Shocked and Persuaded


Separating Fact From Fiction

Back Off Westboro Baptist Church

Last year we had a group of visitors here in Burlington from Topeka, Kansas affiliated with Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church. For those not familiar this group you may be familiar with some of their pleasant slogans such as “God Hates Fags”, “Thank God For Dead Soldiers”, “Thank God for 9/11”, “Thank God for IEDs”, “Fags are Beasts, “God Hates Jews”, “Fags Doom Nations”, etc, etc. The list is long and oh so thoughtful. When this group came to Burlington they brought with them their signs and their children to protest Vermont being “most ‘gay’ friendly spot in DOOMED america.” This was not the first time they visited little ol’ Vermont they came a couple of years earlier to spew nonsense during the funeral of a Richmond man killed in Iraq by one of those IEDs they like to scream about so much.

During their most recent visit the anti-Westboro contingent was large, persistent, and peaceful following them from Montpelier to Burlington and all around town just letting them know we didn’t agree with their tactics or the hateful rhetoric that came forth from their mouths and those of their children. BUT I don’t know one person involved in the Burlington section of the anti-Westboro crew that thought they didn’t have the right to say what they wanted wherever they wanted. As common defense of Howard Stern goes: If you don’t like him change the station?

Read the rest of this entry »

Convenient Thomas Jefferson Fidelity

I just received an amazingly convenient reading of Thomas Jefferson today and I would like for the record to address some of the convenient stuff. First I am listing my rebuttal and below you will find the quotes from the email. Enjoy!

To All
I just can’t let this lauding of some of TJ’s work go without parsing the other side of the story.
OK I understand the admiration for TJ as I have tons myself, but keep in mind he was a willing owner of slaves.
This idea that there are tons of folks out there not willing to work and looking for those that are to bail them out is nonsense. The people that received the biggest bail out weren’t the bottom half or bottom 99% it was the top 0.001Percenters. Look at AIG, Goldman, Citi, hedge funds galore. They got bailed out because much of what we feel is sacrosanct about capitalism failed that is undeniable. I for one would be happy to work full-time for way less than the folks at the Big Banksters get paid PER WEEK!! But because the financial industry collapsed under CDOs, CDSs, leverage, and real-estate BS I can’t get a job and I know tons of folks like me. This argument that this all comes down to Obama and it is all his fault is so much nonsense if you believe honestly that what just happened stems from the last 2 years IN ISOLATION your crazy and need heavy dose of rationality. I know Socialists, I know Marxists, I know liberals and conservatives. Obama is hardly a left-winger and would laugh at the thought of embracing socialism I am sure. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cherry On Top! (aka Master of the Obvious Part Deux)

There really is no need to say any more as the title says it all.

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan

I wonder if Big (What a..) Dick Cheney knew about this one! He couldn’t have otherwise he would have insisted on a more concerted and muscular presence in Afghanistan throughout the War On Terror. Oh well chalk one up to good ol’ fashion Mullah Omar misdirection. Something tells me you will be hearing that Freeport-McMoRan (FCX)out of New Orleans will be getting their grubby nefarious hands involved in this operation given their robust play in the global copper market. Okay you heard it hear folks with FCX’s near monopoly on the global copper market and a large presence in gold we will absolutely see a strong push by them into this nascent opportunity. Just for the record FCX shares are currently trading at $65.26 on the NYSE, traded as high as $87 on January 8th, 11, and April 5th of this year, BUT are far below highs of $114 and 122 on October 10, 2007 and May 19, 2008, respectively. These two dates and the general peak in copper prices happened to coincide with a commercial and residential housing construction boom in China and lead some to believe that we had reached Peak Copper, although the latter has yet to be proven, but it stands to reason we will reach some sort of peak given the finite nature of copper availability, the world’s insatiable appetite for it, and the fact that last I checked creating it out of thin air ain’t an option! I will keep a keen eye on this and I suggest anyone reading this do the same as I demonstrated with an earlier posting on Roche and it’s share skyrocket in the weeks leading up to and after The Great H1N1 scare.


