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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 18 December

by Fran Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:07:00 PM EST

On this date in history:

1786 - Carl Maria von Weber, a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school, was born. (d. 1826)

More here and video


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*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:07:24 PM EST
'Mafia chief' hangs himself after arrest - Europe, World - The Independent

An alleged Mafia boss hanged himself in jail, hours after being arrested in a police swoop, officials in Sicily said today.

Authorities had ordered the sweeping raids to prevent what they said were mob efforts to rebuild Cosa Nostra. Some 90 suspects were arrested in the blitz.

... Authorities said they ordered yesterday's raids to head off a bloody power struggle among rival mob bosses to rebuild the crime syndicate.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was a dead man walking from the sound of things
by paving on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 06:20:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neo-Nazi Attack: New Arrests Made in Attempted Murder of Police Chief - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Police made new arrests on Tuesday night in the investigation into the attempted murder of a police chief in the southern Germany city of Passau who was at the forefront in the battle against neo-Nazis in his area.

Public Prosecutor Helmut Walch said a man and woman had been detained. Neither were suspected in the stabbing, but investigators hoped the two could help lead them to the perpetrator. Local officials told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the arrests were of two people who had been active in the local right-wing radical scene.

"Live Better without Nazis." Demonstrators marched against the right wing in Passau on Monday in response to the attack on the city's police chief, presumed to have been perpetrated by a neo-Nazi.

(The banner is held by the Greens College Group Passau.)

Mannichl was seriously injured in the attack (though is recovering well). Just before the man plunged the blade into Mannichl's midriff, he called him a "left-wing police pig" and said "greetings from the national resistance movement."

...Bavarian public radio station Bayerischen Rundfunk has reported that Mannichl was given little support in his fight against the right by the state. Mannichl hired an attorney at his own expense in an effort to remove calls for violence against him from the Internet.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:13:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German Police Raid Home of Man Suspected in Nazi Massacre | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008
Police searched the home of an 89-year-old German alleged to have massacred an estimated 60 Jewish prisoners in Austria near the end of World War II, prosecutors said Wednesday, Dec. 17.

A statement said the investigators were studying a number of documents seized from the home of the man in the west German city of Duisburg.

The man, who has not been indicted, declined to answer questions posed by the investigators, the statement said.

He is alleged to have been among a detail of Hitler's private army, the Waffen SS, said to have gunned down the 60 Hungarian Jewish slave laborers on March 29, 1945.

The case came to light when an Austrian university student interested in the massacre near Deutsch Schuetzen located the 89-year-old by simply looking up his name in a German telephone directory.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dutch-Born Singer Loses Dachau Libel Case | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008
Dutch-born singer Johannes Heesters, who at 105 still performs on stage and TV, has lost a lawsuit against an author who claimed he entertained guards at a Nazi concentration camp.

Heesters, who is reviled by many in his Dutch homeland for acting in Nazi-era feature films, admits he paid a morale-boosting visit to German guards at the Dachau concentration camp near Munich in 1941, but denies he sang.

 

A Berlin court said satirist Volker Kuehn, 75, was entitled to say in an interview that the evidence did suggest Heesters entertained the SS guards.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:14:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New Anti-Terror Legislation: Journalists Worry 'Big Brother Law' Will Kill Press Freedom - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

It has been called the "Big Brother" law in the German media due to its provisions allowing online and telephone surveillance. The Interior Ministry in Berlin describes it as a necessary step to protect the country from the dangers of international terrorism.

But journalists in Germany see the bill -- currently in the parliament's arbitration committee after having failed to get through the country's upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, in November -- in a different light. They are concerned the law would make it much easier for investigators to spy on reporters without their knowledge, giving the state access to both their computer files and their sources. That, they say, represents an unacceptable attack on freedom of the press in Germany. Publishers, journalists and media lawyers are up in arms.

...Paragraph 20 of the law would significantly weaken journalists' rights to protect their sources, say media professionals.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:14:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Relatively easy to get around. Set up a press agency in say Liechtenstein (to make a point) and publish from there.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:32:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not the publication part that's under threat. It's the confidentiality and trust for sources. Knowing journalists can be bugged, some sources won't even come forward. You can't get around that if you want to cover shenanigans going on within Germany.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 12:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Acquitted doctor complains of 'sour grapes' - Home News, UK - The Independent

A doctor cleared of links to the London Glasgow terror plot accused the Government of "sour grapes" today after he was not released.

Jordanian Dr Mohammed Asha, 28, was acquitted by a jury of any involvement in the terrorist conspiracy yesterday.

...He said: "Finally, justice has been done - a jury has cleared me of any involvement in these allegations. The jury had no doubts whatsoever that I am an innocent man.

"Even though I was acquitted, justice has not been done and is not being done. I am still in HMP Belmarsh.

"The Home Office has handed me a notice of detention on the basis that my visa had lapsed."

Belmarsh Prison is Britain's Guantanamo. A blogger kept calling Bliar "Lord Belmarsh" for that.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:15:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paris Police Look Beyond Islamist Extremists in Bomb Scare | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008
Despite the arrests of seven suspected extremists, French officials said the prime suspects in an investigation into explosives placed in a Paris department store are likely not Islamic militants.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:24:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At some point once the UK has come to terms with its hideous collusion with the US over Irag, people are going to start asking searching questions about how we became a torture state too. And the more Straw denies it, the more we know it's true.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:34:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Parliament Gives Go Ahead to EU Climate Deal | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008

The legislative package, which easily passed the European Parliament after being put forward by last week's summit of the EU's 27 member states, mandates a 20 percent reduction in the EU's 1990 levels of CO emissions by the year 2020.

...To get the deal passed, the bloc was forced to make concessions to many of the EU's newer, formerly Communist, Eastern European member states, which are still highly dependent on coal power.

As a compromise, states such as Poland will get roughly 12 percent of the revenues generated by the emission trading scheme.

Automakers also lobbied for and won more time to be able to meet stricter climate standards.

The deal's 18 percent cut in maximum allowable CO2 emissions for new cars will take effect in 2015 -- three years later than the date proponents had originally hoped for.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Automakers also lobbied for and won more time to be able to meet stricter climate standards

Especially poignant seeing as thirsty cars with associated poor emissions seem to be the ones that aren't selling right now. So european car manufacturers seem to be hellbent on following GM into irrelevance.

Toyota and nissan must be gleeful.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:40:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Protesting Greek Youths Take Message to Acropolis | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008
More than a week after the police shooting of a 15-year-old, young people in Greece continue anti-government demonstrations. They briefly hijacked radio and TV stations -- as well the country's most famous monument.

At the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill, young demonstrators unfurled two huge banners, one of which featured the word "resistance" written in Greek, English, and other languages. The other called for protestors across the country to continue their marches.

Sit-ins continued at schools and universities on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Protest leaders say around 600 educational institutions are currently being occupied while authorities put the number at around 100.

Early on Wednesday morning, gas bombs exploded in front of a bank and at least one office building in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city. The buildings were damaged, but there were no initial reports of any serious injuries.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:18:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As much as I'm enjoying it I have to say that the Greek govt's strategy of "letting the kids run amok" is not working too well.
by paving on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 06:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bloomberg.com: Worldwide | German December Business Confidence Lowest Since 1982

German business confidence dropped to the lowest in more than a quarter century in December as the credit crisis pushes Europe's largest economy deeper into a recession.

The Ifo institute in Munich said its business climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, fell to 82.6 from 85.8 in the previous month. That's the lowest reading for Ifo's main index since November 1982. Economists expected a drop to 84, the median of 39 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey shows.

Germany's economy is on course for its worst contraction since 1993 next year as a global slowdown saps export demand, forcing companies to curb spending and hiring. Daimler AG, the world's biggest maker of heavy trucks, said the recession may be "deep" and the European Central Bank this month cut its key interest rate by the most on record to stem the slump.

"The indicator points to a heavy recession," said Heinrich Bayer, an economist at Deutsche Postbank AG in Frankfurt, who correctly forecast the Ifo outcome. "We need stimulating effects through further rate cuts and fiscal impulses as soon as possible, ideally internationally."

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:43:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
German business confidence dropped to the lowest in more than a quarter century in December as the credit crisis pushes Europe's largest economy deeper into a recession.

"The indicator points to a heavy recession," said Heinrich Bayer, an economist at Deutsche Postbank AG in Frankfurt, who correctly forecast the Ifo outcome. "We need stimulating effects through further rate cuts and fiscal impulses as soon as possible, ideally internationally."

I feel an urge to break out my Veblen and quote out of it on how recession is a psychological phenomenon of the business class.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:48:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like a good idea.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:22:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But I have to pack, not be on ET!

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:23:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then stop rhyming :-)

You'll get another chance to quote Veblen on this, I'd predict.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:30:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
SPECIAL FOCUS Global financial economic crisis

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:07:49 PM EST
US slashes interest rates to new zero-0.25% range - Business News, Business - The Independent

The Federal Reserve ripped up decades of monetary policy-making, saying it would no longer set an explicit target for US interest rates and instead set a range - and it said it would be happy to see rates at zero.

