Friday, December 25, 2009

The World’s Riskiest Sovereign Debt Issuers

With the level of concern mounting about the increase of debt to GDP ratios in countries like Greece and Dubai, many are questioning the stability and safety factor of government debt issued by the developed and developing countries. But, what current government debt carries the highest risk of default? CMA DataVission has put together a ‘soverign risk report‘ that ranks the world’s most volatile sovereign debt issuers. The countries are ranked by their cumulative probability of default (CPD), which is a measure that quantifies the probability of a country being unable to honor its debt obligations over a given time period. So, if a country has a 20% CPD rating for its five-year credit default swaps (CDS) contracts, the market believes this debt has a two-in-ten chance of defaulting in the next five years.

Click ahead to find out the world’s riskiest sovereign debt issuers!

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The Worlds Riskiest Sovereign Debt Issuers

Democrat Predicts Obamacare Will “Go Down In Flames” In House As Senate Passes Bill

Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak predicts Obamacare will go down in flames because the Senate bill differs too much from the version passed by the House to be accepted.

“If they expect the House to accept the Senate bill, it’s going to go down in flames,” Stupak told

Stupak said he would not vote for a bill that resembled the one the Senate is set to be passed later today.

“The Senate bill will not receive support in the House,” Stupak said. “If they tell us we have to take that bill without changes, it will not survive the House. Regardless of the abortion language, there are just too many objectionable items in there that at least I see, and in talking with maybe a half-dozen other members, they sort of see the same thing.”

Stupak objects to provisions in the Senate version that allow special “carve outs” for certain states for increased funding for Medicare/Medicaid. People like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have received hundreds of millions of dollars in additional Medicaid benefits for their states in exchange for their votes for the Senate bill.

“All the rest of us that live in states that did not receive that exception, why would we [be] inclined to give Nebraska or Florida or Louisiana a special break underneath the bill and expect the rest of us to pay for it?,” said Stupak.

GOP Attorney Generals have hinted that they could explore legal challenges to the bill if such carve outs remain in the final Senate version.

Stupak pointed out that the Senate version of the bill benefited virtually nobody.

“If you just take a look at my three main constituencies – Right to Life, labor unions, and senior citizens – the Senate bill is contrary to all their interests,” he said.

Stupak’s amendment, which featured in an earlier version of the bill, to bar taxpayer money from funding abortions under government health care except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger, was watered down for the Senate version, which does not contain an outright ban on taxpayer money going to fund abortion.

“Even if they fixed the abortion language, if it’s the Senate language, I have to vote for – I’m not voting for it,” said Stupak.

Context of 'September 14-19, 2001: Bin Laden Family Members, Saudi Royals Quietly Leave US'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event September 14-19, 2001: Bin Laden Family Members, Saudi Royals Quietly Leave US. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

The FBI begin an investigation into two relatives of bin Laden in February 1996, then close it on September 11, 1996. The FBI wanted to learn more about Abdullah Awad bin Laden, “because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY]—a suspected terrorist organization.” [Guardian, 11/7/2001] Abdullah Awad was the US director of WAMY and lived with his brother Omar in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington. They are believed to be nephews of Osama bin Laden. The coding on a leaked FBI document about the case, marked secret, indicates the case related to national security. WAMY’s office address is 5613 Leesburg Pike. It will later be determined that at least two of the 9/11 hijackers lived at 5913 Leesburg Pike for much of 2001 at the same time the two bin Laden brothers were working only three blocks away (see March 2001 and After). WAMY has been banned in Pakistan by this time. [BBC, 11/6/2001; Guardian, 11/7/2001] The Indian and Philippine governments also will cite WAMY for funding Islamic militancy. The 9/11 Commission later will hear testimony that WAMY “has openly supported Islamic terrorism. There are ties between WAMY and 9/11 hijackers. It is a group that has openly endorsed the notion that Jews must be killed.… [It] has consistently portrayed the United States, Jews, Christians, and other infidels as enemies who have to be defeated or killed. And there is no doubt, according to US intelligence, that WAMY has been tied directly to terrorist attacks.” [9/11 Commission, 7/9/2003, pp. 66] A security official who will later serve under President Bush will say, “WAMY was involved in terrorist-support activity. There’s no doubt about it.” [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Before 9/11, FBI investigators had determined that Abdullah Awad had invested about $500,000 in BMI Inc., a company suspected of financing groups officially designated as terrorist organizations (see 1986-October 1999). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003] The Bosnian government will say in September 2002 that a charity with Abdullah Awad bin Laden on its board had channeled money to Chechen guerrillas, something that reporter Greg Palast will claim “is only possible because the Clinton CIA gave the wink and nod to WAMY and other groups who were aiding Bosnian guerrillas when they were fighting Serbia, a US-approved enemy.” The investigation into WAMY will be restarted a few days after 9/11, around the same time these two bin Ladens will leave the US (see September 14-19, 2001). [Palast, 2002, pp. 96-99] (Note that Abdullah Awad bin Laden is Osama bin Laden’s nephew, and is not the same person as the Abdullah bin Laden who is Osama’s brother and serves as the bin Laden family spokesperson.) [Palast, 2002, pp. 98-99; Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003] WAMY’s Virginia offices will be raided by US agents in 2004 (see June 1, 2004).

