Sunday, December 16, 2012

U.S. Use of Drones Is a War Crime

In short, the NYU/Stanford study concludes the U.S. is committing war crimes in the use of drones.  The U.S. military kills, by their own estimates, 49 civilians for every 1 "militant."  By the way, they define militant as a military-aged male (p. 6).  I searched and couldn't find a firm definition from the U.S. government on the ages that constitute military age outside the U.S. borders, but 15-35 seems to be consensus.

And I'm alarmed drones are being used by U.S. military and police within the United States because what they do over there they'll do over here.  In March 2012 interview FBI Director Mueller does not deny that the U.S. President has the right to assassinate Americans in the United States.  (This is an expansion on the already admitted White House claimed authority to assassinate Americans overseas.)

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act declares the United States to be a battleground.  As such, it allows for the indefinite detention of Americans.  And assassination of Americans.  And if you're too close to a military-aged male and get killed, your family & friends can be consoled by the fact that you probably had it coming, as you were in the continuum of criminalityso speaketh Alan Dershowitz.

2012 NDAA  

NYU/Stanford study

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Datastream: OBR UK GDP forecasts

OBR UK GDP Forecasts

The Office for Budget Responsibility has cut back UK economic growth forecasts repeatedly, raising the spectre of fresh austerity measures.

The Office for Budget Responsibility is starting to look like an organisation that is systematically disappointed by the performance of the UK economy. As this edition of Chart of the Week shows, there has been a sequence of downward revisions to the OBR’s growth profile since their inception. Indeed, their latest forecast for growth in 2012, at -0.1%, is 2.9 percentage points shy of the 2.8% growth they had at first pencilled in for this year in June 2010.
Looking forward, while the OBR’s most recent forecast is at least more realistic, it continues to assume a persistently large negative and output gap, and a steady rise towards growth rates of 3%. If these forecasts turn out to have been overoptimistic, as has previously been the case, the UK government may be forced into fresh austerity measures.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Illinois unemployment since 1985

The region in Illinois known as Downstate (i.e. everywhere that is not Chicago) may feel like they inhabit a different state from Chicagoland, and culturally they do, but in unemployment terms they track the Big Boy almost perfectly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gracilization of the US labor force

Decreasing labor strife, increasing SPX, stagnant wages.  It's a recipe for something - depending on which side of the equation you are.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Citing the wrong period in Germany's interwar years

In the course of benchmarking Germany's position vis-a-vis Europe's current economic stress, the Germans are alleged to reference always the period of hyperinflation of Weimar Germany.

This is the wrong period in the interwar years to highlight for Germany.

For one thing, the hyperinflation years occurred 1921-1923.  While it was two excruciatingly painful years for Germany, it was only two years. 

In 1922 Germany announced it could not make its payments and year-long conversations resolved nothing.
Ed. note:  Sound familiar?  Say, 2008 through the present?

In 1923 a conference in Paris to restructure the debt/tribute, due to French intransigence.  Since Germany was unable to make payments on the reparations, France occupied the Ruhr.
Ed. note:  Not dissimilar from the Troika forcing debtor countries to sell off state assets at fire sale prices.

They also did not pay down their WWI reparations.*
*Which in the opinion of this author they correctly regarded as tribute and not debt.
By the way, occupation of the Ruhr was a violation of the Versailles Treaty, and Germany ceased all payments to France and Belgium.
Ed. note:  Seriously, Belgium - start being your own, schizophrenic country.

September 27 1923 the gov't of Germany abdicated, a new currency (Rentenmark) was introduced, and a new central bank (Rentenbank) on October 15 1923.  (Aka the First Crisis.)

What happened after 1923?  Well, Germany did NOT put their fiscal house in order, if that was the guess.  The Dawes Plan of 1924 provided for US. Britain, and France to loan $200mm in gold.  Surprisingly, it did not fix the problem.

And Germany tapped the private debt markets, selling sovereign and municipal debt by the boatloads, primarily in the American markets and often fraudulently.  That is, they misrepresented the seniority of the bond issues to American investors by indicating they took precedence over war reparations when in fact, per the Versailles Treaty nothing was senior to reparations.

As for the west side of the Atlantic, American investors were hoodwinked into believing the concept of "excess credit."  And all that excess credit was sloshing around in America.  Apparently it was still sloshing when Germany hit its Second Crisis in 1929.

