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Good Morning!

Zuccotti Park, September 17, 2012 (Photo by joanneleon)
“In a small Swiss city sits an international organization so obscure and secretive….Control of the institution, the Bank for International Settlements, lies with some of the world’s most powerful and least visible men: the heads of 32 central banks, officials able to shift billions of dollars and alter the course of economies at the stroke of a pen.”

Keith Bradsher, New York Times, August 5, 1995

Pink Floyd - Money
Drop in
any time
day or night
to say hello.


Long article. Must read.

Rethinking Robert Rubin

After he stepped away from Treasury in 1999, Rubin moved to Citigroup (C), and until 2009 he served as chairman of the executive committee and, briefly, chairman of the board of directors. On his watch, the federal government was forced to inject $45 billion of taxpayer money into the company and guarantee some $300 billion of illiquid assets. Taxpayers ended up with a 27 percent stake in Citigroup, which was sold in 2010 at a cumulative profit of $12 billion. Rubin gave up a portion of his contracted compensation—and was still paid around $126 million in cash and stock during a tenure in which his serenity has come to look a lot more like paralysis. “Nobody on this planet represents more vividly the scam of the banking industry,” says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan. “He made $120 million from Citibank, which was technically insolvent. And now we, the taxpayers, are paying for it.”

Libor-Like Manipulation Possible in Other Benchmarks, Iosco Says

The same lack of oversight that enabled traders to manipulate the London interbank offered rate plagues other benchmarks around the globe, according to a group of international securities regulators.
Fewer than half of the benchmark interest rates surveyed in the U.S., Europe and Asia were based on actual transactions, according to a confidential International Organization of Securities Commissions discussion paper obtained by Bloomberg News. Instead, the rates were calculated by methodologies that were unclear, not transparent and only rarely subject to specific regulatory standards or obligations, the group said.

Sheila Bair and the bailout bank titans
As the financial system melted down in the fall of 2008, the Treasury Department gave the nation's biggest banks billions in new capital. Was it all necessary? No, says the former FDIC chief in her new book.

FORTUNE -- Few players had as close a view of the financial crisis as Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from June 2006 to July 2011. In this excerpt from her new book, Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street From Wall Street and Wall Street From Itself, Bair, a Fortune columnist, describes a crucial meeting she attended at the Treasury Department on Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. There Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson persuaded a roomful of bank CEOs, including J.P. Morgan's Jamie Dimon, Citigroup's Vikram Pandit, and Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein, to go along with a $125 billion TARP bailout.

Obama, Romney tiptoe around housing morass as they woo voters

(Reuters) - If pocketbook issues are the main focus of the U.S. presidential election, President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have remarkably little to say about a topic that directly affects most voters: the still-dismal housing market.

[ ... ]

"Neither one wants to explain themselves because any explanation is going to be unpleasant," said Richard K. Green, a public policy professor at the University of Southern California.

Drone warfare's deadly civilian toll: a very personal view
I was minutes from ordering a drone strike on a Taliban insurgent – until I realised I was watching an Afghan child at play

I find myself caught between the need to follow the drone debate and the need to avoid unpleasant memories it stirs. I used drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – during the nadir of my military career that was an operational tour in Afghanistan. I remember cuing up a US Predator strike before deciding the computer screen wasn't depicting a Taliban insurgent burying an improvised explosive device in the road; rather, a child playing in the dirt.

[ ... ]

Political theorist Hannah Arendt described the history of warfare in the 20th century as the growing incapacity of the army to fulfil its basic function: defending the civilian population. My experiences in Afghanistan brought this issue to a head, leaving me unable to avoid the realization that my role as a soldier had changed, in Arendt's words, from "that of protector into that of a belated and essentially futile avenger". Our collective actions inIraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 were, and remain, futile vengeance – with drones the latest technological advance to empower that flawed strategy.

Drones are becoming the preferred instruments of vengeance, and their core purpose is analogous to the changing relationship between civil society and warfare, in which the latter is conducted remotely and at a safe distance so that implementing death and murder becomes increasingly palatable.

Hyperbole? But I was there. I sat in my camouflaged combats and I took the rules of engagement and ethical warfare classes. And frankly, I don't buy much, if any, of it now – especially concerning drones. Their effectiveness is without question, but there's terrible fallout from their rampant use.

Taliban Outflank US War Strategy with Insider Attacks

ISAF had intended to carry out intensive partnering and advising of ANA and police units below battalion level through 2012 to get them ready to take responsibility for Afghan security. Now, however, that strategy appears to have been disrupted by the insider attacks, and Afghan military and civilian officials are seriously concerned.

Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta sought to minimise the crisis in U.S. war strategy Tuesday by calling the inside attacks on NATO troops the “last gasp” of a Taliban insurgency that has been “unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost.” The “last gasp” phrase recalls then Vice-President Dick Cheney’s infamous 2005 claim that the Iraqi insurgency was “in its last throes”.

But Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has no apparent personal stake in touting the existing strategy in Afghanistan, called the attacks “a very serious threat to the campaign” in an interview on Saturday.

“You can’t whitewash it,” said Dempsey. “We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change.”

Very odd story, imho.  Curious to hear what others think of the way this story is written, etc.
Israeli strike on Iran may wreck Arab treaties: U.S. officials

Egypt and Jordan could annul their peace treaties with Israel if it carries out a preemptive strike against Iran, US officials have warned the Jewish state, an Israeli newspaper reported Thursday.

Quoting a high-level Israeli official, Yediot Aharonot said Washington had warned the Jewish state that Arab leaders would not be able to control an angry public backlash if Israel were to mount an attack on Iran.

Meet the Press Gives Netanyahu Cheney's Bully Pulpit for War

If you happened to catch Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Meet the Press this past Sunday, you may have thought you were watching a rerun from ten years ago.

After all, it was September 2002 -- almost a decade ago to the day -- that Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press to sell Americans a war based on distortions that he claimed were an "absolute certainty."

And when Cheney met the press, he was never challenged. Eventually the free pass that the media gave Cheney and others led us into a quagmire in Iraq to dismantle WMD that didn't exist.

It was déjà vu all over again this past Sunday when Netanyahu presented his own absolute certainties to Americans. He told us that Iran "is racing to develop nuclear bombs" and said if the U.S. does not set a redline for war to block Iran's enrichment program, Iran would "proceed to the bomb."

Blog Posts of Interest

The Evening Blues - 9-20-12

Save Your Tears For the Hideously Rich

The loss of corporate decency, a tale of workplace horror

Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb


We are ready for some serious change. We are ready to take up the tools of a free and analytic press to peacefully undermine the stranglehold of the kleptocrats on our battered democracy. We are ready to expose and publicize their greed, lies and illegal machinations and hold their enablers in government and the media to account. Are you in?

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
 ~ Margaret Mead

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