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This is the archive for September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The government of Iceland figured out how to re-capitalize a major distressed bank without dumping worthless assets on the taxpayer.
"Americans don't have enough money to pay their mortgages."
More on the disastrous legislation

Truth be told, I only managed quickly to review the front end of the bill that fortunately went down yesterday. Here is an absolutely essential piece on the bill's back end, explaining some of the most puzzling financial news of the last couple of weeks:

Congress Didn't Dare Say Yes: What Wall Street Hoped to Win
Counterpunch -- By PAM MARTENS
But the most duplicitous and frightening aspect of the plan, as always, was to found, buried in the back of the document, located there in the hopes everyone would have fallen asleep from the legalese before they made it that far. There?s the innocuous sounding Section 128, which was in both the original and amended versions, and says simply: "Section 203 of the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act of 2006 (12 U.S.C. 461 note) is amended by striking 'October 1, 2011' and inserting 'October 1, 2008.'"

What would this effectively do? It was intended to speed up the enactment of this section of the law from 2011 to this week.

And what is the impact of the change in this law? (Take a moment to let this sink in.) This wonderful bipartisan bailout proposal, negotiated into the wee hours of the morning by sleep-deprived members of Congress was designed to come with a furtive Trojan Horse embedded by Wall Street lawyers. Banks already in trouble for lack of capital would get to hold as little as "zero" capital for transactions.

But it does solve one giant mystery. All of Wall Street has been attempting to understand why firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who have concentrated on mergers, acquisitions, stock and bond underwriting for more a cumulative 212 years, decided in a heartbeat to enter the bean counter world of retail banking and transform into bank holding companies. (That?s like asking General Motors to retool overnight for washing machines.) Now we know. Effective this week, if this bailout proposal would have passed in its current form, these firms would have had a new best friend at the Fed that was going to let them hold zero reserves for transactions. No wonder the stock of both firms sold off yesterday when Congress rejected the plan: Goldman closed down 12 per cent; Morgan down 15 per cent.
Anyone have any doubts left about for what this bailout was intended? Tom Allen, are you listening?
Rationales interesting and revealing

As I reported yesterday, Representatives Michaud and Allen split on the bailout, Michaud being against, Allen for. A Bangor Daily News story today quotes each on the rationales for their votes:
Rep. Mike Michaud: I voted against the Wall Street bailout bill because it provided largely unchecked authority to the Treasury Department to spend $700 billion of taxpayers' money without adequate safeguards.

Rep. Tom Allen: It is unconscionable that the House failed to reach consensus on legislation to stabilize financial markets as America stands on the brink of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. ... The jobs, the savings, the homes, the educational opportunities and the retirement security of millions of Americans are at risk.
Mike gets it from the working class perspective. Tom is drenched in the decptive Bush-Democratic-leadership "mushroom cloud" rhetoric. My opinion is that it's unconscionable to pass this in a rush with "worst since 30s" fear mongering in the lead. Mike has working class sensibility on this. There is more time to work out solutions more favorable to the working class, and yes, much much MUCH more "punitive" to Wall Street.

It's not that I think there is no problem, or that Congress should not act. I just think the Paulson approach is rash, stupid, and dangerous. The bill fails to do the things necessary to keep the economy from falling off the metaphorical cliff. Sure, it would open a taxpayer floodgate into Wall Street for a former Goldman Sachs CEO to manage as he pleases. But look, they won't pass an unemployment/health/jobs bill (see HERE), they won't help individuals with bankruptcy and foreclosure (which would have a MAJOR positive effect on the crisis), they won't even discuss surcharges on millionaires or any sort of revenues to help pay. The "oversight" in the bill was a joke. And, it's hard to know, but the amount of junk the taxpayer could go on the hook for (multiple times the $700 billion) could threaten the US Treasury itself.

CALL MIKE and thank him. I'm afraid that from what I see in Tom Allen, it's too late for him.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I hate to have to post this


Tom Allen is breathtakingly stupid

Maine 1st District Representative Tom Allen voted for the Wall Street bailout. In doing so, he voted for the biggest economic hosing the President George W. Bush Administration has ever devised. In doing so, he said Republican policies are okay, the policies of Susan Collins are okay after all, and the taxpayer just cleans up Republican messes. The vote said he even approved the top Bush henchman to be in charge.

Candidate Tom Allen could have made some hay against Senator Susan Collins by taking a real stand against her and Bush that the ad suggests he does. Alas, no. No alternative ideas from Tom. He joined the rush to approve the Bush economic takeover. Shameful.

Update: What Gerald said. I just got through listening to Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank repeat mantras of the phrase "protect the taxpayer" in a replay from the afternoon Capitol news conference. Who are they kidding? It's pathetic. (Gerald also pointed me to THIS very interesting report on the Treasury conference call for bailout analysts. What's happening inside is not reflected on the outside, that's for sure.) Meanwhile, here is Gerald's litany of Tom Allen's failing "Mr. Niceguy" program:
  • Not challenging Collins as she cried, "Victim!" to the MoveOn.org ads.
  • Not hammering Collins on her record of not investigating the fraud, theft and malfeasance that has defined the reconstruction of Iraq (a total that is not far from $700 billion).Not challenging Collins as she cried, "Victim!" to the MoveOn.org ads.
  • Not hammering Collins on her record of not investigating the fraud, theft and malfeasance that has defined the reconstruction of Iraq (a total that is not far from $700 billion)
  • Not challenging the lies of the anti-union and anti-EFCA ads until it was too late
  • Not hammering Collins on her votes for the AUMF Iraq, the USA Patriot Act, tax cuts for the super wealthy, against habeas corpus protections (and explaining their import), retro-immunity for the telecoms that illegally spied on millions of Americans, and confirming to the SCOTUS John Roberts and Sam Alito.
It's a pretty serious indictment. We can add "not challenging the bailout when doing so was a perfect opportunity to re-energize voters for his candidacy--especially in Mike Michaud's district." Shameful, shameful, shameful.
Maine 2nd District Rep in majority blocking taxpayer hosing in Wall Street bailout

Representative Mike Michaud, despite tremendous pressure from Democratic leadership, came down today on the side of working people everywhere by joining a 228-205 majority against the deceptive, rush $trillion Wall Street bailout bill. I deeply thank Congressman Michaud and hope he has the guts to stand against the backlash of traders who had their salivation for taxpayer money dashed today, tanking the Dow by 777 points.

The basic effect of the bill would have been to create a financial czar out of Paulson. Paulson would have been authorized to operate "on such terms and conditions as are determined by the Secretary, and in accordance with this Act and the policies and procedures developed and published by the Secretary." He would have had virtually dictatorial authority over "TARP," a "Troubled Assets Relief Program"--save for an extremely weak oversight board stuffed with inside people and a toothless Inspector General empowered to write reports.