In its groundbreaking statement, it said it would employ a whole new set of tools to bring down interest rates for struggling borrowers, extending its interventions across the money markets and in effect printing money to halt the economy's downward spiral.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:11:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The reaction:

Bloomberg.com: Currencies

The dollar fell as much as 3 percent to $1.4437 per euro, the weakest level since Sept. 29, from $1.4002 yesterday, before trading at $1.4337 at 1:45 p.m. in New York. It was the biggest intraday drop since the euro's inception. The U.S. currency decreased 1.2 percent to 87.99 yen from 89.05 and reached 87.14, the lowest since July 1995. The euro increased 1.2 percent to 126.22 yen from 124.71.

The pound weakened for the first time beyond 93 pence per euro after the Office for National Statistics said the number of people receiving jobless benefits increased by 75,700 to 1.07 million. Bank of England policy makers voted 9-0 to cut the nation's benchmark on Dec. 4 to 2 percent, minutes showed. Sterling slid as much as 3.5 percent to 93.27 pence per euro. The pound dropped 0.7 percent to $1.5474.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:12:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same story elsewhere...

Sterling slips to new euro low - Business News, Business - The Independent

The pound tumbled to a new record low against the euro today after it was revealed that Bank of England rate-setters considered even larger interest rate cuts than the 1 per cent delivered two weeks ago.

Minutes of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee's latest meeting gave strong signals of further deep rate cuts to come and traders a fresh reason to dump sterling.

This left the pound falling below 1.10 euros - piling on the misery for holidaymakers planning festive trips to Europe.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:12:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
John Stevens: Larry Elliott is wrong on the euro | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
John Stevens guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 December 2008 11.00 GMT

Larry Elliott, in his recent editorial, gives three reasons why euro membership would "make things worse" for the United Kingdom economy. First, parts of the eurozone - Italy, Greece, Spain and Ireland - "are in serious trouble". Second, keeping the pound and setting our own interest and exchange rates will allow us to "rebalance growth away from consumption towards production", the prerequisite for any sustainable recovery, "provided the Bank of England gets its act together". Third, the eurozone is showing signs of encouraging its members to "specialise in sectors where they have a comparative advantage", which, because ours is in financial services, would mean that by joining we would "end up with the City much more powerful and a still more lopsided economy".

That such a distinguished economic commentator should write such nonsense beggars belief...

Read it all...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:42:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That such a distinguished economic commentator should write such nonsense beggars belief

It does? Refer to my signature.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 05:02:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Caveat lector: after forcefully arguing for Britain's entry into the euro, Stevens ends by arguing in favour of the financial services sector and against the "humbling" of the City.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 04:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that threw me a bit, too, but then he goes on to say stuff that I think makes some sense:

Does he really believe this is necessary to revive UK manufacturing? Surely we need to build on our present strengths and add new ones. Only within a continental-sized currency zone that ensures a genuine single market can we find the economies of scale that offer solid hope for such a revival. Elliott seems ready to deny the most elementary tenets of free trade in favour of some sort of socialism in one country.

I would be the first to acknowledge that Adam Smith needs some modification in the current climate and that Karl Marx has enjoyed a modest rehabilitation - but the same can't be said for Joseph Stalin.

...where it is surprising to see a onetime Pro-EU Conservative Party guy use a phrase subject to obscure Marxist debates, "socialism in one country" (e.g. what Soviet leaders declared possible when they consolidated their power and abandoned the then Marxist paradigm of a need of global revolution for the achievement of real socialism) and put it in the right context (Stalin).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 12:32:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bloomberg.com: Currencies

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Ecuador's default on $3.9 billion of international bonds means it's only a matter of time before the country drops the U.S. dollar as its currency, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says.

Ecuador's use of the dollar gives President Rafael Correa no outlet for providing credit to the economy as access to foreign financing dries up and revenue from sales of oil, the nation's biggest export, tumbles. Correa, a critic of so-called dollarization, also may use the default as an excuse to abandon the policy, said Alberto Ramos, a Latin America economist with Goldman Sachs in New York.

It's truly amazing how everything unravels.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:24:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what's amazing is not so much the one day movement than the fact that this is the fourth bigger-than-2% increase in 5 days. Truly stunning to see the single most traded currency pair move by more than 10% in a week.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 05:48:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only two comparable events were the collapse of Bretton Woods in the middle of February 1973, and, in the other direction, the concerted correction after the September 1992 low for the dollar.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 07:02:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This got no reaction in the OT, so I'll repost here: RGE Monitor's email newsletter on currencies (dateline 17/12/08) considers the dollar's fall an end-of-year "blip".

Does the U.S. dollar's December slide mean the USD has passed its peak? Most likely not. The turn-of-the-year profit-taking on long USD positions creates a near-term blip in the dollar's uptrend but doesn't alter the medium-term trend of appreciation versus the euro. The four horseman of the carry trade apocalypse - Deleveraging, Risk Aversion, Growth Differentials and the Dollar's Reserve Currency Status - would need to retreat before we see a sustained pullback in the EUR/USD from the slide to near-parity ($1.10-$1.30). Governments, banks and other firms are still scrambling for dollars to repay their USD-denominated debt while signs of global recession and credit crisis spur on the flight-to-safety in U.S. Treasuries. European sovereign bonds offer an alternative but inferior safe haven because of the European bond market's fragmentation and exposure to emerging Europe. More aggressive policy response in the U.S. compared to Europe, could bring the U.S. out of a recession faster than the Eurozone (though growth will most likely remain subdued for some years to come), supporting the dollar against the euro. In the longer term, however, once risk appetite revives, the greenback might lose its defenses in wake of worries surrounding U.S. public debt expansion and the potential inflationary effect of quantitative easing.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 02:10:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He is right about Deleveraging, I'm not sure he's correct about the others. And this is more of a short term effect (I mean, the hedge fund industry has already shrunk by half in the past few month).

Risk Aversion? With the Fed and Treasury taking on 8 trillion of new liabilities?

Growth Differentials?  LOL

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 04:29:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How much is Reserve Currency Status worth? Because the argument seems to boil down to that. The rest is flight-to-safety because somehow the euro isn't "safe".

I don't know who writes this for RGE Monitor, it isn't signed (ie not Roubini).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 04:37:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reserve Currency Status is dangerous because it overvalues the currency and makes it really easy to slip into the temptation of a debt binge like the US has been in for a few decades.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:10:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but the question under consideration is whether or not the dollar can continue being over-valued. Which seems might be possible (though not necessarily of great long-term benefit to the US).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:26:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I was thinking of the question of whether the Euro wanted reserve currency status. Rather off-topic.

On the current valuation fluctuations, they seem to be a side effect of abnormally high flows of capital. Can't read anything into the actual exchange rates, I don't think.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:51:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Europeans Disagree Drastically On Fed Rate Cut | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008
For some it was the right thing at the right time; for others the end of the financial world as we know it. The US Federal Reserve's decision to slash interest rates to near zero has Europeans scratching their heads.

..."Ultimately, it means the Fed is pursuing monetary policy via printing more currency," Bernd Weidensteiner, an America expert at the Commerzbank, told dpa news agency. "Reducing the prime interest rate has become blunt instrument."

Switzerland's leading daily newspaper, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, concurred.

"The Fed's leadership is like a computer administrator who, growing ever more impatient and frustrated, starts sending stronger and stronger jolts of power through the system -- even though some of the wires have already melted."



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:21:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a pretty good analogy:


"The Fed's leadership is like a computer administrator who, growing ever more impatient and frustrated, starts sending stronger and stronger jolts of power through the system -- even though some of the wires have already melted."


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 05:46:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, should we expect another "unlimited 14-day lending facility" by the ECB to help banks make it to the end-of-year book-closing mad scramble for cash?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:36:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will Bernanke dare to reduce the base rate to -0.25% ?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 05:48:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Combating Recession: Merkel Announces New Measures to Boost Economy - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged billions of euros in fresh public infrastructure investments to boost the flagging economy. The measures, to be announced after Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration, will come on top of the €32 billion package launched earlier this month.

...Merkel was cricized heavily over that first economic package after closer scrutiny revealed that most of the measures had already passed and that the new intiatives were worth only €5 billion a year.

"It's obvious that everything will be done in the area of infrastructure that can be done quickly," Merkel said in a speech at the ZEW economic institute in Mannheim, in southwestern Germany.

"I think it will amount to an additional few billions," Merkel said, adding that Germany's regional states should start presenting their road building plans so that construction or repair work could start early next spring.

Merkel added that she was opposed to issuing vouchers to boost consumption. She said the German government knew that the initial stimulus package would not suffice to shore up the economy.

Sigh...


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:13:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I know, but the states have loads of public works projects all spec'd out and ready for tendering, so this work really could start in the spring. I wouldn't be surprised if the RFQs are already on their way to contractors as we blog.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 03:24:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Madoff victims threaten legal action - Americas, World - The Independent

The victims of the world's biggest fraud are raising harsh questions about how Bernard Madoff was able to run his $50bn (£33bn) scam for so long without his staff, the authorities or his trading partners noticing.

