“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A bad day for the English language

"is there any doubt that if another country had "invented" the Internet--say the Russians--that we'd all have had to learn to type Cyrillic characters by now? Moreover, do you think they or the Chinese or Japanese would have changed the Internet just to suit English-speakers."

The US invented the Internet. It achieved a massive advantage in doing so. The cultural and monetary advantage was immense and generated tremendous opportunity for millions everywhere on the planet. The entry ticket for all was the English language, the common tongue of Planet Earth. The US gave that up for nothing. Nothing. Absolutely, nothing.

Like every other self-loathing cultural idiocy that has become part of modern Anglo-American cultural necrophilia, such cultural and economic dominance is anathema to the cowering cultural-DNA challenged on the Left. ICANN gave up, for nothing, repeat, nothing, the Internet requirement that the dot domain names be in Latin characters. That advantage has now been turned over, for free, to the Arabs, Chinese, Iranians and Russians.

We are told daily by our rulers and masters that America blood and treasure needs be bled to grow democracy across the planet. Democracy, you see is a big deal to the Anglo-Americans and is not exactly a Chinese, a Russian or Arab thingy bit. They don't do democracy. They are the un-cola at the democracy koolaid party.

We just gave away a trillion dollar advantage and allowed the veil to come down on one little way that actually helped foster democracy without one ounce of blood being shed or one penny being spent.

We really are one stupid collective of Mike Foxtrots.

Celebrate diversity.


David Coursey | Friday, October 30, 2009 3:03 PM PDT
ICANN Approves Domain Names We Can't Type
PC world
Friday, October 30, 2009

This is a bad day for the English language, after ICANN approved non-Latin characters for use in Internet domain names. Having invented the Internet--40 years ago yesterday--the U.S. has given away whatever advantage it offers English-speakers.

This was bound to happen after the U.S. recently recanted on its "ownership" of the Internet in a new agreement with ICANN, the Internet's primary governing body. At one level, I am happy that Internet users around the world will soon have domain names in their own character sets.

"The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it was created four decades ago," ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said in a statement.

"Right now Internet address endings are limited to Latin characters--A to Z. But the Fast Track Process is the first step in bringing the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world online for domain names."

The first phase of the Internationalized Domain Names program begins Nov. 16 when countries can apply to ICANN for country codes, such as .us for the United States and .ru for Russia, in their own character sets.

Over time, expect to see other domains, such as .com, .org, and .net, become available in other character sets, as well as domain names themselves.

"This is a culmination of years of work, tests, study and discussion by the ICANN community," Thrush said. "To see this finally start to unfold is to see the beginning of an historic change in the Internet and who uses it."

Is this a change for the better?

Perhaps, but is there any doubt that if another country had "invented" the Internet--say the Russians--that we'd all have had to learn to type Cyrillic characters by now? Moreover, do you think they or the Chinese or Japanese would have changed the Internet just to suit English-speakers.

Indeed, had the Internet been developed around a non-Latin character set, would it even exist today? Has the success of the Internet not been linked to the role of English as the global language of business and popular culture?

On another level, I also am concerned about all the potential for duplicated domains that will be created as non-Latin characters roll out across the Internet. How many new domains will be needed to protect international brands?

Will cybercriminals some how be able to take advantage of this change? Will there be hidden domains that cannot be displayed on some computers or typed on many keyboards?

Practically, I am not looking forward to perhaps someday having to learn how to type potentially 100,000 non-Latin characters that ICANN has embraced. Is there an easy way to do this? How many keys will keyboards need to have?

I am guessing this is a problem Google will help solve, but still have concerns.

It also worries me that the Internet, which once brought people together, may start to fracture along character-set lines.

Like I said, this is a bad day for the English language, but a good day for the billions of people who do not speak my mother tongue. They have rights, too, even if I am not always happy about what that means.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pakistan has a problem. Hillary notices.

trish said...
But although we had near a decade of the most miserable, piss-poor, inexcusably weak effort alongside the loftiest American promises in re Afghanistan, AN ENTIRE FUCKING YEAR has been wasted by the guy who swore to correct it.

I'm not without sympathy for those who are given to clean up the last guy's shit pile. I'm not. But a year frittered away, to leave most of it in the litter box?

That's just wrong. Really, really wrong.


Fri Oct 30, 01:03:00 AM EDT

Clinton minces no words on Pakistan visit
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, October 30, 2009
From wire reports

ISLAMABAD – In a series of contentious public appearances in Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton challenged the country to defend its territory from extremists and bluntly asked why the government was unable to find top terrorist leaders.

To journalists, on the reported presence inside Pakistan of Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders:

I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to."

To college students, on whether their government should move against militants, as it has in South Waziristan:

If you want to see your territory shrink, that's your choice."

To a woman in Lahore, who asked why the U.S. should be trusted after past perceived betrayals:

It's difficult to go forward if we're always looking in the rearview mirror."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Listen to the troops who actually do the work : "These people just want to be left alone."

Think tank analyst nailing it.

Obama goes to Dover and takes a photographer

Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, visited the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers but did not attend any military funerals or go to Dover to receive the coffins. In a 2006 interview with the military newspaper "Stars and Stripes," Bush said he felt the appropriate way to show his respect was to meet with family members in private.

-Washington Post

Octomom goes trick-or-treating

Wonder why credit is shrinking? All money is created by debt. Banks are not lending.

Economic data released today, Oct 27, 2009, in the euro zone showed that M3 money supply for the three months average ending in September, declined to 2.5% inline with projections and lower than the revised prior reading of 3.1% from 3.0%; while on the year it fell to 1.8% from the revised reading of 2.6% from 2.5%, which is worse than the forecasted reading of 2.2%.

Loans for individuals and firms, posted their first annual slump on record in September, as a consequence of the decline in demand on credit, which shows that the financial sector is still impacted by the financial crisis that hit global economies last year.

Banks, which received aid from European national governments and ECB, are more reluctant to lend. The financial crisis already wiped out capital and set banks to hoard cash to restructure their balance sheets, which are ailing with diluted investments.(more here)

M1: M1 includes funds that are readily accessible for spending. (1) M1 consists of: currency outside Federal Reserve Banks, and the vaults of depository institutions; (2) traveler's checks of nonbank issuers; (3) demand deposits; and (4) other checkable deposits (OCDs), which consist primarily of negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts at depository institutions and credit union share draft accounts. Bank reserves are not included in M1.