This is being fashioned as a lose-lose proposition for Democrats. No matter that the opposition was more Republican than Democrat, as I expected, the blame is already being heaped upon Pelosi. What the Speaker did was give Bush a couple of mild jabs in her message just before the vote. This is her infuriating style. Just before another awful taxpayer hosing, the $165 billion Bush Iraq war blank check back in June, she decried the whole thing after engineering its passage. The only difference this time is that the Bush-Paulson measure failed to pass.

Call Mike at (207) 942-6935 and thank him for seeing through this taxpayer disaster care of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Paulson, and George Bush. As I wrote a few days ago, the pressure is only beginning because the markets are voting "with their feet by going on a credit strike while the stock market tanks." It will take a lot of fortitude for any Rep in the "nays" today to remain standing.

(Some analysis about how bad this bill is continues below.)

Pretty much only rain from Kyle

Maine rainfall 9-26 to 9-29
Heaviest band missed us, not by much--we got about 3 inches (7.5 cm)

Kyle was a dud here. Not so much for Nova Scotia where it made landfall near Yarmouth as a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday night with sustained 120 km/hr winds. In Bangor, we did not even have a gust above 20 km/hr.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Track is more easterly, towards Nova Scotia

Kyle cone, noon Sunday
Less impact for Maine

Tropical Storm Wind Warning
HURRICANE KYLE LOCAL STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CARIBOU ME
1139 AM EDT SUN SEP 28 2008

...KYLE CONTINUES TO MOVE NORTH TOWARD THE GULF OF MAINE...

.AT 11 AM EDT...1500Z...ALL WATCHES AND WARNINGS WEST OF STONINGTON MAINE ARE DISCONTINUED. A TROPICAL STORM WARNING AND A HURRICANE WATCH REMAIN IN EFFECT FROM STONINGTON EASTWARD TO EASTPORT MAINE. A HURRICANE WATCH IS ALSO IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHWESTERN NOVA SCOTIA CANADA.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHERN NEW BRUNSWICK CANADA AND SOUTHWESTERN NOVA SCOTIA.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR THE REMAINDER OF NOVA SCOTIA.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO OUR AREA...INCLUDING INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY THE WEATHER FORECAST OFFICE IN CARIBOU MAINE.

AT 11 AM EDT...1500Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE KYLE WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 40.4 NORTH...LONGITUDE 67.7 WEST OR ABOUT 140 MILES... 225 KM...EAST-SOUTHEAST OF NANTUCKET MASSACHUSETTS AND ABOUT 355 MILES...575 KM...SOUTHWEST OF HALIFAX NOVA SCOTIA.

KYLE IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST NEAR 24 MPH...39 KM/HR... AND THIS GENERAL MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT DAY OR SO WITH SOME DECREASE IN FORWARD SPEED. ON THIS FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF KYLE SHOULD PASS EAST OF THE COAST OF MAINE
LATER TODAY AND TONIGHT AND MOVE NEAR OR OVER NOVA SCOTIA AND NEW BRUNSWICK TONIGHT AND EARLY MONDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 80 MPH...130 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. KYLE IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. KYLE IS MOVING OVER COLDER WATERS AND WEAKENING IS LIKELY DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS. THE SYSTEM SHOULD LOSE TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS ON MONDAY.

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 70 MILES...110 KM... FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 205 MILES...335 KM.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 991 MB...29.26 INCHES.

TIDES OF 1 TO 2 FEET ABOVE NORMAL...WITH LOCALLY HIGHER LEVELS IN THE BAY OF FUNDY...AND ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES....ARE EXPECTED ALONG THE COASTS OF OF NEW ENGLAND AND THE CANADIAN MARITIMES IN ASSOCIATION WITH KYLE.

RAINFALL TOTALS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES WITH MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 6 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER THE EXTREME EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE NEW ENGLAND
STATES...NEW BRUNSWICK...NOVA SCOTIA...AND PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND THROUGH MONDAY MORNING.

MEZ011-015>017-032-290800-/O.CON.KCAR.TI.W.0001.000000T0000Z-080929T0800Z/
CENTRAL PENOBSCOT-SOUTHERN PENOBSCOT-INTERIOR HANCOCK- CENTRAL WASHINGTON-NORTHERN WASHINGTON
1139 AM EDT SUN SEP 28 2008

...TROPICAL STORM WIND WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 4 AM EDT MONDAY...

...NEW INFORMATION...

AT 11 AM EDT...1500Z...THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER ISSUED AN UPDATE ON HURRICANE KYLE. NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO THE FORECAST HAVE BEEN MADE WITH THIS UPDATED FORECAST. KYLE IS STILL EXPECTED MOVE INTO THE GULF OF MAINE TODAY AND MAKE LANDFALL TONIGHT EAST OF EASTPORT.

...AREAS AFFECTED...

THIS STATEMENT RECOMMENDS ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY PERSONS IN... EAST CENTRAL MAINE AND SOUTHEAST MAINE.

...WATCHES/WARNINGS...

PLEASE LISTEN TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO OR GO TO WEATHER.GOV ON THE INTERNET FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THESE ADDITIONAL HAZARDS.

FLOOD WATCH.

...PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

PEOPLE SHOULD TAKE THE FOLLOWING PRECAUTIONS BEFORE TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ARRIVE. BE PREPARED FOR POTENTIAL POWER OUTAGES...CHECK FOR BATTERIES OR OTHER POWER SOURCES. SECURE LAWN FURNITURE AND OTHER LOOSE ITEMS.

...WINDS...

AS KYLE NEARS LAND FALL TODAY WINDS WILL INCREASE FROM THE NORTHEAST AT 40 TO 50 MPH. WINDS WILL GRADUALLY BECOME NORTHWEST AND INCREASE TO 50 TO 60 MPH LATER TODAY INTO TONIGHT.

...INLAND FLOODING...

RAINFALL AMOUNTS WITH THE PASSAGE OF KYLE ARE EXPECTED TO RANGE BETWEEN 2 AND 4 INCHES. WHEN COMBINED WITH THE RAINFALL INTO THIS EVENING...TOTAL RAINFALL THROUGH SUNDAY WILL BE 4 TO 6 INCHES. A FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS EVENING.

...NEXT UPDATE...