A firestorm of legal action is gathering as individuals who lost their life savings and charities threatened to pursue the banks and investment firms that made their ill-fated introduction to Mr Madoff.

"If this were a traditional bank robbery, the eyewitness reports would say Mr Madoff walked out with billions of dollars as someone held the door open for him," said Jeffrey Zwerling, a lawyer representing some of the victims. "There is just no way that this happens without help of some kind."




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:13:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Banks Hit for Billions Amid Madoff Fraud Case | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 15.12.2008

A report in the Financial Times business newspaper said HSBC could stand to lose around $1 billion, while RBS said its exposure to the alleged scam amounted to around 400 million pounds (444 million euros).

RBS said its losses came from trading and collateralized lending to hedge funds of funds invested in Madoff's group.

London-based investment firm Man Group estimated its exposure to be around $360 million, while French corporate and investment bank Natixis put its potential loses at 450 million euros.

...Meanwhile, Italy's second-biggest bank, UniCredit SpA said it could lose up to 75 million euros and, in Spain, the nation's largest bank Santander said its investment fund Optimal has an exposure to the scam of around 2.33 billion euros.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:23:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Implausible deniability | Newshour | 16 Dec 2008

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mort Zuckerman, let me start with you. How did the money in one of your charitable trusts end up in the hands of Bernard Madoff?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, editor, "U.S. News and World Report": Well, I had never heard of Bernard Madoff until last Friday. I've never met him; I've never heard his name anywhere. ...

And last Friday, we found out, to our chagrin, that the funds which many of us had devoted to charitable works were now going to be frittered away because of this firm's ridiculous decision to invest all of the money, 100 percent of their money, with Madoff. ....

None of us, including all the people who are suing him now, knew this until this past Friday. So I guess what I can only say is that there was no way that we could penetrate a whole tissue of misrepresentations and, indeed, lies. And that's exactly what we had to deal with. And all of the reports that we got were inconsistent with what we later found out to be what he, in fact, had done with all the money in this fund. ....

I have many funds invested with different fund managers for this charitable trust and, indeed, some of which are also for myself personally. And I've done a lot of due diligence in all of them, similar to what I did here. I've never had an incident like this whatever.

So what you have is a situation where, unless you can get a subpoena to go into all of his records, which we were not able to do, you can be misled through misrepresentation and outright lies. That's, in fact, what happened. ...

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn to Jacob Frenkel now. How is it that someone like Mr. Madoff persuaded people with all this money to put it in his hands?

JACOB FRENKEL, former enforcement lawyer, Securities and Exchange Commission: I use the term "reputational investing." That is that the stature that he was able to achieve in the capital markets, the name, the circles in which he traveled, bred confidence, as a result of which people chose to invest with him and had confidence and trusted in the information that he was imparting.

Told ya so | Nightly Business Report | 15 Dec 2008

DHUE: The SEC can't be sued, but investors can make claims with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation or SIPC for up to $500,000. Attorneys will also pursue third party claims, for example, possibly suing an investment advisor who recommended the fund. The court has appointed attorney Lee Richards as a receiver. Attorney Douglas Hirsch represents hedge funds, charities and individual investors in Madoff securities. He wants to be sure the receiver operates in the investors' best interest.

DOUGLAS HIRSCH, PARTNER, SADIS & GOLDBERG: Receiver's going to charge legal fees against the money that's left at Madoff Securities and we don't want the receiver to take action in an inefficient manner and spend money that shouldn't have been spent because that is just money taken out of the investors' pockets.

MOAHR "Troubled Attorney Rescue Plan"

MARWIL: Well, in my experience the next step once the receiver gets control of the assets that are known to begin in earnest an investigation of assets that may not be known including litigation and there are claims against the professionals that may have been involved in providing advice both on behalf of the investors as well as Madoff. And then also looking at the investors who redeemed prior to announcement of the fraud and seeking to recover from them at least certain of the proceeds that they received in order to equalize the harm, if you will, from the fraud for the benefit of those who received nothing.

GHARIB: Do you think that investors -- and I'm here talking about average investors -- will be able to recover any of their money? What can they do?

MARWIL: Well, in my experience and in this area with massive Ponzi schemes in particular the value hedge fund case, where I am the receiver, we did pursue actions against early redeemers, those who received all of their principal back plus fictitious profits. We did through actions in Chapter 11 bankruptcy case under fraudulent conveyance section of the bankruptcy code in fact recover from those investors significant funds that will now be utilized to equalize distributions among all investors, so that everybody shares as equally as possible in the fraud and in the harm. So that those who are left with nothing right now ultimately hopefully will recover their fair share of what was distributed over the course of at least the last two years.

ho ho hoes.

Incidentally, did you know that "ho/hoes" is not Ebonic for "whore"? Indeed, the word is attested in 18th century British American literature to denote the function of a female field slave.(Gordon-Reed)

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 06:47:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I use the term "reputational investing." That is that the stature that he was able to achieve in the capital markets, the name, the circles in which he traveled, bred confidence, as a result of which people chose to invest with him and had confidence and trusted in the information that he was imparting.

He. And here I always thought shares were called shares because they were shares in companies, and share investing was always about finding solid companies that sold solid things. And doing due diligence on funds was always mainly about checking what companies the fund held.

How silly of me.

But then I don't get multi-million bonuses.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 07:04:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That sentence is as naked an admission as you'll find that Madoff was a plain vanilla confidence artist.

How many investors are wondering if Madoff was the exception, or business as usual for the industry as a whole?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hedge funds don't disclose the composition of their portfolios: that's a trade secret. They only give investors the skimpiest of outlines of their "methods", packaged in neat powerpoint presentations.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:14:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re: ho

You mean this was a reference to the standard field tool, the hoe?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 02:19:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yep, technical term, if you will.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:08:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
GHARIB: Do you think that investors -- and I'm here talking about average investors -- will be able to recover any of their money?

Well of course...100%.Ho ho ho
Really if I hadn't already seen all of this once in Milosevic's Serbia I may be so naive to even take this question seriously...
My God...USA is banana republic!Emperor is naked!Definitely!

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 09:26:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Madoff Scandal Shaking Real Estate Industry - NYTimes.com

Almost no segment of New York City's real estate industry was spared in the Madoff scandal, which may be history's largest Ponzi scheme: commercial brokers large and small, little-known developers and prominent families like the Wilpons and Rechlers all lost money to Bernard L. Madoff, industry executives say.

The outsize impact on the industry may have resulted largely because Mr. Madoff (pronounced MAY-doff) managed his funds much the way that real estate leaders have operated successfully for decades: He provided little information and demanded a lot of trust.

"You have a lot of wealthy people who made a lot of money on handshakes," said Mark S. Weiss, a commercial real estate broker at Newmark Knight Frank, where several brokers had invested heavily with Mr. Madoff. There was "something about this person, pedigree and reputation that inspired trust," he said.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 02:56:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a lot of wealthy people who made a lot of money on handshakes," said Mark S. Weiss, a commercial real estate broker at Newmark Knight Frank, where several brokers had invested heavily with Mr. Madoff. ... commercial brokers large and small, little-known developers and prominent families like the Wilpons and Rechlers all lost money to Bernard L. Madoff, industry executives say.

Well to be honest I am not going to exactly cry because of it.But I have a question : If those WEALTHY people (and small investors) lost that much money WHERE THE HELL ARE 50 BILL.???Anyone???

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 09:35:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OPEC agrees to record cut in oil production | World News | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2008
Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have agreed to cut oil production by 2.2 million barrels per day. The move is to take effect on January 1 and represents the largest single production cut by OPEC since 1982. The decision came during a meeting of OPEC-member oil ministers in the Algerian city of Oran. The cartel is seeking to counter slumping demand and falling oil prices which have dropped to less than $50 per barrel from a July peak above $147. The cut is the third this year and brings the total reduction in OPEC supply to 4.2 million barrels per day. That's a reduction in world oil supplies of nearly five percent.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:21:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]

D Bank decides not to repay €1bn bond

Deutsche Bank jolted bond and equity investors on Wednesday when it became the first big bank to say it would not repay €1bn ($1.4bn) of a particular kind of bond as expected in January.

(...)

The bonds are typically repaid at the first opportunity after an initial period when redemptions are not allowed. If an issuer does not redeem then, they must pay a higher penalty coupon rate.

Deutsche Bank decided it was more cost-effective to pay this penalty rate rather than replace the funding in current difficult market conditions, which have made finance more expensive.

More than $800bn such bonds have been issued globally this decade, according to Dealogic, hitting a peak of $175bn in 2007. Most of the issuance has come from banks. Their importance in supporting bank balance sheets during the crisis is shown in the $137bn of deals in the past year.

When banks decide not to redeem the bonds at the earliest opportunity, the market value of the instruments falls, hurting investors. Analysts and bankers said such a scenario could see investors turn away from buying these deals in the future - further narrowing banks' ability to raise new money.

"Deutsche Bank is running the risk that this may be seen as more symptomatic of capital and funding pressures which the institution may be facing," said Roberto Henriques, credit analyst at JPMorgan.

