02/17/2012 archive

Greasy Thugs

The fact-

Because of the world-wide economic downturn Oil Inventories are at historic highs.

Also a fact-

Prices keep rising.

Now when there is a disconnect of this type between supply and demand even the most Freshwater of Economists start looking at the actions of the market and market actors for a rational explanation of this mis-allocation of economic resources.

In this particular case we don’t have too far to look.

The system is flooded with money.  The intention is that it be invested in productive activity with modest rates of return on investment.  The Banksters on the other hand are invested in speculative activities that have aberrational and unsustainable rates of return.  Because of these expectations and the amount of “liquidity” we are seeing commodity bubbles as money rushes from this to that flavor of the week seeking economically unjustifiable “profits”.  This can’t last and it hasn’t.

The .01% are going to have to cash out their losings at some point and realize their hair has been cut, because they have all the money.  You can’t get blood from a turnip.

Rising Oil prices will decline sometime soon.  Unfortunately probably not before they depress the Main Street Economy the rest of us use.

Don’t Blame Iran

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Moochers Against Welfare

First, Atlas shrugged. Then he scratched his head in puzzlement.

Modern Republicans are very, very conservative; you might even (if you were Mitt Romney) say, severely conservative. Political scientists who use Congressional votes to measure such things find that the current G.O.P. majority is the most conservative since 1879, which is as far back as their estimates go.

And what these severe conservatives hate, above all, is reliance on government programs. Rick Santorum declares that President Obama is getting America hooked on “the narcotic of dependency.” Mr. Romney warns that government programs “foster passivity and sloth.” Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, requires that staffers read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which heroic capitalists struggle against the “moochers” trying to steal their totally deserved wealth, a struggle the heroes win by withdrawing their productive effort and giving interminable speeches.

Timothy Egan: The Electoral Wasteland

In barely a century’s time, the population of the United States has more than tripled, to 313 million. We are a clattering, opinionated cluster of nearly all the world’s races and religions, and many of its languages, under one flag.

You would not know any of this looking at who is voting in one of the strangest presidential primary campaigns in history. There is no other way to put this without resorting to demographic bluntness: the small fraction of Americans who are trying to pick the Republican nominee are old, white, uniformly Christian and unrepresentative of the nation at large.

None of that is a surprise. But when you look at the numbers, it’s stunning how  little this Republican primary electorate resembles the rest of the United States.  They are much closer to the population of 1890 than of 2012.

Ben Adler: Rich Republicans Say Birth Control Is Cheap

At the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, Ann Coulter mocked the Obama administration for requiring health insurance to cover birth control by saying “birth control costs $20 a month; an abortion is $400 or $500 at the most, you don’t get insurance for that.” First of all, Coulter is wrong, or lying. Perhaps she’s never been without insurance herself and she doesn’t understand the difference between a co-payment and what something costs without birth control. Twenty dollars per month might be what one pays for the pill with insurance. Without it, you can pay over $100. This is, in other words, precisely what you have insurance for.

Lois Utley: Employees Need Birth Control Coverage Mandate

For the women employed by the former Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, Michigan, last week’s news couldn’t have been better. President Obama’s announcement that Catholic hospitals and educational institutions must provide contraceptive coverage to employees should mean those women will finally be getting back the insurance coverage for birth control they lost in 2007, when their hospital merged with a nearby Catholic hospital. That is, unless the Catholic Bishops and their allies in Congress succeed in unraveling the birth control coverage mandate for the hospital’s employees and millions of other American women.

Just as the Bishops had demanded, Obama announced that Catholic hospitals, colleges and social services agencies would not have to pay for contraceptive coverage for their employees. Instead, under what Obama characterized as an “accommodation,” the hospitals’ insurance companies would be required to offer the coverage at no extra charge to employees and their dependents. Insurers are expected to be willing to pay the birth control cost, since they save money by avoiding more costly pregnancy care.

Eugene Robinson: Pay Close Attention to China

China, for better or worse, is a serious country. The United States had better start acting like one.

I got a glimpse of the future Wednesday in the vast ballroom of a Washington hotel where hundreds of august dignitaries-and some journalists as well-gathered at a luncheon in honor of Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to become China’s top leader after a year-long transition.

Xi’s status is such that he was introduced by no less than Henry Kissinger, who spoke, not for the first time, of the Nixon-to-China breakthrough four decades ago. It is useful to remember that the country we now think of as a trillion-dollar creditor and the manufacturer of iPads was once a Maoist bastion, hermetically sealed against the capitalist influences of the Western world.

Richard Reeves: Comes the Revolution

LOS ANGELES-Andrew Breitbart, the publisher of Breitbart.com and a couple of other popular websites, set the tone for a program at the University of Southern California last Wednesday by calling George Stephanopoulus of ABC News a little rat with a runny nose.

He continued by equating mainstream newspapers and television news, National Public Radio, Hollywood and American universities with totalitarians around the world, citing Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, cultural Marxism and storm troopers.

He was joined by Jon Fleischman, founder of FlashReport.org, a popular website out here that aggregates and reports on California politics, government and cultural life. He offered the opinion that “President Obama represents the abyss. He is taking us over the socialist cliff.”

On This Day In History February 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 17 is the 48th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 317 days remaining until the end of the year (318 in leap years).

