Tuesday, July 27, 2010

U.S. Rescue May Reach $23.7 Trillion, Barofsky Says (Update3)

July 20 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. taxpayers may be on the hook for as much as $23.7 trillion to bolster the economy and bail out financial companies, said Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The Treasury’s $700 billion bank-investment program represents a fraction of all federal support to resuscitate the U.S. financial system, including $6.8 trillion in aid offered by the Federal Reserve, Barofsky said in a report released today.

“TARP has evolved into a program of unprecedented scope, scale and complexity,” Barofsky said in testimony prepared for a hearing tomorrow before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said the U.S. has spent less than $2 trillion so far and that Barofsky’s estimates are flawed because they don’t take into account assets that back those programs or fees charged to recoup some costs shouldered by taxpayers.

“These estimates of potential exposures do not provide a useful framework for evaluating the potential cost of these programs,” Williams said. “This estimate includes programs at their hypothetical maximum size, and it was never likely that the programs would be maxed out at the same time.”

Barofsky’s estimates include $2.3 trillion in programs offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., $7.4 trillion in TARP and other aid from the Treasury and $7.2 trillion in federal money for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, credit unions, Veterans Affairs and other federal programs.

Treasury’s Comment

Williams said the programs include escalating fee structures designed to make them “increasingly unattractive as financial markets normalize.” Dependence on these federal programs has begun to decline, as shown by $70 billion in TARP capital investments that has already been repaid, Williams said.

Barofsky offered criticism in a separate quarterly report of Treasury’s implementation of TARP, saying the department has “repeatedly failed to adopt recommendations” needed to provide transparency and fulfill the administration’s goal to implement TARP “with the highest degree of accountability.”

As a result, taxpayers don’t know how TARP recipients are using the money or the value of the investments, he said in the report.

‘Falling Short’

“This administration promised an ‘unprecedented level’ of accountability and oversight, but as this report reveals, they are falling far short of that promise,” Representative Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the oversight committee, said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent.”

The Treasury has spent $441 billion of TARP funds so far and has allocated $202.1 billion more for other spending, according to Barofsky. In the nine months since Congress authorized TARP, Treasury has created 12 programs involving funds that may reach almost $3 trillion, he said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner should press banks for more information on how they use the more than $200 billion the government has pumped into U.S. financial institutions, Barofsky said in a separate report.

The inspector general surveyed 360 banks that have received TARP capital, including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. The responses, which the inspector general said it didn’t verify independently, showed that 83 percent of banks used TARP money for lending, while 43 percent used funds to add to their capital cushion and 31 percent made new investments.

Barofsky said the TARP inspector general’s office has 35 ongoing criminal and civil investigations that include suspected accounting, securities and mortgage fraud; insider trading; and tax investigations related to the abuse of TARP programs.

Bush report: Sending jobs overseas helps U.S.

WASHINGTON — The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation, the Bush administration said yesterday.

The embrace of foreign "outsourcing," an accelerating trend that has contributed to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections, is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the U.S. economy.

"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report. "More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."

The report, which predicts the nation will reverse a three-year employment slide by creating 2.6 million jobs in 2004, is part of an effort by the administration to highlight signs that the recovery is picking up speed. Bush's economic stewardship has become a central issue in the presidential campaign.

In his message to Congress yesterday, Bush said the economy "is strong and getting stronger," thanks in part to his tax cuts and other economic programs. He said the nation had survived a stock-market meltdown, recession, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals and war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it was finally beginning to enjoy "a mounting prosperity that will reach every corner of America."

The president repeated that message during an afternoon "conversation" on the economy at SRC Automotive, an engine-rebuilding plant in Springfield, Mo., where he lashed out at lawmakers who oppose making his tax cuts permanent.

"When they say, 'We're going to repeal Bush's tax cuts,' that means they're going to raise your taxes, and that's wrong. And that's bad economics," he said.

Democrats who want Bush's job were quick to challenge his claims.

Campaigning yesterday in Roanoke, Va., Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, questioned the credibility of the job-creation forecast.

"I've got a feeling this report was prepared by the same people who brought us the intelligence on Iraq," he said. "I don't think we need a new report about jobs in America. I think we need a new president who's going to create jobs in America."

In an evening appearance at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said it would come as a "news bulletin" to the American people that the outsourcing of jobs overseas is good for the country.

"These people," he said of the Bush administration, "what planet do they live on? They are so out of touch."

Last year's Economic Report of the President predicted that 1.7 million jobs would be created in 2003. Instead, the nation lost 53,000 jobs. In Bush's three years in office, 2.2 million jobs have disappeared.

Since the Great Depression, it has never taken this long for the economy to begin creating jobs after emerging from a recession. After the last recession ended in 1991, it took 14 months for employment to begin expanding. Current problems with the economy have gone on nearly twice as long, 26 months.

