Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for November, 2007

Is “Operacion Tenazas” disinformation from the Venezuelan government?

Posted by Charles II on November 30, 2007

DemocracyNow! carried a segment with James Petras on the Operacion Tenazas story described below. Petras has not supplied any additional substantiation for the memo at the heart of this either on DemocracyNow! or in his Counterpunch article.

Charley points us toward a post by Larry Johnson discounting the report. Larry says:

State Department officers do not write memos to Hayden. Particularly mid-level Foreign Service Officers. A CIA officer under diplomatic cover sends his communications to headquarters via an encoded message. We call these messages cables, harkening back to the days of telegraphs and telegrams.

This, in my judgment, is the work–very clumsy work at that–of the Venezuelan intelligence service eager to build on the truth that the United States has sought to oust Chavez.

This is probably correct. There are a number of things about the memo that raise questions, such as:

  1. How would it have been intercepted?
  2. Why would it have been routed from a field officer directly to the head of the CIA?
  3. Why is there only one name on the distribution list?
  4. Why did the Venezuelan government not supply a photocopy of the original in English?
  5. There’s phrasing that seems odd, such as “a group called Red Flag, long a sworn enemy of our interests in the country.”  or “We have reaped the greatest successes in the spheres of propaganda and psychological operations, to the point that in the last weeks, we have imposed our agenda and dominated the publicity scene.” Cables tend to be dry and operationally oriented (See, for example this from Operation Condor).
  6. There is extraordinary discussion of individual personalities and a numbered bank account, details that would be unusual for communication to one of the top figures in government. 

So, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical about it. Unlike Larry Johnson, however, I don’t see any objections that are dispositive. It’s not unknown for very senior USG officials to be the point man on coups. Henry Kissinger on Operation Condor comes to mind. Nor is it impossible for that function to be outside of the Department of State. Rice is no Kissinger. My guess is that this has a 20% chance of being for real, and an 80% chance of being a fake… though perhaps one generated by the USG itself. The one thing that’s not at issue is that the tactics ascribed by the intercept to the USG have been used for real in the past.

Lee Sustar, a left voice, makes it clear that there is by no means unanimity within Chavez’s party on the reforms (see here). That’s important to understanding this. Venezuela is really divided into five camps: people who want socialism, people who would have a violent coup than permit socialism, people who realize that there has to be some way to stop the opposition from getting its way through violence and sabotage but are skeptical about the proposed reforms, people who are alarmed by the proposed reforms even though they acknowledge that Venezuela has race and class problems, and people who are totally confused by it all.

Choices! Choices! I guess things really are easier as long as Bush is the dictator.

Posted in Venezuela | 4 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on November 30, 2007

What’s out there, Alex?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

“Are you speaking to me, human?”

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“Oh… well, that’s all right then.”

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 2 Comments »

I Agree With Lou Dobbs

Posted by MEC on November 30, 2007

At least, I agree with what he said at an appearance in Dearborn, Michigan, as reported by the event’s sponsor WWJ Newsradio:

Dobbs said current “faith based economic models” have resulted in the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and 30 years of rising trade deficits. The current economic course is simply unsustainable, he said…. “George W. Bush and his economic policies are absolutely ruinous to this country.”

But then Dobbs added, “to be fair and balanced, (Senate majority leader) Harry Reid and (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi are equally gifted in public policy.”

Dobbs said it’s time to press back against both parties, which he said were thoroughly controlled by corporate America, which “isn’t working for the working people of America … Corporate America has completely and utterly abdicated its leadership in this country and it can’t be tolerated any longer.”

I appreciated that Dobbs put in a very good word for Michigan’s Gov. Granholm, who’s under constant assault by Republicans for, well, basically, for not being a Republican.

“Against incredible odds, I think this governor is doing a tremendous job… I think your governor is doing everything imaginable.”

And you probably won’t be surprised that I loved this bit:

“David Brooks has decided 31 years of empirical evidence that your policies are wrong are to be ignored. A record low dollar against the yen and the euro is inconsequential. David Brooks sounds like he’s working for George W. Bush in a very small office in the basement of the White House.”

Dobbs predicts that an unnamed independent will announce a presidential run in the next 90 days, and he seems to be hoping that this independent will offer the solutions to our economic woes that the major-party candidates are lacking. He has a lot more faith than I do that an independent candidate will be taken seriously enough by enough people to affect the political process and economic policies.

Posted in dope slaps for Dubya, economy, Lou Dobbs | 6 Comments »

Bushco plans to socialize costs of mortgage mess

Posted by Charles II on November 30, 2007

Bonddad has the story, which was in the WSJ.