THIS STATEMENT WILL BE UPDATED AFTER 2 PM EDT.

$$

NORCROSS/STUREY
So the tropical storm warning remains in effect and we're still in for 40 mph wind and a bunch more rain. But it does look like a lot of the heaviest stuff is swinging east.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yep, a hurricane now

Kyle tropical-storm-force probabilities
Tropical-storm-force probability cone, Bangor over 50%

Probability table
Scary table, 1% Kyle will be Category 3 at landfall, and 45% a Category 1 hurricane

Hurricane Watch
HURRICANE KYLE LOCAL STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
538 PM EDT SAT SEP 27 2008

...KYLE EXPECTED TO IMPACT DOWNEAST MAINE...

AT 5 PM EDT...2100 UTC...A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT ALONG THE COAST OF MAINE FROM PORT CLYDE EASTWARD TO EASTPORT. A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE COAST OF MAINE SOUTH OF PORT CLYDE TO CAPE ELIZABETH...INCLUDING THE PORTLAND AREA. A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS.

THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA HAS ISSUED A HURRICANE WATCH AND A TROPICAL STORM WARNING FOR SOUTHWESTERN NOVA SCOTIA. A TROPICAL STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE REMAINDER OF NOVA SCOTIA... AND FOR SOUTHWESTERN NEW BRUNSWICK.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE IN NEW ENGLAND AND THE CANADIAN MARITIMES SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF OF KYLE.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE.

AT 500 PM AST...2100Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE KYLE WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 34.3 NORTH...LONGITUDE 69.7 WEST OR ABOUT 315 MILES... 505 KM...WEST-NORTHWEST OF BERMUDA AND ABOUT 485 MILES...780 KM... SOUTH OF NANTUCKET MASSACHUSETTS.

KYLE IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH NEAR 23 MPH...37 KM/HR. A GRADUAL TURN TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST IS EXPECTED TONIGHT AND SUNDAY. ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF KYLE IS FORECAST TO BE NEAR EASTERN NEW ENGLAND OR THE CANADIAN MARITIMES LATE SUNDAY.

REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 75 MPH...120 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. KYLE IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. SOME ADDITIONAL STRENGTHENING IS POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 70 MILES...110 KM... FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 205 MILES...335 KM MAINLY TO THE EAST OF THE CENTER.

THE MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE REPORTED BY THE HURRICANE HUNTER IS 995 MB...29.38 INCHES.

TIDES OF 1 TO 2 FEET ABOVE NORMAL...WITH LOCALLY HIGHER LEVELS IN THE BAY OF FUNDY...AND ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES....ARE EXPECTED ALONG THE COASTS OF OF NEW ENGLAND AND THE CANADIAN MARITIMES IN ASSOCIATION WITH KYLE.

RAINFALL TOTALS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES WITH MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 6 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE NEW ENGLAND STATES... NEW BRUNSWICK... NOVA SCOTIA... AND PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND THROUGH MONDAY MORNING.
Maine has not had a hurricane since Bob in August 1991. I missed that because I was in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota at the time. Where I lived then, Portland, received 9 inches of rain. Huge trees came down in my neighborhood. But my cauliflowers grew to enormous size that year!
Official hurricane and tropical storm watch up for Maine

Kyle track as of Sat. Sep. 27 11am
Westward swing

The predicted track is further west than what was posted late Thursday. The probability of tropical storm wind speed (sustained 50+ mph) went to 50% from 5% for us. Furthermore, this slightly ominous watch--mentioning "HURRICANE" for the coast from Stonington to Eastport--just went up at 11am today:

Tropical Storm Wind Watch
TROPICAL STORM KYLE LOCAL STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
1142 AM EDT SAT SEP 27 2008

...KYLE EXPECTED TO IMPACT DOWNEAST MAINE...

AT 11 AM EDT...1500 UTC...A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR THE COAST OF MAINE FROM STONINGTON TO EASTPORT. A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE IN NEW ENGLAND AND THE CANADIAN MARITIMES SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF OF KYLE.

AT 1100 AM EDT...1500Z...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM KYLE WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 32.1 NORTH...LONGITUDE 69.6 WEST OR ABOUT 280 MILES...450 KM...WEST OF BERMUDA AND ABOUT 635 MILES... 1025 KM...SOUTH OF NANTUCKET MASSACHUSETTS.

KYLE IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHWEST NEAR 15 MPH...24 KM/HR. A TURN TOWARD THE NORTH AND AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED IS EXPECTED LATER TODAY...AND A TURN TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST IS EXPECTED TONIGHT OR SUNDAY. ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF KYLE IS FORECAST TO BE NEAR EASTERN NEW ENGLAND OR THE CANADIAN MARITIMES LATE SUNDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 70 MPH...110 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. SOME STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS... AND KYLE COULD BECOME A HURRICANE LATER TODAY.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 998 MB...29.47 INCHES.

RAINFALL TOTALS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES WITH MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 6 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER EASTERN PORTIONS OF THE NEW ENGLAND STATES...NEW BRUNSWICK...AND NOVA SCOTIA THROUGH MONDAY MORNING.

MEZ011-015>017-032-281545-/O.NEW.KCAR.TI.A.0001.080927T1542Z-080929T0200Z/
CENTRAL PENOBSCOT-SOUTHERN PENOBSCOT-INTERIOR HANCOCK-CENTRAL WASHINGTON-NORTHERN WASHINGTON
1142 AM EDT SAT SEP 27 2008

...TROPICAL STORM WIND WATCH IN EFFECT THROUGH SUNDAY EVENING...

...AREAS AFFECTED...

THIS STATEMENT RECOMMENDS ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY PERSONS IN...
EAST CENTRAL MAINE AND SOUTHEAST MAINE.

...WATCHES/WARNINGS...

A TROPICAL STORM WIND WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR INTERIOR DOWNEAST TO INCLUDE THE CITIES OF BANGOR...ORONO...OLD TOWN...LINCOLN AND...CALAIS.

...PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

PEOPLE SHOULD TAKE THE FOLLOWING PRECAUTIONS BEFORE TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ARRIVE. BE PREPARED FOR POTENTIAL POWER OUTAGES...CHECK FOR BATTERIES OR OTHER POWER SOURCES. SECURE LAWN FURNITURE AND OTHER LOOSE ITEMS.

...WINDS...

AS KYLE NEARS LAND FALL SUNDAY NIGHT WINDS WILL INCREASE FROM THE NORTHEAST AT 4O TO 50 MPH. WINDS WILL GRADUALLY BECOMING NORTHWEST AND INCREASE TO 50 TO 60 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT.

...NEXT UPDATE...