Most economists said they expect more jobs to be created in 2004 as the recovery gains steam. But many also cautioned that the White House's prediction is aggressive, noting that only 112,000 jobs were created in January.

Economists had expected 150,000 new jobs in Friday's Labor Department report for January. Most have said the economy should be creating 200,000 to 300,000 jobs a month to sustain the recovery.

In a normal year, Bush's hope for 2.6 million new jobs probably could be achieved, said Douglas Porter, senior economist with BMO Nesbitt Burns, an investment firm affiliated with the parent company of Chicago's Harris Bank.

"Unfortunately, this recovery has been marked most notably by persistent weakness in the labor market," Porter said. "I suspect that will continue to be a hallmark of the recovery."

Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Chicago's Northern Trust, was more pessimistic.

"I doubt that we will see that many new jobs created this year," he said of the White House prediction. "I think it will be 1.5 million, which is better than a poke in the eye." But he added, "Even that is iffy."

Much of the report repeats the administration's previous economic prescriptions. For instance, it says the Bush tax cuts must be made permanent to have their full beneficial effect on the economy.

Social Security also must be restructured to let workers put part of their retirement funds in private accounts, the report argues. Doing so could add nearly $5 trillion to the national debt by 2036, the president's advisers note, but the additional borrowing would be repaid 20 years later and the program's long-term health would be more secure.

Compiled from reports by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and Knight Ridder Newspapers.

John Young Alex Jones WikiLeaks Cryptome 07 26 10

John Young

  • John Young

Alex talks with John Young of Cryptome, a website that acts as a repository for information about freedom of speech, cryptography, spying, surveillance, and documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide. John and Alex discuss the recent release of 92,000 classified documents on the war in Afghanistan by the renegade website WikiLeaks. The documents show how Pakistan's military spy service has for years guided the Afghan insurgency.

Six Months to Go Until The Largest Tax Hikes in History

In just six months, the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect. They will hit families and small businesses in three great waves on January 1, 2011:

(N.B. This version of the document contains even more tax hikes than the original version did)

First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief

In 2001 and 2003, the GOP Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families. These will all expire on January 1, 2011:

Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

- The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
- The 25% bracket rises to 28%
- The 28% bracket rises to 31%
- The 33% bracket rises to 36%
- The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

Higher taxes on marriage and family. The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

The return of the Death Tax. This year, there is no death tax. For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

Second Wave: Obamacare

There are over twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare. Several will first go into effect on January 1, 2011. They include:

The Tanning Tax. This went into effect on July 1st of this year. It imposes a new, 10% excise tax on getting a tan at a tanning salon. There is no exemption for tanners making less than $250,000 per year.

The “Medicine Cabinet Tax” Thanks to Obamacare, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. This provision of Obamacare increases the additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

Brand Name Drug Tax. Starting next year, there will be a multi-billion dollar tax assessment imposed on name-brand drug manufacturers. This tax, like all excise taxes, will raise the price of medicine, hurting everyone.

Economic Substance Doctrine. The IRS is now empowered to disallow perfectly-legal tax deductions and maneuvers merely because it judges that the deduction or action lacks “economic substance.” This is obviously an arbitrary empowerment of IRS agents.

Employer Reporting of Health Insurance Costs on a W-2. This will start for W-2s in the 2011 tax year. While not a tax increase in itself, it makes it very easy for Congress to tax employer-provided healthcare benefits later.

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax and Employer Tax Hikes

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2011, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise—the AMT won’t be held harmless, and many tax relief provisions will have expired. These major items include:

The AMT will ensnare over 28 million families, up from 4 million last year. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, Congress’ failure to index the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families—rising from 4 million last year to 28.5 million. These families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level. The AMT was created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Small business expensing will be slashed and 50% expensing will disappear. Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly-deduct, or “depreciate”) equipment purchases up to $250,000. This will be cut all the way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be “depreciated.”

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. There are literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place. The biggest is the loss of the “research and experimentation tax credit,” but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.

Tax Benefits for Education and Teaching Reduced. The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited. Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA. This contribution also counts toward an annual “required minimum distribution.” This ability will no longer be there.

New Tax on Gold Is Hidden in Obamacare

President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform legislation reportedly contains an added provision that would tax gold coin and bullion transactions.

The tax comes in an obscure section of the tax code that deals with purchases by self-employed people and small businesses, ABC News reports.

Starting Jan. 1, 2012, small businesses and self-employed people will have to issue 1099 forms, which are used to track and report the miscellaneous income associated with services rendered by independent contractors or self-employed individuals, for every vendor with whom they do more than $600 business in a calendar year.

The new regulation is designed to gain more tax dollars to finance some of the healthcare bill’s other provisions.

According to ABC News, dealers in gold coins and bullion are among those most rankled by the change. Unlike businesses with a comparatively small number of vendors, coin dealers frequently buy from members of the general public as well as from other dealers.

