Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for the ‘eedjits’ Category

The demise of the dollar and the rise of the Russian petrostate?

Posted by Charles II on January 1, 2015

That’s what Marin Katusa, author of The Colder Cold War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp, believes. Aired a few weeks ago, before the intensification of the ruble crisis, Katusa makes some excellent points (a number of which we have made on this blog year after year):

* Aggressive U.S. policy has had the perverse effect of bringing America’s chief rivals, Russia and China, much closer together
* The failure to push alternative energy has left the U.S. in the unenviable position of being dependent on the oil with some of the highest production costs
* Where alternative energy has been developed, it has in the past been dependent on government subsidies
* Russia directly controls a very large fraction of the low-cost reserves of gas, oil, and uranium in the world
* Russia indirectly controls more energy reserves through Russian companies, notably Gazprom operating in Israel and a uranium company, ARMZ, in North America
* A number of U.S. allies and neutral countries are heavily dependent on Russian energy
* OPEC regards North American energy producers as rivals that need to be driven out of business
* OPEC’s biggest customer is China, so its interests are no longer so deeply entangled with the U.S.
* The sanctions against Russia have accelerated the negotiation of contracts in currencies other than the dollar

Katusa predicts a dollar crisis, in which a number of countries ditch the dollar, the dollar starts to fall, and foreigners dump dollars. Then energy prices in dollars will rise, hurting the poor and middle class. (See here for an article about the dollar’s recent rise)

You can read more about Katusa’s views here.

Noting the usual caveat emptors–Katusa has heavy investment in the Slavic world, and probably some personal loyalty to it–this is still an interesting take on world events. Mercury Rising has repeatedly noted the dysfunctional U.S. approach to alternative energy, unconventional hydrocarbon development (fracking, deepwater drilling, etc.), and places like Ukraine and Venezuela. Certainly the U.S. has played the game badly, alienating allies, consolidating rivals, and baffling the world by its senseless and ineffectual interventions in places like Iraq.

I don’t think his analysis of a dollar crisis is accurate. First off, of course, is the point that Russians keep offshore bank accounts because they don’t trust their government. If they dump dollars, there are no attractive currencies. More broadly, currency crises generally occur when the assets of a country are falling in value, with no foreseeable rise. Now, the asset could be the currency, and the cause of the decline could be speculative outflows. But US assets are much more broadly held. There are $188T in assets, most of them financial. By contrast, M3 is an order of magnitude smaller.

I do, however, think that Katusa could be right for the wrong reason: the incompetence of the U.S. government, and the paralysis caused by Republican control could indeed cause a panic. There is no objective reason why we cannot convert much of our energy supply to alternatives, undermining the use of energy as a means of control by any government, including Russia. This action would be in the interests of the entire planet, as it would slow global warming. But with a government as stupid and paralyzed as the present one, the chances of getting into a fix we can’t handle are actually pretty good.

Posted in eedjits, energy, Obama Administration, Oil, unintended consequences | Comments Off on The demise of the dollar and the rise of the Russian petrostate?

NSA databases clogged with spam. Also: why Yahoo address books are so often hacked.

Posted by Charles II on October 14, 2013

The NSA has been harvesting address books from Americans’ e-mail. This is done semi-legally. That is, the NSA intercepts e-mail at points where it transits international boundaries, as in Google using a foreign server to handle e-mail. This brings in lots of American communications. The NSA also makes presumptions about the “foreignness” of e-mail that they know are, or are likely to be wrong. For example, an American writing to his home office from Europe would automatically be labeled as foreign correspondence, even though the recipient and the sender are American.

Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani:

Spam has proven to be a significant problem for NSA — clogging databases with data that holds no foreign intelligence value. The majority of all e-mails, one NSA document says, “are SPAM from ‘fake’ addresses and never ‘delivered’ to targets.”

In fall 2011, according to an NSA presentation, the Yahoo account of an Iranian target was “hacked by an unknown actor,” who used it to send spam. The Iranian had “a number of Yahoo groups in his/her contact list, some with many hundreds or thousands of members.”

