Feb 19th, 2008 by bookie
Links and News [2008.02.19]
  • Wall St. Banks Confront a String of Write-Downs – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/19/business/19banks.html?ex=1361077200&en=fe688fa0499bb530&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    In recent weeks one part of the debt market after another has buckled. High-risk loans used to finance corporate buyouts have plummeted in value. Securities backed by commercial real estate mortgages and student loans have fallen sharply. Even auction-rate securities, arcane investments usually considered as safe as cash, have stumbled.

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  • Clinton to fight for every delegate – msnbc.com

    URL: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/02/13/662535.aspx

    “Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn’t won any of the significant states — outside of Illinois?” Chief Strategist Mark Penn said. “That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama.”

    Howard Wolfson, communications director, pointed out, “We do better the more voters vote. The largest turnout primaries, by in large, are the ones that have favored us. …The presidential election is not a caucus; it’s an election for the most people to get out and vote.”

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  • No Lull in Mortgage Pitches – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/18/business/media/18foreclosure.html?ex=1360990800&en=059e78b52d62f689&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    Countrywide Financial brags in its ads that “No one can do what Countrywide can” and that “Countrywide can show you the way home.” Wachovia ads feature an “Approved” stamp prominently at the top, and Bank of America says, “Homeownership is the best medicine.”

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  • Obama mania’s got all sides screaming

    URL: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2008/02/18/2008-02-18_obama_manias_got_all_sides_screaming.html

    "If Hillary walked on water, she would be criticized for not swimming," Lehane said. "And if Obama swam, he would be lauded for being able to do what Hillary could not do."

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  • Pakistanis Deal Severe Defeat to Musharraf in Election – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/19/world/asia/19pstan.html?_r=1&ex=1361077200&en=0969be8e2ea4a8d9&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin

    Pakistanis dealt a crushing defeat to President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections on Monday, in what government and opposition politicians said was a firm rejection of his policies since 2001 and those of his close ally, the United States.

    Almost all the leading figures in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the party that has governed for the last five years under Mr. Musharraf, lost their seats, including the leader of the party, the former speaker of Parliament and six ministers.

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  • The Afghanistan Conundrum: Germany Mulls Exit from Anti-Terror Mission – SPIEGEL

    URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,535925,00.html

    The German government is considering exiting the United States-led anti-terror operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and has already sent out feelers in Washington about the issue.

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  • Bleak New Batch of Data on Economy – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/15/business/15cnd-econ.html?_r=1&ex=1360818000&en=592a1e2b786204ee&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin

    With the price of oil near record levels, import costs grew in January at the highest annual rate in a quarter century, the Labor Department said. In New York, manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level in five years. And consumers, responding to a national survey, said they felt worse about the economy than any time since the recession era of the early 1990s.

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  • Black Leader, a Clinton Ally, Tilts to Obama – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/15/us/politics/15clinton.html?_r=2&ex=1360731600&en=adede1742201fbb8&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

    Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

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  • BBC | Weak rise in US industrial output

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7247093.stm

    US industrial production rose a meagre 0.1% in January, official figures have shown, the latest indication of weakness in the US economy.

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  • House Holds Bush Aides in Contempt – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-White-House-Contempt.html?_r=2&ex=1360731600&en=ccb27683df06e33e&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin&oref=login

    The House voted Thursday to hold two of President Bush’s confidants in contempt for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into whether a purge of federal prosecutors was politically motivated.

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Feb 17th, 2008 by ravi
Keeping up with the Obamas

Rolling Stone, firmly embedded among the Obamaholics, reports with glee that a poll in Texas shows the miracle man is running even with Hillary. Buried in the report is this quote from an official Obama hack:

According to a source in the Obama campaign, they’re also on air in every TV and radio market in the state, spending at a rate that the Clinton campaign is going to have “difficulty keeping up with.”

In a previous post, the same Rolling Stone blog reports approvingly that Obama is now polling third (behind McCain and Huckabee, and ahead of Ron Paul) among Republicans.

That should put to rest any lingering doubts about what these elections, and this candidate, are about!

[ Link ]

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Feb 14th, 2008 by bookie
Links and News [2008.02.14]
  • BBC | US retail sales in surprise rise

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7243029.stm

    US retail sales rose 0.3% in January official figures show, bolstered by sales of new cars and petrol.

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  • BBC | Venezuela breaks ties with Exxon

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7242133.stm

    Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA has announced it is suspending sales of crude to Exxon Mobil, in response to legal action brought by the US firm.

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  • UK might be on verge of recession, says King | The Guardian

    URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/feb/14/bankofenglandgovernor.economics?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront

    The Bank of England governor, Mervyn King, admitted yesterday that the economy might grind to a halt this year – but warned that the continuing risk of inflation made further interest rate cuts unlikely.

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  • BBC | Mortgage insurer reports big loss

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7243280.stm

    US mortgage insurer MGIC has reported quarterly losses of $1.47bn (£750m) after being hit by the housing slump and resulting high levels of bad debt.

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  • AlterNet: Obamanomics: Barack Talks Tough on Trade

    URL: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/76970/

    On Wednesday, the first full day of a Wisconsin primary campaign that he hopes will solidify his emerging lead over his once "inevitable" rival, the Illinois senator started in Janesville, where he delivered a rebuke to free-trade policies of the Bill Clinton and George Bush eras that sounded a little like a speech Feingold might have delivered.

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  • BBC | US annual trade deficit narrows

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7244993.stm

    The US trade deficit narrowed in 2007, official figures show, as a rise in exports offset the country’s large growth in oil imports.