Pat Heller, who owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., deals with around 1,000 customers every week and estimates that he will be filling out between 10,000 and 20,000 tax forms per year after the new law takes effect.

"I'll have to hire two full-time people just to track all this stuff, which cuts into my profitability," Heller told ABC.

California congressman Daniel Lungren has introduced legislation to repeal the section of the healthcare bill that would trigger the new tax-reporting requirement because compliance would unduly burden small businesses.

Even though gold has outperformed all other core assets during the last 10 years, economist Nouriel Roubini, chairman of RGE Monitor, is advising against buying gold now. Spot market prices for gold are at nearly $1,200 an ounce.

"The concerns propelling the price of gold specifically are very real and should not be ignored,” Roubini wrote in a note to investors. “But is now the time for investors to jump the gold bandwagon? We wouldn’t encourage it."

© Moneynews. All rights reserved.

People Begin Living Without Electricity and Water in California

Former Google Engineers Launch New Search Engine: Cuil.com

According to eWeek.com, former Google engineers have launched a new search engine that could index even more sites than that of Google. The name of the search engine is Cuil (pronounced “cool”) and has already gone live.

Cuil is said to index sites online faster and cheaper than that of Google, but that is yet to be seen. Can a new engine in the market really compete against Google? Yahoo which is the 2nd largest search engine in the U.S. is having a very tough time competing with Google in search, thus an agreement has been made public with both companies forming a partnership within the search sector, having Yahoo outsource search to Google.

“Our significant breakthroughs in search technology have enabled us to index much more of the Internet, placing nearly the entire Web at the fingertips of every user,” Tom Costello, Cuil co-founder and chief executive, said in a statement.

As eWeek describes it, “Cuil clusters the results of each Web search performed on the service into groups of related Web pages. It sorts these by categories and offers various organizing features to help identify topics and allow the user to quickly refine searches.”

Doing a search for traffic on Compete.com, it looks like in July, the traffic of cuil.com was a little over 2 million visitors. Forget about competing with Google, look at the other two giant search engines, you also have to compete against them.

Also not show on the chart above, Ask.com had over 26 million visitors in the month of July.

While Cuil does have a unique way of displaying search results (in a plain fashion for now though), it has an uphill battle ahead.

One percent transaction tax is proposed

(UNEDITED)President Obama's finance team is recommending a transaction tax. His plan is

to sneak it in after the November election to keep it under the radar. This is a 1% tax on all transaction at any financial institution i. e. Banks, Credit Unions, extra. Any deposit you make, or move around within your account, i. e. transfer to, will have a 1% tax charged. If your pay check or your social Security or whatever is direct deposit, 1% tax charged. If you hand carry a check in to deposit, 1% tax charged, If you take cash in to deposit, 1% tax charged.This is from the man who promised that if you make under $250,000 per year, you will not see one penny of new tax.

Keep your eyes and ears open, you will be amazed at what you learn.

Lee Hoecherl

Washington Terrace

Perspectives of Moral Political Economy - Muhammad Rafeeq - Global Visio...

Goldman reveals where bailout cash went

Goldman Sachs sent $4.3 billion in federal tax money to 32 entities, including many overseas banks, hedge funds and pensions, according to information made public Friday night.

Goldman Sachs disclosed the list of companies to the Senate Finance Committee after a threat of subpoena from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia.

Asked the significance of the list, Grassley said, "I hope it's as simple as taxpayers deserve to know what happened to their money."

He added, "We thought originally we were bailing out AIG. Then later on ... we learned that the money flowed through AIG to a few big banks, and now we know that the money went from these few big banks to dozens of financial institutions all around the world."

Grassley said he was reserving judgment on the appropriateness of U.S. taxpayer money ending up overseas until he learns more about the 32 entities.

GOLDMAN CONSENT: SEC vs. Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs (GS) received $5.55 billion from the government in fall of 2008 as payment for then-worthless securities it held in AIG. Goldman had already hedged its risk that the securities would go bad. It had entered into agreements to spread the risk with the 32 entities named in Friday's report.

Overall, Goldman Sachs received a $12.9 billion payout from the government's bailout of AIG, which was at one time the world's largest insurance company.

Goldman Sachs also revealed to the Senate Finance Committee that it would have received $2.3 billion if AIG had gone under. Other large financial institutions, such as Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, sold Goldman Sachs protection in the case of AIG's collapse. Those institutions did not have to pay Goldman Sachs after the government stepped in with tax money.

Shouldn't Goldman Sachs be expected to collect from those institutions "before they collect the taxpayers' dollars?" Grassley asked. "It's a little bit like a farmer, if you got crop insurance, you shouldn't be getting disaster aid."

Goldman had not disclosed the names of the counterparties it paid in late 2008 until Friday, despite repeated requests from Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel.

"I think we didn't get the information because they consider it very embarrassing," Grassley said, "and they ought to consider it very embarrassing."

