Saturday, October 01, 2011
Another Blow For America's Banks (And Bank Of America) After California Kills Robosigning Settlement | ZeroHedge
...Bottom line: America's TBTF banks, which increasingly are looking like they just may be NTBTF, had a horrendous Q3. It appears that Q4 will not be any better. And as Bullard indicated yesterday, all it takes for the Fed to "act" is for "further economic weakness to develop - read another step down in the stock market." California's decision just made it certain that further "weakness" will develop. And on the day that the New York Fed first published its Operation Twist POMO schedule, it is already time to start thinking about what form the next new and improved form of quantitative easing will take...
Friday, September 30, 2011
Turkey: Prime Minister Erdogan said Ankara wants a new constitution to replace the current one by the first half of 2012, Today's Zaman reported. Speaking to reporters at the Esenboga Airport before departing for Macedonia, Erdogan said his government will raise the issue when Parliament opens 1 October.
Comment: Parliament will authorize a new constitution, if that is what Erdogan wants. It will be less secular than the existing constitution. If it conforms to constitutional practice in other Muslim states it will refer to Sharia as the guide for legislation and executive action...
-- bth: I don't know how to reconcile this statement on moving away from a secular constitution with Erdogan's recent comments in Egypt encouraging them otherwise.
WASHINGTON - The same U.S. military counterterrorism unit that got Osama bin Laden used a drone and jet strike in Yemen on Friday to kill the U.S.-born cleric suspected of inspiring or helping plan numerous attacks on the United States, including the Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up a jetliner, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a strike on his convoy directed by the CIA and carried out with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command's firepower, according to a counterterrorist official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence....
-- bth: a positive development if he will stay dead this time.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
The monthly average of armed clashes, roadside bombings and other violence in Afghanistan is running 39 percent ahead of last year's figure, U.N. reported Wednesday, with more complex suicide operations involving multiple bombers and gunmen.
The statistics show that the intensity of the nearly decade-old war is growing, not abating, as the U.S. and other nations start to withdraw some forces with an eye toward pulling all combat troops out by the end of 2014. The Taliban's resilience raises questions about whether the Afghan government and its Western allies have a solid grip on security — and whether the Afghan forces can ever secure the nation by themselves.
NATO says it has made progress in taming the Taliban insurgency by routing its strongholds in the south. But the Taliban have hit back with several high-profile attacks in the capital and assassinations of government officials and senior Afghan leaders.
In its quarterly report on Afghanistan, the U.N. said that as of the end of August, the average monthly number of incidents stood at 2,108, up 39 percent over the same period a year earlier. It did not provide comparable data. The figures include insurgent attacks as well as assaults by NATO and Afghan forces on Taliban figures and positions....
-- bth: not a good trend line no matter how it is spun. Now Michael Yon has lost his embed. The places where you can get ground truth in Afghanistan have all but disappeared.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Now I've followed and corresponded with Michael since I guess about 2004. I have not always agreed with him, but I have always found his reporting to be balanced and accurate. Further he was spot on about several officers that were later criminally prosecuted and he has a habit of ruffling feathers by reporting things like bad gear, battlefield successes and failures both and when helicopters don't arrive to evacuate casualties and men bleed out as just occurred on his recent embed, he reports it.
What I fear now is that the lack of high ranking officer response to his loss of embed and physical and verbal assault suggest that this may now be a deliberate and condoned act to chase the embeds out that will not be spoon fed.
This has little to do with truth and a lot more to do with information control. There are so few meaningful milestones that would show if we are winning or losing in Afghanistan, by removing truth telling embeds, Afghanistan fades from view and what is reported is then just Pentagon PR and spin.
In November 2003 the Bush administration got reporters blocked from military cemetery funerals and the administration blocked attendance by their high level officials at those funerals. This was later reversed but not until after the Nov 2004 elections.
I put it to you. We are approaching another period of spin control and information management this time from Afghanistan. With out an embed no western reporter could hope to survive there. Verbally and physically assault the embeds you don't like and next thing you know, PAO controls the news.
Michael Yon is the longest serving embed in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably since Ernie Pyle. He ranks up with Pyle and Joseph Galloway. Chasing him away will result in a tremendous loss of trust in the reporting out of Afghanistan.