The €1bn bond, which is part of Deutsche's Tier 2 capital, an important but not core element of its balance sheet, has its first call date in mid-January.

We're entering an interesting times when all deals in the past are suddenly reconsidered in light not of what was customary practice, but of what the legal rights of a party are. As this case shows, the practice in good times was rather different from what the formal rights are. ore of this is likely to happen, in many different sectors.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 05:57:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is interesting, given that Deutsche Bank's stated reason for persistently refusing to accept German govt bailout money is the alleged loss of confidence this would entail.

I'm certain the €500k limit on executive compensation has nothing to do with this decision.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 03:05:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Barack Obama-san  | Wall Street Journal:
... Keynesian "pump-priming" in a recession has often been tried, and as an economic stimulus it is overrated. The money that the government spends has to come from somewhere, which means from the private economy in higher taxes or borrowing. The public works are usually less productive than the foregone private investment.

In the Age of Obama, we seem fated to re-explain these eternal lessons. So for today we thought we'd recount the history of the last major country that tried to spend its way to "stimulus" -- Japan during its "lost decade" of the 1990s. In 1992, Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa faced falling property prices and a stock market that had sunk 60% in three years. Mr. Miyazawa's Liberal Democratic Party won re-election promising that Japan would spend its way to becoming a "lifestyle superpower." The country embarked on a great Keynesian experiment: ...

<...>

... Debt-to-GDP reached 128.3%.

Japan's economy grow anemically over that decade, but as the nearby chart shows, its national debt exploded. Only in this decade, with a monetary reflation and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's decision to privatize state assets and force banks to acknowledge their bad debts, did the economy recover. Yet recent governments have rolled back Mr. Koizumi's reforms and returned to their spending habits. But Japan does have better roads.

Now we're told that a similar spending program -- a new New Deal -- will revive the U.S. economy. How do you say "good luck" in Japanese?



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 01:38:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know the history of Japan's attempts to climb out of the trough well enough to comment on it. But

The money that the government spends has to come from somewhere, which means from the private economy

forgets that the so-called private economy depends on, first, natural resources common to all, and second, infrastructure created by public investment. The private economy has the appearance of an accountant's artefact in not "accounting for" these two elements without which it would not in fact exist.

The public works are usually less productive than the foregone private investment.

There has probably been some glossy think-tank work done on this comparative "productivity", but essentially this statement seems backed by ideology alone: that of the market's efficient allocation of resources. Which efficient allocation we are no doubt watching astounded in the global systemic crisis at this moment...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 02:55:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
There has probably been some glossy think-tank work done on this comparative "productivity", but essentially this statement seems backed by ideology alone: that of the market's efficient allocation of resources.

It's the same logic that says that when a nurse is employed by the State she's a burden on the productive sector while when she's employed by a Corporation then she's magically "productive".

Ignoring the fact that the taxpayer now has the monkey on their shoulder of returns to rentiers, and corporate fatcat management as well...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 04:52:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Monday's FT, alongside the interview with Trichet that I have been meaning to quote and comment more extensively that Jerome did, there was an interview with the Governor of the Japanese Central Bank and he talked about growth with deflation as not being a bad thing.

I don't know that I have the energy for both those diaries, though :-(

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:03:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Different countries, different rules. In America the public private balance is lopsided towards the private side. The supply of public provisions is low. And the infrastructure is failing. Bridges collapse, levees get breached, etcetera. The WSJ is of course in favour of this state of affairs. But it isn't optimal.

I'm not sure about Japan but my guess is that there wasn't so much public poverty in the late 80s.

There are smarter things to do than just renovating roads, though. Building high speed rail, for instance.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:36:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I posted this in the OT last night... an interesting presentation that rather contradicts this picture told by the WSJ.

http://www.csis.org/media/csis/events/081029_japan_koo.pdf

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:48:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chrysler Shutting Down for One Month - washingtonpost.com
By Peter Whoriskey Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 18, 2008; Page A01

Struggling U.S. automakers are launching a round of severe cutbacks as they wait for a government rescue, with Chrysler saying yesterday it will idle all 30 of its U.S. factories for one month.

Chrysler's plants will furlough 46,000 workers beginning Friday, as a planned two-week holiday shutdown is extended to a month and possibly longer. The company, which has told Congress it needed $7 billion to survive the month, also told dealers that it may suspend financing for new cars in a bid to conserve cash.

"No one will return to work any earlier than Jan. 19," Chrysler spokesperson Shawn Morgan said. "I don't want to get into speculating about what may happen after that. . . . We're going to continue to monitor the situation."

"If I were a Chrysler worker, I'd be worried that the plant won't reopen," said Brian Johnson, an industry analyst at Barclays Capital.

The moves come as other U.S. and foreign automakers are announcing steep production cuts that will idle tens of thousands of other U.S. workers as the industry copes with withered demand for new cars and trucks. Ford said yesterday that it would stop production for an extra week in January at all but two of its plants because of flagging consumer demand. General Motors said Friday that it will cut production and temporarily close 20 factories.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 03:09:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Meanwhile:

Bloomberg.com: Exclusive

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp., the biggest automaker in the U.S. and Mexico, increased production of $12,625 Chevrolet Aveos south of the border while seeking a bailout to keep domestic plants from closing.

The Detroit-based company and competitors such as Ford Motor Co. shifted more manufacturing to Mexico this year to capitalize on wages less than an eighth of those in the U.S. and factories that make fuel-efficient models. Through November, Mexican plants turned out 5 percent more vehicles than a year earlier, versus an estimated decline of 30 percent in the U.S.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:15:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Remind me why the US Congress is bailing them out, again?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:17:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because it's corrupt and evil and the entire US economy and political systems exists to give money by any means possible to a tiny group of stupid self-serving dysfunctional rich people.

Also, it's Christmas.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:42:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
God, I LOVE this place!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:55:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At least somebody does. It's heartwarming.

It makes it really feel like Christmas!

:-D

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:06:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because it's a reasonable estimate that if they do go into Chapter 11 a lot of people will become unemployed very quickly. And some of the politicians think that might lose them votes...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:56:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But they're moving production to Mexico as we speak!

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:57:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well sure... but they haven't sacked anyone in Flint, MI, yet...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:07:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there anyone left to sack there?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:09:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
WORLD

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:08:17 PM EST
UK troops 'end Iraq mission next year' - Middle East, World - The Independent

Gordon Brown and his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri Maliki, made the announcement in a joint statement released as they held talks in Baghdad.

They said: "The role played by the UK combat forces is drawing to a close. These forces will have completed their tasks in the first half of 2009 and will then leave Iraq."

The premiers added that the partnership between the two countries would continue.

Yesterday, the Iraqi council of ministers agreed a new resolution allowing British troops to remain in the country until the end of July.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:09:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Matthew Norman blows a fuse

Independent - Matthew Norman - Nobody threw shoes at Brown - but his guilt is still undeniable

"We leave Iraq a better place," our Prime Minister declared yesterday, doubtless sending his good eye on a search mission for incoming loafers. Yet while he rightly paid tribute to the 178 British dead whose lives he could so easily have saved, by resigning before the invasion and ousting Mr Blair, he had nothing to add about Iraqi fatalities. No one knows precisely how many there have been, but a recent estimate of 650,000 seems far from outlandish.

I know it's tedious to rehash so fatigued a line, and if you're already fingering the corner of the page I understand. But it seems to me a moral imperative to carry on railing against the absence of any properly independent public enquiry - a monumental scandal in itself - into how Mr Blair and his poisonous little cabal of sofa-dwelling hoodlums kidded Parliament and the country into this invasion; and how Mr Brown and the other pliantly, cravenly gave their imprimatur.

To allow overfamiliarity with these arguments to inure us into a shoulder-shrugging, c'est la vie accommodation with the wickedness is to dishonour the casualties of whatever nationality, and their loved ones, with the apathy of the faux sophisticate. To avoid the clodhoppingly simplistic conclusion that Gordon Brown's collusion should automatically have debarred him from the office to which he clings is to betray our most deeply held convictions about the minimum requirements of any society that affects to regard itself as civilised.

If the mild embarrassment of restating the bleeding obvious ad infinitum is the cost of sustaining the righteous fury that is Mr Brown's due for supporting the war back then, and for spinning such poisonously mendacious gibberish about victory now - and possibly in the future, if and when increased troop numbers leave Afghanistan defeated - so be it. It is the tiniest price to pay when numbers literally beyond counting have already paid, and a myriad more have yet to pay, with their lives.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:56:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Norman:
Mr Blair and his poisonous little cabal of sofa-dwelling hoodlums

Damn. We still have journalists who can actually write. Who knew?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:55:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Those Guys Are Heroes': How German Agents Helped Pave the Way into Iraq - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
...The tall, slim retired US general has nothing but good things to say about the Germans...

But General James Marks is not a witness...