FINANCIAL OVERHAUL AND YOU: Mortgages, debit cards, loans, more

The initial $85 billion to bail out AIG was supplemented by an additional $49.1 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP, as well as additional funds from the Federal Reserve. AIG's debt to U.S. taxpayers totals $133.3 billion outstanding.

"The only thing I can tell you is that people have the right to know, and the Fed and the public's business ought to be more public," Grassley said.

The list of companies receiving money includes a few familiar foreign banks, such as the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

DZ AG Deutsche Zantrake Genossenschaftz Bank, a German cooperative banking group, received $1.2 billion, more than a quarter of the money Goldman paid out.

Warren, in testimony Wednesday, said that the rescue of AIG "distorted the marketplace by turning AIG's risky bets into fully guaranteed transactions. Instead of forcing AIG and its counterparties to bear the costs of the company's failure, the government shifted those costs in full onto taxpayers."

Grassley stressed the importance of transparency in the marketplace, as well as in the government's actions.

"Just like the government, markets need more transparency, and consequently this is some of that transparency because we've got to rebuild confidence to make the markets work properly," Grassley said.

AIG received the bailout of $85 billion at the discretion of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which was led at the time by Timothy Geithner. He now is U.S. treasury secretary.

"I think it proves that he knew a lot more at the time than he told," Grassley said. "And he surely knew where this money was going to go. If he didn't, he should have known before they let the money out of their bank up there."

An attempt to reach Geithner Friday night through the White House public information office was unsuccessful.

Grassley has for years pushed to give the Government Accountability Office more oversight of the Federal Reserve.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, said he would propose that the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations convene hearings on the need for more Federal Reserve oversight. Braley is a member of the subcommittee.

Braley said of Geithner, "I would assume he would be someone we would want to hear from because he would have firsthand knowledge."

Braley also noted that the AIG bailout was negotiated under President George W. Bush, a Republican.

He said he was confident that the financial regulatory reform bill signed by President Obama this week would help provide better oversight than the AIG bailout included.

"There was no regulatory framework in place," Braley said. "We had to put something in place to begin reining them in. I'm confident they will begin to be able to do that."



Let Us All Solemnly Praise Wikileaks We properly should offer recognition and honor to the great heroism of the people at Wikileaks

We properly should offer recognition and honor to the great heroism of the people at Wikileaks:
A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.
The leaders of America's Death State reacted in the manner typical of imperial murderers:
In a statement, the White House said the chaotic picture painted by the logs was the result of "under-resourcing" under Obama's predecessor, saying: "It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009."

The White House also criticised the publication of the files by Wikileaks: "We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us."
On the first point -- the White House contention that these failures were "the result of 'under-resourcing'" and that everything is different now, under the wise leadership of Obama: this is complete, and completely evil, bullshit.

It is bullshit because, to begin with, Obama's "new" strategy is not "new" in any significant respect at all. See two articles for the details: "A Deadly Liar and Manipulator," and "Wherein We Gaze Into Our Inerrant Crystal Ball and Espy A Deadly Rat."

It is also bullshit because Obama's "surge" strategy in Afghanistan is intentionally patterned after the "surge" strategy in Iraq, which allegedly led to great success -- or, as Obama himself expressed it, to an "extraordinary achievement." This, too, is a monstrous and sickening lie. See "The Blood-Drenched Darkness of American Exceptionalism" for the excessively bloody details. The White House's contention that the "new" strategy in Afghanistan, which is not new, will lead to any kind of "success" as recognized by sane, healthy human beings is thus a complete and evil lie. More may be more in terms of numbers of American troops alone. More is not "new" or "better." It certainly may be even deadlier -- especially insofar as innocent civilians are concerned -- and this is the only germ of truth such arguments might contain. Perhaps this is, in fact, precisely the meaning Obama intends.

On the White House's second point -- where the White House "strongly condemn[s]" the leak -- let us keep squarely in the front of our minds the actual nature of U.S. foreign policy, and the actual nature of what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan. As I expressed it recently:
To put the actual point very bluntly: the Russians, along with the Iranians, along with everyone else in the world, are entirely justified in thinking that, if they are not on their guard and if they do not take all possible precautions, the United States will fuck up their shit. This is what it means to be devoted to a policy of American worldwide hegemony, enabled by, among other elements, a global empire of bases. The United States is intent, to the fullest extent it can, on fucking up everyone's shit. That's what the U.S. has been doing for more than a century.
Given that the U.S. today continues to follow the course upon which it embarked over a century ago, i.e., that it intends to fuck up everyone's shit in the name of American global hegemony, leaks such as these embody a singularly great allegiance to the value of innocent human life, and to the pursuit of genuine peace. The U.S. government cares about neither. Oh, it says that it does, with the compulsive, nauseating repetitiveness of the most vicious murderer -- and when exactly are murderers notably open and honest about their true motives and goals, especially when they are so devotionally intent upon viewing themselves and making certain that all others view them as noble fighters on behalf of the liberation of all mankind? Do not ever credit in even the smallest degree what is the most obvious and most obviously sickening propaganda and public relations.