Amin al-Haq, who escaped from Afghanistan with the al-Qaeda leader in 2001 and went on to become a key financial aide, was detained in Lahore three years ago by Pakistan's intelligence agency.
A senior security source in the north-western Pakistani town of Peshawar, where he had been held, said the Inter-Services Intelligence agency had passed al-Haq on to the police before he was released earlier this month.
"Amin al-Haq had been arrested mistakenly, therefore, the police failed to prove any charge of his association with Osama bin Laden and the court set him free," he told The Daily Telegraph.
Pakistan has a poor track record of convicting terrorists, blamed in part on an ill-equipped police force and an overstretched judicial service.
However, critics accuse elements of the security services of turning a blind eye to extremist groups...
-- bth: part of the ongoing catch and release policy.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said it would be a folly to boost the EU's bail-out machinery (EFSF) beyond its €440bn lending limit by deploying leverage to up to €2 trillion, perhaps by raising funds from the European Central Bank.
"I don't understand how anyone in the European Commission can have such a stupid idea. The result would be to endanger the AAA sovereign debt ratings of other member states. It makes no sense," he said.
Mr Schauble told Washington to mind its own businesss after President Barack Obama rebuked EU leaders for failing to recapitalise banks and allowing the debt crisis to escalate to the point where it is "scaring the world".
"It's always much easier to give advice to others than to decide for yourself. I am well prepared to give advice to the US government," he said.
The comments risk irritating the White House. US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been a key driver of plans to give the EFSF enough firepower to shore up Italy and Spain, fearing a drift into "cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk" without dramatic action....
-- bth: So then the German finance minister won't mind when we opt not to bail out their banks. Thanks Wolfgang. We needed an excuse. Now we have it.
There are still corrupt, lazy, incompetent senior officers in the ranks, clinging to positions they’ve bought or traded for. Yet for every one of them, I met five young, hungry soldiers eager to take up the fight. Men like Jawad, a brilliant 23-year-old intelligence officer, or Jamaluddin, a sergeant major who had revolutionized his entire battalion from within.
I watched them wake up early every morning to drive unarmored Ford Rangers down some of the most dangerous roads in the world. They unfurl huge Afghan flags and fly them from every truck. I watched them run toward the sound of gunfire, despite often having only a Vietnam-era flak vest or less to protect them. These men are Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks and, increasingly, Pashtuns — former rivals now working together. They are the beginnings of a nation.
“Winning” is a meaningless word in this type of war, but something is happening in the Afghan south that gives me hope. Rather than resignation, America should show resolve — not to maintain a large troop presence or extend timelines, but to be smarter about the way we use our tapering resources to empower those Afghans willing to lead and serve.
For all our technology and firepower, we will succeed or fail based on what happens after we bring our troops home. Young Afghans like Mahmoud, Jawad and Jamaluddin will be the ones to stay behind. Many of them lack education, training, equipment, even uniforms — and they serve for years in dangerous postings with only the rarest opportunity to visit their families. But the best of them keep doing their jobs in the face of hardships we can’t even imagine.
None of them accept failure as a foregone conclusion. Neither should we.
Fernando M. Luján is an Army Special Forces major and a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
--- bth: I figured I was reading a puff piece until Michael Yon vouched for this guy. Hope he is right.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
AFP - Saudi King Abdullah announced on Sunday he was giving women the right to vote and run in municipal elections, the only public polls in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom.
He also announced that women would have the right to join the all-appointed Shura (consultative) Council, in an address opening a new term of the council.
-- bth: now if they will be given the right to drive.
...The new urgency for a political settlement in Afghanistan has further limited Washington’s options for fighting the Haqqani network. During high-level discussions last year, Obama administration officials debated listing the group as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” which allows for some assets to be frozen and could dissuade donors from supporting the group. While some military commanders pushed for the designation, the administration ultimately decided that such a move might alienate the Haqqanis and drive them away from future negotiations.
Officials chose to take the more incremental step of naming individual Haqqani leaders as terrorists, including Badruddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Senior American officials said there was once again a fierce debate inside the Obama administration about whether to put the entire group on the terrorist list.
But as Washington struggles to broker an endgame for the Afghan war, there is widespread doubt about whether the Haqqanis will negotiate, and whether their patrons in Islamabad will even let them. After a decade of war, there is a growing sense among America’s diplomats, soldiers and spies that the United States is getting out of Afghanistan without ever figuring out how a maddeningly complex game is played.