In 1929 the Young Plan was hatched to fix the problem - again.  They concluded that Germany could not pay $625mm/year - that was reduced to $400mm/year.  It also called for US, Britain, and France to loan Germany $300mm in gold.  And the American investor - he of the excess credit?  Again, from Garrett's "Bubble That Broke The World", page 76:
American investors went on buying German bonds because the rateof interest was high; American banks went on puttingtheir surplus funds on deposit in German banks for thesame reason. They all said: "Oh, that is political propagandaabout reparations. It has nothing to do with privatefinance or private investments."

So what did Germany do with the receipts of all those bond issues, year after year?  Some was used to pay reparations, albeit partial payments.  The receiving countries in turn made their debt payments to creditor countries (primarily the United States, and to a lesser extent Great Britain), also partially.

With the rest of monies Germany invested in housing, industry, urban improvement, infrastructure.  Post-WWII's Marshall Plan is nothing but the winning side front-running the losing side's bond issuances and just giving the money!

After the Crash of 1929, when Americans realized they did not, in fact, have "excess credit" the pipeline to Germany dried up.

So once again the issue of reparations payments became the commanding issue of the day.

Germany lobbied/harangued every creditor country, telling them if the reparations were not restructured, or reduced, or loans were not granted they would have to regretfully default.

Since Europe was in the same predicament post-1929 as they are post-2008, all sovereigns agreed the loans must continue to Germany.  They also agreed that their own debts to the United States must be restructured.

August 1931, Germany has its third crisis since 1929.
From "The Bubble That Broke The World" (Garet Garrett), page 73:

Again, for the third time, Germany was threatening tosink in the sea of insolvency with all her creditors onboard; again it was the creditors who frantically workedat the pumps. Their anxiety was greater than Germany'sown. Why? For the singular reason that in this sea onlycreditors can drown.

You can see the similarities to today.

THIS is where Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain should study.  Clearly it is not enough to take a page from Iceland's playbook (2008-2012), so perhaps studying what their nemesis of today did back in the 1930s should help.  This was Germany's successful game plan, again from Garrett's "Bubble That Broke The World", pp 73-74:

[T]here are two kinds of debt and two
kinds of creditors on board, all in the same dilemma.
There is what survives of the original reparations debt,
and there is now, besides, an enormous private debt,
owing not by the German Government to other governments,
but owing by the German Government, by all the
German States, by German municipalities, by German
banks, by German industry, to private lenders all over the
world. This is new debt, created in the last six or seven
years. The amount of it is nearly four billions of dollars.
Roughly two thirds of it is owing to American banks,
American investors, American lenders.
One value of this great private debt to Germany is that
she can play it against the political debt.
As she watches her creditors working at the pumps she
keeps saying: "Throw over the rest of the reparations
debt. That is what is sinking us. Cast that away and the
rest will float."
Then to her private creditors alone she says: "Don't
you see how you can save yourselves? Only side with us
and we will get rid of the reparations debt entirely. We
tell you the rest will float."
This suggestion tends to divide the creditors and they
begin quarreling among themselves. But they cannot be
sure that if the reparations debt be jettisoned the rest will
float. They are not sure of anything about Germany. So,
in frustration, they appoint an international committee
of experts to examine the ship from both the German point
of view and that of the creditors, to reconcile them, and
to say what burden of debt the ship can afford to bear,
Germany willing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How to outwit regulators

How banksters outwit regulators, as demonstrated by the Three Stooges (cf. Uncivil Warriors, 1935).

Monday, July 09, 2012

Kyrie eleison! CIA goes all holy roller on us.

Here's something weird:  the CIA's motto is "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."
[John 8:32]

It was taken from Director Allen Dulles' introductory remarks at the agency's building cornerstone laying in 1959.

So not only does the CIA lift their motto from the New Testament, they picked it from the non-synoptic Gospel to boot.  That is so CIA - to use a source that doesn't agree with any other sources.

I think Revelation 2:29 works better:  "He that hath an ear, let him hear."  Also known in ecclesiastical circles as the Wiretap Passage.

Monday, April 02, 2012

But what about the trucks? Will no one think about the trucks?

I'm going to kick myself for not stocking up when the bottom falls out.

But I just hate having extra stuff around the joint.

By the way, that threatened trucker strike in England has given everybody a good idea of what happens at all levels of a nation.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

High Priest of Parimutuel

Christian Post reports:

The Vatican has made an official request to gain access to a 1500-year-old Bible worth $28 million currently held by the Turkish government in Ankara, Turkey. There is speculation that the Bible may be a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas – a telling of Jesus' ministry Muslims believe is part of the original Gospels.

A rookie mistake there, Christian Post - confusing the concept of Bible with Gospel.  A single gospel does not a Bible make.  A single gospel does not even make a Testament.  Tsk, tsk.