The Guardian story provides evidence from the Wikileaks material concerning the U.S.'s (and other coalition troops') utter disregard for innocent human life:
The logs detail, in sometimes harrowing vignettes, the toll on civilians exacted by coalition forces: events termed "blue on white" in military jargon. The logs reveal 144 such incidents.

Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes that have led to Afghan government protests, but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers.

At least 195 civilians are admitted to have been killed and 174 wounded in total, but this is likely to be an underestimate as many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.

Bloody errors at civilians' expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.
See the Guardian report for many additional details.

And with regard to Wikileaks' actions which the U.S. government strongly condemns, you may be certain that neither the government nor the many others who will rush to condemn Wikileaks will note the following, also from the Guardian story:
Most of the material, though classified "secret" at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive. A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, obtained the material in circumstances he will not discuss, said it would redact harmful material before posting the bulk of the data on its "uncensorable" servers.
When you face a genocidal serial murderer, a murderer without conscience or soul, it is your obligation as a minimally decent human being to oppose him in any way you can. Through its leak of material such as that now made public, Wikileaks seeks to fulfill this solemn responsibility.

Long may it thrive, until the blessed day when its services are no longer required.

July 22, 2010

You Go, Ms. Sherrod!

[Update added.]

One particular kind of observation I've made about a certain Barack Obama over the last several years has repeatedly been greeted with a near-universal reaction along the lines of: "Wuhhhh??" I have been led to believe that this indicates a) bafflement, b) a faltering familiarity with the English language, c) a judgment that, whatever I might mean, it can't possibly have even the remotest relevance to any of the burning issues that demand our attention, d) all of the foregoing.

What kind of observation am I referring to? (Thus do I translate the, "Huh?," which I assume was the typical reaction to the preceding paragraph.) This kind:
Very interestingly, however, [Uri] Avnery neglects to mention a further critical reason for Obama's identification with "American whites," although he hints at it. That reason is one I discussed in the first part of my "Triumph" series, and it must never be forgotten. It's a simple and terrible reason: Obama wants power. This is not a secondary or related, tangential issue: we are talking about politics here, so it is the reason. He wants power. In America, if you want power, you must be white -- or you must adopt all the trappings of the white rulers. That's it, that's the whole thing. Power accrues to the white, male ruling class. Period.
And this kind:
[I]t is Obama himself who has adopted the white racist framework. Yes, I repeat that: Obama has adopted the white racist framework with regard to every issue of importance.
And this kind:
I confess I find it immensely difficult to describe accurately or completely the surreal quality of the Obama campaign. Everyone comments on the historic significance of a Black American who may be the next president. On the most superficial level, it is certainly historic, and I would not argue that it is entirely unimportant. At the same time, it is astonishing that almost no one notes the myriad ways in which Obama has transformed himself into a white candidate in everything but skin color. Yet on a deeper level, none of this is surprising: it is only another of thousands of examples of the superficiality and triviality of what passes for our national discussion, a subject I've discussed here and here. Still, I had not expected to see "passing for white" dramatized in exactly this manner, or on this scale.
Many more observations in the same category will be found in this post, and in the numerous articles linked there.

I know, I know: "Wuhhhh??"

But I see that at least one other person has put forth a perspective strikingly similar to mine on this point. Enter Shirley Sherrod:
Shirley Sherrod, the woman at the center of the racism storm that has consumed Washington the past few days, told me she doesn’t know if President Obama supports her, but she welcomes the opportunity to talk to him about it, and to offer a few lessons of her own.

“I can’t say that the president is fully behind me, I would hope that he is…I would love to talk to him,” Sherrod said on "GMA."

“He is not someone who has experienced what I have experienced through life, being a person of color. He might need to hear some of what I could say to him,” she told me. “I don’t know if that would guide him in a way that he deals with others like me, but I at least would like to have the opportunity to talk to him about it.”

No word yet from the White House on whether the President will call Sherrod.


Vilsack spoke to Sherrod yesterday and offered her a job at the USDA. But as of this morning Sherrod said she still didn’t know if she will accept it.

“I haven’t had a chance yet to look at just what that offer is. As I said earlier, I really, I know that he talked about discrimination in the agency and after all of these years that is still happening…And I would not want to be the one person in the agency that everyone is looking at to clear up discrimination in the Department of Agriculture,” Sherrod said.

Sherrod, the former Georgia director of rural development, said she needs reassurance from both Vilsack and Obama that they are fully committed to ending discrimination as well.

“Many of the same people who discriminated against black farmers continue to work there…There are some other things that would need to happen within the agency that have not happened to this date,” she told me.

Over the past four days Sherrod went from a symbol of racism to being seen by some as a heroine – a journey she said was “tough.”