M2: Equals M1 + savings deposits, time deposits less than $100,000 and money market deposit accounts for individuals. M2 represents money and "close substitutes" for money. M2 is a broader classification of money than M1. Economists use M2 when looking to quantify the amount of money in circulation and trying to explain different economic monetary conditions. M2 is a key economic indicator used to forecast inflation.[

M3: Equals M2 + large time deposits, institutional money-market funds, short-term repurchase agreements, along with other larger liquid assets. M3 is no longer published or revealed to the public by the US central bank. However, it is estimated by the web site Shadow Government Statistics.

Here is the problem:

In the US, M3 has shrunk at an annual rate of 6.5% over the last three months, a pace of contraction not seen since the 1930s. US bank loans have plummeted since May.

False Reading: Brisk GDP Growth Can't Last WSJ

The economy is about to post growth numbers reminiscent of the good old days, otherwise known as the "old normal." But a "new normal" of slower growth might be inevitable.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis is set to release Thursday its first read on third-quarter gross domestic product. Economists estimate GDP grew at a 3.2% annualized rate, after shrinking 0.7% in the second quarter. A handful of economists expect growth of 4% or higher.

Among the reasons for growth: Companies dumped inventory in the third quarter, though less aggressively than during the previous three months. By the math of GDP accounting, merely slowing down inventory liquidation will boost GDP's growth rate by at least one percentage point, according to many estimates.

The government's cash-for-clunkers program was another lift, though many of the new cars purchased were foreign-made, subtracting from GDP.

The tax credit for first-time home buyers encouraged some home building, another GDP booster. But many buyers borrowed against the credit to cover their down payment, leaving them with little cash to buy furniture, lawnmowers and such.

All together, GDP growth could rank as the fastest since the third quarter of 2007. Many economists expect a repeat in the fourth quarter, driven by still-lower inventory liquidation and more government stimulus effects.

A 3.2% growth rate would almost match the economy's average pace of the past 60 years. But this is no typical economy.

In typical recoveries, "real" demand rises to make the recovery self-sustaining. That may yet happen, but debt remains a big hurdle. Consumers still have debt loads near record highs. Defaulting might shed some of that burden, but will ruin credit ratings and hit the banks again.

Many small businesses still have trouble getting loans, and commercial real estate is a looming balance-sheet nightmare that will keep bank lending tight for months

The government is borrowing more than enough to fill the gap, pushing total U.S. debt outstanding, including that of households and financials, to a record 373% of GDP.

That is helping growth now, but it must be repaid. Most repayment options -- including higher interest rates, higher taxes and slower consumption -- will result in economic growth below normal.

Write to Mark Gongloff at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stop voting fraud. End state deficits. Stop the voting and sell the seats.

US campaign funding laws are absurd. Ozzie Myers, a Philadelphia Congressman once said that in politics, "Money talks and bullshit walks." Even though Ozzie did some time, he was right. John Corzine will hit the $140 million mark in funding his own campaigns. Mike Bloomberg, in his three bids for mayor, will have easily burned through more than $250 million.

How is it possible for any opponent to compete when they are limited by what they can accept from any one donor. If a benefactor with millions wishes to buy a candidate, what is the difference? The marginal additional corruption will hardly be noticed. In fact, lets go one better and allow the parties to pool unlimited resources and have the states auction off all political seats to the highest bidder.

Wall Street could syndicate deals and sell them to the Chinese. The Israeli lobby would have to pony up big time to keep up with the Saudis. Think of all the corporations that would get into the act. No more chump-change fifty thousand dollar donations buying a congressman. Let them pay full freight and have the market do its magic.

At least we will know who are masters and rulers really are.


Corzine spends more than 2 foes combined

By Cynthia Burton
Inquirer Staff Writer

Gov. Corzine has spent about $23 million - most of it his own money - in his fight for reelection, more than the combined total of his two main competitors, according to campaign finance documents released yesterday.

After spending $60 million on his U.S. Senate race in 2000 and $40 million on his first governor's race in 2005, the former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs & Co. is poised to spend as much as $30 million in this race.

And beyond the candidates' funds, money is pouring in from around the country to fund advertising in the only race that features an incumbent governor. Virginia is the only other state with a governor's race, and Gov. Tim Kaine is prevented by term limits from running.

In New Jersey, polls show Corzine in a dead heat with Republican Christopher J. Christie, who has raised $11.7 million and spent $8.8 million. Independent Chris Daggett has raised $1.3 million and spent $1.2 million.

Daggett and Christie are participating in the state finance program, which limits their spending. They are unable to match the power of Corzine's wallet to buy campaign advertising in a state split between two of the nation's most expensive media markets.

Of the millions Corzine has spent, all but about $1 million has come from his personal fortune.
More here

The State of the Blogoshere with Andrew Breitbart

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finally the US is worried about Chinese military expansion.

It doesn't take much of a military genius to recognize that China is building a worldwide economic system of markets and sources of raw material.

A great worldwide economic power requires the guns and muscle to keep its status, position and property.

China is well on the way to being a major super power. Recall the voices from the not too distant past that poo-pooed the idea of China achieving parity with the US.

Of course that was before we pissed away a few trillion in bad trade deals and military adventures in the FME (formerly known as the ME but more richly deserving of the F bomb appellation).

Well here we are urging the Chinese not to surprise us and please keep us informed. Our urgency will surely impress them.

Don't look for help from anywhere else. It looks like the Indians are throwing in the towel.


US urges China military dialogue BBC

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has called for a lasting dialogue with China's military after meeting a top Chinese general at the Pentagon.

A Pentagon spokesman said Mr Gates told China's Gen Xu Caihou the two sides should "break the on-again, off-again cycle" in their military relationship.

The talks marked the highest bilateral military contact since 2006.

Last year, Beijing halted military dialogue with Washington to protest against US arms sales to Taiwan.
China has also criticised US surveillance of waters off Chinese coast.


