Mar 19 2009
posted yesterday by leveymg on the Madoff empire. His piece illustrates the incestuous, pervasive corruption of U.S.–and global–high finance.
One rarely finds this level of scrutiny and analysis in the bought-off MSM, but every day a scouring of the blogosphere uncovers several such detailed, insightful postings.
Anyone on the Left or Right who cares to probe has by now figured out that Geithner, Summers and Bernanke (Three Amigos? Three Blind Mice? Or just another Wall Street consultancy?) helped create and enable this rickety Ponzi economy of bogus wealth resting on paper pyramids, rather than on real economic activity producing goods and services. The three of them are interested in propping up the rapidly collapsing pyramid, not in reengineering it.
The literally trillions of dollars of magical, digital fiat money that they are now pouring into the economy to halt and reverse the deflationary spiral and economic meltdown are signs of desperation. At least some of the hundreds of billions are going to economic stimulus that will result in real economic activity. But what about the literally trillions that are merely going to prop up the balance sheets of insolvent financial giants that made calamitously bad bets on derivatives? Some
Dec 22 2008
Not really a diary, just a heads-up.
This Al-Jazeera headline story this morning claims that Pakistani forces are on “red alert.”
The text of the article is a little jumbled and diffuse, suggesting that Al-Jazeera’s Pakistani sources are all over the map and are contradicting one another.
The terrorist attack on Mumbai last month may have forced the Indian government’s hand. Parliamentary elections must be held in India by May, 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress Party-led government, though it has exercised considerable restraint vis-a-vis Pakistan for years in the face of Pakistani support for the insurgency in Kashmir, the December, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament (which almost led to war by the spring of 2002), and now the commando-style strike on Mumbai, may now feel compelled to make a military response. The Indians are convinced that these attacks are planned and launched from Pakistan with the assistance of elements of the Interservices Intelligence Directorate of the Pakistani military.
Singh’s government is under enormous pressure to do something besides exhibit restraint and patience. If it does nothing, the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will surely beat the jingoist campaign drums and stand a good chance of winning enough seats to lead the next government.
Sheer speculation: Indian Prime Minister Singh and his key advisers may have concluded that a few limited “surgical” air strikes against terrorist training camps in Pakistan may sate the Indian public’s appetite for revenge and provide a boost for the Congress Party in the upcoming elections, which would very likely be called early–within a few weeks of the air strikes in order to ride the resulting patriotic wave.
Unfortunately, wars between India and Pakistan rarely turn out so neatly. And now both nations are nuclear powers. Pakistan may perceive Indian strikes to represent an “existential threat” which would justify an escalation to a nuclear response. Pakistan’s economy is in a state of collapse, and its fragile, weak parliamentary leadership is extraordinarily deferential to General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. Several dozens of nuclear weapons are stored in depots on Pakistani territory under control of a military which is infiltrated by sympathizers to the cause of the Taliban in Afghanistan and to the jihadist agenda of Al-Qaeda.
Yes, the economies of the industrial world are disintegrating and require attention. Yes, the U.S. auto industry and entire financial sector require attention and restructuring. But the planet’s single most serious threat at the moment lies in the possibility of a war between India and Pakistan that could lead to a nuclear exchange, the precipitous collapse of Pakistan as a nation state, and Al-Qaeda’s acquisition of loose Pakistani nukes in the ensuing chaos.
If today’s somewhat sensational Al-Jazeera report accurately reflects rapidly escalating tensions along the Indian-Pakistani border, Admiral Mullen, Secretary Gates, and Secretary Rice need to go to New Delhi and Islamabad immediately to try to tamp down tensions. If they decide instead to stay in Washington or ski at Jackson Hole to enjoy a quiet holiday season, the Bush/Cheney Administration once again will be guilty of the kind of indolence and inattention that amounts to criminal negligence–and the consequences may well be dire beyond what any of us can imagine.
Dec 21 2008
President-elect Barack Obama’s invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation on January 20th deserves something other than just a visceral negative reaction. Warren’s pre-scientific, homophobic views and his church’s exclusion of gays and lesbians from membership have understandably created an uproar of criticism from the progressive community. But we need to reflect not merely on Obama’s tactic for his inaugural ceremony, but on his long-term political strategy.
First, the numbers: in the 2008 elections exit polls suggested that evangelicals made up 23 to 26 percent of all voters. Barack Obama was the choice of 25 to 26 percent of those evangelicals. Here is an interesting map of the evangelical voting breakdown state-by-state. Note the wide variation in Obama’s evangelical totals: in Iowa and MInnesota he even managed to garner 38 percent of the evangelical vote; in Mississippi, only 9 percent.
How can we expect Obama to deal with the evangelicals during the next four years? Let us ponder the question below the break.
(X-posted at Big Orange.)