“My life has been about fairness, and to have people think that I was a racist, someone who has worked against racism all my life, really, really, hurt to feel that people thought of me in a way that I know I wasn’t, and a way that so many people who know me knew that that wasn’t me,” she said.
I emphatically do not compare my own experience to Ms. Sherrod's, but because of what I've written about Obama, I've been accused of being a racist as well. I wrote about that, and many related matters, here.

Because of some emails I received and a few posts I happened to see, I know that part of the reason for the accusations in my case was a particular tone I adopted in some of my comments about Obama. For example:
Listen up, Obama, you cheap, lying fraud: the United States government launched a criminal war of aggression against a nation that never threatened us. It continues a bloody, murdering occupation which does nothing but worsen the agony of the Iraqi people. We have no right to be in Iraq at all. We never did. The actions of the United States government have led to a genocide of world historical proportions.

Genocidal murderers and those who support and enable them -- as you do, Obama, since you vote to fund this continuing crime -- do not get to "ask" one single goddamned fucking thing of their victims. Not. One. Single. Goddamned. Fucking. Thing.

Get it, you pathetic little asshole?
You see the starkly obvious problem: I consistently fail to be sufficiently respectful. Still worse, I use bad words. I realize that it's entirely irrelevant that I said exactly the same things about Bush when he was president. It can't possibly be the case that I'm reacting to the policies of the men in question, or to the fact that both of them are war criminals. No, it's most definitely not any of that.

I can't offer Ms. Sherrod anything at all by way of remuneration, but if she ever feels the urge to do a little blogging, I'd be exceptionally proud to offer her a guest spot here for as long as she wishes. She would have total freedom to write about whatever she wants, in whatever manner she chooses.

We racists need to stick together. You should feel completely free to quote that last sentence and provide no surrounding context whatsoever. I'll even help you out some more. I hate America, too. And I do not support "the troops." And, "Yes, I Want the United States to Lose."

I am a repellently irredeemable, utterly loathsome, motherfucking bastard. I insist that you quote that sentence. Frequently.

UPDATE: Although I linked this essay above, I hadn't read it in its entirety since it was published just over two years ago: "Enchanted Evenings -- and Days, and Lives, in Hell." I read it again a few minutes ago. It's far better than I expected it to be, and I'm somewhat surprised to be as proud of it as I am.

I think you may find the personal history I offer there, together with my observations, of some value in connection with my argument about Obama and his identification with the white, male ruling class. I'd forgotten most of the details of that article, and I was delighted to find much of it very interesting in ways I hadn't anticipated, given my own memory lapse. That's always one of the qualities I look for in anything I read, one that I especially enjoy. I honestly don't mean to sound arrogant and conceited on this point (though I recognize I undoubtedly do, probably unforgivably so); as I say, my own reaction surprised and delighted me. It was lovely. :>)

Breaking Faith: Fraud in the Heartland

Click this link ...... http://greenwombat.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/video/news/2010/07/15/cook_kiley_long_pkg.cnnmoney/

Bush-era CIA director: Attack on Iran ‘seems inexorable’

A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program.

Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But he tells CNN's "State of the Union" that such action now "seems inexorable."

He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.

U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran.

Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes such as power generation.

This video is from CNN's State of the Union, broadcast July 25, 2010.

Watch this video on iPhone/iPad

San Diego having coolest July since 1930s

San Diego is experiencing the coolest July since 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. The average monthly temperature at Lindbergh Field in San Diego is running at 66 degrees, almost fives degrees below normal.

(Note to readers: Earlier, we said 'almost four degrees below normal.' This is a correction.)

The pattern will continue Tuesday, says the National Weather Service. The marine layer is moving back in. Temperatures will be 5-10 degrees below normal west of the mountains, and about two degrees below normal in east county.

"There's been a lot of troughs of low pressure off the West Coast of the country this summer," says Don Whitlow, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Rancho Bernardo. "And there have been a lot of coastal eddies (which circulate cool, moist wind ashore, creating a thick marine layer.)"

In another measure of just how cool this month has been, the daily high temperature at Lindbergh between July 1-256was below average on 21 days. Today's high was 68, or nine degrees below normal.

It's been cool elsewhere, too. On Sunday, the temperature only reach 66 in Oceanside Harbor, the "lowest maximum" temperature for July 25 since the previous record of 67 was set in 1995.

"The marine layer and onshore flow will continue coastal low clouds and patchy fog during the nights and mornings, extending locally inland," the weather service says. "Only partial afternoon clearing at the beaches, mid-level moisture in southeast flow will cause afternoon clouds over the mountains and deserts, increasing Tuesday and Wednesday with a chance of thunderstorms. A little warmer toward the end of the week and early next week as high pressure builds."

Noteworthy: On this day in 1902, says the weather service, "0.83 inch of rain fell in San Diego, the wettest calendar day and 24-hour total for July on record."