I would just say to the Pashtuns of Southern Afghanistan caveat emptor with Exhibit A being FCX’s Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia, where the natives are restless and growing more so by the day. FCX is determined to see this mine to it’s complete exploitation given that it accounts for $4 Billion of FCX’s $6.5 Billion operating profit (i.e., Nearly 2/3). Some have even decided that peaceful protest is no longer helpful resorting instead to primitive but effective methods of “Message Delivery”. However, when the Indonesian government equips the mine bosses with a security force of 3,000 troops and police the odds are stacked against the indigenous peoples of Papua and Papua New Guinea (See Map courtesy of The Economist).


Fallen Update

The Department of Defense has identified 4,391 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war and 1,070 who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans yesterday:


CULVER, Ronald W. Jr., 44, Major, Army; Shreveport, La.; Second Squadron, 108th Cavalry.


BARTON, Christopher R., 22, Pfc., Army; Concord, N.C.; 101st Airborne Division. to date:

Iraq = 4,400 US, 179 UK, 139 Other = Total 4,718

Afghanistan = US 1,085, UK 288, Other 414 = Total 1,787

DOD-iCasualties to date:

Iraq = 9

Afghanistan = 15

Long Lost Brothers In Arms

I just read an article at Project Syndicate by Heizo Takenaka former Minister of Economics, Minister of Financial Reform, and Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications under former LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; of Japan. Who cares you may ask? And you would be right for asking that….BUT the reason we should care is that if you replaced Japanese people and places with US people and places this article would read like a John Boehner or Mitch McConnell manifesto replete with the privatization, deregulation, reduced government spending, and lower taxes (See Friedman, M) mantra of these 2 esteemed leaders of the Republican party. This would be awesome and totally worth considering if it weren’t for 1 conveniently downplayed FACT….Mr. Takenaka’s party – prior to the current DPJ government that can’t get out of its own way with respect to broken promises – had had complete autonomy in Japan for the better part of 50 years. Likewise Messrs. Boehner and McConnell along with a moderate agenda going back to Gerald Ford have been running the show since the early seventies. Okay I know there was a brief hiccup by the name of Jimmy Carter, who decided the American people needed to hear certain truths that would prove hard to swallow. Well we canned his ass the next chance we got! The point is that these Monday morning quarterbacks are incapable of acknowledging their participation in the games to which they refer. Until they do this their rhetoric and bombastic critiques of current and future regimes will – in my humble but certain opinion – be comedic at best and counterproductive to the point of being obstructionist at worst. Do the current folks in office in Japan and the US and the soon to be Green administration in Columbia have problems? Sure lots of them and their growing by the day, but to say that the trouble a/o irresponsibility starts with them, while simultaneously ignoring their own malfeasance is the reason why I just can’t imagine why anyone would give such biased and myopic voices any type of local or global platform. Enough with the sectarian rhetoric!

The Definition of Chutzpah

Regarding Supreme Court case No. 08-205 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that the federal government may not ban politically motivated spending by corporations in candidate elections:

“…the most partisan decision since Bush v. Gore.”

“It’s basically the neutron bomb in our election system. It’s such a reversal, you can only guess at some of its far reaching implications.”

You would think these were the words of someone who had done everything in his or her power to prevent the inevitable 5-4 ruling handed down by the Supreme Court last month. You would think if this is the ex post facto reaction of a legislature than maybe that legislature had exhausted all avenues of preventing such a ruling. You would be wrong. These are the words of Vermont’s senior senator Patrick Leahy in The New York Times ( and on VPR (, respectively.

It is really quite simple Senator Leahy as the lead Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmations of both Chief Justice John Roberts and his sycophant Samuel Alito had the option to filibuster the confirmations of both to the Supreme Court. He chose not to do so in both cases. He chose a more conciliatory tact instead, because George W Bush had been so amazingly conciliatory I guess?

