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Archive for the ‘Obama Administration’ Category

Obama’s TPP Betrayal

Posted by Charles II on June 4, 2015

Michael Wessel, Politico:

“You need to tell me what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago,” a frustrated President Barack Obama recently complained about criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He’s right. The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what’s hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

Via Avedon.

Posted in abuse of power, Obama Administration, TPP | 4 Comments »

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?

Who didn’t show up

Posted by Charles II on November 5, 2014


In 2012, young voters, African Americans, and Latinos represented 19%, 13%, and 10%, respectively, of the national electorate. This year, those same groups represented 13%, 12%, and 8%, respectively, of the national electorate, according to CBS News. The smaller share of the electorate was not because White turned out in overwhelming numbers. It was because younger voters and minorities stayed home.

Probably nothing to do with mass purges of the voter rolls, threatening African Americans with jail for voting, unreasonable requirements for Voter ID. Or, for that matter, a failure to deliver a good employment market, rising wages, etc.

Must be because they hate Kenyan Muslim carriers of the dread Ebola.

BTW, congratulations to Minn Dems for good wins on a bad night!

Posted in Democrats, Obama Administration | 4 Comments »

Hersh: Obama lied about Syrian sarin

Posted by Charles II on December 9, 2013

Via DemocracyNow, Sy Hersh in the 8/12/13 London Review of Books:

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.

That lede makes it sound as if it were more of a fudge than a lie. But when one digs into the details, the real lede is buried.

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.

The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack.

The absence of immediate alarm inside the American intelligence community demonstrates that there was no intelligence about Syrian intentions in the days before the attack. And there are at least two ways the US could have known about it in advance: both were touched on in one of the top secret American intelligence documents that have been made public in recent months by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

What the US did not have was reaction from sensors that it has placed near Syrian chemical weapons facilities. If the Syrian army had planned the attack, they would have mixed the binary system, and it would have been picked up by sensors. It also had a gap in wiretapping of Bashar al-Assad.

The sensors had worked in the past, as the Syrian leadership knew all too well. Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise (all militaries constantly carry out such exercises) or actually preparing an attack.

The US continued to lie about the more likely source of the attack, an extremist Islamist group called al-Nusra.

In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that ‘only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.’ Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’

Posted in NSA eavesdropping, Obama Administration, Syria | Comments Off on Hersh: Obama lied about Syrian sarin

Via Melissa H-P

Posted by Charles II on September 29, 2012

Sorry about the commercial.

Posted in 2012, Obama Administration | Comments Off on Via Melissa H-P

Support Don Siegelman

Posted by Charles II on September 11, 2012

Andrew Gumbel, The Guardian:

The magazine of the American Trial Lawyers Association has described him as “America’s No 1 political prisoner”, and his well-connected friends and supporters include more than 100 former state attorneys general and former Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry.

The basic story is that a healthcare executive, who had served on a (non-paying) state hospital regulatory board for three administrations, was appointed to the board a fourth time by Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. That healthcare executive had donated to the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation which was seeking to promote a lottery initiative (to support education) that Siegelman supported (and was opposed by powerful interests represented by Jack Abramoff). Despite the fact that appointing contributors to positions is a normal political practice (and Siegelman had not received a dime), the courts–in the person of Dubya appointee Judge Mark Fuller— called this bribery.

You can sign a petition supporting Don Siegelman’s search for justice here. This is the message I included in my signature:

If someone as senior as Don Siegelman can be jailed on such flimsy charges and with the assent of figures including the Attorney General and the Supreme Court, then I can have no faith in the American justice system. Why should any of us serve on juries or otherwise support the system when it has become simply a tool of political power?

Our courts are deeply corrupt. Until they are reformed, until all of the political appointees are shaken out of the system and replaced by people with a passion to see justice done, this nation will continue to decline. And shame on Barack Obama for refusing to take a stand on this case and Eric Holder for standing on the wrong side.

The full megillah follows below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Department of Injustice, Karl Rove, Obama Administration, Supreme Court, The smear industry | Comments Off on Support Don Siegelman

The corporate state extends its reach

Posted by Charles II on June 14, 2012

Two developments:

First, CISPA is not dead. To review, CISPA would permit corporations to treat your communications as public and, under totally arbitrary criteria, forward them to law enforcement. If somebody at Earthlink hates hollyhocks, he can read through your e-mails to discover you discussing sending the offending botanical to your Mom, and can forward it to the Department of Homeland Security with the subject line: Terrorist seeks to detonate floral fashion bomb. You find out and want to sue, too bad.

Sure, it’s unlikely to happen, but laws should be written well enough that they don’t permit outrageous behavior or, if it happens, they provide a remedy through prosecution or civil litigation. Contact your Senator and demand that the legislation be written tightly enough to prevent egregious bad behavior.