NEXT UPDATE WILL BE ISSUED BY 600 PM THIS EVENING.

$$

FOSTER/LERICOS/STUREY
Kyle can s___ my b___s.
Juan Cole has excellent goods

I will at this late hour just point out a whole aspect of the debate that bugged me. But first, in the best, most intense exchange, Obama nailed McCain for over the years not having very good judgment about Iraq:
Obama: And so John likes -- John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.
What bugs me is that implicit here, according to Obama, is that he agrees with McCain that everything has gone swimmingly since 2007. Professor Cole disabuses that notion with references on Iraqi hospitals without elevators for the numerous new amputees, satellite pictures of dark, ethnically cleansed Sunni regions of Baghdad, along with Professor Cole's personal experience witnessing the plight of Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

What really struck me in all this is that neither McCain nor Obama seems to recognize the horrendous effect the Iraq invasion has had on the Iraqi people. For his part, Obama seems not to have any interest in the facts from Professor Cole's references about ethnic cleansing and refugees that refute "victory" through surge. Maybe the eye is off the ball and the Iraqis have $79 billion, but haven't they paid the worst cost? Why is it that Obama is loathe to go there, even though McCain's position could be undermined, while the American people could learn from the debate some of the real issues in Iraq?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time's up for peppers

Two peppers for pizza
Smallish, but juicy with thick walls

Ms. Owl's gluten-free pizza
Ms. Owl's gluten-free pizza

I think the peppers (see July photo) are all through. We've been eating some every couple of days but they aren't getting any bigger. What's left now are many nubby little things and just a couple decent-sized from six plants. Texture is firm and flavor splendid. They are perfect for Ms. Owl's extremely tasty home-made, gluten-free pizza.
Not in the mood

Kyle 3-day cone
Three-day track for potential tropical storm

It says 10% chance we'll have a sustained 60 mph wind Sunday. Enjoyers of South Park will get this: Kyle can s___ my b___s.
Unregulated insurance is a license to steal.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ms. Owl: The rich need the money! Don't you know how expensive it is to lead a rich lifestyle?
I'm watching Pat Buchanan on my new favorite show, Rachel Maddow. He's lays it out for any Democrats not yet knowing how they are getting creamed by the Bush-Paulson panic.

Basically, if there is no deal along the terms of what the conservative Republicans want, then it's the Democrats fault after the markets vote with their feet by going on a credit strike while the stock market tanks. If the Democrats pass their own deal with Bush without the right-wing Republicans, then it's the fault of the Democrats for fleecing the taxpayer. If the Democrats go along, then all possibility for progressive reform is foreclosed for years, while the rich can go back to their favorite pastime of drinking money from fire hoses.
Ms. Owl: What are they saying? The next thing we'll see is a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud?
She was talking about a Linda Wertheimer interview Wednesday morning broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition with Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times:
Barber: It's important to remember just how serious things came last week. You saw a virtual meltdown of the financial system on the Wednesday. I likened it to that scene in Independence Day when the president is leaving town and he looks behind him and there's the White House, it's crumbling.
Building over the last couple of days there has been much more background din that the only way we can save our house value, business credit, and 401ks is to ram through the Bush-Paulson-Bernanke $trillion bailout of the crooked investment houses. Bush himself, reminding us that he's still around for the first time in a while, piled on the dire warnings in a prime-time address, "More banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account."

What is this really about?

The clear answer I believe is that Bush, the crooked financial dealers, and Democratic enablers like Rep. Barney Frank are overreacting to more crisis than actually is there.

No one seems to be able to prove why it's so important that the bailout go through before anyone has the chance to even think about it. Jonathan at Past Peak has it right in two good posts, this "reeks of disaster capitalism." That's the "shock doctrine" described by Naomi Klein.

Klein gave a very compelling interview with Amy Goodman on Wednesday, including these observations:
Klein: We know [McCain] has said ... in the first 100 days of his administration he?ll look at every program and either reform it or shut it down. This is really a recipe for economic shock therapy. So, while you have all of these trivial issues being discussed in the election season, I think what we could?what we're really?you know, under the surface, they?re actually being quite clear. They're going to take?if they take power, it will be in the midst of an economic emergency. They'll invoke that emergency to push through very, very radical changes. So, you know, what I?ve been saying is, this is not four more years of Bush; it's much, much worse in the case of another Republican administration.
Today, Ralph Nader provided additional clarity, also on Democracy Now!, "The Bush regime is creating its own panic."

Meanwhile, as Naomi Klein has discussed, the Republican right is exerting a play for an even more onerous plan:

House GOP: We have leverage on bailout
By Jackie Kucinich - Posted: 09/25/08 03:33 PM [ET]
House Republicans say they have significant leverage on the revamped bailout package, claiming that Democrats will scramble for votes unless they make changes to it.

Republicans in the lower chamber are balking at the bailout package, saying that Democrats will be solely responsible for the ramifications of what they see as a flawed compromise.
Brilliant! This is how what I discussed Tuesday will go down. The Republicans will blame the Democrats for anything that happens, unless they get a menu of more-of-the-same, private-profit-public-risk, transfer-wealth-from-poor-to-rich policies:
The Republican proposal backs the removal of regulatory and tax barriers to help facilitate the use of private capital to produce liquidity; temporary tax relief provision to help companies free up capital; and temporary suspension of dividend payments by financial institutions.
There's more on the politics and pathetic machinations of the McCain campaign HERE.
What's the point?

It's tag line is "They said it. Collected here are statements from hundreds of leading Democrats and other liberals from all over the state of Maine."

I'm reluctant to post any link to this hatchet-job website. At best, it is a misguided collection of innuendo bathed in sanctimony. At worst, it is McCarthy-ist. You almost can hear Ann Coulter or David Horowitz drooling in the background.

Here's an example. They post a piece published in 2003 in the Bangor Daily News by my friend Doug Allen. It begins like this:

Going to War
by Doug Allen
Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator who does not care about the welfare of the people of Iraq or neighboring countries. In fact, many of us in the peace movement feel more strongly about this than do policy makers in Washington. We questioned why Washington, the military, and certain corporations provided biological and chemical weapons and military and financial aid to Saddam Hussein and continue to supply similar dictators and violators of human rights in the Middle East and throughout the world.
What are we supposed to feel? How is this guy who thinks Saddam Hussein was "brutal" a University of Maine full professor of philosophy (paid lower than most U.S. full professors)?

This is know-nothingism. It illustrates why Republican politics is completely debased from the public good for the people of Maine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More evidence of fraud right under the nose of Senator Susan Collins

$13 Billion in Iraq Aid Wasted Or Stolen, Ex-Investigator Says
By Dana Hedgpeth - Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008; Page A19
A former Iraqi official estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes.

Salam Adhoob, a former chief investigator for Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, an arm of the Democratic caucus, that an Iraqi auditing bureau "could not properly account for" the money.

