Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for October, 2011

The foundations of our prosperity

Posted by Charles II on October 27, 2011

Ed Vulliamy on DemocracyNow:

Then, I thought, well, let’s set this in context. Talked to a man called Antonio Maria Costa, who’s the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. He’s not there any longer. He posits that the volumes of money coming in from Mexico, from—and obviously his speciality was Europe, Russia, you know, similar operations—laundering of vast quantities of the profits of drugs and, of course, the calamitous violence that is the scourge of Mexico, is basically propping up the banking system. It is a major pillar of the banking system. Without it, it would have collapsed long ago. Well, we know that the other pillar propping it up is tax dollars.

The interview continued in a Web exclusive, which is not yet up.


Posted in corruption, Mexico, War On Some Drugs | 1 Comment »

Nouriel calls BS on Eurozone agreement

Posted by Charles II on October 27, 2011

Roubini (or, rather, his analysts; no link) says that when investors recognize the holes in the EZ agreement, the recent stock mania will recede. But there is some optimism that most bondholders will accept the haircut and not trigger a default in order to recover on their credit default swaps, possibly because those bondholders are banks who at this point exist at the sufferance of the German government.

Roubini also says that a recession is fairly likely in Europe, the UK, and the US.

More as more specifics become available.
Added: Peter Spiegel of FT suggests that they will offer bondholders higher interest rates on reduced principal. This is an interesting approach. 1% interest on $100 is the same as 2% interest on $50. Or, one can change the term of payment. Paying 1.5% interest over 10 years might seem more attractive than 2% over 5 years. This would explain why default might not be triggered, although a non-Euro court might not agree.

But there’s no question that Nouriel is right: financial engineering is not the way out of this crisis. Growth is the way out.

Posted in economy, Europe, stock market | Comments Off on Nouriel calls BS on Eurozone agreement

Oakland heads for a general strike/Hedges models verbal non-violence

Posted by Charles II on October 27, 2011

To see how verbal nonviolence works and overwhelms the opponents of its practitioners, see Chris Hedges (via Avedon).

Oakland is going to need it. The wounding of Iraq veteran Scott Olsen will precipitate an attempt at a general strike; the police obstructed the medical treatment of Olsen, aiming flashbangs directly at medics (see also David Dayen). These police actions appear to me to represent assault with a deadly weapon, with no mitigating circumstances. Read this account by FBI agents on injuries they suffered from the detonation of a defective flashbang in 2008 to understand how deeply irresponsible firing flashbangs was:

That’s when, Bain says, the flash-bang grenade in his vest just blew up.

“The car is on fire,” Bain recalled. “I was told later I was on fire. Smoke billowing in the car. It was obviously chaos.”

Scanzano remembers “it was like being in combat. There was smoke and fire in the vehicle, and I knew that we were in trouble.”

An ambulance rushed the three agents to a nearby hospital.

“To me, it felt like someone just whacked me in the back with a baseball bat as hard as they could,” said Bain, recalling the incident, which happened four years ago.

Bain suffered severe bruising, a concussion and burns to his neck and ears. All three agents said they have experienced hearing loss.

Beanbag rounds have a similar safety profile, which is to say that they are potentially lethal.

Click for more on general strikes
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Posted in abuse of power, General strike, Occupy movement, speaking truth to power | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Occupy Protesters Throwing Bottles – To Each Other, To Rinse Tear Gas From Their Eyes

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 26, 2011

Video streaming by Ustream

When you hear about “protesters throwing bottles in the crowd” as it’s being tear-gassed or pepper-sprayed by the cops, here’s what probably actually happening:

Left a comment over at the NYT. They captured video that shows protesters throwing what they themselves identified as “water bottles”, and they contend they are throwing them at the police. But in the video, you can hear someone forward in the tear gas cloud calling out for water. The people aren’t throwing the water at the police. They are throwing it to the people calling for water. It’s for rinsing eyes. But this is how the media gets to report that the protesters were throwing projectiles at the police.

By the way — as TBogg and others have noted, isn’t it interesting that two of the major TV networks covering Occupy Oakland both cut their feeds at the same time just seconds before the cops rolled out the tear gas and the flash bang grenades and the beanbags and the rubber bullets?

See the video above to see what happened once the establishment media turned off its cameras. Or go here. Or see KTVU’s coverage (they’re the largest FOX affiliate that’s not actually owned by FOX but still has vestiges of independence from the NewsCorp party line).

Posted in abuse of power | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reforming the Fed

Posted by Charles II on October 26, 2011

Bernie Sanders has a summary of the GAO report on the conflicts of interest at the Fed here.