...He could talk about the spring of 2003, when he was sitting in a windowless, air-conditioned briefing room at the US military's Camp Doha in the Kuwaiti desert, reading the reports of two BND agents who held out in Baghdad during the war. And he could talk about how the information provided by the Germans was incorporated into the situation reports he presented in daily videoconferences to General Tommy Franks, head of the US invading forces, and sometimes to then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

In the spring of 2003, Marks headed up the military intelligence efforts both before and during the American campaign. It was his job to ensure that the 115,000 US troops didn't run into any surprises as they advanced toward Baghdad. All information relevant to the war ended up on his desk. By virtue of this position, Marks, more than almost anyone else, knows how important the reports provided by the two Germans were for the American war effort.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will testify before the parliamentary investigative committee on Thursday. When the Iraq war began in early 2003, Steinmeier was head of Germany's secret services as well as being then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's chief of staff. Schröder, for his part, owed his re-election in September 2002 primarily to his tough opposition to US plans to invade Iraq.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:10:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyone wanna guess two classified Intelligence Stars were handed out? :)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
SPIEGEL Interview with Strobe Talbott: 'The Obama Administration Will Be Very Cautious' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
In a SPIEGEL interview, US foreign policy expert Strobe Talbott discusses the daunting foreign policy challenges facing Obama, the next president's desire to turn Americans into global citizens and the prospects for reinvigorated trans-Atlantic relations.

...SPIEGEL: When it comes to culture, doesn't America -- with its large domestic market and fixation on itself -- seem like one of the least globalized countries in the Western world?

Talbott: There is no question that the population of the United States takes its sovereignty very seriously. We don't have a tradition of transnationalism like you do in Europe. I know many people on your continent who identify as European just as easily as they identify as being German, British or French. But this European culture is only 60 years old.

...Talbott: The issue of finding the right policy for Afghanistan is going to be tough. Obama will try to persuade the Europeans that we have to fight the war in Afghanistan together. The Clinton name is also a global brand, and that will prove effective. Hillary Clinton comes off the Senate Armed Services Committee and understands the needs of NATO.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:10:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same interview:

SPIEGEL Interview with Strobe Talbott: 'The Obama Administration Will Be Very Cautious' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL: Another crucial issue in trans-Atlantic relations are ties with Russia. In Germany, nobody in a position of authority wants another confrontation with Russia.

Talbott: I expect that the United States and Europe will come closer together in their Russia policy. Just take the question: Should Georgia become a member of NATO?

SPIEGEL: Which President Bush supported and Chancellor Merkel spoke out against.

Talbott: I expect that the United States will return to its original position, which says that any addition of a new member state must enhance the security of the alliance as a whole. That principle would argue against the inclusion of a state such as Georgia, which is, in one sense or another, divided against itself.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Somalia in the Crosshairs: Germans Won't Fight on Land in Anti-Pirate Mission - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
A UN resolution passed on Tuesday gives countries a one-year mandate to battle Somali pirates in the water and on land. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has made clear land assaults will not be part of the Bundeswehr's mission, which is to be approved by parliament Friday.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:11:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'Assassination attempt' on Mugabe henchman - Africa, World - The Independent
President Robert Mugabe is planning to declare a state of emergency in Zimbabwe, the opposition said yesterday, after what the government claims was an assassination attempt on the head of the air force.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:11:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MT:  Far East Drivers Get Leaders to Listen

In a rare example of grassroots political power, angry protests by drivers prompted lawmakers in the far eastern Primorye region on Monday to ask the country's two leaders to delay raising import duties on foreign cars.

The Primorye regional legislature, led by United Russia deputies, voted unanimously Monday to ask President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to postpone the tariffs, which take effect on Jan. 11, according to a decree signed by Putin.

Thousands of drivers took to the streets in several far eastern cities and towns Sunday to protest the tariffs, blocking traffic, clashing with police, openly insulting Putin and Medvedev and even calling on Putin to resign.

Putin's decree would increase the prices for imported cars by between 10 and 20 percent, a move the government has defended as a way of protecting domestic auto makers during the growing financial crisis.

The Primorye region's representative in the Federation Council, hockey legend Vyacheslav Fetisov, met with regional car dealers in Vladivostok on Monday and promised to pass on their request to the government to call off the tariffs, which they say would ravage their business.

Fetisov also promised to pass the dealers' request to the Prosecutor General's Office to examine the legality of Putin's decree, Interfax reported.

...

Alexei Mukhin, an analyst with the Center for Political Information, said the anti-Putin and anti-United Russia signs protesters held during the demonstrations represented economic, rather than political, demands.

Thirty-nine percent of Russians are increasingly unhappy with the government, while 26 percent believe the economic crisis is getting worse in their region, according to a poll released last week by the Kremlin-friendly Public Opinion Foundation.

The level of disapproval was the same among all social groups, regardless of income, education and profession, according to the poll, conducted Nov. 14 to 25 among 34,000 people in 68 regions.



Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stop Vilsack's Confirmation as Secretary of Agriculture  - OCA: Take Action
Despite a massive public outcry, including over 20,000 emails from the Organic Consumers Association, President-Elect Obama has chosen former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to be the next Secretary of Agriculture.

While Vilsack has promoted respectable policies with respect to restraining livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms and promoting genetically engineered crops and animal cloning. Equally troubling is Vilsack's support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production, which has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world.

The Organic Consumers Association is calling on organic consumers and all concerned citizens to join our call to action and block Vilsack's confirmation as the next Secretary of Agriculture. Please help us reach our goal of 100,000 petition signatures against Vilsack' nomination. Sign today!
by Fran on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:46:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Environmentalists wary of Obama's choice for Interior Dept. - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: President-elect Barack Obama's choice to lead the Interior Department, Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, will inherit an agency demoralized by years of scandal, political interference and mismanagement.

He must deal with the sharp tension between those who seek to exploit public lands for energy, minerals and recreation and those who want to preserve the lands. He will be expected to restore scientific integrity to a department where it has repeatedly been compromised. He will be responsible for ending the department's coziness with the industries it regulates. And he will have to work hard to overcome skepticism among many environmentalists about his views on resource and wildlife issues.

One senior Interior Department executive described the job Salazar has been chosen for as "the booby prize of the Cabinet."

As Obama introduced Salazar and Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor tapped to be secretary of agriculture, at a press conference Wednesday in Chicago, he said their responsibility would be to balance the protection of farms and public lands against the need to find new sources of energy.

by Fran on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:50:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FWIW, Vilsack did a thing at our campaign office in MO while I was there. We were basically roped into appearing as 'bodies' for the press, and had very low expectations. It turned out to be quite interesting. He gave a good talk and was excellent in the Q&A - substantive responses, very little boilerplate stuff. I was quite impressed. That said, He is from Iowa...
by MarekNYC on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:19:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People have to remember that Obama is setting the policy and the dept. heads he's choosing are there to exercise political power and influence within those departments. We're going to have to wait and see what happens and I for one and glad to see Obama ignoring the usual left-ish interest groups here in the US.  When they have a policy dispute I will be happy to read their press releases, until then they should try not to make fools of themselves.
by paving on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 06:53:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we should just put our faith in Obama, and ignore the evidence of his personal choices?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 07:10:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find this a strange reasoning. Unless Obama is an absolut genius and knows everything, the people he picks for his cabinet will be his consultants, and they will be influencing him by the recommendations they make and the informations they give him. And I find it strange to assume that he would choose people he disagrees with, to have them in important positions and have my doubts that he really disagrees with them.

This also sounds like he is a king with no equals and that he can do what ever he wants. To me coming from a direct democracy this is frigthening. the people seem to be left outside.

by Fran on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 01:10:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that Obama will not be able to set the policy all by himself. He's not superhuman. What's more, the picks do signal something about policy. I don't know if it is strange to assume that Obama would pick people he's going to disagree with.

In theory, though, the dualism of the American political system means that the main check on what the President sets as policy is supposed to come from Congress, and not necessarily from inside the administration.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:23:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reform School Madness! | Chicago Tribune | 16 Dec 2008

Obama's appointment, which will be announced Tuesday in a joint appearance at Dodge Renaissance Academy on the West Side, comes as the nation turns a jaundiced eye toward Chicago leaders and the city's oft-criticized political machine.

Since Mayor Richard Daley plucked Duncan from obscurity to head the country's third-largest school district in 2001, Duncan has gained a reputation as a reformer who isn't afraid to rankle the teachers union or punish underperforming schools. His decisions to pay students for good grades, back an unrealized plan for a gay-friendly high school and consider boarding schools often polarized the community while bolstering his renegade image.

"He has the brains, courage, creativity and temperament for the job," said former Chicago schools chief Paul Vallas, who hired Duncan as his deputy chief of staff in 1998. "And he's very close to the president[-elect], which is an important thing, too." ...

Duncan, who grew up in Hyde Park, has been friends with Obama for more than a decade and was among those who played basketball with Obama on Election Day.

An adviser on Obama's education policy, Duncan has called for more flexibility in the No Child Left Behind school accountability law, but does not intend to scrap the initiative entirely.

Duncan did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

The selection of Duncan almost certainly will renew debates about Obama's commitment to public schools, as the president-elect has opted not to send his daughters to the district that Duncan oversees. The Obama girls attend the prestigious University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where Duncan also attended and his wife once worked as the athletic director. ...