Michael Scheuer, the head of the CIA Counter Terrorism Center’s special unit focusing on bin Laden from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996), later will claim that before 9/11 members of the bin Laden family in the US are nearly completely off limits to US law enforcement. Author Douglas Farah, a former longtime Washington Post reporter, later will write that “All the bin Ladens living in the United States were granted Saudi diplomatic passports in 1996.… In 1998, when the FBI’s New York office actually sought to investigate some of the bin Laden family’s activities in this country because of suspicions of ties to terrorism, the State Department forced them to shut down the entire operation. Because the bin Laden’s were ‘diplomats’ and as such enjoyed diplomatic immunity, making such investigations illegal.” Scheuer will comment about the 1998 investigation, “My counterparts at the FBI questioned one of the bin Ladens. But then the State Department received a complaint from a law firm, and there was a huge uproar. We were shocked to find out that the bin Ladens in the United States had diplomatic passports, and that we weren’t allowed to talk to them.” Scheuer believes that these unusual diplomatic privileges may help explain how the bin Ladens will be able to depart so quickly just after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001; September 14-19, 2001). Farah later says he interviewed Scheuer about this and claims to have found a second source to verify the information. [Farah, 12/5/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The issue of diplomatic passports for the bin Laden family has generally not been reported in the US media, although a 2005 New Yorker article will mention in passing that in 1996, “the State Department stymied a joint effort by the CIA and the FBI to question one of bin Laden’s cousins in America, because he had a diplomatic passport, which protects the holder from US law enforcement.” [New Yorker, 2/8/2005] This is a probable reference to the 1996 investigation of Abdullah Awad bin Laden (although he is bin Laden’s nephew, not cousin (see February-September 11, 1996)). It is unclear what connection there may be, if any, between that investigation and this 1998 investigation.

A transfer of 241 million euros (over $250 million) is made to Pakistan in this year from a Swiss bank account belonging jointly to Osama bin Laden and a Pakistani. The Pakistani is Akberali Moawalla, a former business partner and an acquaintance of Osama’s brother Yeslam bin Laden. This Deutsche Bank joint account belongs to a company called Cambridge, which is a subsidiary of the Saudi Binladin Group, the bin Laden family company. After French investigators will discover records of this money transfer in late 2004, a French judge will authorize widening a probe into the financial network surrounding the bin Laden family. [Reuters, 12/26/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The discovery of this sizable joint bank account will contradict the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission, which will claim that bin Laden inherited far less than is commonly reported and never had a fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars (see August 21, 2004). [Agence France-Presse, 7/26/2004]

From left to right: Dick Cheney, Prince Bandar, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush, on the Truman Balcony of the White House on September 13, 2001.From left to right: Dick Cheney, Prince Bandar, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush, on the Truman Balcony of the White House on September 13, 2001. [Source: White House]President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, hold a private meeting at the White House. Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, and Bandar’s aide Rihab Massoud also attend. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 80] Bandar is so close to the Bush family that he is nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Sen. Bob Graham (D) later will note that while little is known about what is discussed in the meeting, mere hours later, the first flights transporting Saudi royals and members of the bin Laden family are in the air (see September 13, 2001). Over the next week, they will be taken to several gathering points, and then flown back to Saudi Arabia, apparently without first being properly interviewed by the FBI (see September 14-19, 2001). Graham will say, “Richard Clarke, then the White House’s counterterrorism tsar, told me that he was approached by someone in the White House seeking approval for the departures. He did not remember who made the request… The remaining question is where in the White House the request originated, and how.” Graham will imply that, ultimately, the request originated from this meeting between Bush and Bandar. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 105-107] Others also will later suggest that it was Bandar who pushed for and helped arrange the flights. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003; Fifth Estate, 10/29/2003 pdf file] Bob Woodward will mention in a 2006 book that during the meeting, Bush tells Bandar, “If we [capture] somebody and we can’t get them to cooperate, we’ll hand them over to you.” Woodward will later comment, “With these words, the president casually expressed what became the US government’s rendition policy-the shifting of terrorist suspects from country to country for interrogation.… Though the Saudis denied it, the CIA believe the Saudis tortured terrorist suspects to make them talk.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 80]