Speaking of impunity:

Stephen Friedman, the Chairman of the New York Fed, sat on the Board
of Directors of Goldman Sachs, and owned shares in Goldman’s stock, something that was
prohibited by the Federal Reserve’s conflict of interest regulations. Mr. Friedman received a waiver from the Fed’s conflict of interest rules in late 2008.

The GAO found that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York consulted with General Electric on the creation of the Commercial Paper Funding Facility established during the financial crisis. The Fed later provided $16 billion in financing to General Electric under this emergency lending program. This occurred while Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, served as a director on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the same time that his bank received emergency loans from the Fed …
In March of 2008, the Fed provided JP Morgan Chase with $29 billion in financing to acquire Bear Stearns. During this time period, Jamie Dimon was successful in getting the Fed to provide JP Morgan Chase with an 18-month exemption from risk-based leverage and capital requirements. Dimon also convinced the Fed to take risky mortgage-related assets off of Bear Stearns balance sheet before JP Morgan Chase acquired this troubled investment bank.

While Congress has mandated that the Federal Reserve’s board of directors consist of experts in labor, consumer protection, agriculture, commerce, and industry, only 11 of the 202 members of the Federal Reserve’s board of directors represented labor and consumer interests from 2006-2010.

Of the 108 Federal Reserve board directors, 82 were the President or CEO of their company.
The Federal Reserve claims that it is hard to recruit labor and consumer representatives to its board because many are “politically active,”… According to the Center for Responsive Politics, [JPMorgan CEO Jaime] Dimon has made over $620,000 in campaign contributions since 1990.

Laws are meant for little people.

Posted in banking, corruption, cronies, impunity, Republicans as cancer | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

From here to impunity: Greenwald on the connection between Nixon and the current crisis

Posted by Charles II on October 26, 2011

(The image above from Drug Policy Alliance. Since Nixon also started the drug war or, at least, escalated a low intensity conflict into a full fledged war, it’s particularly apt)

Glenn Greenwald has a book out, With Liberty and Justice for Some which explains the evolution of impunity in the US. While I think that it’s self-evident that the US has always had a two-tiered legal system (for almost 200 years, there was explicitly or implicitly one legal system for whites and one for everyone else), it’s true that official lawbreaking was not so readily tolerated. Overlooking the stray Wilbur Mills/Argentine Firecracker incident and Teapot Dome scandal, the Roosevelt cousins ushered in an expectation that the law would apply to rich and poor alike.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

As multiple episodes demonstrate, a belief that elite immunity is both necessary and justified became the prevailing ethos in the nation’s most influential circles. In countless instances over recent years, prominent political and media figures have insisted that serious crimes by the most powerful should be overlooked— either in the name of the common good, or in the name of a warped conception of fairness according to which those with the greatest power are the most entitled to deference and understanding.

This is what makes the contemporary form of American lawlessness new and unprecedented. It is now perfectly common, and perfectly acceptable, to openly advocate elite immunity. And this advocacy has had its intended effect: the United States has become a nation that does not apply the rule of law to its elite class, which is another way of saying that the United States does not apply the rule of law. . . .

If the threat of real punishment for criminality is removed, for many rational people there will be little incentive to abide by the law and much incentive to break it. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 15, explained why.

It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.

For the nation’s most powerful elites, the law has indeed been whittled down to “nothing more than advice or recommendation.” Although there have been episodes of unpunished elite malfeasance throughout American history, the explicit, systematic embrace of the notion that such malfeasance should be shielded from legal consequences begins with the Watergate scandal— one of the clearest cases of widespread, deliberate criminality at the highest level of the U.S. government.

By the scandal’s conclusion, few contested that not only Nixon’s top aides but Nixon himself had committed serious felonies— either in authorizing the break-in and related illegalities, or in obstructing the ensuing investigation. Nonetheless, Nixon was ultimately shielded from all legal consequences thanks to the pardon granted by his handpicked vice president, Gerald Ford— who, it was widely believed, secured his appointment by agreeing to protect Nixon from prosecution.

The crisis on Wall Street did indeed begin with Richard Nixon, was amplified by the pass that Congress gave Reagan on Iran-Contra, was amplified again (paradoxically) by the persecution of Bill Clinton, where the law was used as a weapon against a public official, and was been decisively implanted into the American system of law with Election 2000, unprosecuted wiretapping and torture, and the failure of Obama to prosecute criminals from the Bush Administration and from Wall Street.

Posted in Bush, Bush Family Evil Empire, election theft, impunity, President Obama, Republicans as cancer, Rule of Law | 8 Comments »

Mandelbrot trading: the fractal looting of retail investors

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2011

Benoit Mandelbrot is probably best known for fractals, self-similar structures. Here are charts of the S&P 500 over the last three months and over the last 13 years.