And what about the other gospels that didn't make the cut?  Where's the fervent interest to include the Gospel of Thomas, Mary, Infant Jesus, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?  And what about the Acts of the Apostles?  What do the boys think about Barnabas?

Let's run it by the boys:
[Acts of the Apostles 1:23] They put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 1:24 They prayed, and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen 1:25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place.” 1:26 They drew lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

What?  They're not even calling him by his right name. Barnabas - Barsabbas?  This lack of attention to detail is exactly the kind of thing that leads Jesus to cursing out fig trees.  [Matthew 21: 18-22]

To top it off, they pray for guidance and then shoot craps to pick Judas' replacement.  This is going to make me rethink my whole approach to Lent.  At Hawthorne Racecourse.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe throw a fit

Ria Novosti reports:
“The third largest faction in the European Parliament has called for a freeze on contacts with the Russian State Duma until Russia holds "free and fair parliamentary elections."

The proposal, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), comes as former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, co-chair of the unregistered People's Freedom Party, is in Brussels to discuss the upcoming presidential election in Russia, ALDE said in a press release.”
In that case, ALDE might want to call for a freeze on contacts with the United States since we have problems with election fraud too. From the AP:
“Nevada Republicans finally released the results of their Saturday caucuses early Monday morning, after volunteers had stayed up for nearly 48 hours counting and recounting votes in a contest that saw only 33,000 votes cast, about 9 percent of the state's registered Republicans. Party leaders said they wanted to take their time to avoid another Iowa.

Last month, Iowa initially called its first-in-the-nation presidential race for Mitt Romney by eight votes, only to have allegations of impropriety surface. Two weeks later Iowa Republicans announced that — oops — Rick Santorum had actually won by 34 votes. The head of the Iowa GOP said he would resign.”
Note: Iowa to date still has not found the eight missing precincts. They might want to try dredging the Mississippi River.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Report of Arab League Observer Mission leaks out

Well, well, well.  Looks like western pressitutes have been misrepresenting the situation in Syria.  Which makes sense since it is probably Western-supported groups posing as Syrian opposition.  But look at me, preaching to the choir!

Page 4
26. In Homs and Dera‘a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against
Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces
responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups
were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.

27. In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against
Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the
bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the
bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two
police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.
Ed. note:  I noted that the acts of violence against civilians was NOT attributed to Syrian government forces.

28. The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in
several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded.
Ed. note:  But not unreported by the western press.

29. The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the
incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.

B. Verifying that Syrian security services and so-called shabiha gangs do not obstruct peaceful
Ed. note:  And yet, strangely enough, not reported by western press.

Page 6
44. In Homs, a French journalist who worked for the France 2 channel was killed and a Belgian journalist
was injured. The Government and opposition accused each other of being responsible for the incident, and both
sides issued statements of condemnation. The Government formed an investigative committee in order to
determine the cause of the incident. It should be noted that Mission reports from Homs indicate that the French
journalist was killed by opposition mortar shells.
Ed. note:  Sarkozy will make any sacrifice.

49. Twenty-two observers declined to complete the mission for personal reasons. Some observers offered
unfounded reasons, which were not accepted by the Head of the Mission, while others had a personal agenda.
Ed. note:  I'd like to know what those personal agendas are.

50. Some observers reneged on their duties and broke the oath they had taken. They made contact with
officials from their countries and gave them exaggerated accounts of events. Those officials consequently
developed a bleak and unfounded picture of the situation.
Ed. note:  Would those countries happen to be allies of the U.S., France, and/or the U.K.?

Page 7
61. The Mission does not have portable two-way radios for communication between team members. The
Chinese Embassy provided 10 such radios as a gift to the Mission. They were used in three sectors only.

Ed. note:  The U.S., France, and U.K. were hellbent on UN-sanctions for Syria, but couldn't be bothered to equip the monitors?

Page 20, Annex 2
Ed. note:  This editor learns that Barbara Walters' middle name is Jill.  Very disappointing.

Page 26, Annex 3  Observers who withdrew from the League of Arab States Observer Mission
Ed. note:  Only noting the ones with no explanation provided:
Algeria 1
Tunisia 4
Egypt 1
Morocco 2
Sudan 1
Jordan 1

Ed. note:  how much is Algeria still influenced by France, Tunisia & Egypt have a Western-backed government, Morocco has incipient civil war, Sudan receives considerable aid from the U.S., and UAE & Jordan are a U.S.-allies.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Time to talk about the Park Grille again

The Stocks & Jocks show was talking about Park Grille’s unbelievable deal cut with the Park District on Tuesday (31 January 2012) so some of us did some research, originally to refresh our memories but it’s even worse than we recalled. It involves a son of Vrdolyak, Maggie Daley’s After School Matters, Michael Shakman, the Archdiocese of Chicago, 19th Ward, and the CTA, and others you’ll have to read about. Things that you knew, but perhaps forgot some of the details over time.