Khalil bin Laden at the Orlando, Florida, airport, about to be flown out of the country in the days after 9/11.Khalil bin Laden at the Orlando, Florida, airport, about to be flown out of the country in the days after 9/11. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Following a secret flight inside the US that is in violation of a national private airplane flight ban, members of the bin Laden family and Saudi royalty quietly depart the US. The flights are only publicly acknowledged after all the Saudis have left. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2001; New York Times, 9/30/2001] About 140 Saudis, including around 24 members of the bin Laden family, are passengers in these flights. The identities of most of these passengers are not known. However, some of the passengers include:
bullet The son of the Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan. Sultan is sued in August 2002 for alleged complicity in the 9/11 plot. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] He is alleged to have contributed at least $6 million since 1994 to four charities that finance al-Qaeda. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003]
bullet Khalil bin Laden. He has been investigated by the Brazilian government for possible terrorist connections. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003]
bullet Abdullah bin Laden and Omar bin Laden, cousins of bin Laden. Abdullah was the US director of the Muslim charity World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). The governments of India, Pakistan, Philippines, and Bosnia have all accused WAMY of funding terrorism. These two relatives were investigated by the FBI in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996) in a case involving espionage, murder, and national security. Their case is reopened on September 19, right after they leave the country. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Remarkably, four of the 9/11 hijackers briefly lived in the town of Falls Church, Virginia, three blocks from the WAMY office headed by Abdullah bin Laden. [BBC, 11/6/2001]
bullet Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen. He is a prominent Saudi official who was in the same hotel as three of the hijackers the night before 9/11. He leaves on one of the first flights to Saudi Arabia before the FBI can properly interview him about this. [Washington Post, 10/2/2003]
bullet Akberali Moawalla. A Pakistani and business partner of Osama’s brother Yeslam bin Laden. In 2000, a transfer of over $250 million was made from a bank account belonging jointly to Moawalla and Osama bin Laden (see 2000). [Washington Post, 7/22/2004]
There is a later dispute regarding how thoroughly the Saudis are interviewed before they leave and who approves the flights. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says he agrees to the flights after the FBI assures him none of those on board has connections to terrorism and that it is “a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.” [US Congress, 9/3/2003] Clarke says the decision to approve the flights “didn’t get any higher than me.” [Hill, 5/18/2004] According to Vanity Fair, both the FBI and the State Department “deny playing any role whatsoever in the episode.” However, Dale Watson, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, says the Saudis on the planes “[are] identified, but they [are] not subject to serious interviews or interrogations” before they leave. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] An FBI spokesperson says the bin Laden relatives are only interviewed by the FBI “at the airport, as they [are] about to leave.” [National Review, 9/11/2002] There are claims that some passengers are not interviewed by the FBI at all. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Abdullah bin Laden, who stays in the US, says that even a month after 9/11, his only contact with the FBI is a brief phone call. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2001; New Yorker, 11/5/2001] The FBI official responsible for coordinating with Clarke is Assistant Director Michael Rolince, who is in charge of the Bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Section and assumes responsibility for the Saudi flights. Rolince decides that the Saudis can leave after their faces are matched to their passport photos and their names are run through various databases, including some watch lists, to check the FBI has no derogatory information about them.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 196-197, 209 pdf file] Numerous experts are surprised that the bin Ladens are not interviewed more extensively before leaving, pointing out that interviewing the relatives of suspects is standard investigative procedure. [National Review, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] MSNBC claims that “members of the Saudi royal family met frequently with bin Laden—both before and after 9/11” [MSNBC, 9/5/2003] , and many Saudi royals and bin Laden relatives are being sued for their alleged role in 9/11. The Boston Globe opines that the flights occur “too soon after 9/11 for the FBI even to know what questions to ask, much less to decide conclusively that each Saudi [royal] and bin Laden relative [deserve] an ‘all clear,’ never to be available for questions again.” [Boston Globe, 9/30/2003] Senator Charles Schumer (D) says of the secret flights: “This is just another example of our country coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges that others would never get. It’s almost as if we didn’t want to find out what links existed.” [New York Times, 9/4/2003] Judicial Watch will disclose FBI documents that say, “Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.” [Judicial Watch, 6/20/2007]