Chicago Public Schools have seen increases in some state test scores for the last seven years, though they continue to lag behind the Illinois average. Overall, 65.4 percent of the city's elementary students met or exceeded state standards, an increase of 1.3 percent from 2007.

On the other hand, Sidwell (lower school) requires parents to sit in its "Quaker" meeting house for a written exam on the topic, "Why my child should attend Sidwell."

I'm not kidding. BTDT. And walked out.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 11:28:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd home-school before I'd ever send my kids to Chicago Public Schools (well, the regular ones).  The idea of Arnie Duncan running our already broken public school system is mildly terrifying to me.  

No one is happy about the idea of paying kids for grades.  I don't even know how that ever was ok'd.  Did they let the kids vote on the measure or something?  The parents I know are not happy about the message this sends to their children.  It's truly shameful.  

Strangely, there are Chicago Public Schools that are like charter or magnet or otherwise selective, that get to decide their own standards and make kids test in, etc.  They are actually very good schools.  I don't understand why there is such a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, discrepancy between the quality of specialized CPS schools and the regular ones, which basically just warehouse kids for the better part of the day.  

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 11:47:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd home-school before I'd ever send my kids to Chicago Public Schools (well, the regular ones).

Home-schooling is a full-time job. It's not an option for anyone who depends on salary/wage employment in the market.

I've felt like that occasionally about my child's elementary school in MD even having done the Potomac Private School Tour. Typically, my frustration stems, alternatively, from indifferent community (e.g. PTA) or personal relations to administrative monopoly in curricular decisions and funds priorities. Cultural conflicts: while the district demo is Type-A, I find all too often that the parents' expectations for the principal, faculty, and their children are actually prole, accommodating. This attitude works against my own efforts to engage and materially supplement my child's regular instruction.

In real life, choosing a school is like choosing a job or a "marriage" partner. You don't know the half until you live with it. Or slept around ...

The PPST application process here was so disappointing to me by a number of "empirical" metrics not least of which my own 40-year-old private school patronage and later, ambiguous professional outcome. Culture conflict, again: At the time, Sidwell tuition for example was ~$22K --and competitive!-- for pre-K. Yet none of the teachers possessed more than 2 years experience, tuition excluded innumerable material fees, and the lower-school head devoted his "open night" presentation to the exciting "opportunity" of funded professional exchange with institutions in China. (No, foreign language programming was not a LS elective.) At Potomac School the head advised prospectives the school would soon be issuing bonds to enlarge its k12 90-acre campus from ~600 to accommodate 1,200. And kid can't get a damn catered meal except through Head Start in PS...wtf?

I, me and my mama, broke the color barrier here in a drive by. Barry can kiss my "left" ass.

I don't understand why there is such a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, discrepancy between the quality of specialized CPS schools and the regular ones

The missions of charter and magnet schools ought not be confused by (academic) merit criteria or budget size which is a function primarily of student population. I don't know how it works in Chicago. I will tell you this: In NYC a true magnet (Bronx, Stuy) is Regents-specific tested, strictly merit. In MD, (vocational) magnet enrollment is lottery within a GPA band. In MD and in DC, charter enrollment is arbitrary, subject to vacancy.

So I'll tell you what: how much money one can feed an education isn't nearly as critical as the motivation of the pupil alone.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 04:46:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The missions of charter and magnet schools ought not be confused by (academic) merit criteria or budget size which is a function primarily of student population. I don't know how it works in Chicago. I will tell you this: In NYC a true magnet (Bronx, Stuy) is Regents-specific tested, strictly merit. In MD, (vocational) magnet enrollment is lottery within a GPA band. In MD and in DC, charter enrollment is arbitrary, subject to vacancy.

That sounds right.  Not having a child, I don't know the particulars.  But I have friends who have children, and all of them, to my knowledge, go to either private, magnet or charter schools.  I think there is a lottery for all of them because demand is so freaking high.  Tuition keeps most out of the private schools.  The magnet schools are merit based and highly competitive.  And the charter schools are open to anyone, but have much different standards and operations than the regular schools, from what I have seen.  I dated a CPS teacher and was just stunned at how pathetic the curriculum was at the neighborhood schools he taught at.  I would compare it to babysitting, but I think the kids I babysat did a lot more homework.  

I myself did public school for elementary and parochial for secondary.  I am not Catholic or even Christian, but given the choice between regular (non-selective) public school and Catholic school, I'd send my hypothetical kids to Catholic school.  


Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:16:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chicago Tribune: Gov. runs in the slush with 'love' in his heart

Tribune photographer Tom Van Dyke was driving west on Irving Park Road this morning when he saw someone jogging against traffic in the slush.
He thought it was odd that someone would be getting his feet wet in the cold, so he gave the guy a good look and saw it was Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Van Dyke did a U-turn, got ahead of the governor, stopped and grabbed his camera.

"I told him I was from the Tribune and he smiled and said, 'Ok! Come on let's go.'"

Van Dyke jogged along for a bit on Sheffield Avenue, and asked the embattled governor why he was running.

"It's what I always do," Blagojevich said. "It does a lot of good things for you."

The governor said he runs to clear his head and for physical fitness.

"And it keeps love in your heart," he said.

Truly bizarre...


Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:47:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow... you don't have to go to Russia to find politicians acting strange...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:19:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you kidding?  They learn it all from us, I am convinced.  From the corruption and organized crime and audaciousness to the wack-a-doodle stuff they say.  You should see Daley give a press conference.  It's a hoot.  He once offered his underpants to a reporter who kept asking probing questions.  He also bulldozed an airport he wanted to turn into a park but was repeatedly denied a permit for.  Madness.  Never a dull moment, that's for sure.  

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:29:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't wait until you all come to the Olympics to see it for yourselves!

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:30:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And how is the world supposed to get through the DHS ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:12:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iraq May Ban Blackwater, State Dept. Watchdog Says - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON -- The State Department's inspector general has warned in a new report that Blackwater Worldwide, the security contractor, may not be licensed by the Iraqi government to continue to protect American diplomats in Baghdad next year, forcing the Obama administration to make new security arrangements.

The report says that if State Department contractors lose their immunity from criminal prosecution under Iraqi law, as many officials expect, employees of Blackwater and other contractors may choose to leave Iraq or demand higher pay. Five Blackwater guards were indicted this month in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed at least 17 Iraqis.

Unlike some American contractors in Iraq, Blackwater does not have a license, but it has applied for one. Iraqi authorities have allowed it to operate while officials consider the application.

The inspector general's findings were first reported Wednesday by The Associated Press, and The New York Times obtained a copy of the report.

The report says the State Department "faces a real possibility" that no license will be granted and that the Iraqi government will ban Blackwater. The American Embassy in Baghdad would then face a major challenge; officials said Blackwater's services would not be easily replaced.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 02:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  Barack Obama's selection of Arne Duncan for secretary of education does not bode well either for the political direction of his administration nor for the future of public education.
-------------
    Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, presided over the implementation and expansion of an agenda that militarized and corporatized the third largest school system in the nation, one that is about 90 percent poor and nonwhite. Under Duncan, Chicago took the lead in creating public schools run as military academies, vastly expanded draconian student expulsions, instituted sweeping surveillance practices, advocated a growing police presence in the schools, arbitrarily shut down entire schools and fired entire school staffs. A recent report, "Education on Lockdown," claimed that partly under Duncan's leadership "Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has become infamous for its harsh zero tolerance policies.
-----
 Duncan's neoliberal ideology is on full display in the various connections he has established with the ruling political and business elite in Chicago.[5] He led the Renaissance 2010 plan, which was created for Mayor Daley by the Commercial Club of Chicago - an organization representing the largest businesses in the city. The purpose of Renaissance 2010 was to increase the number of high quality schools that would be subject to new standards of accountability - a code word for legitimating more charter schools and high stakes testing in the guise of hard-nosed empiricism. Chicago's 2010 plan targets 15 percent of the city district's alleged underachieving schools in order to dismantle them and open 100 new experimental schools in areas slated for gentrification. Most of the new experimental schools have eliminated the teacher union.
------------
    Duncan's advocacy of the Renaissance 2010 plan alone should have immediately disqualified him for the Obama appointment. At the heart of this plan is a privatization scheme for creating a "market" in public education by urging public schools to compete against each other for scarce resources and by introducing "choice" initiatives so that parents and students will think of themselves as private consumers of educational services.[7] As a result of his support of the plan, Duncan came under attack by community organizations, parents, education scholars and students. These diverse critics have denounced it as a scheme less designed to improve the quality of schooling than as a plan for privatization, union busting and the dismantling of democratically-elected local school councils. They also describe it as part of neighborhood gentrification schemes involving the privatization of public housing projects through mixed finance developments.

Giroux on Obama's choice for education

More of  " The Best and the Brightest"?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 04:13:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Teach for America "national service" training places people like Duncan and Michele Rhee in a vanguard wielding political ($$) and ideological (pure-play "professionalism") hacksaws. I've noticed through my own  survey of charter school proliferation how quickly the cohort capitalizes 2- to 5-year TFA commitments in classroom and districts' board forums. (Many city governments have online facilities to map charter school locations. These are linked to school websites extolling curricular innovation and soliciting faculty...).