While many of the projects audited "were not needed -- and many were never built," he said, "this very real fact remains: Billions of American dollars that paid for these projects are now gone."
My first question is, Why is this buried on Page A19? The bigger question is, Why is the lede buried?
Investigations by Iraqi oversight agencies also found that some of the money sent to the Defense Ministry was diverted to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Adhoob said, and deposited into banks in Jordan and elsewhere.
If I had a loved one killed in this war, I'd be livid. My own government, however unwittingly, was funding the enemy. Shameful.

Here are some archive posts on Iraq fraud and the years of less-than-interested approach to oversight of this by Senator Susan Collins:

Daylight Robbery (June 2008)
Iraq waste, fraud, and abuse dissected by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Susan Collins and the Oil-for-Food double standard

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Old friend of Deep Blade Journal and Peacecast

Danny Schechter in the past has been a good friend of my blogging and media efforts. He has been in my sidebar almost since the beginning as "News Dissector." I just want to point out that the News Dissector is practically live blogging the financial crisis, today's post HERE.

Excellent information for scary times. Shoot Danny's mediachannel.org a contribution if you can. Things are rough for this invaluable source of real journalism.
Bernanke, Paulson & their companies want to use the US Treasury as an open line of credit to continue the massive scam financial operations on a new level. This would be a very dangerous game that could put U.S. taxpayers in the same condition as the crooked investment houses now find themselves.

Can there be a big enough voice in Congress to say no? Call your Congresspeople. Tell 'em that if they can even contemplate a $trillion bailout, they could pass
  • a taxpayer-backed workout program for markets only where absolutely essential as determined by an independent authority (not a former Goldman Sachs executive who is Treasury Secretary);
  • extremely tough restrictions on such a workout, including strict limits on executive compensation and a fair equity stake for taxpayers--no one gets rich off of the workout;
  • a surcharge on millionaires to help pay; and
  • funding of numerous progressive programs and benefits to help the struggling lower and middle classes (w/housing, health, energy, pensions, and so on).

The Democrats would be fools to take the bait thrown to them over the weekend, stated succinctly by House Republican Leader John A. Boehner: "This is about our way of life, our society, our economy."

In fact, the bailout is a trap (see Digby on this). If Democrats go along, they'll be blamed for selling out the taxpayer and hung out to dry by McCain and the rest of the 2008 Republican campaigns. If they try to stand up and stop this thing, markets will react negatively and the Democrats will be blamed for that too. But the Democrats must take that latter medicine. If Bush and the Republicans won't play with a progressive bill as I've outlined, then hang them with any resulting difficulties.

This crisis should be the biggest progressive opportunity of our time.

Call your Congresspeople:
Rep. Mike Michaud, Bangor: (207) 942-6935
Rep. Tom Allen, Portland: Voice: 207-774-5019, FAX: 207-871-0720
Sen. Olympia Snowe, DC Toll Free: (800) 432-1599
Sen. Susan Collins, DC: (202) 224-2523

Below, I include a model letter.

UPDATE: Gerald has a couple of GOOD POSTS up at Turn Maine Blue. He references Monday's Democracy Now!, which was excellent.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I can't disagree with one word of what Newt Gingrich said in an NPR interview

Of course I don't trust him for one second, but check out THIS
NPR: This $700 billion bailout plan, this potential 20-year mess that you're talking about, comes from a Republican administration, comes from your own party. What's happened to Republican faith in small government and free markets?

Gingrich: Well, I think you have a Goldman Sachs chief of staff to the president and the Goldman Sachs secretary of the Treasury. And they convinced the president that the American people ought to send $700 billion to Wall Street, which I think is a very, very bad idea, and I would argue is a very un-Republican idea. I don't understand what they think they're doing.
Is he a man of principle? I don't think so. He's been a strong proponent of unlimited spending for war and unremitting attack on the working class. Maybe he just senses that the current epic financial scandal is the death of conservatism as a working economic theory. So he's taking aim at the nail about to go in the coffin.
Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes
For lentil soup

We're making the recipe from the original Moosewood tonight.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Autumnal equinox tomorrow (Monday) at 11:44 am

Garden covered 9/18
We escaped having frost Friday morning, but we were prepared

Morning glories
No frost yet, still glorious

Best pepper crop ever
Never had much luck with peppers here but this year's a charm

Last cuke?
Last cuke? This little thing may be it.
Why is urgency justified?

The narrative we're hearing is that over the last few days, key lawmakers in Washington were given briefings where Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury offered "starkly grave assessments of the economic cost of inaction." Some accounts refer to a "gasp" in the room during one Bernanke session when he laid out the facts of the true situation

On ABC's This Week, House Republican Leader John A. Boehner, evidently concerned about resistance from his own conservative caucus, drew this flatly grim picture for those thinking about delaying the breakneck pace of the bailout:
Boehner: This is not a time for ideological purity. ... This is about our way of life, our society, our economy. ... This isn't about Wall Street.
Wow, that's pretty grave. Our whole house comes crashing down if we don't hand virtually unlimited fiscal authority over to Paulson, the former head investment banker at Goldman Sachs where he pulled down tens of millions in excess compensation.

My grave questions concern what is missing. Why is no one except Barney Frank and, perhaps gingerly, Joe Biden, talking about how revenues will be raised for the bailout? Who will pay how much extra in taxes to pay for the bailout? Or, Will they just try to hang paper and send the bill to our grandchildren?

And then this question: If this situation is in fact a threat to "our way of life," as Boehner states, if it's really that bad, how is it that transferring to taxpayers, without a plan to pay, the worst toxic liabilities from this period of what amounts to mass banking fraud, helps alleviate the risk?

In order for me to believe that the proposal being floated with such urgency was really serious, I would want to hear that a portion of the assets accumulated during party time will be attached. This means that the rich will have to pay substantial surcharges on income over, as Frank suggested, $1 million. Also, the very wealthy must be required to turn back to the treasury some portion of their holdings.

That would be "country first," the patriotic thing to do, as Biden suggested Thursday in support of Obama's plan to raise taxes on those earning over $250,000. The Obama plan is inadequate, but this is the right direction.

Palin responded with ridiculous mockery, saying "to the rest of America, that's not patriotism. ... Raising taxes is about killing jobs and hurting small businesses and making things worse."

The Democrats better defend the Obama tax position full-throatedly. They should attack these Palin remarks. They must take the mockery of Biden on taxes head-on. Sarah, the government can afford a trillion-dollar bailout, but nobody has to pay?

The Republicans just don't have any ideas other than let the crooks off scot-free, charge no one, rinse, repeat the crisis. Next time, they will leave the bill for our great grandchildren.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Welcome to the USSA, you don't know how lucky you are, eh?