They both represent range-bound trading, in which the index goes up and down, but never establishes a trend. But the scale they occur on is vastly different. Interestingly, the ups and downs of the range within which the three-month chart is trading represent slightly more than the long-term annual average rise/fall of the market.

A trader, as opposed to a long-term investor, can make money in such range bound markets by buying low, selling high, and going short at the peak. Just taking the peaks and troughs between 112 and 120, a trader could makes something like 50% profit (exclusive of taxes) in three months. It’s like making seven years of normal profits in three months.

Click for more
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Posted in stock market | 5 Comments »

Veal Pen Preachers

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 24, 2011

I wanted to share with you this gem of a post by FDL’s resident preacher man, Peterr:

This week, a friend forwarded me a CNN piece that shows the Veal Pen mentality hard at work in a place near and dear to me: the church. What’s particularly troubling is the selectivity of the Veal Pen mentality around matters of economics and greed:

[Bishop Harry Jackson] once described same-sex marriage as a satanic plot to destroy the family, called on Republicans to get “political Viagra” and said African-Americans needed to abandon what he called the Gospel of Victimization.

Jackson is not shy about stirring up controversy, but he stops short when it comes to preaching about greed. . .

“I’ve got to watch it,” said Jackson, pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. “I could get into some big teaching on greed, but the reality is that a lot of that teaching may wind up creating anti-economic-growth and anti-capitalism concepts (in people’s minds). … I always talk about personal responsibility so we don’t get into the blame game.”

When you see a preacher who has no problem getting into the blame game when it come to marriage equality, but quakes at addressing greed, you’re looking at a Veal Pen Preacher.

Go read the whole thing. It’s some serious testifying.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Murdoch phone hacking befogged

Posted by Charles II on October 24, 2011

Parliamentary questioning of Les Hinton demonstrated that he’s one of the most competent corporate executives out there:

The culture committee questioned Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of Rupert Murdoch’s lot. He appeared from New York by video link. Thanks to modern technology, it was possible for a great cloud of ignorance, prevarication, vagueness and amnesia to billow across the Atlantic.

Mr Hinton knew nuffink and remembered less. You could have stopped any passing schoolboy and learned as much.

One of the great talents you must have to be a corporate executive is to be informed about every detail of your subordinates’ lives except when it involves your own personal liability. “Sociopathic” barely begins to describe it.

Posted in anti-truth, liars, Rupert Murdoch | 1 Comment »

Kirchner wins re-election in a landslide. US media continue losing.

Posted by Charles II on October 24, 2011

Via Dean Baker, we learn about NYT carping about Mrs. Kirchner of Argentina. As Baker says, there were no positive sources in Alex Barrionuevo‘s piece, but instead this sort of vague complaining that she shouldn’t have won 53% of the vote (and the socialist FAP won 17%, so the right was reduced to a tiny minority):

“Argentina is … a post-authoritarian, democratic government that has not embraced the principles of macroeconomic stability…

…Argentina’s regional and international profile “has diminished dramatically” under the Kirchners… “They carry no geopolitical weight.”

….the government’s authoritarian style…

…the government’s vulnerabilities — corruption and cronyism,” .

…“When the money runs out, there will be a political reckoning,”

This thinly-veiled contempt is pretty remarkable considering that a decade ago, the Western press said that Argentina would never recover from its debt default–and, yet, somehow Nestor Kirchner not only helped the country survive, but brought it to prosperity. As Barrionuevo concedes, “Still, despite predictions that the economic model would collapse, the economy grew by 9.2 percent last year….

I have no idea whether Kirchner will be a good leader for the problems Argentina’s people face. But I trust the Argentines. They made an informed decision, having watched her performance through one term of office.

Our papers are run and written by small-minded, snotty brats, and what they produce is not news. It’s propaganda.
Update. Mark Weisbrot, writing in The Guardian:

Since Argentina defaulted on $95bn of international debt nine years ago and blew off the International Monetary Fund, the economy has done remarkably well. For the years 2002-2011, using the IMF’s projections for the end of this year, Argentina has chalked up real GDP growth of about 94%. This is the fastest economic growth in the western hemisphere – about twice that of Brazil, for example, which has also improved enormously over past performance.

The benefits of growth don’t always trickle down, but in this case, the Argentine government has made sure that many did. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced by about two thirds since their peak in 2002, and employment has increased to record levels. Social spending by the government has nearly tripled in real terms.

Inequality has also been considerably reduced…

Gee, it’s a real mystery why she got re-elected.

Posted in Latin America, Media machine, mediawhores, propaganda | 4 Comments »

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