"There is a need to break the on-again-off-again cycle of our military-to-military relationship," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, briefing reporters on Mr Gates' talks with Gen Xu, vice-chairman of the People's Liberation Army Central Military Commission.

China has been rapidly expanding its armed forces

In the past, there had been progress "and then there will be a hiccup that will cause there to be a suspension" in military co-operation, Mr Morell said.

The spokesman described the talks as "productive", adding that Mr Gates accepted Gen Xu's invitation to visit China.

Meanwhile, US officials - who were speaking on the condition of anonymity - said Gen Xu was open to boosting military co-operation, but reiterated "obstacles" to deepening ties, such as the presence of US surveillance ships off China's coast.

Speaking earlier this week, Gen Xu said that China did not want "hegemony" or an arms race.
Washington has repeatedly urged China to be more open about its rapidly rising military spending.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan."

WASHINGTON — A former Marine who fought in Iraq, joined the State Department after leaving the military and was a diplomat in a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan has become the first U.S. official to resign in protest of the Afghan war, the Washington Post reported early Tuesday.

Matthew Hoh said he believes the war is simply fueling the insurgency.

I scanned this letter from a pdf using OCR and opened it as a document with Apple Pages. I do not have time to clear the errors but you get the idea:


September 10,2009
Ambassador Nancy J. Powell
Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Ambassador Powell,

It is with great regret and disappointment I submit my resignation from my
appointment as a Political Officer in the Foreign Service and my post as the Senior
Civilian Representative for the US. Government in Zabul Province. I have served
six of the previous ten years in service to our country overseas, to include
deployment as a U.S. Marine officer and Department of Defense civilian in the
Euphrates and Tigris River Valleys of Iraq in 2004-2005 and 2006-2007. I did not
cnler into this position lightly or with any undue expectations nor did I believe my
assignment would be without sacrifice, hardship or difficulty. However, in the
course of my five months of service in Afghanistan, in both Regional Commands
East and South, I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic
purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and
reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my
resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what
end. To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S.
casualties or ell.penditures of resources in sUP)Xlrt of the Afghan government in
what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war.

This fall will mark the eighth year of U.S. combat, governance and
development operations within Afghanistan. Next fall, the United States'
occupation will equal in length the Soviet Union's own physical involvement in
Afghanistan. Like the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state,
while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted
by its people.

If the history of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no
more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only
pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at
least the end of King Zahir Shah's reign, has violently and savagely pitted the

- 2-
urban, secular, educated and modem of Afghanistan against lhe rural, religious,
illiterate and traditional It is this latter group that composes and suppons the
Pashtun insurgency.

The Pashtun insurgency. which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashlun people
as a continued and sustained assault., going back centuries, on Pashtun land,
culture,traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and
NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan
army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and
police, provide an occupation foJ'(:c against which the insurgency isjustified. In
both RC East and South, I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not
for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign
soldiers and taxes imposed by an unreplcsentative government in Kabul.
The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the
legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In a like manner our
backing of the Afghan government in its current fonn continues 10 distance the
government from the people. The Afghan govemment's failings, particularly
when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and dollars, appear legion
and metastatic:

• Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;
• A President whose confidants and chief advisers comprise drug lords
and war crimes villains, who mock our own rule of law and
countemarcotics efforts;
• A system of provincial and distriClleaders constituted of local power
brokers, opportunists and strongmen allied to the United States solely
for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contnlctS and
whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain
from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation; and
• The recent election process dominated by fraud and discredited by
low voter turnout, which has created an enonnous victory for our
enemy who now claims a popular boycott and will call into question
worldwide our government's military, economic and diplomatic
support for an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government.

Our support for this kind of government, coupled with a misu~ing
of me insurgency's true nature, reminds me horribly of our involvement with South
Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the expense of our
Nation's own internal ~ace, against an insurgcncy whose nationalism we
arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology.

- 3 -
I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our
young men and women in Afghanistan. If.honest, our slated strategy of securing
Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to
additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan. Yemen, etc.
OUf prescnce in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in
Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may
lose control of its nuclear weapons. However, again, to follow the logic of our
stated goals we should garrison Pakistan, not Afghanistan. More so, the September
11 th attacks, as well as the Madrid and London bombings, were primarily planned
and organized in Western Europe; a point that highlights the threat is not one tied
to traditional geographic or political boundaries. Finally, if our concern is for a
failed state crippled by cOITUption and poverty and under assault from criminal and
drug lords, then if we bear our military and financial contributions to Afghanistan,
we must reevaluate and increase our commitment to and involvement in Mexico.
Eight years into war, no nation has ever known a more dedicated, well
trained, experienced and disciplined military as the U.S. Anned Forces. I do not
believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and
Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has received in Afghanistan. The tactical
proficiency and perfonnance of our Soldiers, Sailors, Ainnen and Marines is
unmatched and unquestioned. However, this is not the European or Pacific
theaters of World War II, but rather is a war for which our leaders, unifonned,
civilian and elected, have inadequately prepared and resourced OUT men and
women. Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to conflict in an
indefinite and unplanned manner that has become a cavalier, politically expedient
and Pollyannaish misadvenrure. Similarly, the United States has a dedicated and
talented cadre of civilians, both U.S. government employees and contractors, who
believe in and sacrifice for their mission, but have been ineffectually trained and
led with guidance and intent shaped more by the political climate in Washington,
D.C. than in Afghan cities, villages, mountains and valleys.
"We are spending ourselves into oblivion" a very talented and intelligent
commander, one of America's best, briefs every visi tor, staff delegation and senior
officer. We are mortgaging our Nation's economy on a war, which., even with
increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come. Success and victory,
whatever they may be, will be real ized not in years, after billions more spent, but
in decades and generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury
for such success and victory.
---. --------------------------------
I realize the emotion and tone of my letter and ask you excuse any ill
temper. I trust you understand the nature orthis war and the sacrifices made by so
many thousands of families who have been separnted from loved ones deployed in
defense of our Nation and whose homes bear the fractures, upheavals and scars of
mUltiple and compounded deployments. Thousands of our men and women have
returned home with phys ical and mental wounds, some thaI will never heal or will
only worsen with time. The dead retum only in bodily form to be received by
families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for 8 purpose worthy of
futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence
such assurances can anymore be made. As such, I submit my resignation.