The cascading effects of repeated spam messages, compounded by the automatic addition of the Iranian’s contacts to other people’s address books, led to a massive spike in the volume of traffic collected by the Australian intelligence service on the NSA’s behalf.

After nine days of data-bombing, the Iranian’s contact book and contact books for several people within it were “emergency detasked.”

In this report, we learn that “Yahoo, unlike other service providers, has left connections to its users unencrypted by default.” This explains why spammers target Yahoo so often for address books.

Posted in eedjits, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | Comments Off on NSA databases clogged with spam. Also: why Yahoo address books are so often hacked.

When is it ok to intervene?

Posted by Charles II on January 18, 2013

If one is curious about just how the US meddles abroad, the NS Archive released some documents from a lawsuit filed by a man who has been jailed by the Cuban government. The documents released by Peter Kornbluh describe providing “support to the Cuban people in hastening transition:

The U.S. government has “between five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba, and the USAID-sponsored “Democracy” program aimed at the Castro government is “an operational activity” that demands “continuous discretion,” according to documents filed in court this week, and posted today by the National Security Archive. The records were filed by Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), one of USAID’s largest contractors, in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 for attempting to set up satellite communications networks on the island, as part of the USAID program.

In an August 2008 meeting toward the end of the George W. Bush administration, according to a confidential memorandum of conversation attached to DAI’s filing, officials from the “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” as the Democracy effort is officially known, told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials stated, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.'”

There’s a useful conversation to be had about how the US government should respond to authoritarian states. Alan Gross was jailed simply for providing communications equipment to Cuban Jews, a jailing which seems manifestly unfair…unless it was part of a campaign to destabilize the Cuban government.

If we supplied communications equipment to the Arab Spring or to the Syrian rebels to resist dictatorial censorship, most Americans would probably approve. We would never do the same thing to a rival like Russia or China, since it would have serious diplomatic consequences. So part of the judgment about what is ok is actually based on what we can get away with. And we would never intervene in an authoritarian state whose government we support like, say, Saudi Arabia. In the case of Cuba, the rest of the world has concluded that we are obsessed with Castro and that we are behaving like bullies.

We need a consistent policy, one that doesn’t vary depending on how strong or weak authoritarian states are, or whether we support the government or not.

One other interesting angle is that one can find the quality of partner the USG is using to learn about Cuba, like The Babalu Blog which relies on FrontPage Mag and Judicial Watch for its reality, as well as The Cuban Triangle. Really, if this is what the USAID is using to find out about Cuba, they are very confused.

Posted in eedjits, State Department | 3 Comments »

I give Fox Business a chance of survival

Posted by Charles II on July 13, 2012

“No self-respecting man should ever be seen in a beret” –Mandy Drury, CNBC

Thing is, Mandy and especially her partner, Brian Sullivan, make brainless comments like this all the time. But since those comments have to do with finance and the economy, their audience (minus myself) doesn’t notice. Given how bad CNBC is getting, Fox Business might actually survive.

Posted in eedjits, Media machine, mediawhores | 2 Comments »

Look out below

Posted by Charles II on April 9, 2012

Outsourced to Ritholtz.

Basic story: futures predict -1.5%. We are close to “Sell in May and go away.” seasonal selling (though April is usually a good month). The weak payroll data make people jittery. Mayan calendars says… well, you get the idea. No real reason to expect a market correction, so everyone is expecting one.

Me, I don’t see any news that would cause a correction. The market is overvalued, but it’s not like that’s anything new. The real news that makes me jittery is that JP Morgan has apparently found a new loophole by which to lever up, even as it develops that corporate debt actually is quite high. Yes, corporations have lots of cash. They also have lots of liabilities. Those are things to worry about: arsonists have just bought gasoline. There is plenty of tinder.

Lord, we live in stupid times.

Posted in economy, eedjits, stock market, stupid | Comments Off on Look out below

One of the higher mysteries

Posted by Charles II on March 13, 2012

Duff McDonald, Fortune (via Ritholtz):

To readers of the business press, the story is a familiar one: fifteen months ago, superstar analyst Meredith Whitney rocked the world of municipal finance with a December 2010 prediction on 60 Minutes that a wave of municipal debt defaults was headed our way. Her forecast was quite specific: “You could see fifty to a hundred sizable defaults,” she told her interviewer, correspondent Steve Kroft. “This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of defaults.”