Richard Clarke sworn in before the 9/11 Commission.Richard Clarke sworn in before the 9/11 Commission. [Source: CBC]Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke testifies before the 9/11 Commission. Due to publicity generated by the publication of his book and a controversial appearance on 60 Minutes (see March 21, 2004), it is, in the words of author Philip Shenon, a “true Washington spectacle” and “one of those moments in the capital when anyone of importance in the city [is] in front of a television set.” Shenon will add, “It was being compared by reporters to the sort of drama that John Dean’s testimony provided in Watergate or Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s testimony offered in the Iran-Contra affair.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 281-282]
Clarke Offers Apology - Clarke’s opening statement consists of little more than an apology to the relatives of the 9/11 victims. He says: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you. For that failure, I would ask… for your understanding and forgiveness.” This leads to a moment of silence, then gasps and sobs. Shenon will point out, “It was the first apology that the 9/11 families had heard from anybody of importance in the Bush administration,” adding that it “was the moment of catharsis that many of the wives and husbands and children of the victims had been waiting for.”
Praises Clinton, Criticizes Bush - Under questioning, Clarke praises the Clinton administration, saying, “My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al-Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration—certainly no higher priority.” But he is very critical of the Bush administration, stating, “By invading Iraq… the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.” He says that under Bush before 9/11, terrorism was “an important issue, but not an urgent issue.… [CIA Director] George Tenet and I tried very hard to create a sense of urgency by seeing to it that intelligence reports on the al-Qaeda threat were frequently given to the president and other high-level officials. But although I continue to say it was an urgent problem, I don’t think it was ever treated that way.” He points out that he made proposals to fight al-Qaeda in late January 2001. While the gist of them was implemented after 9/11, he complains, “I didn’t really understand why they couldn’t have been done in February [2001].” He says that with a more robust intelligence and covert action program, “we might have been able to nip [the plot] in the bud.”
Republican Commissioners Ask Tough Questions - However, Clarke faces tough questioning from some of the Republican commissioners. Jim Thompson, who had been in contact with the White House before the hearing (see Morning, March 24, 2004), challenges Clarke over a briefing he gave in 2002 (see August 22, 2002 and March 24, 2004), which, according to Thompson, contradicts what Clarke is saying now. In addition, fellow Republican John Lehman confronts Clarke over what he sees as discrepancies between Clarke’s book and his private interviews with the Commission. Clarke replies that the differences arose because the Commission did not ask him about all the issues he covered in his book, such as his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. He adds that he will not accept any position in any administration formed by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Clarke Approved Saudi Flights - Clarke also clears up a mystery about the departure of Saudi Arabian nationals after the attacks, which has caused some controversy (see September 14-19, 2001), saying that he was the White House official that approved them. He did this after clearing it with the FBI, although he does not know “what degree of review the FBI did over those names.” [Washington Post, 3/24/2004; New York Times, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 282-289]
Testimony 'Arresting' - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later call Clarke’s testimony “arresting.” Rich will write that Clarke’s forceful, confident demeanor—“sonorous voice, secret-agent aura, and vaguely intimidating body language”—serves to brush back antagonistic Republicans such as Lehman and Thompson. Rich will write that the juxtaposition of Clarke’s damning testimony with President Bush’s bizarre comedy routine that same evening (pretending to hunt for Iraqi WMD under the Oval Office furniture—see March 24, 2004) is jarring. [Rich, 2006, pp. 114-119]

WAMY logo.WAMY logo. [Source: WAMY]US agents raid the US branch of World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a large Saudi charity. The branch was founded in 1992 by Abdullah Awad bin Laden, a nephew of Osama, and he was still listed as president of the branch in a 2002 business listing. [Weekly Standard, 4/8/2002; Washington Post, 6/2/2004] In 1996, an FBI investigation into WAMY, Abdullah Awad, and his brother Omar, was closed down, apparently for political reasons (see February-September 11, 1996). At least two of the 9/11 hijackers lived about three blocks from WAMY’s office for much of 2001 (see March 2001 and After). A new investigation of WAMY was launched one week after 9/11 (see September 14-19, 2001). All of WAMY’s files and computer files are seized; one person is arrested on immigration charges. The raid appears to have taken place because WAMY came up in a terrorism investigation of the SAAR network (see March 20, 2002), located outside Washington and relatively close to the WAMY office. A federal affidavit alleges that WAMY has ties to Hamas. [Washington Post, 6/2/2004]

The Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, issues a press release highlighting portions of the 9/11 Commission Report favorable to Saudi Arabia. It quotes Prince Bandar as saying: “The 9/11 Commission has confirmed what we have been saying all along. The clear statements by this independent, bipartisan commission have debunked the myths that have cast fear and doubt over Saudi Arabia.” The press release quotes sections of the report saying that there was no evidence the Saudi government or top officials funded al-Qaeda, that flights for Saudis who left the US soon after 9/11 were handled professionally (see September 14-19, 2001), and that the Saudi government was opposed to al-Qaeda. [Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, DC, 7/24/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 416-417] Sections of the draft report unfavorable to the Saudi government were deleted from the main text shortly before publication of the final report (see June 2004).

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Bandar bin Sultan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Barclays investment bankers in line for 150% pay rises to ease bonus tax pain

Bankers at Barclays are being given massive pay rises to compensate for the 50 per cent bonus tax.

Up to 23,000 investment bankers have been awarded rises of as much as 150 per cent - apparently planned before the bonus tax was announced in Alastair Darling's Pre-Budget report.

Barclays president, Bob Diamond, has led the bank during its takeover of Lehman Brothers' New York operations, and points out it has not received Government bailout cash, unlike rivals Lloyds and RBS.

John Varley
Softening the blow: The bank, led by John Varley, can save money by shifting staff pay to salary rather than bonuses

Barclays Capital should have a much larger bonus pool to share out this year on the back of plentiful highly lucrative rights issues.

The main beneficiaries are likely to be middle ranking and junior staff, whose salary caps have been lifted. Big-deal bankers who will earn seven figure bonuses will benefit less from a rise in basic pay.

The bank itself should benefit as it will pay less in tax overall - as the bonus tax is paid by the bank, not the individuals.

