Matthew P. Hoh
Senior Civilian Representative
Zabul Province, Afghanistan

cc: Mr. Frank Ruggiero
Ms. Dawn Liberi
Ambassador Anthony Wayne
Ambassador Karl Eikenberry

What exactly is a Smart-Grid?

Obama to Announce $3.4 Billion in Electric ‘Smart-Grid’ Grants

By Nicholas Johnston

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama today will announce $3.4 billion in government grants for equipment to improve the efficiency of the nation’s electrical transmission network.

The grants, ranging in size from $400,000 to $200 million, will be used to develop and install “smart-grid” technology to make electricity transmission more reliable and aid the transmission of energy generated from sources like wind and solar power.

“The current system is outdated and dilapidated,” Carol Browner, the White House’s top energy adviser, said in a conference call with reporters late yesterday. Today’s grants “will give us a transformational impact on how electricity is generated, delivered and consumed,” she said.

The money comes from the $787 billion economic stimulus legislation approved by Congress in February. Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said during the conference call the grants will “save or create tens of thousands” of jobs.

Bernstein said Oct. 15 the stimulus legislation has created or saved about 1 million jobs since it was enacted. The nation’s unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent last month, and the president has said he expects it to exceed 10 percent before it starts coming down.

Solar Power Plant

Obama will announce the grants today in Arcadia, Florida, at one of the nation’s largest solar power generating facilities. Florida Power & Light Co.’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center will generate enough power for 3,000 homes when it is completed.

The president will highlight new technologies to transmit electricity from places like Arcadia, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Tampa, to locations where energy demand is greater.

“Places with either solar or wind aren’t always the most populous areas of the country, and you’ve got to find a vehicle that’s technologically capable of moving clean power to places where the demand is greatest,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling with the president yesterday.

One of the largest grants being announced is $200 million for Constellation Energy Group Inc.’s Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to provide new electric meters to 1.1 million households that will allow real-time monitoring of electricity use and help customers adjust their usage during peak times.

Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will receive $28.1 million to build a wireless system to link the utility’s 1.4 million meters and monitor other equipment across the electrical grid.

The 100 government grants in 49 states are being matched by $4.7 billion in private investments.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Washington at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kill the big banks once and for all?

What good are mega-banks? Who are they good for and could they even exist without overt or virtual government guarantees? Most of them have been used for chop-shops of American industry and issuing financial instruments of mass destruction that no one seems to understand and if they do, they do not seem to be able to explain them to anyone that does not comprehend the financial divining behind them.

If capitalists want to gamble with equity, that is their business , but federally chartered banks, using credit backed by government guarantees have no reason to exist. Gradually withdraw the guarantees and let the bankasaurs sink into the extinction pit.


Wall Street firms should not be called banks, US official says
Head of government insurer says legal constraints on using the word 'bank' needed to dispel confusion

Andrew Clark Guardian

One of America's top financial regulators has suggested that Wall Street institutions should be banned from calling themselves "banks" in an effort to clear a fog of confusion about the word in both political and consumer circles.

Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), suggested that only commercial deposit-taking institutions, where customers' cash is safeguarded by a guarantee, should be permitted to describe themselves as banks.

"Everything gets called a bank these days," Bair told the annual conference of the American Bankers Association. "Wall Street firms, mortgage firms ... Maybe there should be some legal constraints on who should call themselves banks – maybe only FDIC insured institutions should have that label."

Such a definition would exclude the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which do not take consumer deposits but often describe themselves as investment banks. It would also leave out thousands of "mortgage banks" that typically act as go-betweens linking consumer and secondary financial markets.

An annual gathering of banking chief executives, held in Chicago this year, has been greeted with protests organised by unions furious at irresponsible lending, home foreclosures and bailouts.

Several hundred demonstrators wielding placards with slogans such as "stop robber barons" and "hold banks accountable" rallied outside the Sheraton hotel, where the financial bosses were gathering. Amid tight security, activists tried to get into an opening drinks reception on Sunday evening but were kept back by police. Protests were also staged at the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs. The American Bankers Association includes JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup. But it argues that the majority of its members are community banks which should not be blamed for the ills of Wall Street.

"The financial crisis is unfortunately often referred to as a banking crisis," said Edward Yingling, chief executive of the association, adding high-profile failures such as AIG, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not banks.

More than 100 smaller banks have been seized by regulators in the US this year, with the FDIC stepping in to safeguard customers' deposits. Many industry regulators argue that large institutions, too, should be allowed to fail rather than being bailed out by the government.

Bair said the concept of banks becoming "too big to fail" had become a moral hazard following aid to keep firms such as Citigroup and Bank of America afloat, and that the government ought to develop a way of winding down unviable firms in a sensible manner. He added that there was a growing political consensus between Republicans and Democrats on this.

3 US choppers down in Afghanistan

US: 14 Americans killed in 2 helicopter crashes

The Associated Press
Monday, October 26, 2009; 5:24 AM

KABUL -- The U.S. military says 14 Americans have been killed in a series of helicopter crashes in Afghanistan.

A U.S. statement says seven U.S. troopers and three U.S. civilians working for the government died when their helicopter went down early Monday in western Afghanistan. Twelve Americans and 14 Afghans were injured.

Also Monday, two U.S. helicopters collided in southern Afghanistan, killing four American troops and wounding two others.

U.S. authorities have ruled out hostile fire in the collision but have not given a cause for the other crash. The Taliban say they shot down a helicopter in Badghis province of northwestern Afghanistan but it was unclear if this is the same incident.

The beat goes on for troops on the ground.

"Iran is our friend"

So it goes in Iran. They Iranians appear to have supporters in Russia, China and Turkey. Turkey is turning against Israel. You don't have to be weatherman to see which way the wind blows.


'Iran is our friend,' says Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

• We have no difficulty with Ahmadinejad – Erdogan
• Warning to Europe not to ignore Turkey's strengths
The Guardian

With its stunning vistas and former Ottoman palaces, the banks of the Bosphorus – the strategic waterway that cuts Istanbul in half and divides Europe from Asia – may be the perfect place to distinguish friend from foe and establish where your country's interests lie.