Chicago Sun-Times, City puts heat on clout-heavy café

Originally run February 11, 2005. Every sentence is an indictment of the process behind the O’Malleys winning the Park Grille deal. It starts off with this:

The Chicago Park District awarded a 20-year lease to run the swanky restaurant at Millennium Park to a businessman who got a top Park District official* pregnant during negotiations, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
*Laura Foxgrover

Then there’s this:
*The Park Grill, which opened 16 months ago, hasn't had to pay any property taxes. The Park District has failed to take the required steps to generate a tax bill for the restaurant. Businesses on public land must pay property taxes.
--As noted in a Chicago Reader follow-up, the Park Grille won its battle not to pay property taxes. See further below.

*The Park Grill, as part of its deal with the Park District, gets free water, gas and garbage pickup. The garbage pickup costs taxpayers about $245,000 annually.

*The restaurant's rent is tied to its gross sales.

*O'Malley and Foxgrover grew up in the Southwest Side's powerful 19th Ward and have political connections.

*O'Malley also has been a business partner with the son of power broker and former Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak.

*Foxgrover is the daughter of former Cook County Circuit Judge Paul Foxgrover. The judge pleaded guilty in 1992 to stealing more than $25,000 in court fines and restitution and was sentenced to six years in prison.

*O'Malley's partner in Park Grill is James Horan, a respected restaurant owner and caterer who runs Blue Plate Catering. Blue Plate runs a cafe at Gallery 37, an after-school program created and fostered by Mayor Daley's wife, Maggie Daley.
--The same After School Matters that companies doing business with the city TIF funds had to kick back some of it to Maggie’s scam.

The Chicago Reader followed up on this in December 2011:
*O'Malley and his partner James Horan "agreed to pay the Park District an annual minimum fee of $275,000," Joravsky wrote. "But in exchange for the Park Grill paying all the build-out costs, the Park District agreed to waive the fee until the 15th anniversary of the contract's start date or until the Park Grill makes $3 million (net) or half its construction costs, whichever's less."

*After the scandal(s) came out, the city sent O'Malley a letter asserting that the land beneath the restaurant was owned by the city. Because of that, the city should have been party to the deal. It wasn't, so as Fran Spielman reported in Friday's Sun-Times story, the letter asserted that the "20-year concession agreement 'does not authorize your occupation of the Park Grill facilities.'"

*This is far from a first for Park Grill with respect to litigation. After news of the deal broke, Mayor Daley demanded that his aides renegotiate the settlement. As Spielman says, “those negotiations went nowhere.” Meanwhile, another perk had emerged. As Joravsky explained in 2005’s "The Poor, Poor Park Grill," the restaurant had been exempted from paying property taxes. Then-Cook County assessor James Houlihan took issue with this, and informed O’Malley and Horan that they’d be billed for 2004. In August 2005 the pair filed a lawsuit against Houlihan, arguing that they had a concession agreement rather than a lease, hence were not subject to property taxes. The case went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which last December ruled in the restaurant’s favor on the grounds that its contract with the Park District was a license rather than a lease.

*There’s an additional irony. O’Malley’s backers included Daley cronies Fred Barbara and Tim Degnan. Defending the Park Grill on Friday was Michael Shakman, whose own lawsuit led to the anti-patronage Shakman decree.

And for a primer on how to make money on real estate in a down market, look to aforementioned Matthew O’Malley. Chicago Real Estate Daily reports in January 2010:

*The archdiocese bought property for the school in 2008 from a venture managed by Matthew O'Malley, whose Mainstay Hospitality LLC runs well-known Chicago Firehouse restaurant, Grace O'Malley's Restaurant & Pub and Wabash Tap, all near the church, according to the Cook County Recorder.

*Mr. O'Malley's venture sold for $2.4 million, after paying $1.35 million for it in 2005, property records.

But wait, there’s more we can learn from Matthew O’Malley. His girlfriend/friend Colleen Flaherty opened Tiny Lounge off the Addison Brown Line stop ca. 2001, but was sold for a significant profit to the CTA for the Addison station expansion project in 2006.
*Note: It relocated to Lincoln Square.

A little additional information on Colleen Flaherty, courtesy of Chicago Tribune:
Flaherty, who grew up on the Southwest Side, the youngest of seven,
*Note: That would be the Chicago Ridge.