Ron Paul Warns Of Secret Plans To Create International Central Bank

Texas Congressman Ron Paul has warned that international forces are planning the creation of a global central bank that will see a new fiat monetary system come to dominate the world economy.

The 2008 presidential candidate also warned that Barack Obama’s administration will only represent a change in faces and not in policies.

Speaking about the recent G20 meeting Paul told [2] Russia Today:

“I think something will come of it but you probably didn’t hear about it yet. There was some pomp and ceremony that the public knew about, but behind the scenes they were talking about the future and what they are going to do to try to internationalize all regulations, going in the opposite direction of free market and more towards international regulations. I’m sure they even talked about an international central bank.”

Paul also pointed out that global bankers have been holding their own talks on the same matter:

“At the same time the G20 was meeting, we also had the central banks meeting in Europe. Bernanke was over there, and they are doing the same type of planning, so real planning will not be out in the open, until they want us to know about it.” the Congressman said.

“The system that we have today where the fiat dollar is a reserve currency of the world, it’s losing that status and they have to replace it. Hopefully they’ll have enough sense to realise that another international agreement along the Bretton Woods will be no more successful than the last one.” Paul continued.

The Congressman argued that more regulations administered by central banks, rather than placed on to central banks, represents a dangerous move away from the free market.

“We could restructure by getting rid of all the central banks, then you would have honest money come up because nobody could commit fraud. Governments get away with committing fraud - that’s what fiat money is.” Paul commented.

The Congressman warned that an Obama presidency offers no alternative to the economic policies that have led the U.S. and the world to the brink of economic meltdown. Paul Described the kind of change Obama offers as:

“Just change in faces and change in party labels. Both parties represent the same special interests, they both have to represent big business. Obama’s supposed to be a man of the people, well he collected $750 million, more money than anybody else ever collected. Wall Street supported him, the media supported him, all the big money supported him, so his change is not going to be much change at all. He’s not talking about changing monetary policy, the Federal Reserve or getting rid of the income tax or bringing our troops home.”

Paul also commented that he does not believe Obama will withdraw troops from Iraq and pointed out that he has never said he will close down the military bases throughout the country and eliminate the huge embassy in Baghdad.

“Policy will remain interventionist,” the Congressman warned. “We will remain in the middle east and we will not be coming home, we’ll stay in Korea, we’ll stay in Europe, we’ll be in eastern Europe, we’ll be doing all these things. Even though Obama benefited tremendously from ‘change’, all we are changing is the face of our government.”

Paul also warned that the stage has been set for fresh terrorist attacks in the U.S. as a consequence of a sustained interventionist foreign policy.

Watch the entire interview [2] here

Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved.

What Change?

This column is archived at

"Change you can believe in." This was Barack Obama's campaign slogan. There
is no doubt that the American people were fed up with George W. Bush and his
fellow Republicans. Who can blame them?

After campaigning for change back in 1999 (What political challenger doesn't
campaign for change?), President Bush and his fellow neocons promptly set
out to continue business as usual in Washington, D.C. Federal spending and
meddling exploded under the leadership of the GOP. In fact, one has to go
back to the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt to match the increases
in Big Government and Big Brother by Bush and Company. Add to the
out-of-control spending habits of the GOP an unnecessary war, a
near-Depression economy, and a burgeoning police state. It is no surprise
that the American people were ready for change. And Obama excelled in
delivering the message of change. So, what kind of change will Obama
actually deliver?

Will Obama remove U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably not. Oh,
he might reduce troops in Iraq, but if anyone believes that he will not
leave a significant U.S. presence in Iraq, they are living in a dream world.
Furthermore, many, if not most, of the troops from Iraq will most likely
find themselves in Afghanistan. Mark my words; Barack Obama has no plans to
remove U.S. troops from the Middle East. Net result: no change.

What about America's economic woes? What changes will Barack Obama bring to
the table? Hardly any. America will continue it's trademark deficit
spending; we will continue to send manufacturing jobs overseas; so-called
"free trade" deals will continue to advance; Big Business will continue to
receive government bailouts; the Federal Reserve will continue to call the
shots for America's financial decisions (and reap gargantuan profits in the
process); Congress will continue to be inept, irresponsible, and clueless;
there will be no attempt to return the United States to sound money
principles; and there will be no reduction in foreign aid. In a nutshell, it
will be business as usual in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Don't get me wrong: Barack Obama will doubtless throw out some bones to his
liberal supporters in much the same way that Republican presidents throw out
a bone or two to their conservative constituents. Watch for Obama to
overturn the ban on embryonic stem cell research. America's upper income
earners can expect some sort of tax increase. No doubt oil companies will
end up losing some tax exemptions. Watch for additional environmentalist
policies to be enacted. And, yes, there will be some sort of "universal
health care" proposal. But the Bush administration has already given America
a socialized financial system, so how can Republicans complain about
socialized medicine?

Obama might try to resurrect the "Fairness Doctrine." Some suggest that
Obama might try to rid the prohibition of homosexuals serving in the armed
forces, but I doubt that he will take on this one. The political net gain
would not be worth the potential fallout.

Although he might want to, I doubt that Obama will actively promote
additional gun control (Democrats always lose when this happens). He may
push for a ban on "high capacity" magazines that hold over ten rounds, as
Bill Clinton did. If Obama does not go after guns directly, we can expect
some sort of attack on ammunition (which is already happening) that will
drive up the cost of ammo even more. Of course, some sort of gun
confiscation or martial law could materialize in the wake of another
"terrorist" attack. But a McCain administration would act no differently,
so, again, the net result is zero change. Remember, it was Republican George
W. Bush who expunged Posse Comitatus and deployed 20,000 army troops on U.S.
soil to be used for domestic law enforcement. If Obama really wanted to
bring about change, he would reverse Bush's draconian decisions, would he
not? Don't hold your breath.

We can also expect more harassment of gun owners and lawful gun dealers by
the BATFE. But this is no change at all. The current leadership at BATFE is
already about as hostile to gun owners and gun dealers as it can possibly
be. An Obama BATFE will be no worse. But neither will it be any better. Net
result: no change.

So, what will be the overall change to the direction of America? Answer:
there will be no change to the overall direction of the country. There will
be no change to the welfare state. There will be little change to the
warfare state. No change to NATO, except to expand it. Very little change,
if any, to foreign policy. No change to America's open sieves, otherwise
called national borders. And there will be absolutely no change to the
burgeoning New World Order that began in earnest under both Bushes and Bill

The NAFTA superhighway will have the support of the Obama administration.
The North American Community will proceed unimpeded by the Obama White
House. In all likelihood, the Amero (a common currency with Canada and
Mexico) will materialize during Obama's first term. But this would all have
happened had John McCain been elected. No change here.

One reason why it is so easy to predict a business-as-usual Obama Presidency
is the people that Obama has surrounded himself with. Former New York
Federal Reserve chairman Timothy Geithner* for Secretary of the Treasury;
former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers* for National Economic
Council director; Bush's Defense Secretary Robert Gates* will keep his job;
Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel for Obama's Chief of Staff; Hillary
Clinton for Secretary of State; Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano* for
Secretary of Homeland Security; former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle* to
head the Health and Human Services Department; former Assistant Attorney
General Eric Holder to be Attorney General; New Mexico Governor Bill
Richardson* as Secretary of Commerce; Susan Rice* for U.S. Ambassador to the
United Nations; Paul Volcker* for the Economic Recovery Advisory Board;
James Steinberg* as Deputy Secretary of State; Mona Sutphen* for Deputy
White House Chief of Staff, and Louis Caldera* for Director of the White
House Military Office.

Does anyone see "change" with the above names? Every one of them is a
longtime political insider. And at least eleven of them (those with an
asterisk [*] behind their names, above) are members of the globalist Council
on Foreign Relations (CFR). In fact, six out of the eleven cabinet-level
positions in the Obama administration are CFR members.

The CFR has dominated both Democrat and Republican Presidential
administrations for decades. Presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard
Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have all
been members of the CFR. Vice Presidents such as Hubert Humphrey, Nelson
Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, and Dick Cheney have been CFR members. And over
the last several decades, practically every secretary of defense, secretary
of the treasury, and most CIA directors have been CFR members. And let's not
forget that this year's Republican Presidential nominee, John McCain, is a
CFR member.

Do you now see why--no matter who is elected President of the United
States--nothing changes? Republican or Democrat, it does not matter: the CFR
and their collaborators remain in power. And as Sonny and Cher used to sing,
"The Beat Goes On."

There will be no real change in Washington, D.C., until the CFR and their
elitist cronies are thoroughly and universally removed from power. And the
only way this will happen is if we elect an Independent President of the
United States (someone who truly understands the New World Order and is
dedicated to defeating it), because the two major parties will never allow
someone opposed to the CFR to become their nominee. The only Republican
candidate for President in 2008 who demonstrated those credentials was Dr.
Ron Paul. And to a lesser degree, the only Democrat who even seemed to
vaguely understand this was Dennis Kucinich. Notice that both men were
thoroughly repudiated by their respective parties' leadership and all but
totally ignored by the national news media. (The CFR and their surrogates
also control the national news media. What a coincidence!)

So, while the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may have changed, there
will be no real change to the direction of these United States. Count on it!

(c) Chuck Baldwin


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Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?

I had really wanted to celebrate Barack Obama's remarkable victory for a day or so before becoming cynical again. I really did.

And yet, less than 24 hours after the first polls closed, the president-elect chose as his chief of staff -- perhaps the most powerful single position in any administration -- Rahm Emanuel, one of the most conservative Democratic members of Congress.

The chief of staff essentially acts as the president's gatekeeper, determining with whom he has access for advice and analysis. Obama is known as a good listener who has been open to hearing from and considering the perspectives of those on the Left as well as those with a more centrist to conservative perspective. How much access he will actually have as president to more progressive voices, however, is now seriously in question.

Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel is a member of the so-called New Democrat Coalition (NDC), of group of center-right pro-business Congressional Democrats affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Conference, which is dedicated to moving the Democratic Party away from its more liberal and progressive base. Numbering only 58 members out of 236 Democrats in the current House of Representatives, the NDC has worked closely with its Republican colleagues in pushing through and passing such legislation as those providing President Bush with "fast-track" trade authority in order to bypass efforts by labor, environmentalists and other public interest groups to promote fairer trade policy.

Emanuel began his political career as a senior adviser and chief fundraiser for the successful 1989 Chicago mayoral campaign of Richard M. Daley to seize back City Hall from reformists who had challenged the corrupt political machine of this father, Richard J. Daley. Emanuel later became a senior adviser to Bill Clinton at the White House from 1993 to 1998, serving as Assistant to the President for Political Affairs and then Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy, and was credited with playing a major role in shifting the Clinton administration's foreign and domestic policy agenda to the right. Emanuel was the single most important official involved in pushing through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the bill ending Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and Clinton's draconian crime bill, among other legislation.

Leaving the administration in 1998, Emanuel worked as an investment banker in Chicago, where he amassed an $18 million fortune in less than three years prior to being elected to Congress.

As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2004, Emanuel has promoted pro-war and pro-business center-right candidates against anti-war and pro-labor candidates in the primaries, pouring millions of dollars of donations from Democrats across the country into the campaigns of his favored conservative minions to defeat more progressive challengers.

Emanuel was a major supporter of the Iraq War resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, he was the only one of nine Democratic members of Congress from Illinois who backed granting Bush this unprecedented authority to invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to the United States at the time. Even more disturbingly, when asked by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" whether he would have voted to authorize the invasion "knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction," Emanuel answered that he indeed would have done so, effectively acknowledging that his support for the war was not about national security, but about oil and empire. Not surprisingly, he has also voted with the Republicans in support of unconditional funding to continue the Iraq War and has consistently opposed efforts by other Democrats to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces from that country and related Congressional efforts to end the war.

At a time of record budget deficits, Emanuel has been a passionate supporter of increased spending for the Pentagon and has resisted efforts by fellow Democrats to trim excesses in the Bush administration's bloated military budget. For example, he has repeatedly voted against amendments to cut funding for Bush's dangerously destabilizing missile defense and even voted against an amendment to identify unnecessary Pentagon spending by examining the need, relevance and cost of Cold War weapons systems designed to fight the former Soviet Union.

A major hawk regarding Iran, Emanuel has also voted against Democratic efforts to prevent the Bush administration from launching military action against that country and has joined the administration in exaggerated claims about Iran's alleged nuclear threat. He is not opposed to nuclear proliferation if it involves U.S. allies, however. Emanuel has consistently voted against a series of Democratic amendments that would have strengthened safeguards in the Bush administration's nuclear cooperation agreement with India to prevent U.S. assistance from supporting India's nuclear weapons program.

Emanuel is also a prominent hawk regarding Israel, attacking the Bush administration from the right for criticizing Israel's assassination policies and other human rights abuses. He was also a prominent supporter of Israel's 2006 attacks on Lebanon, even challenging the credibility of Amnesty International and other human rights groups that reported Israeli violations of international humanitarian law. Emanuel's father had emigrated from Israel in the 1950s, where he had been a member of the terrorist group Irgun, which had been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks against Palestinian and British civilians in mandatory Palestine during the 1940s. Emanuel himself served in a civilian capacity as a volunteer for the Israeli army in the early 1990s.

It is unclear how serious of a blow Obama's selection of Emanuel is to those who hoped that Obama might actually steer the country in a more progressive direction. It's easy to see it as nothing less than a slap in the face of the progressive anti-war elements of the party to whom Obama owes his election, particularly following his selection of Sen. Joe Biden as vice president. (See my articles "Biden's Foreign Policy 'Experience'" and "Biden, Iraq, and Obama's Betrayal.")

However, this does not necessarily mean that Obama as president will pursue nothing better than a Clintonesque center-right agenda. Someone with Obama's intelligence, knowledge and leadership qualities need not be unduly restricted by the influence of his chief of staff as less able presidents have. At the same time, this shocking appointment of Emanuel is illustrative of the need for the progressive base that brought him to power to not celebrate too long and to refocus our energies into pushing hard to ensure that the change Obama promised is something we really can believe in.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco and serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Market Moves and the Lunatic Fringe

IMPLODING equities, exploding credit default swaps, soaring gold and slumping oil — if, at any time over the past 18 months, it seemed that markets were in the grip of lunacy, it may be because investors are, technically, lunatics.

The market mayhem since the global financial meltdown began in 2008 has provided fertile soil for proponents of a branch of investment theory which holds that market cycles move in phase with the Moon.

Now, backed with decades of data and behaviour that can no longer be explained by purely rational analysis, the lunar theory has slipped into the mainstream.