Things have gone through, as the Times puts it, "stomach-flipping turmoil" in the week since I last posted on the financial shitstorm.

$700 Billion Is Sought for Wall Street in Vast Bailout
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: September 20, 2008
WASHINGTON ? The Bush administration on Saturday formally proposed a vast bailout of the United States financial system, requesting unfettered authority for the Treasury Department to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets from financial institutions based in the United States. ...
I don't think this is happening the way Trotsky imagined it would:

If America Should Go Communist
Leon Trotsky (August 1934)
Should America go communist as a result of the difficulties and problems that your capitalist social order is unable to solve, it will discover that communism, far from being an intolerable bureaucratic tyranny and individual regimentation, will be the means of greater individual liberty and shared abundance.
Trotsky is extremely optimistic about America's advantages and its ripeness for revolution during the 1930s Great Depression. He thought, "civil war of a revolutionary nature isn?t fought by the handful of men at the top ? the 5 or 10 percent who own nine-tenths of American wealth."

Boy, did Trotsky ever have this wrong. The Revolution is not coming from the bottom up. It is being formed at the top with the acquiescence of an invertebrate Congress.

Will the new financial take-over plan soon become known as the September 20 Revolution? Bush has done nothing short of asking Congress to repeal its Constitutional power of the purse and create a dictator in Treasury Secretary Paulson--handing him unlimited authority to appropriate middle class taxpayers' sweat in order to re-assert--in fact vastly increase--the privilege and control of the wealth-laden classes who find themselves teetering under the weight of failure of their last round of destructive schemes.

The prospects for the majority of the population will remain subordinate to the wealth holders, unless resistance does rise from the bottom up. I don't see it.
Just kill me


Bangor news anchor evidently resembles America's Top High-Office Model finalist

Palin, Maine TV anchor look-alike get national attention
By Emily Burnham - BDN Staff - Saturday Sept. 20, 2008
Move over, Tina Fey: there?s a new Sarah Palin look-alike and she?s from Bangor.

Cindy Michaels, an anchor, reporter and producer for WVII ABC-7/Fox 22, has received both praise and flak for her striking resemblance to Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate. Michaels has long brown hair that she sometimes wears up in a style similar to Palin?s ...
I have no additional comment on the BDN story, except that you can start bludgeoning me NOW!

About a week ago, the Wall Street Journal had a story, "As Palin Exhibits Her Sense of Style, Fashion Firms Rush to Cash In."

It said Palin's "personal style has sparked a buying frenzy." The makers of Palin's Naughty Monkey peep-toe, 3-1/2-inch-heeled clubbing shoes that she likes to wear to important events--also worn by Paris Hilton--have apparently been swamped with orders.

Naturally, the narrative is about Obama's "celebrity" negatives. Again, just shoot me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Section B this time

Bangor Daily News 9/15/08 coverage
Bangor Daily News 9/15/08 coverage
Read the full story HERE.

As always, I thank the BDN from the bottom of my heart. I'm proud to point out that my local newspaper has been since 2006 one of the fairest in the country in providing quality coverage of peace events. Shoot 'em a thank you too. Also, if you can, please add comments at the BDN website to counter the noise posted there.
Links thanks to Atrios

A.I.G. Seeks $40 Billion in Fed Aid to Survive
The American International Group is seeking a $40 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve, as it faces a potential downgrade from credit ratings agencies that could spell its doom, a person briefed on the matter said Sunday night. ...
After Frantic Day, Wall St. Banks Falter
In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street?s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, said it would seek bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer.
And this just posted:

Lehman to File for Bankruptcy After Suitors Drop Out (Update1)
Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., once the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, will file for bankruptcy after potential buyers abandoned talks and the U.S. government declined to fund a takeover of the crippled firm.
Does that mean THESE dire consequences will come to fruition?
Roubini (on Saturday): It is now clear that we are again ? as we were in mid- March at the time of the Bear Stearns collapse ? an epsilon away from a generalized run on most of the shadow banking system, especially the other major independent broker dealers (Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs). If Lehman does not find a buyer over the weekend and the counter parties of Lehman withdraw their credit lines on Monday (as they all will in the absence of a deal) you will have not only a collapse of Lehman but also the beginning of a run on the other independent broker dealers (Merrill Lynch first but also in sequence Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and possibly even those broker dealers that are part of a larger commercial bank, I.e. JP Morgan and Citigroup). Then this run would lead to a massive systemic meltdown of the financial system.
With this, can we finally just admit that Milton Friedman and the last few decades of free marketeering rest on the shoulders of the taxpayers and treasury of what we now rightly should call the Soviet States of America?
Rally in Bangor Saturday


Bangor Ch. 5 11pm Saturday 9/13 coverage

End the War, Build the Peace

End the War, Build the Peace
Scenes from Paul Bunyan Park in Bangor Saturday afternoon

I think it's pretty good when you can get the teevee to give 1 minute, 10 seconds for peace late on a Saturday night. Thank you very much, Channel 5.

Below is an audio player for one of the rally speeches. The thing that's missing from almost all discussion of Iraq in American media--and especially not in the presidential campaign--is devastation of the Iraqi people over the last five-and-one-half years. Mary Trotochaud, a Maine resident who has lived in Iraq (along with her husband, Rick McDowell, interviewed by Ch. 5 above) speaks about the horrors faced by Iraqi friends with whom she recently has been in touch. This file is about twelve minutes:


Mary Trotochaud, 9/13 Bangor rally

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A friend from Alaska sent me the link for this protest against the war, and the savagery of Palinism. She included the following message with the link: "Don't give up hope. Alaskans know how to protest, too. I hope you can see the photos to get a full view of AK attitudes!"

Anti-Palin activists stage their own rally
MIDTOWN: Hundreds show up when word spreads over Internet.


By SEAN COCKERHAM
Published: September 14th, 2008
A crowd of anti-Sarah Palin protesters gathered in Midtown Anchorage soon after the Republican nominee for vice president left Alaska to resume campaigning in the Lower 48.

The Saturday protest in front of the Loussac Library appeared bigger than any Anchorage has seen in recent memory. The crowd looked to be in the high hundreds at least, and organizers said they counted 1,500. It included roughly 100 counter protesters supporting Palin. ...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Terror War is so ... yesterday


Rice kicked the Bear last month, now it's Palin's turn

It's been quite a month of U.S. posture after the Russia-Georgia conflict. Tonight the Republican veep nominee had this to say to her thus far sole interviewer:
GIBSON (ABC News): And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so.
She's none too clear, however, because later she said it "didn't have to lead" to war, or Cold War. She's a quick learner with that little twist of ambiguity. A few days with trained Cold Warrior Rice and Palin will be ready to saddle up and ride like Slim Pickens in a certain Kubrick movie (that just played a couple of nights ago on TCM).