Second, a new piece of apparently poorly-written legislation called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being negotiated in secret. Although it’s called trade legislation, it has wide-ranging effects that would make national laws unenforceable, provide ridiculous protections to foreign firms, and allow corporations to loot the US Treasury without even the nicety of a court hearing.

As far as I can tell from the text of one chapter that has been leaked and the analysis by Public Citizen, the positive feature of the legislation are that it would prevent national governments from providing sweetheart deals to its own companies. This is something the Chinese are notorious for, it does promote corruption, and it’s fine to eliminate it in general. The negative features are that it would create a corporate supercourt, above even the ridiculously lax standards of the corporate-loving American courts, and would allow corporations to extract money for acts of legitimate national self-protection like, say, banning triply-leveraged options on penny stocks–things that have no legitimate financial function, but are a boon to speculators, stock manipulators, and outright criminals.

Maybe decent legislation can be salvaged out of this. But as long as Ron Wyden, who holds a security clearance, cannot even see the draft text, something is wrong. It sounds like an attempt to hustle things through and we should all take a moment to just say no.

Posted in abuse of power, Obama Administration | 2 Comments »

The Administration’s flawed corporate tax plan

Posted by Charles II on February 22, 2012

Citizens for Tax Justice (by newsletter):

“The President has proposed to reduce the statutory corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, make certain temporary tax breaks, including the research and experimentation credit, permanent, and add some new business tax breaks. In total, these tax cuts would cost us about $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

“To offset this cost, the President proposed in his fiscal 2013 budget raise about $0.3 trillion from closing or reducing business tax loopholes. That leaves almost $1 trillion in further business tax reforms that would be necessary for the tax plan to break even, as the President say he wants to do. His ‘framework,’ however, leaves the sources of this $0.9 trillion in offsetting reforms mostly unspecified.

“We can and should collect more tax revenue from corporations. Right now, America’s biggest and most profitable corporations are paying, on average, a ridiculously low amount in federal income taxes, and many of them are paying nothing at all.

Why higher rates are fair:

■ A 2007 report from the Bush Treasury Department found “the United States takes a below average share of corporate income in taxes” compared to other developed countries.

Click for more
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Posted in Obama Administration, taxes | Comments Off on The Administration’s flawed corporate tax plan

Then again, it’s easy to see why FOX makes such mistakes

Posted by Charles II on December 14, 2011

As bizarre as it is for an organization claiming to be delivering “news” to label a picture of Obama as Romney, it’s not so surprising that Obama gets confused with Republicans. Ryan Reilly, TPM:

The ACLU’s Laura Murphy said Obama “should more carefully consider the consequences of allowing this bill [National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision allowing indefinite detention of US citizens without charge or trial] to become law.”

“If President Obama signs this bill, it will damage both his legacy and American’s reputation for upholding the rule of law,” Murphy said in a statement. “The last time Congress passed indefinite detention legislation was during the McCarthy era and President Truman had the courage to veto that bill. We hope that the president will consider the long view of history before codifying indefinite detention without charge or trial.”

One could see the betrayal coming from a mile off. He’s signing it, even though it stands in flagrant violation of the provisions of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

Posted in Constitution, Obama Administration, totalitarianism | Comments Off on Then again, it’s easy to see why FOX makes such mistakes

Krugman: CBO scores Obama policy as contractionary

Posted by Charles II on November 23, 2011

We all know that the advent of the Republicans meant that fiscal policy became even more contractionary. But what’s interesting is that the planned stimulus by Obama was far, far less than the decline in potential GDP, even as it was known in early 2009. Krugman:

The CBO has released the latest assessment of the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act, aka Obama stimulus. What it tells us is that the US federal government has been practicing destructive fiscal austerity since the middle of 2010 (and that’s not even talking about what’s happening at the state and local level). Here’s the average of CBO’s high and low estimates of the impact of the ARRA on the level (not the rate of growth) of GDP by quarter:(emphasis added)

Krugman shows a nice graph. To me what is interesting is what it says about the overall predicted stimulus was about 1.5% of GDP for 2009 and 2010, then essentially bupkis. But even in 2009, we knew that the output gap was much larger. The following graph, from early 2011, prior to the recent GDP revisions, shows an output gap of 7.5%. narrowing barely to 6.1% in 2011. Not so coincidentally, 6.1% is approximately 1.5 percentage points less than 7.5%.

In other words, there was no growth except from the stimulus. There was no bootstrap effect, in which business gains some confidence, hires some workers, and a virtuous circle is re-established.

Posted in economy, financial crisis, Obama Administration | 4 Comments »

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