Even the least schooled legal onlooker could see during the confirmation of these two archconservatives they were hell bent on reshaping the American legal system. Neither judge gave what appeared to be answers to the questions posed to them by Senator Leahy and his fellow Democrats. In all fairness the questions were quite pointed, however, the problem was that for as pointed as the questions were the answers were equally opaque to the point of being complete mumbo-jumbo. Yet, the point that both justices made perfectly clear was their allegiance to the principle of stare decisis, which basically means that judges are obligated to show deference to historical precedent. Judge Roberts especially was quite adamant in his loyalty to this principle, while judge Alito as was his want preferred a more circuitous route. Here is where it gets juicy last month’s ruling on which both judges predictably sided with big corporations overruled two…PRECEDENTS! The first being Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell (i.e. Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell) v. Federal Election Commission, both of which challenged the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act or as it is commonly referred to McCain-Feingold.

The conservative majority and fence rider Anthony Kennedy decided that corporations are entitled to protections under the Fourteenth Amendment as jurisitic persons ( This idea that corporations should have the same inalienable rights as citizens dates back to cases like Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1886and later U.S. v. Detroit Timber and Lumber in 1905 (; The common thread is the debate about what constitutes a person in the United States. With this latest ruling the Supreme Court came down decidedly in favor of the idea that my vote and your vote are no less important than the collective will of corporations. This is a very scary thought as is evidence in Senator Leahy’s comments. More importantly this was a ruling that could have easily been avoided if Senator Leahy had stood up to the corporatist and civil liberty violating ways of the Bush administration. He didn’t and I would hasten to add that is why we’re at the dawn of a new era in electoral subterfuge

What these two judges said and how they ruled, wrote, and spoke in the past were two entirely different things. I knew this from my brief reading-up on the two candidates and I am sure Senator Leahy and his considerable staff at the Senate Judiciary Committee, with considerably more resources and expertise was well aware of this double-speak and -think. Yet, Leahy knowing all this and with his considerable legal background decided to back away from a filibuster the most extreme tool he had left. Extreme times call for extreme measures Senator Leahy and make way for someone that wants to stay in the ring for all nine rounds.

The SPADE Defense Index

So I just finished an amazing book by Naomi Klein called “The Shock Doctrine”, which basically chronicles the dark side of capitalism via the actions and thinking of folks like Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Eugene Fama, and Jeffrey Sachs. Anyway the book is revealing and pokes lots of holes in the Efficient Market hypothesis of Fama and Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”. Ms. Klein mentions in passing the SPADE Defense Index, which according to

“…is a modified market capitalization weighted index, comprised of publicly traded companies that seeks to measure the performance of securities in the defense, homeland security, and space marketplace.”

For those that deny the existence of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) described by Dwight D. Eisenhower as he left the oval office I think I can prove empirically that the SPADE Index demonstrates the naivete of such a view (See Figure).


Between the end of 1997 and September 10th 2001 the SPADE rose by 107%, but between 9-11 and 9-14-2009 it more than doubled (205%). Overall the SPADE has grown by 233% since it’s origination in December of 1997. So whats so important about these data? Well looking at the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), S & P 500, and NASDAQ we see that they grew by 103%, 99%, and 90% respectively between December of 1997 and 9-11. These trends are well alligned with what I described for the SPADE during the same time period. Heres the rub these indices only grew by 111%, 103%, and 142%. It is understandable that the NASDAQ would outpace the DJIA and S & P 500 as it was operating from a lower base. We are seeing that this country is relying more on the financial services and war profiteering industry 2 nefarious and wealth concentrating sectors of our economy. I must wonder where the outrage is? We have been conditioned to believe that all of us can have a big piece of the pie when infact the folks that pull the strings of these industries would in no way allow such an event to occur. It would be called wealth redistribution and we know what the neoconservatives and evangelical right-wingers think about such a prospect. The SPADE provides concrete evidence that we are moving towards a society that embraces Frederick the Great’s belief that “Diplomacy without war, is like music without instruments.” For those that think that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, et al’s fingerprints have been removed from the dialectic I call your attention to the Supreme Court and the SPADE’s trajectory.

How To Get Rush and Hannity To Shut Up for 5min!

Very simply as it relates to mushroom clouds, ticking time bomb scenarios, the war on terror, what is and is not torture, the definition of the word implement (Seriously check this one out, semantics associated with legal definitions of cruel and unusual punishment (, enhanced interrogation techniques, actionable information, blah blah blah blah we could shut up for at least 5minutes hopefully forever Fatso and Slickster very easily.

All we have to do is acknowledge that Nancy Pelosi and former Florida Senator and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chair (2001-2003) Bob Graham were informed on some level of enhanced interrogation techniques being used and that waterboarding while not being used at least came up in conversation. In acknowledging this we would bring them forward along with their respective counterparts at the time Porter Goss and Richard Shelby. This aquiescing to the Bush administration was clearly a bipartisan effort as is evidence in the words of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy when asked by Jonathan Mahler about his arrival in DC as a “Watergate Baby”

There was a sense inside the Senate among both Republicans and Democrats that the government had gotten off course and that we had a responsibility to find out what happened” (

We have reached a similar crossroads here in the US resulting from the irresponsible, cruel, and myopic Bush administration policies. Yet, they could not have accomplished what they did without the approval, tacit or otherwise, of the Democrats. We must reverse course immediately or we will be going at it alone on all fronts in the future. The only way to guarantee credibility and more importantly shut-up the neocons and idealogues on the way right is if we treat all that knew about the clandestine operations of the CIA, special ops, and to a lesser degree the FBI equally. I mean give me a break Ms. Pelosi sent a staff member to these meetings with the folks at the CIA? A STAFF MEMBER!? Seems like whether or not we are torturing captives is something she should want to hear with her own ears.

Ms. Pelosi and Senator Graham were privy to the same information as Mr. Goss and Mr. Shelby. If it smelled, looked, and felt like torture it probably was torture. Yet, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Graham fearing being portrayed as soft betrayed their senses and in my opinion, while not as guilty as Cheney et al, deserve to be reprimanded. This is not the common view of many in the MIC including almost everyone at MSNBC and The Times, but it is the only way an inquiry into torture will be seen as credible, both on the right and the left. No one is above reproach in the real world and no one should be above reproach in DC. That includes Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Graham. Their rhetoric carries no weight unless they acknowledge their own responsibility. Democrats try to come across as “Of The People By The People”, but a similar brush to that used for Republicans could be used to paint their portraits. There is a way to change that but it will involve a very harsh and large mirror!

BlackWater Meet BlackRock

It appears that the Obama administration is going to hand over the reigns of their Public Private Investment Program (PPIP) to the money manager BlackRock, which is on the surface awfully similar to handing over the security responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan to a private contractor. Wait that did happen and boy has it turned out swimmingly (; with the outsourcing approved by the Bush administration and lucrative contracts given to companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and KBR (ie Kellogg Brown and Root a subsidiary of Halliburton). If the actions of Blackwater in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September of 2007 are any indication of what happens when the government privatizes crucial responsibilities we had better get ready to duck! (

Privatization is increasingly the trend with the federal government and it is exactly the remedy for what ales Grover Nordquist & Co. vis á vis describe in their “Starve the Beast” complex (becker_2001_starve-the-beast-article1; bartlett-2007_starve-the-beast1;, which simply states we should gradually or suddenly reduce all taxes, which would force the Federal Government to shrink. This will be the case if the the debt to GDP ratio in the U.S. continues it’s dramatic upward trajectory from 58% at the start of the Bush administration to a historical high of 70% last year. Yeah I know fiscal conservatives will argue that big government = big deficits and that is the downfall of democracies. Well not according to none other than Dicky Cheney who in meeting with the administration’s economic team in 2002 stated “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” WAIT Cheney said that? The Dick Cheney? The same Dick Cheney who Mr. Nordquist presumably idolizes? Yep. Yep. And Yep! Turns out he was talking about short-term impact according to William A. Niskanen then of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and now at the Cato Institute ( Of course we should have know that it was short-term, why would any neocon think about the long-term health of anything let alone the federal government? If we privatize our tax dollars via Blackrock-like partnerships as Mr. Geithner’s PPIP is suggesting than we de-insentivize the private companies responsibility. Our indebtedness to China will go up while the folks at Blackrock and PIMCO will get off scot free. Classic heads I win Tails You Lose scenario!


The reason why this % increases is not so much a function of government spending as many Adam Smith and Milton Friedman economists would have us believe but rather a result of increasingly smaller tax revenues. Again we are not talking about the regressive idea of increasing payroll taxes (ie poor folks suffering disproportionately) but rather the drastic cuts we have seen in income, inheritance, and capital gains taxes all of which lead Warren Buffett to conclude that his secretary hands over a greater % of her income than he does.

Now what does this all have to do with Blackrock? Well Blackrock just happens to be 47% owned by Bank of America and it seems that The Great Timmy Geithner has figured out a way to give Ken Lewis & Co. the $33.9 billion his bank will need to proceed according to Mr. Geithner oh so stressful “Stress Tests” ( He will do this not by directly handing over the capital to BofA but rather letting Blackrock’s oracle Laurence Fink invest it for him seeing as how Geithner and Mr. Fink are quit chummy back to the former’s days as the head of the NY Federal Reserve Bank (

It is amazing how many people Timmo is friends with or has done favors for I feel like he is to the financial services industry what George Bush was to the Military Industrial Complex and Religious Right. Anyway you might ask well why doesn’t Geithner just give the money to BofA? Well besides the fact that they have already been given $45 billion and are 6% owned by Joe The Taxpayer ( there is a little something called AIG, which really didn’t go well for the Feds.

In bailing out the giant insurer we found out in March that much of the money went towards foreign banks like Société Générale and Deutsche Bank ($12 billion each), Goldman Sachs ($12.9 billion), Merrill Lynch ($6.8 billion), and the aforementioned BofA ($5.2 billion). This incident demonstrated the incestuous nature of the financial services industry, the power of Goldman Sachs, and that these companies operate with incredible degrees of hubris and impunity two characteristics not so coincidentally used to describe Blackwater ( We’ll see if the general public catches on to the hypocrisy of going in on an investment in toxic assets with a company almost half owned by BofA.

This type of blurring of the lines that should clearly separate the public and private sectors can be traced back to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall (1933) Act via Phil Gramm and Jim Leach’s Gramm-Leach Bliley Act of 1999. More importantly and much earlier the taxpayer was made the prime guarantor of all Savings & Loan (S&L) deposits, while allowing S&Ls to lend more aggresively (ie predatory lending) via the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982. These crucial laws had broad bi-partisan support. However, I would imagine if they were given to the public to vote on without the DC double-think and -speak we would have laughed them away outright.

As for Blackwater they were a result of a President and VP who were in bed with the Military Industrial Complex (On Steroids!) and the Oil Companies and why shouldn’t they be they stood to profit greatly upon returning to the private sector where much of their blind-holdings are undoubtedly in the $1.16 trillion industry.

Blackrock will likewise benefit greatly from only putting up 7cents for every dollar of investment, while we will invest 7cents and the FDIC will loan the remaining 85 as non-recourse loans to the banks, meaning if they aren’t happy with the way things are going they can just walk away. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that with student loans? This company has $1.3 trillion in assets or 9% of US GDP in 2008. You would think with all these assets and a 47% stake BofA could fund their own damn bailout? Unfortunately if you had such a crazy notion you would be dead wrong.

SO as I think we now know what Rahm Emanuel meant when he said “Never let a serious crisis go to waste!”. It essentially means, in DC parlance, that when a crisis comes down the shoot it is time to convince folks that preemptive war is good, torture is necessary, action without thought is patriotic, and…….. giving money to those that least deserve it is necessary to avoid Armageddon. Oh yeah what about privatization of our military and our tax dollars? Well you’ll thank us later! I think not and I think we have an administration now that is dangerously close to being changed rather than being the agent of change! Bush had his Blackwater scandal and I think if Obama ain’t careful he’ll have an equally if not greater hubbaloo with Blackrock.

Who Forgot To Make The Bed?

The answer is George Bush et al. (that means you as well Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Reid, and the rest of you supine Democrats)! For that President Obama we as a nation wish we had handed you something with a little more pizazz, but we didn’t. In the words of the the NYT’s editorial board “We do not envy President Obama as he tries to undo George W. Bush’s illegal and shameful detainee policy.” ( However, you volunteered Mr. Obama and I don’t think there was anything about this job and it’s myriad obstacles you had not been well versed in. You have the intellect of the last 10 presidents combined, but it appears that it escapes you every time you ponder Pakistan and your policy towards “resolving” the conflict. As press reports have recently discussed 14 terrorists have been killed by predator and reaper drone strikes in Pakistan’s northern tribal regions. If you combined that with Pakistan’s estimate of 700 civilians you get 2% efficiency. Okay I know you would reply that the military’s civilian casuality numbers are much lower. How much lower? A third? Well that still leaves us at 6% efficiency, which by my qualitative assessment would require that we not even use the word efficient when discussing remotely piloted drones in Pakistan. According to Kilcullen and Exum “…every one of these dead noncombatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.” (

Oh yeah and the fact that the title of an article about your new COO in Afghanistan Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is “MAN IN THE NEWS; General Steps From Shadow” ( really ain’t very assuring or indicative of the change you said was heading towards DC. I wonder is this shadow that McChrystal emerged from like a beacon in the night the same one that former VP Cheney referred to a week after 9/11 with Tim Russert

“We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” (

Unfortunately by these folks Mr. Cheney meant Gen. McChrystal and his boss Donald Rumsfeld, along with the convenient advice of folks like John Yoo, David Addington, and current Federal District Judge Jay Bybee. This statement by Cheney is often cited as the tacit acknowledgement that torture was going to be used and more importantly was deemed well within our right as a nation under attack. Torture! Well it seems Mr. Obama is placing his eggs in the centrist to right of center basket on this one as well. Why? Well it probably has something to do with the Democrats feeling as though they have to flex their muscle Hulk Hogan style with respect to terror. Obama is dangerously close to having complete ownership of the war in Afghanistan and the quagmire that is Iraq (; bybee-torture-memo; bybee_to_rizzo_torture_memo)

Instead of choosing the 4:1 diplomacy:military ratio suggested by the Progressive Caucus the Obama administration is going to continue to rely on the 1:10 ratio employed by the hawkish policy makers in the previous adminstration ( This will get us nowhere fast and will facilitate the creation of jihadist and anti-American sentiment where there was none. Gen. McChrystal who was the commander of the Pentagon’s Join Special Operations Command (JSOC) an ultra-covert crew of heavies not proned to diplomacy but rather brute force. According to Tom Engelhardt it was Cheney in endorsing the super-general that said “I think you’d be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.” The general’s crews use of force clearly bordered on if not blatantly stepped over the line of torture in Baghdad specifically Task Force 6-26 according to Engelhardt (

So anyway Bush didn’t make his bed and for that he will be perpetually tarnished, but you Mr. Obama don’t need to make things worse, because if you do your name will find an equally unflattering fate. Use your superior intellect and immense resources to severe ties with the previous administration. That includes aborting predator and reaper drone attacks and the employment of an Afghanistan COO whose heavy-handed and borderline Geneva violating past will only fuel the insurgency and spawn generations of jihadists. Oh yeah and try giving the people of Afghanistan a viable alternative to poppy rather than simply scolding them for growing one of the only crops that could survive in AfPak.