And sitting in his grandiose headquarters beside the strait, long the symbol of Turkey's supposed role as bridge between east and west, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had little doubt about who was a friend and who wasn't.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's radical president whose fiery rhetoric has made him a bĂȘte noire of the west? "There is no doubt he is our friend," said Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister for the last six years. "As a friend so far we have very good relations and have had no difficulty at all."

What about Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, who has led European opposition to Turkey's bid to join the EU and, coincidentally, adopted a belligerent tone towards Iran's nuclear programme? Not a friend?

"Among leaders in Europe there are those who have prejudices against Turkey, like France and Germany. Previously under Mr Chirac, we had excellent relations [with France] and he was very positive towards Turkey. But during the time of Mr Sarkozy, this is not the case. It is an unfair attitude. The European Union is violating its own rules.

"Being in the European Union we would be building bridges between the 1.5bn people of Muslim world to the non-Muslim world. They have to see this. If they ignore it, it brings weakness to the EU."

Friendly towards a religious theocratic Iran, covetous and increasingly resentful of a secular but maddeningly dismissive Europe: it seems the perfect summary of Turkey's east-west dichotomy.

Erdogan's partiality towards Ahmadinejad may surprise some in the west who see Turkey as a western-oriented democracy firmly grounded inside Nato. It has been a member of the alliance since 1952. It will be less surprising to Erdogan's secular domestic critics, who believe the prime minister's heart lies in the east and have long suspected his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development party (AKP) government of plotting to transform Turkey into a religious state resembling Iran.

Erdogan vigorously denies the latter charge, but to his critics he and Ahmadinejad are birds of a feather: devout religious conservatives from humble backgrounds who court popular support by talking the language of the street. After Ahmadinejad's disputed presidential election in June, Erdogan and his ally, the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, were among the first foreign leaders to make congratulatory phone calls, ignoring the mass demonstrations and concerns of western leaders over the result's legitimacy.

Talking to the Guardian, Erdogan called the move a "necessity of bilateral relations". "Mr Ahmadinejad was declared to be the winner, not officially, but with a large vote difference, and since he is someone we have met before, we called to congratulate him," he said.

"Later it was officially declared that he was elected, he got a vote of confidence and we pay special attention to something like this. It is a basic principle of our foreign policy."

The gesture will be remembered when Erdogan arrives in Tehran this week for talks with Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, that will focus on commercial ties, including Turkey's need for Iranian natural gas. Ahmadinejad has voiced his admiration for Erdogan, praising Turkey's recent decision to ban Israel from a planned Nato manoeuvre in protest at last winter's bombardment of Gaza.

Since the election, Iran has witnessed a fierce crackdown on opposition figures that has resulted in activists, students and journalists being imprisoned and publicly tried. Detainees have died in prison, and there have been allegations of torture and rape. Some of those alleging mistreatment have sought refuge in Turkey.

But Erdogan said he would not raise the post-election crackdown with his hosts, saying it would represent "interference" in Iranian domestic affairs.

He poured cold water on western accusations that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, saying: "Iran does not accept it is building a weapon. They are working on nuclear power for the purposes of energy only."

Erdogan has overseen a dramatic improvement in the previously frigid relations between Turkey and Iran, which was viewed with suspicion by the pro-secularist high command of the powerful Turkish military. Trade between the two countries last year was worth an estimated £5.5bn as Iran has developed into a major market for Turkish exports.

Erdogan's views will interest US foreign policy makers, who have long seen his AKP government as a model of a pro-western "moderate Islam" that could be adopted in other Muslim countries. They will also find an audience with President Barack Obama, who signalled Turkey's strategic importance in a visit last April and has invited the prime minister to visit Washington. They are unlikely to impress Israel, which has warned that Erdogan's criticisms risk harming Turkey's relations with the US.

Erdogan dismissed the notion, saying: "I don't think there is any possibility of that. America's policy in this region is not dictated by Israel."

He insisted that the Turkey-Israel strategic alliance – which some AKP insiders have said privately is over – remains alive but chided the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who he said had threatened to use nuclear weapons against Gaza.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baghdad twin suicide bombing horror

Twin car bombings kill 90 in central Baghdad
By Ammar Karim (AFP) – 3 hours ago

BAGHDAD — Twin suicide car bombs blamed on Al-Qaeda blasted the justice ministry and a provincial office in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 90 people and sparking turmoil in the embattled Iraqi capital.

Around 600 people were wounded in the near-simultaneous attacks at around 10:30 am (0730 GMT), which left streets littered with charred bodies and torn-off limbs.

The blasts, which the government said had Al-Qaeda's "signature", destroyed dozens of cars and shattered water pipes, spewing dirty water into the bloodied streets.

Authorities closed off roads leading to the bomb sites as fire trucks and ambulances struggled through thick traffic to reach the blazing buildings.

One of the attacks occurred at a busy intersection near the justice and municipalities ministries while the other was opposite the nearby Baghdad provincial government offices in Salhiyeh neighbourhood.

At least 90 people were killed and almost 600 injured, according to a tally of tolls from four hospitals in central Baghdad -- Al-Karama, Ibn Nafis, Medical City and Yarmuk.

Shortly after the attacks, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited the site of the Salhiyeh bombing, where he spoke to officials and security officers but made no statement.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement the attacks could be targeting upcoming parliamentary elections in January, and added that they have "the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda and its allies."

Haidar Assem, an employee of the ministry of municipalities, said he awoke to find himself in Al-Karama hospital, his head bandaged and his shirt covered in blood.

"I was busy working when there was a massive explosion," said the 30-year-old engineer. "My colleagues fell down all around me, the office became completely dark and then I found myself in the hospital."

Thick smoke billowed over the stricken area and fires could be seen from two buildings whose windows had been shattered by the force of the blasts.

Rescue workers in Salhiyeh had to cover dead bodies in blankets before picking them up because they were too hot to touch, an AFP correspondent said.

Firemen meanwhile were using their trucks' ladders to reach the upper floors of the ministries, fearing that many dead and wounded could be trapped.

Several helicopters were flying over the area and dozens of humvees were lining the streets around the bomb sites.

The explosions were a grim reminder of deadly truck bombings which shook the ministries of foreign affairs and finance on August 19, in which around 100 people were killed.

Baghdad blamed those attacks on supporters of the Baath party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, whom it claims were given safe haven in neighbouring Syria.

The incident saw a dramatic deterioration of ties between the neighbouring countries, with Maliki throwing fuel on the fire by alleging that 90 percent of foreign militants who infiltrate Iraq do so via Syria.

Talks between officials of the two countries brokered by Turkey have failed to defuse tensions, with Iraqi officials accusing their Syrian counterparts of "lack of seriousness."

Sunday's twin bombings came as Iraqi political leaders were to meet to try to end a deadlock over a stalled election law amid growing concerns that the country's January 16 election will have to be delayed.

The meeting was scheduled to take place at 3:30 pm (1230 GMT). There was no immediate information as to whether the meeting would go ahead as planned.

Lieutenant General Ali Ghaidan Majeed, commander of Iraqi ground forces, cautioned in an interview with AFP on Saturday that the coming months could see an upswing in violence ahead of the January polls.

He said security would likely only stabilise by the middle of next year after a transfer of power to a new government.

"I am concerned that between now ... and July 2010, basically throughout the election and after with the transfer from the old government to the new government, maybe you will see terrorist activities increase," he said.

Attacks have dropped dramatically compared to a year ago -- violent deaths in September were the lowest since May -- but remain high by international standards.

However insurgents are still able to mount high-profile attacks, especially in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, which kill dozens.

Everybody does it

Will the Foxcapade stop the leg-tingling?

His Smugness, the increasingly loathsome and transparently phony community organizer, and favorite son of Kenya.

October 24, 2009
Media Discovering that Obama Balloon a Hoax
Monte Kuligowski American Thinker

It was a tremendous run in voyeurism while it lasted. It was big and shiny and puffed up and filled with hot air. It rose quickly and soared high and far. It was larger than life. But it couldn’t stay afloat forever. The Obama image was put together with duct tape and glue. It was a complete fabrication. It is now deflating and heading to earth. Soon it will be discovered that it was empty -- that the entire image was a fraud.

The image was that of a post-partisan, post-racial, post-divisive, really nice guy.

But it is becoming clear that those adjectives don’t really apply to the man found hiding in the attic.

In keeping with the Heene saga what remains is for a teary-eyed David Axelrod to tell reporters that they should have seen the signs all along.

If not for the Obama mania, the soaring rhetoric, the messianic frenzy, the tingling legs, the false hope, the thronging, the fainting, the gushing, the emotionalism, the fawning, the hype, the rapture, the delusion, etc., the news reporters would have noticed.

They should have noticed that the man didn’t come out of Middle America, but out of the crooked streets of Chicago-machine politics. They should have noticed his associates were not exactly normal Americans. They should have noticed it wasn’t guilt by association, but guilt by associating. They should have noticed that remaining in Jeremiah Wright’s racist, divisive, anti-American church for 20 years was simply not reasonable. They should have noticed the countless, wonderful black churches across America that have nothing to do with “black liberation theology” and vile divisiveness.

They should have found out what “community organizing” really meant. They should have connected the dots from Saul Alinsky to ACORN to Obama.

They should have noticed the scandalous amount of money Obama funneled to ACORN during the campaign. They should have noticed the unprecedented voter registration fraud during the election.

They should have noticed a whole lot of things which revealed a controlling and destructive profile; but they were blinded by their own predetermined idea that Obama was the perfect candidate.

Many downcast conservatives thought “mainstream” journalists would never notice the past and present signs. But Obama’s Hugo-Chavez-style treatment of Fox News has opened eyes in a way Sean Hannity could never have dreamed of. It was too dictatorial for even the mainstream media to ignore.

Mr. Obama’s brass knuckles attempt to ban Fox News from the White House Press Pool just might be the single factor that tips the scales toward honest journalistic investigation of the One.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Return and Triumph of King Dollar

Dollar hegemony for another century

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Economics Last updated: October 21st, 2009

Let me stick my neck out.

The dollar will still be the world’s dominant reserve currency in 2030, sharing a degree of leadership in uneasy condominium with the Chinese yuan. It will then regain much of its hegemonic status as the 21st century unfolds. It may indeed end the century even stronger than it was at the start.

The aging crisis in Asia — and indeed the outright demographic implosion in Japan and China, not to mention China’s water crisis — will soon be obvious to everybody. Talk of Oriental supremacy will start to sound overblown at first, and then preposterous.

Japan is about to go bankrupt. It is on the cusp of a fiscal crisis that will change perceptions of Asia dramatically. The IMF says gross public debt will reach 218pc of GDP this year. This is compounding very fast. It will be 246pc in 2014.

The Hatoyama government is spending as if there is no tomorrow. It plans to issue ¥50 trillion or $550bn in fresh bonds. I have no idea when this will spiral out of control. It could take another two or three years. It could start next week. Yes, I know that Japan has been borrowing merrily at ever lower rates for 20 years without the sky falling. The 10-year yield is 1.3pc. What happens when it rises to global levels of 3pc to 4pc? People made the same sort of arguments about the global boom before it suddenly tipped over.

This blog does not attempt market timing, nor does it offer investment advice. But I am absolutely certain that pundits consigning the dollar to its death have missed an even more dramatic currency and debt story in Japan. The yen will top ¥200 to the dollar before this is over. Jim O’Neill from Goldman Sachs has already begun to hint at this.

Apologies to readers who feel confused about my view on the dollar. I have written a string of NEWS pieces over recent weeks quoting the currency experts and Asian officials slamming America, or exploring the dollar demise thesis.

People assume that I share these views. I do not. Furthermore, I suspect that at least some of China’s grumbling about the dollar slide over recent months has been a ruse to lower the yuan (pegged to the dollar of course) against the euro, yen, and even sterling. The goal is to protect export margins. (Surely premier Wen Jiabao knows that China’s $1.6 trillion or so invested in US bonds is a sunk cost. Forget about it. The holdings are the consequence of their own currency manipulation in the first place.)

The fact that Asian central banks are accumulating $600bn or more a year in reserves by running huge trade surpluses is proof enough that their (mostly rigged) currencies are undervalued by 30pc to 40pc against the West. To that extent, I agree entirely with HSBC currency guru David Bloom that this is untenable. If these countries continue to resist currency appreciation they will overheat and succumb to asset bubbles — if they haven’t already in China.

Where I am less sure is that this will necessarily be resolved by a falling dollar. The evidence so far is that Asia will put off the day of adjustment as long as possible because they are addicted to mercantilist export strategies — and export oligarchs control the political systems (bar Japan). In which case they will lose competitive edge the old-fashioned way, by wage inflation for year after year until the world comes back into alignment. If so, the dollar will not fall at all. It may rise.

Nor do I really agree that this is in essence a story of the two sick sisters: Britain and the US.
They are certainly sick. But as readers know, I think much of Europe is equally sick — Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, the Baltics, are even sicker — even if the lag-times are longer. The IMF keeps telling us that Europe has failed to come clean on its bank losses. Germany’s BaFin regulator says the same thing. Are they wrong?
It all has echoes of the early 1930s when the Anglo-Saxons were crushed in the first two to three years, and the French bloc was crushed over the subsequent three years. What goes around, comes around.

Charles Dumas from Lombard Street Research says Washington must be chuckling as the weak dollar gives it time to rebuild America’s industrial core. The “inflationistas” — ie, those convinced that the dollar is being debauched despite the fact that core inflation in the US is falling and that the M3 money supply is contracting — are playing straight into the hands of the United States.

Nobel Laureate Gary Becker told me a few weeks ago that America’ spectacular gains in productivity – growing at a trend rate of 2.25pc to 2.5pc — is laying the foundation for a much stronger US recovery in the long-term than most people seem to realize. Compare that with 0pc to 1pc for the eurozone. In Italy it is negative.
The UN expects America to add roughly 100m people by 2050, keeping its age balance in relatively good shape through a mix of immigration and a healthy fertility rate — now 2.12 live births per woman, still above replacement level. This compares to: Taiwan (1.13), Korea (1.2), Japan (1.22), Ukraine (1.25), Poland (1.27), Spain (1.3), Italy (1.3), Russia (1.4), Germany (1.41), China (1.77), Britain (1.96), and France (1.98). Some of this data may be slightly out of date, but the picture remains valid.

Professor Becker said a collapsing birth rate is extremely hard to reverse, and the cultural effects are insidious. Old societies are status quo. They are slow to embrace new technologies. Young minds are the source of hi-tech invention.

The EU is fully aware of the danger. “What is at risk in the medium to long run is nothing less than the sustainability of the society Europe has built and the viability of its civilisation,” said an EU report (initially suppressed) by former Dutch premier Wim Kok as long ago as 2004. Nothing has been done since despite endless warnings from the Commission.

China’s work force will peak in absolute terms in six years, and then go into sharp decline. I have no idea how people square this with claims that China will soon replace the US as world hegemon. The stark reality is that China will hit a Japanese-style demographic crunch before it becomes rich. Sheer size will give it weight. But mastery?

Of course, if the US were stupid enough to enact the 10-year spending plans projected by the White House — with a deficit of $1.9 trillion in 2019 on Congressional Budget Office estimates — the country will be ruined. I do not think America has so far lost its senses that it will commit suicide in this fashion. In any case, the bond markets will react long before we get there. They will force a change in policy. That change will imply higher US savings, and less import growth. The export surplus powers that live off America’s market are going to take it on the chin.
At the end of the day, America is a unified nation forged by wars, under the rule of law, with a (largely) unifying language and patriotic creed, and one of the oldest and most deeply-rooted democracies in the world. As the Supreme Court demonstrated during Watergate, it can break presidents who violate the law.

It is often stated that a currency reflects the strength of an economy over time. Actually, it reflects the strength of a society. Who really thinks that Europe’s old-aged home is a better bet than America, even if they can hold the euro together as the gap widens further between Germania and Club Med? Or thinks that China’s half-reformed Communist regime is ready for global leadership. Remember the little girl in a red dress with pigtails who `lip-synched’ the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics? Believe what you will.

The New Whirled Disorder

In the chaos of a kill, while the startled stampede, scavengers lurk in the dark periphery seeking to capitalize on the carnage.

Oil holds above $81 as global economy recovers

Oct 23, 8:41 AM (ET)


Oil prices held above $81 a barrel Friday, just below a one-year high, as signs the global economic recovery is gathering pace fueled investor optimism.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for December delivery was up 8 cents to $81.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 18 cents to settle at $81.19 on Thursday.

Investors have taken heart from evidence that recovery from the global recession is gathering pace. China said Thursday that its economy grew 8.9 percent in the third quarter, building on recent improvements in industrial production, retail sales and commodity imports.

"So far the path of recovery has surprised to the upside," Barclays Capital said in a report. "The groundwork for a sustainable move into higher price ranges has been laid."

Crude traders are also eyeing gains on global stock markets, which tend to reflect overall investor sentiment. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 1.3 percent on Thursday and most Asian and European indexes rose Friday.

Prices soared to $82 a barrel earlier this week, the highest since October 2008, from $32 in December.

Many analysts have been warning for the past weeks that the current rally has been driven not by fundamental factors like supply and demand but by the position of the dollar against other currencies and trading related to speculative positions.

As the dollar falls, commodities like oil and gold - which are priced in dollars - become cheaper.

Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzerland said that higher oil prices could motivate some producers to increase output, adding supply to an already glutted market.

"It is difficult to call the top in a market that is under the influence of the dollar ... but the higher the prices go now, the higher the risk of more supply coming on top of still large stock layers," Jakob said.

On Friday, the euro was up to $1.5041 from $1.5026 late Thursday in New York, although the dollar was slightly stronger against the British pound and the Japanese yen.

The euro broke above the psychologically important level of $1.50 on Wednesday for the first time in more than a year.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil was down 0.41 cent to $2.0905 a gallon. Gasoline for November delivery lost 0.09 cent to $2.0433 a gallon, while natural gas for November delivery jumped 4.2 cents to $4.993 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for December delivery rose 16 cents to $79.67 on the ICE Futures exchange.

One year after the whirl's economic collapse and a 77% tumble in oil prices, we stumble in the dark.

Despite the loss of an estimated $6 trillion in wealth, market hyenas and jackals prey on what remains of the whirl's liquid assets. Compounding the misery, other night creatures of humanity have come from the far corners of darkness. Sensing opportunity, the bitter branch of mankind, (the socialists, the anarchists, the anti-capitalists) has renewed it's eternal efforts to impose it's dysfunctional, malcontent view of society. The whirled is in a dark place of chaos and uncertainty stumbling on a rocky path to a still unknown "new normal".

Welcome to the
New Whirled Disorder.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Night at the Elephant Bar

Keep your fingers crossed

It looks as if the "militants" in Pakistan are overreaching. With any luck, we've reached a turning point in Pakistan:

Pakistan militants hit air force base
By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer Chris Brummitt, Associated Press Writer 19 mins ago

ISLAMABAD – A suicide bomber on a bicycle attacked a major Pakistani air base on Friday, killing seven people in an escalating campaign that strikes at the heart of this nuclear-armed nation's security forces.

The strike was one of three bombings in northwest Pakistan that killed 24 people and wounded at least 28 as the army pushed a seven-day offensive deeper into al-Qaida and Taliban territory close to the Afghan border.

About 200 people have been killed this month in a string of militant attacks on military, police and civilian targets nationwide. The onslaught is undermining confidence in the U.S-backed government and risks sapping public support for the assault in South Waziristan.

The civilian government and politically powerful military are under intense international pressure to root out Islamist militants that are also blamed for rising attacks on U.S. and NATO troops across the frontier in Afghanistan.
Hopefully, the Pakis have determined that the Islamic threat is real. Before, they showed less than desirable resolve when it came to doing the hard work of waging a sustained and real war against their bad guys. As soon as they took too many casualties, they backed off and tried to make deals. Maybe, this time will be different. If it is, and the Pakis press the offensive, we could finally see some progress in Afghanistan. But don't be surprised if the UN tries to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by calling for cessation and peace talks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

US Security needs are closer than Afghanistan; Take Mexico for starters.


Someone please explain to me why the murdering by Mexican drug gangs on the US border is less important than the murdering by the drugged up Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan, land-locked, half a planet away.



Mexican city sees record murders

The murder rate in Ciudad Juarez on the Mexico-US border has reached an all-time high amid battles between rival drug cartels, Mexican officials say.

Up to mid-October, there were 1,986 killings in Juarez on the US-Mexico border - 815 more than last year.

The drug cartels are fighting to control smuggling routes into the US but also the city's own drug market.

Thousands of troops have been deployed in Juarez and across Mexico since late 2006 to try to tackle the drug gangs.

The murder rate for 2009 in Ciudad Juarez, a city of some 1.5 million people, is averaging about seven a day.
So far this month there have been 195 killings alone, officials said.

The upsurge in murders in Juarez is a result of an escalating turf war between the Sinaloa cartel, run by Mexico's most-wanted man Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and the Juarez cartel, according to Victor Valencia, the public security secretary in the state of Chihuahua.

Booming market

Ciudad Juarez is located just over the border from El Paso, Texas, and has for years been one of the main transit points for cocaine passing from Mexico into the US.

The city also has a booming market in domestic drug consumption, which the two drug gangs would like to control, says the BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Mexico City.

Before the escalation in violence, Juarez had a murder rate of around 200 a year, comparable to El Paso.
Now, our correspondent says, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

In late 2006, President Felipe Calderon began deploying extra security forces in attempt to take on the drug gangs. To date, some 45,000 troops and federal police have been sent to key areas.

This includes Juarez, where earlier this year several thousand troops were deployed in a attempt to contain the fighting.

Cheney Hammers Obama on National Security

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vintage Bernie Madoff, fraudster and kinkster

Lawsuit details Madoff's bottom-bunk prison life
By JENNIFER PELTZ (AP) – 8 hours ago

NEW YORK — Fallen financier Bernard Madoff has plunged from his Manhattan penthouse to the lower bunk of a cell he shares with a drug offender at a federal prison, where he eats pizza cooked by a child molester and hangs around with a mob boss and a convicted spy, according to legal papers filed Tuesday.

The snapshot of Madoff's prison life — and a contrasting picture of a former high-flying life laced with cocaine and salacious parties — are in a legal complaint filed by Burlingame, Calif.-based lawyer Joseph Cotchett, who represents about a dozen victims of Madoff's massive investment Ponzi scheme. Cotchett interviewed Madoff in July at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex near Raleigh, N.C.

The lawyer found the mastermind of one of history's largest financial frauds now reduced to nighttime walks around a prison track for fun, according to the new filing. It builds on one investor's existing civil case against various Madoff associates and financial institutions; the suit claims they were complicit in Madoff's fraud or should have stopped it. Madoff has consistently said he acted alone.

When not rubbing elbows with drug and sex offenders, Madoff spends time with Carmine Persico, a reputed Colombo crime family boss, and Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of selling military secrets to Israel more than two decades ago, according to the lawsuit.

Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, declined to discuss his client's prison life or the lawsuit's allegations about shenanigans in his former office. Telephones for spokespeople for the Federal Bureau of Prisons rang unanswered Tuesday night; the agency's records do show Pollard and Persico are housed at Butner.

The lawsuit goes to length to compare Madoff's prison existence with his deluxe former life, including photos of his yacht and homes and claims that he ran an office rife with drug use and sexual escapades.

According to the allegations — their source isn't specified — Madoff deployed an employee and to get drugs from 1975 to 2003, fueling an office so cocaine-laden insiders dubbed it "the North Pole." Office parties featured topless waitresses, employee affairs were common and Madoff kept a list of his favorite pretty masseuses in his personal phone book, the lawsuit said, claiming investors' money helped pay for it all.

"Employees described it as a wild, fast-talking, drug-using office culture," said the complaint. It says its various allegations are based in part on interviews with other unnamed people besides Madoff.

Madoff, 71, is serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty in March to a scheme that authorities say cost thousands of investors at least $13 billion.

The lawsuit doesn't detail his talk with Cotchett. The lawyer previously said the one-time Nasdaq market chairman repeatedly apologized for the harm he caused victims.