In a piece of research that involved 14 of its senior analysts from across five leading financial centres scrutinising data from 32 leading indices over several decades, Macquarie Securities has arrived at a startling discovery: the two days on either side of the new lunar month represent most of the positive returns on equity markets for the next four weeks.

“Using data since 1988 for a wide variety of indices,” the report concluded, “it is quite clear that a strong surge in returns can be seen leading into the turn of the (lunar) month.”

The analysts are quick to dismiss the idea that the theory applies only to markets in Asia — a part of the world where belief in the lunar theory, especially in Hong Kong and Japan, is better established.

“The effect is not just an Asian effect, it happens globally,” the Macquarie report said.

Flaherty Says Russia, China May Buy Canada Dollars (Update2)

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said China, with the world’s largest currency reserves of $2.3 trillion, may be poised to buy Canadian dollars as it seeks to shield its reserves against the U.S. dollar’s decline.

“It does not surprise me that China and Russia would take greater positions in the Canadian dollar than they have previously,” Flaherty, 59, said during an interview in his office in Ottawa. “I would expect countries looking around the world to invest in market currencies that are reliable.”

The U.S. dollar has declined against all but one of the 16 most-active currencies this year, prompting major reserve- holding countries such as Russia and China to express concern about their U.S.-denominated investments. Russia last month said it will add Canadian dollars to its reserves to lower its dependence on the U.S. currency.

The Bank of Canada has warned “persistent strength” in the currency is a main risk for the economy, potentially acting as a “significant” drag on growth. Canada’s currency has gained 15 percent this year against the U.S. dollar. Chinese purchases of Canadian dollars would also cement growing economic links between the U.S.’s two largest trading partners.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in March that the nation was “worried” about the safety of its investment in U.S. debt, as a weakening dollar eroded the value of its reserves. China’s currency regulator said earlier this month it will “improve” its utilization of foreign-exchange reserves.


PetroChina Co., China’s largest oil company, this year bought its first stake in the Canadian oil sands, paying C$1.9 billion ($1.8 billion) for 60 percent of a project run by Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd., Canada’s biggest base-metals producer, sold a 17 percent stake to China’s sovereign wealth fund for C$1.74 billion in July.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking to cut dependence on the U.S., traveled to China earlier this month to secure Asia’s second-biggest economy as a customer for oil, natural gas, uranium and other commodities.

“We know that China has been interested in things in Canada, whether it’s the bond market or the oil sands or oil companies,” said David Watt, senior currency strategist in Toronto at RBC Capital Markets, a unit of Canada’s biggest bank. “They’ve been sniffing around in the past. We know they’ve been interested.”

Watt said an amount equal to 2 percent of Asian reserves would mean about C$100 billion of currency flows into Canada.

“It would certainly be a positive backdrop for the currency,” Watt said.

Move to Parity

The Canadian currency gained 0.9 percent to C$1.0484 per U.S. dollar at 3:07 p.m. in Toronto, from C$1.0575 yesterday. One Canadian dollar purchases 95.38 U.S. cents.

Canada’s currency will appreciate to parity with the U.S. dollar by the middle of next year, Bank of Nova Scotia predicts. The median estimate of 38 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News is for the currency to strengthen to C$1.04 in that period. The currency last traded on a one-for-one basis in July 2008.

Asked whether the Canadian dollar’s gain was a concern, Flaherty said the government is worried about “sudden” moves that don’t give companies “sufficient time to adjust.”

Canada’s currency has gained in part as investors bet an accelerating economic recovery will prompt the central bank to raise interest rates sooner than in the U.S. Canada also sits on the largest pool of oil reserves outside the Middle East and is a major exporter of other commodities such as gold. A Canadian commodity price index compiled by the Bank of Canada has advanced more than 20 percent this year.

Canada also has the lowest debt levels among the Group of Seven nations, making its currency a relatively safer investment, Flaherty said in the interview on Monday.

‘Upward Pressure’

“It’s been clear for some time now that the downward pressure on the U.S. dollar is significant and that results in the other reliable market currencies having some upward pressure,” Flaherty said from his 21st-floor office that looks out to the hills of Gatineau Park. “I see it as a reflection of the relative strength of the Canadian dollar and the relative strength of our fiscal situation.”

Flaherty said China might relieve pressure on Canada’s dollar if the Asian country did more to loosen restrictions on movements of its currency.

Global “imbalances” will be a “primary subject” of discussion at a meeting of Group of Seven officials in February, he said. Canada will host a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the group on Feb. 5-6 in Iqaluit, a northern town near the Arctic Circle.

Lawmakers around the world are redesigning their financial architecture in the wake of the worst financial crisis in a generation that forced governments to spend more than $500 billion in the past year bailing out banks.

Officials will discuss “mutual assessment systems” to ensure the G-7 countries can be “checking on each other,” and developing so-called macro-prudential regulations that focus on risks to the financial system instead of a single financial institution, Flaherty said.