It's all really just verbiage designed to kick up the jingoism play of the day. My how things change. I recall a September 11 not too long ago (2006) when the biggest thing in all of history, the "calling of our generation," as President Bush put it, was the global Terror War:
President Bush (9/11/2006): Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy -- but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam -- a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations. The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.
Is the Terror War being buried along with the Bush-tainted Republican "brand" in favor of the New Cold War?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine news clips


These stories ran on the Ch. 5 and Ch. 7 local news this evening


Join Hands to End the War, Build the Peace
and Rebuild Our Economy


September 13, 1:00 p.m. Paul Bunyan Park, Bangor

2:30 p.m. Walk for Peace to?

3:00 p.m. Talk with Democracy Now!?s AMY GOODMAN
at the Hammond Street Church


Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! will appear at the Hammond Street Church in conjunction with our peace event and the 20th Anniversary of WERU Community Radio!!

Many people are focusing on the next election with the hope that a new administration will end the occupation of Iraq and use diplomacy to negotiate with Iran. We look forward to that possibility, but also want to make sure we continue to build a multi-faceted peace movement that can support and/or challenge the next administration to promote cooperation and diplomacy, reparations for the people of Iraq, support for Veterans of this war and federal budget priorities that serve the needs of people and not primarily military contractors and large corporations. ...

Read the rest with full details HERE.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Politics-charged announcement follows summer filled with assertion of Iraqi government power

By any stretch, 8,000 is a modest draw down:
President Bush: Here is the bottom line: While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight. As a result, we have been able to carry out a policy of "return on success" ? reducing American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground continue to improve.
Predictably, both McCain and Obama think their own ideas about Iraq are vindicated. The design, however, clearly is for Bush to help McCain get the upper hand because the announcement reinforces his "maverick" image in being an early "surge" promoter.

But the "surge" is far from the only or even any reason at all it looks like Iraq is quieter, for now. Patrick Cockburn offered in a short piece last week parts of the story missing from all the American political narratives:

How the Bush Administration is Helping McCain:
The Fake U.S. Victory in Iraq

By PATRICK COCKBURN
Much of what the White House is now doing is done to help the Republicans in the presidential election. The aim is to give the impression that Iraq has finally come right for the US and victory is finally in its grasp. The surge is promoted as the strategy by which the tide was turned and it is true that the Sunni uprising against the US occupation has largely ended.

But it has done so for reasons that have little to do with the surge or American actions of any kind. Crucial to the success of the government against the Mahdi Army has been the support of Iran. It is they who arranged for the Shia militiamen to go home.
Obama, for his part, pointed out today the money sink-hole the "wrong" war in Iraq will continue to be:
Obama: We will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences. So the President's talk of "return on success" is a new name for continuing the same strategic mistakes that have dominated our foreign policy for over 5 years.
I find it unseemly for Obama (and other politicians like both Susan Collins and Tom Allen) to take the handy course of whipping the Iraqis over their treasury, seeing how U.S.-run contractors and quislings have stolen Iraq blind over those five years. I'd be more more impressed if he acknowledged the death, destruction, and displacement the Iraqi people have suffered over these years and promised that his administration would get the American boot off of Iraq's neck.

Note & update: Earlier in the summer I had been concerned about the onerous so-called "Status of Forces" agreement and colonial oil proposal the Bush Administration had been attempting to impose on Iraq. An excellent piece describing what had ensued over the summer to cause the Bush Administration to back off is HERE:

Is the Maliki Government Jumping Off
the American Ship of State?

Michael Schwartz , TomDispatch.com , Sep 8, 2008
In the past few weeks, the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made it all too clear that, in the long run, it has little inclination to remain "aligned with U.S. interests" in the region. In fact, we may be witnessing a classic "tipping point," a moment when Washington's efforts to dominate the Middle East are definitively deep-sixed.

The client state that the Bush administration has spent so many years and hundreds of billions of dollars creating, nurturing, and defending has shown increasing disloyalty and lack of gratitude, as well as an ever stronger urge to go its own way. Under the pressure of Iraqi politics, Maliki has moved strongly in the direction of a nationalist position on two key issues: the continuing American occupation of the country and the future of Iraqi oil. In the process, he has sought to distance his government from the Bush administration and to establish congenial relationships, if not an outright alliance, with Washington's international adversaries, including the Bush administration's mortal enemy, Iran.
Hmmm. The ungrateful wretches. It won't be easy for them under either McCain or Obama, but it may not be long before the Iraqis themselves cast off that American boot.
Here is a release from the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine:

The Orono Town Council unanimously supported a "No War on Iran" Resolution at a Town Council meeting last night (September 8th, 2008). Ron Davis, of the Orono Peace Group presented the council with 290 signatures from Orono residents in support of the resolution.

Eleven Orono residents spoke in favor of the resolution including Ilze Petersons of the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, Doug Allen of the Center and the Maine Peace Action Committee, Al Larson of Veterans for Peace, 001 Chapter, Phyllis Brazee, Chair of the Peace Studies Program at UM, Connie Jenkins, a psychotherapist and nurse practitioner, and Hosain Aghamoosa, Iranian American student at the University of Maine. Two residents spoke against the resolution. Councilors said the council does not get in involved in foreign policy decisions but is aware of the needs of the community and has a responsibility to comment when it sees how services are affected because billions of dollars are being used to fund a war.

Orono joins Bar Harbor and Harpswell who previously passed similar resolutions.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Baghdad treasury flush with oil revenue

A front page story in the Wall Street Journal last week and THIS item from Reuters reveals the steps being taken by the Iraqi government to increase its military might and solidify its perceived victory over competing factions.

Iraq eyes Lockheed F-16 fighter aircraft purchase
Fri Sep 5, 2008 12:13pm EDT
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The Iraqi government has asked for information about buying 36 F-16 fighter aircraft built by Lockheed Martin Corp ...

The request, received Aug. 27, is being reviewed "in the normal course of business" as part of the U.S. government-to-government arms sale process, said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman.

F-16s are among the world's most advanced multirole fighters and a powerful symbol of military ties to the United States. Iraq's interest in the fighter jet, reported first by The Wall Street Journal, could spark concerns among neighbors worried about advanced arms in the hands of a country still facing major internal challenges. ...
What better symbol of the normalcy of relations between Iraq and Washington? The Iraqi government has jelled in recent months and now sees its future as a blossoming U.S. client state (ally in the Terror War?).

With Iraqi oil pumping and the petrodollars flowing into the U.S. military-industrial complex as powerful weapons needed for maintaining "stability" flow back, the not unfamiliar pattern of Arab client states doing the bidding of the U.S. comes to Iraq.