Dec 17 2008
As this greatest economic crisis of the past century unfolds, it appears that Bernard Madoff’s $50 billiion Ponzi scam is not so much an aberration as it is a microcosm, a reality nicely captured in Toles’ savage cartoon in today’s WaPo.
Madoff’s $50 billion scam really has only one major difference with the astronomical leverage ratios and Wild West CDO and CDS trading strategies engaged in by “legitimate” hedge funds, insurance companies, investment banks, and regular commercial banks: Bernie Madoff will get to go to jail someday, while the “legitimate” players will have their devastated balance sheets replenished by bailout dollars created out of thin air. AIG, CitiGroup, and other malefactors will have their uncovered obligations propped up by hundeds of billions of federal dollars, and their criminally negligent executives will end up keeping their jobs, salaries, bonuses, multiple homes, corporate executive jets, and fleets of luxury cars.
Why does it seem that the hundreds of billions (or even trillions) of digital dollars that U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are pumping into the economy–especially the finance industry–do not seem to be having any effect on real economic activity?
Let’s ponder the question below the break.
Sep 25 2008
Relatively unnoticed in the MSM has been a sudden, even startling, turnaround in Chinese economic strategy in recent days. The Chinese are making it clear that they must move toward satisfying their domestic market and away from their export-driven growth model.
Here is the op-ed piece in yesterday’s People’s Daily. Note especially the last two paragraphs of the article:
Owing to the sluggish global market, more input in China’s domestic production will also give rise to the glut of goods. Therefore, in order to enable the expanded domestic demand to achieve an anticipated result, it is essential and imperative to input more in such fields as social security, medicare and health work, and education.
In other words, the main purpose of imput is definitely not to turn out more goods or to build more high-rises or skyscrapers, but to bring about more and more consumers with substantial financial strength, so that ordinary citizens in the country are better able to resist and defend against risks. Such an imput will eventually effect the long-term benign growth of Chinese economy, and China will be capable of making even greater contributions to the development of the entire world.
The Chinese Government has also directed Chinese banks not to lend to U.S. financial institutions during this ongoing financial crisis.
The Chinese see that the financial crisis in the U.S. will spread and will make their heavily export-driven growth model unsustainable. Logically enough, they are planning to move quickly toward satisfying their own domestic demand, especially for services and for a better quality of life.
The Chinese must also be having their doubts about investing in distressed U.S. companies or showing up with open checkbook at coming U.S. T-bill auctions. The prospect of an accelerating decline in the U.S. dollar will impel them to look for better places to distribute portions of their Sovereign Wealth Fund or surprlus Yuan.
More below the break….
Aug 15 2008
What is the next move in the chess match? First Georgia launches an overnight blitzkrieg into South Ossetia. Next the Russians respond with overwhelming force to push out Georgian forces from South Ossetia and Abkhazia and then advance to occupy the east-west highway at Gori and the military and commercial port facilities at Poti. Then the U.S. and Poland sign an agreement for basing U.S. radars and antimissile systems in Poland.
So what is likely to happen next?
It’s about the rockets, stupid.
Expect early sales of Russian anti-ship missiles and anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran and Syria.
The Sunburn (Moskit) anti-ship missile can be launched from a variety of platforms, and it is lethal at ranges of up to 250 kilometers, especially when fired in salvos.
The Iranians already have the Russian Tor 1 anti-aircraft system in their arsenal. It seems likely that the Russians would now move swiftly to provide them also with the longer range (up to 90 kilometers) A-300 system.
May 30 2008
It’s about framing the narrative, stupid.
This fall Republicans will trumpet John McCain’s experience and valor, and Democrats naturally will call into question McCain’s judgment and vigor. Barack Obama will throw a few sharp elbows during debates and on the stump, but the grassroots work of shaping the narrative on McCain will fall to Obama’s running mate and to other surrogates, including canvassers and ordinary voters at the precinct and neighborhood levels.
Below the break is a sampling of words and phrases to consider lobbing in McCain’s direction. Some are obvious. Some have already been used elsewhere. Some are wry. Some are harsh.
Surely McCain’s persona and positions will serve as magnets for such descriptive terms, some of which can be made to stick.
Without further ado, here is a modest first draft of a McCain Glossary. Consider the subtitle to be: Narrative Framing for Dummies.
(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Raising Kaine.)
May 30 2008
An Unhinged McCain in Full Snarl On McCain’s Napoleonic inclinations and his inability to control his temper: –abusive –arbitrary –acrimonious –authoritarian –autocratic –bad-tempered –bellicose –belligerent –bent out of shape –beside oneself –blow a fuse –blow a gasket –blow his top –blow his stack –Bonaparte –browbeating –bullying –comandeering –contemptuous –cranky –crabby –cross –crotchety –despotic –dictatorial –dogmatic …