Assuming the details are correctly reported, this may be the first sensible Bushco initiative of his entire administration. Basically, the people who can probably pay their mortgages if they don’t adjust will get some assistance. Predictions:

  • it will be difficult to get the money to do it
  • the delay will make it far less effective than it should have been
  • parts of the hardcore Republican base (those who bet that Bushco would let the big banks go down) will fight it, while the rest of them avidly compromise principles for cash
  • major inflation down the road

Posted in BushCo malfeasance, stock market | Comments Off on Bushco plans to socialize costs of mortgage mess

Follow The Money — Down The Rathole

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 30, 2007


Looks like the drop in real wages and growth in inequality currently being suffered by America’s middle class and poor is about to escalate. The bust-out of the American dollar and the American economy, as exemplified by Bush’s undoing Clinton’s good work by giving away the store with his tax cuts to the rich in 2001 and 2003 (which were cheered on by conservative morons such as this one), shows in how they are the real beneficiaries of the “Bush Bubble”.   The real-wage drop has been masked by the rise of the two-income family, but lately it’s got so bad that people are starting to notice that their parents had more with one income than they do with two.

In neighborhoods across St. Paul, we have all sorts of people who were sucked into the “ownership society” with either horrid mortgages or contracts for deed with older, high-maintenance houses. We have blocks where 75-80% of the buildings are in foreclosure or already vacant.

What is not being talked about is that St. Paul’s two most recent previous mayors, Norm Coleman (who was a Democrat but turned Republican to further his political career) and Randy Kelly (a buddy of Coleman’s who was a Democrat in name only) went through eleven years of “no new taxes”, financing the city on just the rise in home values — values which are now starting to collapse.

Look at the stats for this house, which is in a typically middle-class Saint Paul neighborhood. The value has declined on this tax assessment (currently $3,432) for the first time in memory, as have those in and around that part of the city. (Most certainly, so did those in foreclosure or vacant. But I digress.) Let’s look at its historic value (bearing in mind that the last time this property was actually sold, which was in 1993, it went for $83,300):

2007: 246,800
2006: 276,800
2005: 253,000
2004: 228,100
2003: 183,100

Note that the land value — $101,000 — is unchanged from the 2006 valuation. What dropped here is the value of the house itself. (I’m guessing that land values inside St. Paul will probably not drop; if anything, they may rise, especially in places with good bus service, as frantic white-flight suburbanites hammered by the ARMs and $3-a-gallon gas move back to where the jobs are and ditch the three-hour commutes.)

This homeowner and millions of borrowers aren’t the only ones riding the property bubble. Our cities, counties and school districts have been as well.

Gonna be a long walk home.

Posted in big money, economy, gravy train, greed, real wages | 9 Comments »

Irresistible force meets immovable object: the Venezuelan constitutional reforms

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2007

Opposition march in Caracas 

(Opposition march in Caracas from El Nacional. Caracas is a city of 3.1 million) 

In comments, Charley suggested that we look at a story of CIA intervention in Venezuela. The story (see here and here) is interesting but, as far as I can see, so far unsubstantiated. The essence of it is a communication between CIA Officer Michael Middleton Steere and CIA Director General Michael Hayden allegedly intercepted by Venezuelan counterintelligence. Considering the experience of the US in secure communications, that is an eyebrow raiser.

The claim is that the CIA has an operation Operacion Tenaza, called in English Operation Pincer (Petras) or Operation Pliers (Golinger), whose goals are to block the constitutional reforms Chavez has proposed. The methods proposed include violent, disruptive demonstrations;  bogus polls predicting defeat of the reforms; disruption of voting by blocking polling places; spread reports of the defeat of the reforms; discredit the validity of the election; and provoke an uprising by the armed forces that would permit the US to intervene, using forces presently in Curacao and Colombia.

The alleged memorandum is online, in Spanish translation, here. The memo says that the reforms will win if the elections proceed, but that turnout will only be 40%. The US is using the Maoist “Red Flag” group for street fighting, as well as small Trotskyist and trade unionist groups, according to Petras. Adds Petras:

Apart from the deep involvement of the US, the primary organization of the Venezuelan business elite (FEDECAMARAS), as well as all the major private television, radio and newspaper outlets have been engaged in a campaign of fear and intimidation campaign. Food producers, wholesale and retail distributors have created artificial shortages of basic food items and have provoked large scale capital flight to sow chaos in the hopes of reaping a ‘no’ vote.

Meanwhile, the government is promising 1600 independent observers. A link recommended by Charley analyzing the constitutional reforms is here. I am less sanguine about those reforms and have listed some concerns here.

Posted in Venezuela | 7 Comments »

Florida investment fund could default

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2007

I see Atrios did a post on this story, with better links than I might have provided (here, here, here) on a panic hitting Florida’s state investment fund. 