Scripps Pier cam

Follow the Science Quest blog on Twitter at @grobbins , and add Gary Robbins as a friend on Facebook.)

Also in this section

Microsoft Vs. Open Source: Now It's Political

Software giant may dominate in the U.S., but governments around the world are looking for other options.

Microsoft is facing a growing battle against open-source software that is edging into politics on a global scale.

Just last week, the German government announced a deal to replace parts of its IT system with open-source programs, and Taiwan officials announced, as part of an effort to curb Microsoft's dominance in software, preliminary plans to promote the development of local Linux software.

Germany and Taiwan are only the latest countries to take sides in a software battle in which Microsoft and developers of commercial, or proprietary programs, are increasingly facing off with proponents of open-source software.

"We are seeing a lot of traction for Linux in the government sector, particularly in China," said Rajnish Arora, senior program manager of enterprise servers and workstations at market research company IDC in the Asia-Pacific. "There is also a lot of interest in Korea."

Most commercial software companies allow only their own programmers to make modifications to source code. Open-source software such as the Linux operating system is typically developed by programmers distributing source-code modifications freely over the Internet.

Open-source software has been installed on a major portion of servers hosting Web sites and e-mail accounts around the world. But open source is making slower inroads in the market for desktop PCs, where Microsoft and other U.S. vendors reign, according to IDC and other market research companies.

Allies Overseas

The perceived benefits of open-source software have moved government officials in countries including Germany, France, Finland, the Philippines, South Korea, and China to try out the technology. A decision to replace Microsoft's Windows at least in part with open-source alternatives is often the result.

Officials within these countries have identified open source as a potential driver for cost savings. Some say security is enhanced by embracing open-source software. Others have said use of open-source software could stem software piracy, and lead to growth of local software alternatives.

Industry insiders agree that government use of open-source software and Linux in particular is proliferating.

"Once you leave the shores of the U.S. the question would be not if but where is Linux being used" in government, said Matthew Szulik, chief executive officer of Linux software maker Red Hat. His company, in Raleigh, North Carolina, has been one of the beneficiaries of the Linux wave, as its version of the open-source operating system is used on more than half the Linux servers used today, according to IDC.

Less Money, Less Buggy

Though not all open-source software is free, for the most part it doesn't require customers to pay ongoing licensing fees or royalties, and typically costs less than software from the big commercial developers. By contrast, many users say that Microsoft's plans to move customers to an annual licensing scheme will drive software costs up.

In Norway, government representatives said they have looked into open-source software as a way to cut costs. "One thing is for sure: open source will be an issue," said Fred Arne Odegaard, assistant IT consultant with Norway's Department for Trade and Industry. "Contracts with Microsoft are getting more and more expensive."

The prospect of paying more for software has prompted changes in France, too. The country's head of IT systems at the Ministry of Culture, Bruno Mannoni, said the department has cut back on expenses since it began replacing 300 of its servers running Windows NT and Unix to open-source alternatives.

"It's working out to be a lot less expensive and a lot more reliable than what we used before," Mannoni said.

Acting Locally

Price aside, government officials around the world are also looking for ways to increase use of local software and curb the export of IT funds to major U.S. companies. That is the case in a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Thailand and the Philippines, for instance, government-funded computer research centers have created their own open-source software applications that they are distributing to government users and small businesses. By offering essentially free operating system software for servers and desktops, they expect to make computer technology more accessible and aid the local economy in their countries.

"If I'm a country and I would like to be a world class supplier of software, I can use open-source software to bootstrap my expertise," said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems research with IDC, based in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I can hand my experts world class software, give them the source code, and say go to work.

"It in essence removes 10 to 15 years of the growth cycle of a software development industry," he said.

Fostering Competition

Taiwan is an example where government officials have announced intentions to pursue open source over major commercial applications in part to rein in Microsoft and preserve room for competition within the local software industry.

"Microsoft has been dominating the market here in Taiwan and we don't want this type of development to continue," said Tan-Sun Chen, a member of the Legislative Yuan and co-chairman of the Technology and Information Committee, in an interview with IDG News Service.

Motivated by the Fair Trade Commission's investigation of Microsoft's pricing practices in Taiwan, legislators are seeking ways to curtail Microsoft's dominance of the market, Chen said. One of the suggestions put forth during a June 3 meeting of legislators and officials would see the Taiwanese government allocate funding for the development of open-source software, including Linux, he said.

Curbing Piracy

Software piracy has also played into the debate in countries where the use of illegal copies of software applications accounts for most of the software used by businesses and consumers.

"With open source (piracy) is not an issue at all," Kusnetzky said. "Under most of the recognized open-source software licenses it is perfectly acceptable to purchase a single copy of software and install it on any number of machines, or simply download it for free off the Internet."

Such behavior has become an international dilemma for commercial software vendors, according to the Business Software Alliance, a trade group which tracks software piracy rates around the world. BSA Statistics released Monday show that the commercial software industry lost nearly $11 billion to illegal software use in 2001.