On this day in 1904,  Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy.

The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906). Not one of these, however, was an immediate success when it opened. La Boheme, the now-classic story of a group of poor artists living in a Paris garret, earned mixed reviews, while Tosca was downright panned by critics.

Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Puccini based his opera in part on the short story “Madame Butterfly” (1898) by John Luther Long, which was dramatized by David Belasco. Puccini also based it on the novel Madame Chrysantheme (1887) by Pierre Loti. According to one scholar, the opera was based on events that actually occurred in Nagasaki in the early 1890s.

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on February 17, 1904, at La Scala in Milan. It was very poorly received despite the presence of such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in the lead roles. This was due in large part to the late completion and inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting the second act into two acts and making other changes. On May 28, 1904, this version was performed in Brescia and was a huge success.

The opera is set in the city of Nagasaki. Japan’s best-known opera singer Tamaki Miura won international fame for her performances as Cio-Cio San; her statue, along with that of Puccini, can be found in Nagasaki’s Glover Garden.

Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire for companies around the world and it is the most-performed opera in the United States, where it ranks as Number 1 in Opera America’s list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

You’re Only A Terrorist When We Say So

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. ~ Arabian Proverb

Since 9/11, one of the more interesting stories to emerge in recent years about terrorist organizations and the ubiquitous War on Terror has been the not so secret bipartisan relationship and support of American politicians and high ranking government officials with the Iranian terrorist organization, MEK, Mujahedin-e Khalq. So just what is MEK:

Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) is the largest and most militant group opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Also known as the People’s Mujahadeen Organization of Iran, MEK is led by husband and wife Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. MEK was added to the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist groups in 1997 and to the European Union’s terrorist list in 2002 because its attacks have often killed civilians.

MEK was founded in 1963 by a group of college-educated Iranian leftists, supporters of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and opposed to the country’s pro-Western ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group participated in the 1979 Islamic revolution that replaced the shah with a Shiite Islamist regime led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. But MEK’s ideology, a blend of Marxism, feminism, and Islamism, put it at odds with the post-revolutionary government, and its original leadership was soon executed by the Khomeini regime. In 1981, the group was driven from its bases on the Iran-Iraq border and resettled in Paris, where it began supporting Iraq in its eight-year war against Khomeini’s Iran. In 1986, after France recognized the Iranian regime, MEK moved its headquarters to Iraq, which used MEK to harass neighboring Iran. MEK maintained its headquarters in Iraq until the American invasion in 2003 when many members surrendered their weapons.

Under US law it is a felony to provide any “material support” to a terrorist organization but this high profile group has received large fees and passionate support in recent years without the Justice Department so much as blinking. The list includes such luminaries as Republicans Michael Mukasey, Fran Townsend, Andy Card, Tom Ridge, Rudy Giuliani and Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark. The meetings first came to light in December, 2010 when “America’s Mayor” Rudolph “9/11” Guiliani, along with former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris to speak in support of the group. As Glenn Greenwald points out, “there are several remarkable aspects to this story”:

The first is that there are numerous Muslims inside the U.S. who have been prosecuted for providing “material support for Terrorism” for doing far less than these American politicians are publicly doing on behalf of a designated Terrorist group. [..]

Yet here we have numerous American political figures receiving substantial fees from a group which is legally designated under American law as a Terrorist organization. [..]

If we had anything even remotely approaching equal application of the law, Dean, Giuliani, Townsend and the others would be facing prosecution as Terrorist-helpers.

Glenn’s next questions are “How has this rag-tag Terrorist cult of Iranian dissidents, who are largely despised in Iran, able to fund such expensive campaigns and to keep U.S. officials on its dole?” and why. An NBC News report by Richard Engel and Robert Windrem helped shed some light on this:

Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders. [..]

The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement. [..]

“The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel.  “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information.  And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”

Moreover, he said, the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, is training MEK members in Israel on the use of motorcycles and small bombs.  In one case, he said, Mossad agents built a replica of the home of an Iranian nuclear scientist so that the assassins could familiarize themselves with the layout prior to the attack. [..]

Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News  the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.”  All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.

As it has in the past, Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment. Said a spokesman, “As long as we can’t see all the evidence being claimed by NBC, the Foreign Ministry won’t react to every gossip and report being published worldwide.”

For its part, the MEK pointed to a statement calling the allegations “absolutely false.”

Glenn concluded that besides the fact that those who are politically and financially well-connected are free to commit even the most egregious crimes, this “love affair” with MEK underscores how meaningless term “terrorism” is:

it’s just a cynical term designed to delegitimize violence and even political acts undertaken by America’s enemies while shielding from criticism the actual Terrorism undertaken by itself and its allies. The spectacle whereby a designated Terrorist group can pay top American politicians to advocate for them even as they engage in violent Terrorist acts, all while being trained, funded and aided by America’s top client state, should forever end the controversy over that glaringly obvious proposition.

MEK has been attempting to present itself as the sole legitimate opposition to the Iranian regime, going so far as to claim that they are the Green Movement or the government in exile, which the Green Movement denies and a very aggressive and organized lobby effort in Washington D.C. It has obviously found support from anti-Muslims and those politicians who would like nothing more than a war with Iran.