Unlike the earlier part of the mortgage crisis, this is the dangerous part. Yes, mass defaults on mortgages can lead to a wave of homeless people and bank failures.  But these crises can be absorbed to some degree by a society: people move back with parents or children, the Feds print more money to pay off depositors, and so on. The healthy part of the economy keeps moving and eventually generates the wealth to heal the wound.

Financial panics are a whole different thing. In the case of Florida, roughly 5% of the assets in the state investment fund are believed to be at risk. If the counties left their funds in, this could be absorbed through modest tax hikes or budget cuts. However, because some counties were unwilling to absorb any losses, they endangered everyone’s investments. They forced the liquidation of $10B of the safest assets, a third of the total fund, intensifying the risk to the remaining assets.

I suspect that Florida’s bond ratings will be downgraded, and the costs to service its obligations will rise. That, in turn, will force a cut in spending or (improbable) a rise in taxes, multiplying the economic effects of the panic. Some of the teachers whose salaries are being “protected” by panic withdrawals may end up jobless to balance the books. The effects will percolate out through the savings system, the pension system, and the insurance system, raising costs and causing paralysis of the productive economy.

The mortgage crisis never was a very big one as these things go. It might be one tenth or one-fifth the size of Iraq. All the government needed to do was guarantee the mortgages of non-speculators to make it go away. But the inclination to make the other fellow pay can magnify the crisis to the point that it is very big indeed.

Posted in economy | Comments Off on Florida investment fund could default

Nothing … But Fear Itself

Posted by MEC on November 29, 2007

Salon‘s Tim Grieve watched the Republican debate so we didn’t have to.

His conclusion:

There was no ‘morning in America’ for this bunch….

At one point, we tried to make a list of all the things the candidates fear:

Illegal aliens. Illegal aliens at Mitt Romney’s house. Having to check whether your painter or roofer has hired illegal aliens. Illegal aliens who want to cut in line. Amnesty for illegal aliens. “Special deals” for illegal aliens. Aliens — legal and illegal both — who make it “difficult for us to assimilate” and “take jobs” from the Americans already here.


Hillary Clinton.

And a whole lot more, from abortion to the Trilateral Commission. Every Republican candidate’s campaign, it seems, is all about making Americans afraid so he can portray himself as the only person who can protect us from scary things.

We’ve seen this movie before, and we know it doesn’t have a happy ending.

The appropriate — indeed, the necessary — response from Democrats would be to call the Republicans on their fearmongering. “The Republicans are afraid of everything. They’re afraid of their own shadows. Does America need a President who spreads fear, or a President who can give people hope?”

Posted in 2008, Republicans acting badly | 1 Comment »

Another uniter, not a divider: Gloria Arroyo

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2007

Clarissa Batino and Francisco Alcuaz, Jr., Bloomberg:

Philippine armed forces stormed a luxury hotel in Manila's business district, ending a coup attempt by a senator and general who earlier walked out of their trial for involvement in other bids to oust President Gloria Arroyo.

Soldiers fired tear gas into the Peninsula hotel and a military vehicle rammed through the main entrance after Senator Antonio Trillanes and General Danilo Lim failed to surrender by a 3 p.m. deadline. The pair, along with their supporters, had taken over the hotel and called for the army to overthrow Arroyo. They were taken into custody about 6:30 p.m.

The causes seem to be that Gloria Arroyo is acting quite a bit like George W.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in international | 3 Comments »

BREAKING NEWS: Rudy Giuliani’s Attempt To Game California Just Got Staked

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 29, 2007


As if Mister Put-It-On-The-City’s-Tab wasn’t having a crummy enough week, it seems that his attempt to game California’s electoral votes was withdrawn from circulation on Tuesday. It could come back, but that’s doubtful now, not with organized opposition ready to stomp on it.

[12/01/07 UPDATE: It’s been resubmitted, this time with a circulation deadline of February 4, 2008. However, as the people behind the initiative have already run out of money to pay their canvassers unless a deep-pocketed sugar daddy shows up (which is not out of the question), this might all be moot.]

[12/10/07 UPDATE:  Well, it’s not going to be on the June ballot.  That’s a big blow to the Republicans, as the June ballot would be a low-turnout one, and Republicans like low-turnout elections as they generally can mobilize their base better than we can mobilize ours.  They’re going to try to get it onto the November ballot — and make it apply to the November ballot — but that’s a very long shot.  It’s not dead yet, but its breathing is pretty shallow.]

Electoral vote reform is fine — so long as all the states are in on it, not just ones that Republicans with deep pockets want to game in a form of high-tech gerrymandering.

In other good California news, the attempt by the Fundies to destroy the domestic-partnership laws has failed outright.

Posted in 2008, election theft, family values, Rudy Giuliani | Comments Off on BREAKING NEWS: Rudy Giuliani’s Attempt To Game California Just Got Staked

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