In Perú, where software piracy rates are as high as 60 percent, members of Congress have proposed a bill that would require government agencies to use open source software whenever possible. One of the reasons given for the proposed legislation is to cut down on software piracy.

More Diversity, More Security

Security is another prime motivator behind the growing interest in Linux, government users say. Systems built on software from a single vendor are more vulnerable to attack than systems integrating software from different sources, some officials contend. When the German Federal Ministry of the Interior in Berlin last week announced a government deal with IBM to purchase hardware and software products that support Linux, the official who signed the deal said that the switch to open source would avoid a "mono" IT environment, which is more susceptible to attack.

Some commercial vendors like IBM have been able to take advantage and even fuel the interest in open-source software, particularly Linux. IBM, which invested $1 billion in 2001 alone in open-source projects, mainly developing systems to run on Linux, boasts some 75 customers in various governments that are using products from IBM that run the Linux operating system.

The China Post Office, for instance, has struck a deal with IBM to run Linux at 1200 branch offices. In addition, the China government works with Beijing-based Red Flag Software to install Red Flag Linux on some government computers.

IBM has about 130 other potential government customers that are looking into using Linux, said Ralph Martino, vice president of strategy at IBM.

The Giant and the Governments

As governmental interest in open-source software increases, it has spurred Microsoft to strengthen ties to governments, and offer deals. The company was able to nip an incipient move to open source technology in Mexico, for example, by pledging funds for the country's e-Mexico project.

Microsoft officials in the United States declined to be interviewed for this story, but issued a statement saying that the company "is committed to helping governments develop strong, sustainable IT infrastructures that deliver ease of use, value through innovative technology, a clear road map for future development and access to source code to improve security and implementation."

Microsoft is no stranger to dealing with governments, since its dominance in the desktop software market has sparked inquiries and lawsuits. In the United States, federal and state lawmakers have been investigating the company's business practices for more than 10 years. One result was a federal antitrust suit, which led to a 2000 ruling that Microsoft violated federal law by abusing monopoly power in the desktop operating system market to thwart competition.

Shared Source?

The issue of source code, too, has made its way into the legal arena. The nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia, which have declined to participate in a settlement with Microsoft in the federal antitrust suit, have asked that Microsoft hand over the source code to its Internet Explorer Web browser.

Though Microsoft has called such proposals drastic, there are signs that it sees some benefit to the concept of sharing code. Last year it launched a program it called the Shared Source Initiative. It allows customers in academia and the government to access the source code for Microsoft products to use for testing and reviewing application development.

Austria became the first government to take part in the initiative, gaining access to the code for Windows XP, according to a December 2001 statement from Microsoft.

Productivity Pitfalls

Microsoft is also helped by the fact that on the desktop, there are few open-source productivity applications equipped to knock Microsoft products from their dominant perch.

Many of the latest switches taking place at the government level deal with software designed for high-powered servers. The one desktop software product with open-source roots that has shown some promise as an alternative to Microsoft's Office suite comes from Sun Microsystems. Called StarOffice, the desktop productivity software competes with Microsoft Office. The free open-source version of the product is called OpenOffice.

"The challenge of course is that the software may not be as functional or as easy to use as the closed-source alternatives," said IDC's Kusnetzky. "If you look at the function-by-function comparison of Microsoft Office and Star Office, for instance, Microsoft Office does quite a bit more."

In Finland, where the government has been testing StarOffice and OpenOffice for use by some of its government agencies, early results reveal some incompatibilities for users trying to open Microsoft Office documents in the open-source alternative. "We recommended open source only for people who don't exchange documents with other people," said Arja Terho, a counsellor in Finland's Ministry of Finance.

Too Much Linux Love?

Government plans to mandate or promote the use of open source also have a variety of critics, including some within the open-source community. At least one local Linux developer in Taiwan believes that the government's efforts to boost Linux through government support may be misguided.

"Something should not be entitled to get financing from the government just because it's called Linux," said Sean Lee, sales and marketing director at Linux developer eRexi in Taipei. Instead of blanket support for Linux, Lee said, the government should target specific needs in discrete areas of public administration.

In Perú, some local developers say the proposed "free software" bill would harm the country's own developers of commercial software.

Going Mainstream

As the debate continues, the open-source technology at the center of the issue continues to gain steam. IBM continues to test and develop Linux systems, as have major vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Sun. As a result, the once-enigmatic software movement might soon grow out of its mystique, according to Larry Augustin, chief executive office of VA Software, which was founded as a Linux company before mounting losses forced it to exit the business.

"Linux is moving from being something specialized to being just another operating system on the list," he said. For the sake of computer users everywhere, he said, that's a good thing.

EPA Covering Up Effects of Dispersant in BP Oil Spill? Part 1 - Democracy NOW!

Click this link ..... http://tinyurl.com/29o4m2j

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks