notes dec 29

December 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

We live seven times better than the people did a century ago on average… 

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Which seems a little silly. Measured in dollars but not quality of life. And even then it is dubious averages.


Buffett cites this piece of advice from his mentor Benjamin Graham: “You’re neither right nor wrong because other people agree with you. You’re right because your facts are right and your reasoning is right—and that’s the only thing that makes you right. And if your facts and reasoning are right, you don’t have to worry about anybody else.”

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A product of expensive Eastern colleges and an accomplished self-promoter, Chao ran the Peace Corps, the United Way and, previously, was Deputy Secretary of Transportation, before George Bush appointed her as Secretary of Labor.  As a proven Washington insider and survivor, Chao is obviously a silky smooth politician and buck-passer.  She is currently the second wife of Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader.

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And From a play unpublished re about 1965


In a way, yes. Can you imagine what would have happened if we bad to face

one international conflict after another—if we had stumbled from one crisis to the next? If we had to double or triple our defense budget at the expense of

domestic programs? Why, this country would have been turned into an armed camp. Our personal liberties would have been surrendered, one by one, in favor of even greater Government control. We would virtually be living under martial law—with most of our Constitutional rights suspended—permanently. I wanted no part of this. Do you?


Of course not. But what’s the alternative? Aren’t we making a dangerous

sacrifice for the sake of Jeffersonian liberalism that certainly wasn’t designed

for this day and age? After all, our first concern must be for the safety of the Republic. What good is it to safeguard our individual freedom only to lose the whole country?

The Thirteenth Madonna  is set in the 1960’s. It explores the development of an international political crisis. This was particularly topical in the 1960’s, but the prospect of such crises continues to cloud our future.

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And, very good video on the economy


Is it really so hard for “Brennan fans in the Obama operation” to see how appointing a torture apologist to head the CIA is sending precisely the wrong message to the rest of the world? Do they not understand that running a campaign on “change” means, you know, changing things? Particularly the egregious lawlessness of the previous regime?

I agree with digby that it’s highly unlikely that pressure from bloggers torpedoed Brennan. It’s far more likely that savvy Obama transition leaders recognized that Brennan’s confirmation hearings would be ugly, because there are enough members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to oppose him. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprise if Russ Feingold didn’t have something to do with Brennan’s withdrawl. I’d also like to hope that there’s a modicum of moral principle behind the Brennan decision as well, that he was as opposed among members of the transition team because of his defense of torture.

Nonetheless, the intelligence community and their accomplices are going to do their damnedest to keep this story alive, and to make the bloggers the bad guys (as if we’re running around waterboarding people). Fine, whatever. We can take the heat, just as long as it means the torture stops. It’s a trade-off I can live with. But it would be nice if, just once, the traditional media could get the story right.

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This will be typical of the complexity of the Obama presidency.


Marc Mukasey, the son of the U.S. Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, is representing Frank DiPascali, a key Madoff employee.  This has resulted in the highest law enforcement officer in the nation recusing himself from the investigation of the largest Ponzi scheme in history. 

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The trifecta began on Monday, December 8, with Marc Dreier charged by Federal prosecutors in Manhattan with selling bogus promissory notes to steal what currently adds up to over $380 million.  Mr. Dreier, a graduate of Harvard Law and Yale College, is the owner and founder of Dreier LLP, a prominent law firm employing over 250 lawyers.

On Tuesday, December 9, the Feds arrested Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, revealing transcripts of taped phone calls where the governor was strategizing on how to sell the U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder or career enhancer and, separately, getting revenge on the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune whose writers were saying bad things about him (for some strange reason).

We had a day off to allow our psyches to mend and then Thursday, December 11 arrives.

We are told that Wall Street icon, Bernie Madoff, a key player in self regulation of Wall Street, has stolen $50 billion from investors in a Ponzi scheme stretching over what is now emerging as a three-decade crime spree, or longer.  Despite our sprawling Homeland Security apparatus that regularly catches Democratic governors, law enforcement did not catch Madoff; his two sons turned him in after he confessed.

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On February 24, 1997 I flew on US Air flight 6431 from New York to DC along with producer Dean Irwin and a film crew from ABC’s 20/20.  We were all heading to Ed Markey’s Congressional office to talk about one of Wall Street’s dirtiest secrets: their denial of an employee’s right to sue the Wall Street firm in an open courtroom, mandating instead, as a condition of employment, that the workers contractually agree to usher all claims (even whistleblower claims) into a crony system of arbitration run by Wall Street firms where case law and legal precedent are not followed and discovery is limited.  The system draws a dark curtain around the misdeeds of Wall Street and is an enabling agent for ever greater crimes sealed in secrecy.  A dream come true for a Ponzi operator.

Congressman Markey was a threat to Wall Street because he continued to introduce legislation known as the Civil Rights Procedures Protection Act that would have outlawed mandatory arbitration for certain employee claims and allowed those claims to proceed to an open courtroom. 

The 20/20 crew spent a good portion of the afternoon filming Congressman Markey and myself talking about arbitration.  When the program aired, Congressman Markey was gone from the film and just a brief statemen
t was inserted.  For decades now, that legislation, or similar legislation, has been introduced and then died a quiet death; much like the SEC investigations of Madoff.

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Lobbyists, Congress and the Ponzi Scheme

Madoff’s Money Trail Leads to Washington


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Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

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And [doug]

From many points of view monotheism is a problem. China looks at the trio, Israel, Christianity and Islam, as sects in a single monotheistic religion. And like sects they fight with each other .

Robert Bly said “ignorance of the soul is the dark side on monotheism. ”

Many commentators have stressed the authoritarian non-community aspect of monotheism, the universe dominated by a single voice with the requirement to align one’s own activities in accordance with its wishes.


The real reason the spread is so high is that the Fed, the Treasury, and the Finance Industry that got as into this mess want an opportunity to get well on the homeowners that they didn’t manage to fleece in the bubble they created.

I wonder if the mortgage rate being any lower would help sell more houses. I sense that people are concerned about their job and whether they will still have it in a few months or a year. It’s hard to buy a house when one fears, rightly or wrongly, that they will lose their job in the near future.

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This spring, Webb (D-Va.) plans to introduce legislation on a long-standing passion of his: reforming the U.S. prison system. Jails teem with young black men who later struggle to rejoin society, he says. Drug addicts and the mentally ill take up cells that would be better used for violent criminals. And politicians have failed to address this costly problem for fear of being labeled “soft on crime.”

With 2.3 million people behind bars, the United States has imprisoned a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, according to the Pew Center on the States and other groups. Although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of its prison population, Webb says.

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Some argue that instead of attempting to both create jobs and invest in our long-run growth, we should focus exclusively on short-term policies that generate consumer spending. But that approach led to some of the challenges we face today — and it is that approach that we must reject if we are going to strengthen our middle class and our economy over the long run. ..

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Central banks lent the proceeds of their swap lines with the Fed to private banks abroad, and private banks in turn repaid their maturing dollar debts — so the swap lines financed the unwinding of existing US loans to the rest of the world. Call it facilitating the unwinding of some of the legacy of the excesses of the past few year. Or call it a new wave of financial globalization, one led by the central banks …

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And, very important idea.

the income distribution is the characteristic equation of the economy that measures democratization .

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And see my son’s gallery current offereings


Sales at stores open at least a year probably dropped as much as 2 percent in November and December, the ICSC said last week, more than the previously projected 1 percent decline. That would be the largest drop since at least 1969, when the New York-based trade group started tracking data. Gap Inc. and Macy’s Inc. are among retailers that will report December results on Jan. 8.

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Why is a decline of 2% a crisis? Because of debt to the limit.


Hamas Knows One Big Thing

[doug] When a link to an article is posted without comment, it is impossible to know the intent of the poster. Is it a request for analysis, an assertion of correctness, or a signpost to the original article’s stupidity.

In this case the conclusion is arrived by softening up the reader. But the conclusion is that Israel must win this war.

The hidden premise is that Israel’s cause is just and the Palestinian cause irrational. I think history will come out with compassion and understanding of both sides, and the failure of Israeli policy is to fail to anticipate this outcome, and to help give it birth. As it is, Israel is increasing the number of it enemies, pulling us toward an old Testament view of history. More, this pulls the US, like a pit-bull on a leash its master thrown off balance when the dog’s instincts get aroused.


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You are currently reading notes dec 29 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.


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