The irony of course is that, while the termites chew to the core of greed and chaos, bureaucrats dissemble the public school infrastructure, so justifying family flight from municipal activism against manufactured education. This 'graph by Giroux stings.

Despite the representation in the popular press of Duncan as conciliatory to the unions, his statements and those of others at the symposium belied a deep hostility to teachers unions and a desire to end them (all of the charters created under Ren2010 are deunionized). Thus, in Duncan's attempts to close and transform low-performing schools, he not only reinvents them as entrepreneurial schools, but, in many cases, frees "them from union contracts and some state regulations."[9] Duncan effusively praised one speaker, Michael Milkie, the founder of the Nobel Street charter schools, who openly called for the closing and reopening of every school in the district precisely to get rid of the unions. What became clear is that Duncan views Renaissance 2010 as a national blueprint for educational reform, but what is at stake in this vision is the end of schooling as a public good and a return to the discredited and tired neoliberal model of reform that conservatives love to embrace.

Union-busting is the objective, now that assinine NCLB pedagogy sets the standards of academic performance in a corporate setting. Here is just one echo of Rhee's contempt for demonstrable experience which she purportedly stewards.

Teachers got tenure rights in the early 20th century to protect them against meddling politicians and school-board members who treated their jobs as patronage pawns. But the rationale is plainly antiquated. Today dozens of federal and state laws protect teachers (and other people) from arbitrary firing. But most teachers still receive tenure almost automatically. In fact, even before they get tenure, they are rarely let go. Schools spend millions of dollars evaluating teachers, but principals have little incentive to shake up their staffs, and so most teachers end up scoring near the top. "What I'm finding is that our principals are ridiculously--like ridiculously--conflict-averse," Rhee says. "They know someone is not so good, and they want to give him a 'Meets expectations' anyway because they don't want to deal with the person coming into the office and yelling and getting the parents riled up. ...

Earlier this year, she proposed a revolutionary new [?!] model to let teachers choose between two pay scales. They could make up to $130,000 in merit pay on the basis of their effectiveness--in exchange for giving up tenure for one year. Or they could keep tenure and accept a smaller raise. (Currently, the average teacher's salary in Washington is $65,902.) The proposal divided the city's teachers into raging, blogging factions. This fall, the union declined to put Rhee's proposal to a vote, and its relationship with her has become increasingly hostile.

You haven't lived until you've actually seen her stylings on video. Rhee is obnoxious. Spurious.

2007 American Community Survey
District of Columbia, Median Income 2007
Total:    66,672
2-person families    70,035
3-person families    63,091
4-person families    66,985
5-person families    68,545
6-person families    39,548
7-or-more-person families    54,952

And here is how Obama replied to Rick Warren (his new "pastor") at Saddleback, Aug 2008.

WARREN: Okay, let's go to education. America right now ranks 19th in highschool graduation. We're first in incarcerations.
OBAMA: Not good.
WARREN: Not good: 80% of Americans, [a] recent pole [sic] said, they believe in merit pay for teachers. I'm not asking, do you think all teachers should get a raise? Do you think better teachers should be paid better? They should be made [sic] more than poor teachers?
OBAMA:  I think that we should, and I've said this publicly, that we should said [sic] up a system of performance pay for teachers, negotiated with teachers, worked with the teachers, to figure out the assessment so they feel like they are being judged fairly, that it is not a whim of the principal that is based on a single high tests [sic], but the basic notion that teaching is a profession, that teachers are underpaid. So we need to pay them all more and create a higher base line. But then we should also reward excellence. I think that is a concept that all of us should embrace.

These corporate "socialists" are all of a piece.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 12:49:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turkey, Iran bomb Iraqi border areas  | The Nation (Pakistan) | 18.12.2008
Turkish warplanes and Iranian artillery pounded border areas of northern Iraq on Wednesday as they pressed an offensive against Kurdish rebels, an Iraqi Kurdish security forces spokesman said.
"Turkish and Iranian forces are continuing to bombard the Iraqi border region on the pretext of fighting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Haj Omran and Qandil mountains districts," Jabbar Yawar told AFP.
Turkey and Iran? Is this just Kurdish propaganda, or is there anything to it? The Turkish press doesn't seem to mention Iranian involvment, and the Western press is mostly ignoring the story completely.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, this makes sense. Iran has "issues" with a Kurdish separatist organization called PEJAK just like Turkey does with the PKK. And both organizations operate from bases in the mountains of N. Iraq.


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 07:51:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously it makes military sense. But the U.S. won't be happy about this, to put it mildly. Maybe this means that Turkey just doesn't care any more about what the U.S. thinks.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Turkey actually stepped up military operations over a year ago, in response to attacks against border posts.

The US is not in a position to guarantee Turkish border security in this region, they pretty much ignore it.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 09:20:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's still a difference between fighting the Kurds, and coordinating it with the Iranians. That's why falsely accusing the Turks of this might be a propaganda move by the Kurds to get U.S. support, though I doubt it will do them much good.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 09:36:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did the taxpayer get punked?
As the Minneapolis Federal Reserve reports, the major claims about a credit crisis that justified Congress cutting a trillion-dollar blank check to Wall Street were demonstrably false. And new data and reports show they remain demonstrably false.
---------------------
For instance, take a look at line 1 and line 5 of this December Federal Reserve report on bank lending. That's right -- you see no significant decrease in lending, and in some cases, an increase. Interbank lending has dropped some, but certainly not at the crisis levels the Bush administration and banks claimed.

Then take a look at this story from Reuters, recounting a big report from a widely respected financial analysis firm:

    "The credit crunch is not nearly as severe as the U.S. authorities appear to believe, and public data actually suggest world credit markets are functioning remarkably well, a report [from Celent consulting] released on Thursday says. ... The report, much of which is based on U.S. Federal Reserve data, challenges a long list of assumptions one by one, arguing that there is indeed a financial crisis but that, on aggregate, the problems of a few are by no means those of the many when it comes to obtaining credit.

    "It is startling that many of (Federal Reserve) Chairman (Ben) Bernanke and (Treasury) Secretary (Henry) Paulson's remarks are not supported or are flatly contradicted by the data provided by the very organizations they lead," said the report.
 Regarding U.S. business access to credit, the report says: Overall U.S. bank lending is at its highest level ever; U.S. commercial bank lending is at record highs and growing particularly fast since May 2007; corporate bond issuance has declined, but increased commercial lending has compensated for this; [interbank] lending hit its highest level ever in September 2008 and remained high in October and that overall interbank lending is up 22 percent; the cost of interbank lending ... dropped to its lowest level ever in early November and remains at very low levels; [consumer credit] was at a record high in September; and local government bond issuance had continued at similar levels to those before the credit crisis, while bank lending for real estate reached a record level in October 2008, it says. (emphasis added).



Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This relies on a working paper written in Oct 2008. Almost immediately, there was a response to that WP written, available here:

http://www.bos.frb.org/bankinfo/qau/wp/2008/qau0805.pdf

Kind of strange that this WP is discussed now, 3 months after the fact, when the train has moved so far.

by Sargon on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 12:16:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the good link, and yes, the delay causes one to doubt. Your opinion would be appreciated.
Let's cut to the heart: In your opinion --is the "credit crunch as bad as the media say? Is it being used as another tool to plunder?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Dec 19th, 2008 at 04:28:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is really bad. Apart form trade finance, businesses are losing their revolving credit lines. It's as if your bank suddenly cancelled your overdraft facility. Small businesses are hit hardest because they have smaller income, retained earnings and cash reserves than large companies. People are having their salaries paid late because of this. Jerome has been complaining for a year that the syndication market in project finance is dead.

The media focus on the real estate market and residential mortgages which are not so much of a problem even if the number of new ones plummets. What I mentioned in the previous paragraph is credit for productive investment, unlike residential mortgages.

Now, that the credit crunch is real doesn't mean that the government interventions so far aren't a scam. They are giving the banks money by the boatload and the banks are still not lending. If the governments want lending to happen they should lend directly. Instead they are shoring up insolvent institutions and wondering why lending doesn't pick up again.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 19th, 2008 at 04:54:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Mig.
But then there's this:
By: Ian Welsh Thursday December 18, 2008

"Recently David Sirota's been linking to a Fed report that is skeptical of the public justification of the bailout.  The entire report is worth reading, but what it basically says is that interbank lending wasn't frozen, that if LIBOR rates were a bit high, they weren't all that high, that consumer credit was still being issued and that corporations, on aggregate (there are some individual exceptions) were able to borrow money, as of the time of the bailout.

The charts in the back of the report don't entirely, in my opinion, support their argument, though they mostly do. In particular there is a huge 200 billion dollar drop in commercial paper outstanding from Sept 10th to October 8th, from about 800 billion to 600 billion. That's 25% of the market that dried up.  With a slight lag, there is a huge spike in 90 day commercial paper rates for non AA, non-financial paper from 3% to 6%, with smaller increases in AA paper.

