to find.  In addition to Warren Buffet’s secretary as a poster child for tax reform, he’ll also have Admiral William McRaven of the Bin Laden kill team, and Steve Jobs’ wife.

Not quite sure what she’s meant to illustrate unless it’s the efficiency of working people to death in overseas sweat shops.

I expect there will also be a full throated denial of science in defense of fracking and global warming from the president who had no problem denying women access to Plan B contraception and supporting the Stupak amendment.

If you don’t have access to a TV CSPAN will be starting its coverage at 8 pm with ceremonial entries.  They’ll also have the Republican response from Mitch Daniels who today attempted to strip Union rights from workers.

They should all be fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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