But you know the part of this story I really find amazing is just how typical the Iraq situation is becoming. Reuters mentions that the most advanced F-16s are being produced in Poland, Israel, Greece and Pakistan; while Morocco has recently become the "25th and latest overseas buyer with a deal for 24 new Block 50/52 models"!

After the crushing blows and millions of deaths and displacements in Iraq, U.S. mandarins revel in a "stable" future that will be grim indeed for the bulk of the population. Meanwhile, discussion of whether or not unbridled militarism is right for America is the farthest thing from the attention of the presidential campaign.
Libya energy reserves on the table

Libya has 40 gigabarrels oil reserves, excellent stores of natural gas, and along with Iraq is among the few countries in the world with the potential for substantially increasing production. Some weeks ago it was reported that the Russians had been wooing Qaddafi:

Gazprom seeks to buy all of Libya's oil, gas exports
Russia's state-controlled gas giant seeks to expand presence in North Africa; By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch; Last update: 1:46 p.m. EDT July 10, 2008
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom is in negotiations to buy Libya's total export volume of gas, oil and liquefied natural gas at competitive prices, according to a statement Wednesday on Gazprom's Web site.

The news follows a meeting between Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller and Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi. Libya and Gazprom decided "to initiate the thematic negotiations on the purchase of the currently available hydrocarbon volumes from the Libyan party," said in a statement.

The two sides also agreed to establish a joint venture aimed at upgrading Libya's existing oil refining capacities and constructing new ones.
No wonder U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had the highest-level diplomatic meeting a U.S. official has had with that same Qaddafi, as reported in newspapers today, including in an AP release in the Bangor Daily News and this New York Times story:

Isolation Over, Libyan Leader Meets With Rice
By HELENE COOPER
TRIPOLI, Libya ? For the first time in more than half a century, a sitting American secretary of state is in Libya. Condoleezza Rice arrived here on Friday to meet with the man whom Ronald Reagan famously called the "mad dog of the Middle East."

But that was then. Ms. Rice, after waiting at the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel here for an hour as the Ramadan sun set, finally got word that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was ready to receive her at his Bab al Azizia residence ? the same compound bombed by American airstrikes in 1986 during the height of tensions with Libya.

Amid a swarm of cameras and reporters, she walked into the receiving room where Mr. Qaddafi, clad in a long, flowing white robe, purple and gold sash, and a green Africa brooch, stood waiting to greet her.

He didn?t shake her hand; instead, he put his hand against his heart in a gesture that North African men often use to greet women, then motioned for her to take a seat. It was a very different Libyan leader, in the eyes of Ms. Rice and the Bush administration, from the man who had bedeviled six American presidents over the past four decades.
Evidently despite the cultural misogyny, Qaddafi is a fan of Secretary Rice,
Qaddafi (to Al Jazeera last year): I support my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. ... Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much.
The policy turn-around with respect to Libya is of course head scrambling. The fact that Rice had to claim the meeting was not just about energy (see also, THIS Bloomberg item) means that it was nearly 100% about energy and heading off the Russians.

It's interesting to go back twenty-two years and review the Reagan-era demonization of Libya and Qaddafi. The Reagan "mad dog" quote widely mentioned today was actually given in response to a question by Helen Thomas at an April 9, 1986 news conference. Here is the full exchange. Does not Reagan's verbiage have the familiar ring of justification for use of U.S. power against perceived Islamic threats despite the foreseeable loss of innocent life?

Libya and Terrorism
Q. Mr. President, do you have any solid evidence that Qadhafi is responsible for the recent acts of terrorism? And if you are contemplating major retaliation, won't you be killing a lot of innocent people? I'd like to follow up.

The President. Helen, we have considerable evidence, over quite a long period of time, that Qadhafi has been quite outspoken about his participation in urging on and supporting terrorist acts -- a kind of warfare, as he has called it. Right now, however, I can't answer you specifically on this other, because we're continuing with our intelligence work and gathering evidence on these most recent attacks, and we're not ready yet to speak on that. And any action that we might take would be dependent on what we learn. And so, I can't go further.

Q. Mr. President, I know you must have given it a lot of thought, but what do you think is the real reason that Americans are the prime target of terrorism? Could it be our policies?

The President. Well, we know that this mad dog of the Middle East has a goal of a world revolution, Moslem fundamentalist revolution, which is targeted on many of his own Arab compatriots. And where we figure in that, I don't know. Maybe we're just the enemy because -- it's a little like climbing Mount Everest -- because we're here. But there's no question but that he has singled us out more and more for attack, and we're aware of that. As I say, we're gathering evidence as fast as we can.
Five days later, on April 14, 1986, U.S. bombs rained down on Qaddafi's compound, the very one just visited by Rice, killing scores of civilians, including infants.

Five years ago when the Bush Administration first initiated policy reversal and rapprochement with Libya, I wrote a long piece for the old blog. Amazingly most of the links are still working there, and I reproduce it below. I think my work on this is quite an interesting contribution to placing U.S. policy toward both Iraq and Libya in the proper context. The main thrust of the piece is that the new Libya policy unveiled in late 2003 constituted a flip-flop of demons, where Saddam Hussein had occupied the role of favored dictator in 1986 and demon in 2003--an exact reversal of roles.

The tale that usually is told is that Qaddafi was cowed into giving up his weapons programs because he felt the pressure of what the U.S. had done in Iraq. Maybe, but that I believe is a minor part of the story that had the unintended consequence of providing to the public a view of the A. Q. Kahn WMD network out of Pakistan. The major part of the story is economic. Qaddafi needs outside investment, and international oil companies need tappable reserves. This was not unlike the situation with Iraq in 1986 when the Iraqgate commerce with Saddam ramped up, despite his use of chemical weapons. See below for the full story.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Democracy Now! host & producers arrested


Outrageous

Democracy Now! has been amazing throughout the conventions and now the hurricanes. Now the police in Minnesota, flush with homeland security money, staffed with heavily armed and indoctrinated functionaries, and supported by feds, are rolling over the constitution while attempting to stamp out the cameras and recorders documenting their outrageous behavior. I just gotta hope these police and their bosses are made to pay a heavy price. But the nonchalant climate of acceptance and basically cowered police-friendly non-reporting in mainstream corporate media does not bode well.

Glenn Greenwald is the best for COVERAGE.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Things seen

Mount Katahdin from Pemadumcook Lake
Sunday: Near camp outside Millinocket

Dragonfly
Sunday: dragonfly at camp

Morning glory
Friday: Morning glory

Overall, pretty laid back this Labor Day weekend.