If you followed Whitney’s advice and didn’t buy munis (especially after her prediction sent the market crashing), you missed one of the better investments of many a year.

Or maybe not. The way that municipalities avoided defaulting was by putting off vital infrastructure and reducing critical services. When the streets are awash in sewage, or rats make the tony side of the city into their playgrounds, maybe people will discover that they actually like paying taxes.

Posted in eedjits, financial crisis, taxes | Comments Off on One of the higher mysteries

Armageddon, Ragnarok, and the end of the Mayan Calendar rolled into one

Posted by Charles II on March 8, 2012

Via The Big Picture, Menzie Chinn of Econbrowser shows what all the Republican sturm und drang is about:

Government spending rose by somewhat less than 3% of GDP. A bunch of it was tax cuts, which were mostly saved rather than spent and shouldn’t be called stimulus…and, of course, are what Republicans want instead of real stimulus. And, as Menzie points out, the overall rise in federal spending also offset the collapse in state/local spending.

Putting it in the familiar terms of family income, if the family is making $50,000 and Mom gets laid off, it’s like spending $1500 so she can take a course at community college to qualify for a better job. If you count that spending rose for 2 years, then it’s like $3,000. Sure, no one likes to go in to debt to get Mom employed again, but it’s not exactly Armageddon, Ragnarok, and the end of the Mayan Calendar rolled into one.

Posted in economy, eedjits, Republicans acting badly | 1 Comment »

No wonder they’re afraid of voter fraud…

Posted by Charles II on January 16, 2012

If their pastors and priests do it.

Ralph Z. Hallow in the ::cough!:: Washington Times (via Rachel and Quentin Compson at Atrios):

In an evolving power struggle, religious conservatives are feuding about whether a weekend meeting in Texas yielded a consensus that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the best bet to stop Mitt Romney’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination.

A leading evangelical and former aide to President George H.W. Bush said he agreed with suspicions voiced by others at the meeting of evangelical and conservative Catholic activists that organizers “manipulated” the gathering and may even have stuffed the ballot to produce an endorsement of Mr. Santorum over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Yet another evangelical political organizer who attended the meeting said he witnessed a possible incident of ballot-box stuffing. In at least one instance, the witness said, a participant was seen writing Mr. Santorum´s name on four separate ballots and putting all four in the box.

As we keep saying, Republicans accuse Democrats of things because that’s what they’re doing. The only thing that’s notable about this instance is that it’s people who claim to be following Jesus who are stuffing the ballot box.

Posted in eedjits, election theft | 3 Comments »

We need a post on Ron Paul’s connections to the John Birch Society

Posted by Charles II on January 4, 2012

Just sayin’.

Figuring out what politicians will do in office is very difficult. Most of them are masters of disguise and deception. Tens of millions of people imagined that Bush would be a compassionate conservative (despite the fact that he was well known to be personally sadistic). Tens of millions imagined that Obama would not get involved in all sorts of optional wars, even though he told people ahead of time he would have American troops cross Pakistani borders whether they gave permission or not.

A very important part of anticipating what politicians will do is understanding where they get their ideas. Obama’s close ties with guys like Austan Goolsbee was a warning sign that he wasn’t an economic liberal. An economic liberal would have aligned himself with guys like Joe Stiglitz (for the record, there were some liberal economists like Jamie Galbraith and Bob Reich among his advisors. They just were not in any clear majority or among his personal associates). Understanding which wells or sewers a candidate drinks from in forming his ideas is a much better predictor of what he’ll do than what he says.

So, Ron Paul’s links to the John Birch Society, which are much more recent than his survivalist newsletter should be a focus for those who want to understand what Ron Paul would actually do. American Opinion, the JBS newsletter, gives Paul a 100% rating on 20 recent votes. Now, the JBS is a very strict grader. In the House, I count only 4 South Carolina Republicans, 1 North Carolina Republican, and Ron Paul who meet their exacting standards. In the Senate, there are none. The JBS is remarkably mainstream in Republican circles, considering they were once drummed out of the Republican Party. They sponsored a recent CPAC meeting.