Interbank Lending v.2However, in general they're right, based on publicly available data, something odd is going on--there shouldn't be a crisis.  Take a look at the top chart above, showing net assets.  It's not that unhealthy (the late spike, I think, is when Paulson forced money down the banks' throats).  Then take a look at the next chart -- interbank lending.  It peaks in October, then collapses, hitting its lowest rate November 26th.  The total collapse is about 27%, in a period of about two months.  And bear in mind that the bailout bill was proposed in late September.  As of the point when Paulson proposed the bailout, there wasn't a very large decline in interbank lending.

But then look at the third chart: Bank Credit.  That's the total outstanding loans and securities held.  Sure, it peaks in October, but the decline isn't precipitous by any means.  In fact, if you pull out the components, what you find is that loans and leases (the 4th chart) have declined, from their peak in October, by about 57 billion.  And again, as of the time of the bailout proposal, they were still rising.

Bank Credit v2What's this all mean?  Two things.  First, according to the official data, the main issues are interbank lending and short term commercial paper.  There is not a general tightening of credit to the real economy.

Second: the official numbers are probably not real.  Here's the problem.  Net assets are just fine, yet banks are failing.  Citigroup had to get hundreds of billions of dollars of loan guarantees and folks in the know generally assume that many banks are functionally bankrupt.  The assets on banks' books have not been properly marked to market or even to income.  (If a loan has an income stream I'm happy to book it based on the present value of that income stream, discounted by the expected failure rate of an asset with that level of return.)  

Loans and Leases v2.But, right now, except to each other, and with the exception of commercial paper, credit is still operating, in aggregate.  The fact that banks won't lend to each other suggests, in part, that they know that each other's books are cooked.  After all, they know what they have on their balance sheets, listed at mark to model (aka: mark to fantasy) and they know other banks have the same crap on their sheets.

The Fed and the Treasury together have spent, loaned, and guaranteed in excess of 8 trillion dollars at this point.  That's more than the entire loans and leases portion of the domestic banking industry.  Given the net assets of the banking industry are only about 1.3 trillion dollars, for a fraction of that price, they could have bought out the entire banking industry.

The problem, then, is that we don't know how large the hole is.  According to the banks, there is no hole.  On aggregate, they are healthy, indeed their net assets position is healthier than it has been in ages.  So either the bailout was a complete scam, when more targeted actions by the Fed would have worked, or the balance sheets are a lie.

I'm going with both.


Sorry about the missing charts--here's the link:
Lies, Damned lies, and bank assetts and liabilities

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Dec 19th, 2008 at 06:20:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's see...

Why did Paulson hit the PanicButton™?

He did so on Thursday, September 18. And he was woefully unprepared for it, as Krugman documented on his blog at the time.

So, why the rush?

Because on September 17 Morgan Stanley lost 25% of its stock value, and Goldman Sachs 15%, and both of them started to lose clients from their prime brokerage business. And Paulson is a Goldman Sachs man, first and foremost.

What happened to MS and GS took Paulson by surprise. On Monday the 15th, he had presided over the takeover of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Which was all fine and dandy since ML was the #3 and LB the #4 pure investment bank, leaving only MS and GS as the top two.

So... For sure the Paulson plan was a scam. But that's neither here nor there regarding whether the credit crunch is real or not. It is real enough.

And, yes, I am convinced the banks are actually insolvent regardless of what their balance sheets and the Fed's statistics say.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 19th, 2008 at 09:10:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do believe credit crisis is real, as any financial institution that started to make more money in trading than in a slow trickle of loan repayments is afraid of waking up next morning to learn that another AIG, Lehman Brothers, or Madoff event has happened, or that auction rate securities cannot be rolled over, or one of the Big Three companies went under and billions of dollars in CDS on them that were not settled are now due, setting off mines in seemingly quiet place... which means that all but the most conservative institutions are now freaked like hell and won't begin lending until the market mood becomes it's OK not to be afraid any longer. I don't think we'd reach that point before all major CBs hit the zero bound and stay there for a while.
by Sargon on Fri Dec 19th, 2008 at 12:25:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:08:40 PM EST
Green Gas: Algeria's Experiment in Carbon Capture - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
A venture by Algeria's Sonatrach, the United Kingdom's BP, and Norway's Statoil to strip CO2 out of natural gas and store it underground could help cut emissions.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This seems to be only a small part of the emissions that result in the gas energy cycle, so to say.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 05:25:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Exciting, Realistic, Complex': Muted Praise for 'Valkyrie' From German Critics - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
Given Germany's skepticism about Tom Cruise portraying the German officer who almost killed Hitler in 1944, the cautious praise from German reviewers for his film 'Valkyrie' comes as a surprise. Cruise's performance has been panned, though.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:09:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is going to be one of those movies I will never ever watch, on principle, yet will insist is awful even though I can't know because I'll never have seen it.  It's faith-based film criticism.  Or, lack of faith, as it were.  Anyway, please don't see this movie.  I'm sure it is bad for you.

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:38:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe it's a major cause of tooth decay. Probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome too. I wouldn't go near it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 03:39:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ocean-bearing Planets: Looking For Extraterrestrial Life In All The Right Places

ScienceDaily (Dec. 16, 2008) -- Scientists are expanding the search for extraterrestrial life -- and they've set their sights on some very unearthly planets. Cold "Super-Earths" -- giant, "snowball" planets that astronomers have spied on the outskirts of faraway solar systems -- could potentially support some kind of life, they have found.

Such planets are plentiful; experts estimate that one-third of all solar systems contain super-Earths.

"We know there are a lot of super-Earths out there, and the next generation of telescopes will be even better at spotting them," said Scott Gaudi, assistant professor of astronomy at Ohio State University.

Despite the name, a super-Earth has little in common with the Earth that we know -- other than the fact it is has a solid surface.  A super-Earth is covered with ice, and may have a substantial atmosphere - perhaps much thicker than the Earth's.

Yet Gaudi joined with Eric Gaidos of the University of Hawaii and Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to model whether such planets might harbor a liquid ocean that could support life, and whether they might be detectable from Earth.

Gaidos reported the team's early results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

"It turns out that if super-Earths are young enough, massive enough, or have a thick atmosphere, they could have liquid water under the ice or even on the surface," Gaudi said. "And we will almost certainly be able to detect these habitable planets if they exist."



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 03:11:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | BBC fined over contest deceptions

The BBC has been fined £95,000 by media watchdog Ofcom for broadcasting quizzes which listeners could not win.

The competitions ran on eight editions of Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show in 2006 and five Tony Blackburn programmes on BBC London 94.9 in 2005 and 2006.

All were pre-recorded, however, so there was no way to take part in them.

Ofcom ruled these to be "serious" breaches and in a separate report, the BBC Trust ruled audiences were "misled" and said on-air apologies were needed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 06:25:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
KLATSCH

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:08:58 PM EST
South Korean actress avoids jail for adultery - Asia, World - The Independent

A South Korean court today handed out a suspended prison sentence for adultery to a popular actress who had been trying to overturn a law that criminalises extramarital affairs.

South Korea enacted its adultery law more than 50 years ago to protect women who then had few rights in a male-dominated society, but critics say now it is a draconian measure no longer fit for a country with an advanced civil and family court system.




*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:09:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mark your calendars:

Today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and Strategic Missile Force Day, and this Sunday will be Global Orgasm for Peace Day.

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 03:37:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which would be here.

And possibly there. And everywhere.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:09:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why does it insert that eurotrib prefix like that?  Grrrr.

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:10:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You forgot the http:// part.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Kinda pathetic when I can't even copy and paste correctly...

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the holiday!  

;-)

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 04:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Back from the Smoke - very happy to have lunched with Helen and got all the ET gossip, (I also learnt very interesting things about beer candy) and also a lovely phone chat with Migu.

I'll be back in late Feb at the revival screening of a movie from the Devonian era that I worked on that'll play at the Curzon in Soho. Tickets 8 quid.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Dec 17th, 2008 at 07:57:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Make more time, a short lunch just isn't enough.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To learn about beer or the peccadillos of ET members? ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:21:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<gulp>

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I shall never tell Helen about the rubber ducks in my bathtub again.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:28:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:31:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Afew and bubbles: it figures ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:33:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew, I thought I recognized you.  God, you're famous.  A little orange though.  Jaundice?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:33:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who was the sneaky bustard who shot that through my bathroom window?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:44:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who's going to admit to that one?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:52:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't embed my answer... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBDrSuKvfAM

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:56:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, having seen a pissed off Kermit, ... what?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 09:05:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<note to Migeru>

Mig, your mental indexing of Muppetts episodes is troublingly fast...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:46:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With a little help from Google, of course...

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:50:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Time to grow up, TEENAGERS!  :)

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:29:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish and so do you ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:32:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not growing up.  I hit a mental state at 21/22 and stayed there.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:35:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me know the date and I'll try to be there for the screening...


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:25:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great!

The website is here

It is supposed to be an afternoon screening on Sunday Feb 22nd. Time not yet announced. I'll keep you posted.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The timing of that is just eeevil, but we'll see.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 08:31:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 09:29:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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