“Is there any formula for Pakistan to agree to stop supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan and instead help broker and be satisfied with a political settlement?” asked Karl W. Eikenberry, who served as both America’s top military commander in Afghanistan and its ambassador to the country.
“We don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.
-- bth: this article is worth reading in full. You step back when you see an article like this in the NYT and ask yourself who is it that has a burr up their ass over Haqqani all the sudden? This network has been killing hundreds of Americans not counting Afghans and been in deep collusion with ISI for decades. Now, now we read about it in depth in the NYTs? What has changed? Oh and by the by it has financial interests in the two ammonium nitrate plants in Pakistan that provide the feedstock for the IEDs that have accounted, for what, 85% of the US casualties? And why haven't we put this group on the terror list? Why are these plants still functioning? Wasn't this the same family that shelled Kabul to ruin in the 90s? And now, in 2011, we are debating whether they should be on a terror list and have given up on the Pakistani military's ability or willingness to do anything about them. We sure send a lot of good Americans to war without plan or objective. One wonders what a draft and a war tax would do to our strategy? I suspect it would bring this nonsense to an end very quickly.
Five of those meetings took place in a 14-month period before the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Mr Blair is coming under increasing pressure to make public details of all his meetings and discussions with Gaddafi. It follows the disclosure in The Sunday Telegraph last week that on at least two occasions Mr Blair flew to Tripoli on a private jet paid for by the Libyan regime.
Among the new meetings uncovered by this newspaper is a visit to Gaddafi in January 2009, when JP Morgan, the US investment bank which pays Mr Blair £2 million a year as a senior adviser, was trying to negotiate a deal between the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and a company run by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a friend of Lord Mandelson. The multi-billion dollar deal, which later fell through, would have seen the LIA provide a loan to Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer.
JP Morgan’s involvement in the deal is revealed in an email sent to the LIA by the bank’s vice-chairman, Lord Renwick, in December 2008, in which he sought to “finalise the terms of the mandate concerning Rusal before Mr Blair’s visit to Tripoli”.
JP Morgan said Mr Blair had no knowledge of the Rusal proposal. A spokesman added: “JP Morgan declined to participate on such a transaction and thus Mr Blair was never involved, and it was never discussed with him.”...
-- bth: I remember back around 2001 to 2003 how much respect I had for Blair. And now what? Contempt? Disappointment? He could have been great.
A three-year government investigation has found no wrongdoing by Bush-era Pentagon officials when they gave war briefings to retired military analysts who served as TV and radio commentators.
The probe by the Pentagon inspector general was a response to a 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning article in the New York Times that implied the former military officers, some of whom worked for or were defense contractors, received financial favors in return for their commentary and that they were tools in a propaganda campaign.
Sources familiar with the IG’s final report said it will say officials broke no rules or laws when they provided information briefings, some from then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The IG also found no evidence that any analyst or his defense contractor employer received any favorable treatment or procurement contracts due to his work as an on-air commentator, according to the sources.
“The report basically says the Pentagon activities were in compliance with DOD [Department of Defense] directives and instructions,” a government official familiar with the findings told The Washington Times. In terms of financial favors, “they didn’t find any evidence of that,” the source said....
--- bth: back around 2005 or 6 I can't remember exactly, I was asked to go on Scarborough Country to talk about body armor. It probably was early 2006 now that I think about it because of the Michael Moss article in the NYT. Anyway, I ended up debating a retired colonel who was supposedly randomly picked and who espoused the Pentagon party line. I thought I did very well, but wondered where this guy had come from. Well when the paid pundit story came out, it turns out he was one of them. Now this article goes on to say that the IG again found no wrong doing and no indication that the pundits received undue access or inside information. But that forgets the fact that it turned out they were PAID by the Pentagon to do this and that that pay was kept secret. Further they in fact had private briefings with Rumsfeld who would cue them in with inside information in exchange for helping them get, often paid, media gigs on Fox and so on. This IG report is a white wash and allowed Rumsfeld to run a partisan propaganda campaign disguised as independent third party retired officers. They were hired propagandists and the fact that they willingly went along with it does not forgive what they did.