Since there is no clear distinction between the John Birch Society and the conservative movement, one may wonder what the special interest in them should be. The answer is that the JBS is, in effect, the Bolshevik Party of the right. They are intensely conspiratorial, use deception routinely, and–because they have pre-determined that the world governments are all in the hands of the communists–have completed the process of dehumanization that is necessary for the use of ruthless means. For the latter, see for example this article, which includes such interesting lines as:

But now there appears to be another secret cabal, known as the Shadow Party, controlled by radical billionaire George Soros who operates secretly to influence the direction our government is going in. He has boldly proclaimed his intentions, so they are not secret. But how he controls events in Washington is another story. We suspect that he is behind Barack Obama’s presidency…
John Dewey and his colleagues were all socialists and made no secret of their intent to take over the public schools and use them as the means of converting America from an individualist society to a socialist one….Most readers of The New American are familiar with the Illuminati conspiracy that was launched by Adam Weishaupt on May 1, 1776, at Ingolstadt, Germany….The earliest conspiracy I know of in the United States was created by the Owenite socialists who wanted to convert America into an anti-Christian communist society.

So, let me speculate on what a couple of Ron Paul’s positions which are so attractive to the left might actually mean:
* does withdrawal of American forces from wars mean that we will use nuclear weapons when our interests are threatened?
* would legalization of drugs without any compensating effort to help people get off and stay off drugs mean that drugs would effectively become a means of medicating and controlling the population?

What does the John Birch Society say about these things? I’d really like to know. There’s been a lot of talk about how the Republican Party will never let Paul gain the nomination. I don’t see why not, not when some of the biggest money in the GOP comes from corporate libertarian/John Birchers like the Koch brothers.

Posted in 2012, anti-truth, antiwar movement, capitalism as cancer, corporatists, eedjits, evil, fascism, unintended consequences, War On Some Drugs | 20 Comments »

Right-Winger Julie Mason Doesn’t Like It When People Point Out Right-Wing Media Bias

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 16, 2011

So here we have Julie Mason, who covered the White House beat for the Houston Chronicle since the first term of Bill Clinton, but who after being laid off in October of 2008 went to the extreme-right-wing Washington Examiner to continue her White House coverage, and has now since February of this year been writing for Politico, which is known for being funded and run by Reagan Republicans and other right-wingers.

Which is why it’s a little amusing (and by “amusing” I mean bile-inducing) to see her get all shirty when one of her targets points out that a lot of US media is biased towards the right wing and/or Republicans:

President Obama’s remark to Ed Henry of Fox News on Thursday that, “I didn’t know you were the spokesperson for Mitt Romney” set off heated discussions this week around the White House briefing room.

Henry declined comment on the matter. But reporters were left wondering — is this how the administration is going to respond to criticism from Republican opponents going forward — by casting aspersions on journalists who ask questions?

That’s right, folks: Pointing out what everyone knows about right-wing bias in American media is “casting aspersions”. Charming, eh?

This isn’t her first slapback at politicians and other media critics who she obviously sees as insubordinate. Check out her snotty comments on the media obsession with ridiculous (and usually right-wing-planted) non-stories such as the “flag pin” bogosity:

To many in the press corps, Obama is just naïve for characterizing things like flag pins, the patriotism of his former pastor, and subversive activities committed 40 years ago by a guy he sort of knows as “distractions.” When he noted that the debate was nearly half over before an actual policy issue was mentioned, they were dismissive. Appearing on MSNBC the next day, Julie Mason of the Houston Chronicle said with a mocking tone, “It seems like he wants to live in this sort of perfect, high-minded political world where things like flag pins don’t matter, but they really do. These things create perceptions. Everyone is saying he didn’t do well. I have to agree. I don’t think he did much for himself at all.” The “everyone” to whom she was referring was no doubt the rest of the political reporters.

Better adjust that tiara a little bit, Miss Desmond, so you can be ready for Mr. DeMille’s closeup.

Posted in beat the press, eedjits, GOP/Media Complex | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Right-Winger Julie Mason Doesn’t Like It When People Point Out Right-Wing Media Bias

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