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  • Fed Chief Hints at Further Rate Cuts – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Congress-Recession-Threat.html?_r=1&ex=1360731600&en=d07fc49ef28946e3&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Thursday that the country’s economic outlook has deteriorated and signaled that the central bank is ready to keep on lowering a key interest rate — as needed — to shore things up.

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  • Think Progress » Bush Administration Hides More Data, Shuts Down Website Tracking U.S. Economic Indicators

    URL: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/02/13/economic-indicators/

    The Bush administration’s latest move is to simply hide the data. Forbes has awarded EconomicIndicators.gov one of its “Best of the Web” awards. Yet the Bush administration has decided to shut down this site because of “budgetary constraints,” effective March 1.

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  • State Intervenes to Prevent Subprime Death: German Government Gives Bank Billion-Euro Bailout – SPIEGEL

    URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,535245,00.html

    The German government is to bail out the troubled IKB bank to the tune of 1 billion euros. It is the second cash injection for IKB, one of the many German casualties of the US subprime crisis.

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  • Interview with ‘Lemon Tree’ Director Eran Riklis: ‘There Are So Many Mental Borders in the Middle East’ – SPIEGEL

    URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,535023,00.html

    The "Panorama" section of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival opened with the world premiere of "Lemon Tree," the story of a Palestinian widow’s fight to save her family’s lemon orchard.

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  • Mortgage Crisis Spreads Past Subprime Loans – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/business/12credit.html?_r=1&ex=1360558800&en=e229cc27b728d99c&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin

    Like subprime mortgages, many prime loans made in recent years allowed borrowers to pay less initially and face higher adjustable payments a few years later. As long as home prices were rising, these borrowers could refinance their loans or sell their properties to pay off their mortgages. But now, with prices falling and lenders clamping down, homeowners with solid credit are starting to come under the same financial stress as those with subprime credit.

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  • BBC | Buffett offers deal to insurers

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7241227.stm

    He offered to takeover the insurance of $800bn-worth (£408bn) of local government bonds, currently covered by MBIA, Ambac Financial and FGIC.

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  • The Comeback of the German Dinosaurs: Industry Returns as Economic Engine – SPIEGEL

    URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,534811,00.html

    The comeback of German manufacturing contradicts the notion that the future belongs to the service industry. Manufacturing firms are currently the engines of growth in the German economy, even for the service sector.

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Feb 12th, 2008 by ravi
The history of the US in Iran

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Feb 11th, 2008 by ravi
White Democrats and Obama: A startling statistic?

Exit poll data (as reported on the New York Times blog — Patterns of Distinction) has it that in New Jersey 71% of white Democrats, who said “race matters”, voted for Hillary. Am I getting this wrong or are these 71% of white Democrats saying that they voted against Obama because he is black (or for Hillary because she is white)? Will someone from among my few readers step up and correct me on this? If not, this is a pretty troubling bit, isn’t it?

Update: Of course it is possible that the number of white Democrats who said “race matters” is a miniscule percent of white Democrats in NJ. Which would make this not that horrifying, but still leave open the curiosity of why these people are Democrats… isn’t that what the Republican party is for? ;-)

[ Link ]

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Feb 11th, 2008 by bookie
Links and News [2008.02.11]
  • Another Goldman Perk: Sex Changes — NYT

    URL: http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/08/another-goldman-perk-sex-changes/index.html?ex=1360213200&en=bffbcafca7c69f64&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    Fortune.com reported Friday that Goldman added coverage of sex-reassignment surgery to its medical plan last year.

    Goldman employees can undergo the procedure, which normally costs anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000, and have it paid for entirely by their medical insurance.

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  • BBC | Venezuela denies oil asset freeze

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7235653.stm

    Venezuela’s state-run oil firm has denied that US oil giant Exxon Mobil had won a court order to freeze up to $12bn (£6bn) of its assets.

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  • BBC | Australia releases whaling photos

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7232239.stm

    Australia has released graphic pictures of minke whales caught by a Japanese hunt in the Antarctic.

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  • AlterNet: Meeting of Global Titans Tainted by Tanking Economy

    URL: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/76057/

    One of the world’s best-known CEOs, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, admitted to fellow participants that he had become skeptical of the very notion of capitalism.

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  • BBC | Indian economy set to decelerate

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7233135.stm

    India expects its economy to grow by 8.7% in the financial year ending March, the slowest rate of expansion in three years.

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  • Retailers Report Weak January Sales – NYT

    URL: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/business/AP-Retail-Sales.html?_r=1&ex=1360126800&en=66728f34a724d4e6&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&oref=slogin

    The nation’s retailers delivered more evidence of a stumbling economy Thursday, as merchants reported their weakest January performance in nearly four decades, extending a malaise that has deepened since the holiday shopping season.

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  • The recession watch can now end. It’s already here.

    URL: http://money.cnn.com/2008/02/05/news/economy/recession/index.htm

    A weak report about the services sector has caused some experts to declare that the economy has already entered downturn.

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  • BBC | CIA admits waterboarding inmates

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7229169.stm

    The CIA has for the first time publicly admitted using the controversial method of "waterboarding" on terror suspects.

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  • BBC | US judge reinstates sonar curbs

    URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7227708.stm

    A judge has ruled that the US Navy must adhere to a curb on the use of strong sonar in waters off California, amid concerns about its effect on whales.

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Feb 5th, 2008 by ravi
Obama: the spoiler of 2008?

Back in 2000, when we were still belabouring under the impression that democracy is an open sport, those of us who supported Ralph Nader were castigated for promoting a “spoiler” candidate. This artful term summarised the idea that a few deluded idealists (that would be us) were not just throwing away votes but worse helping the real opposition win. Let’s play this logic out a bit…

The “SuperDuper Tuesday” results are pouring in and one trend seems to be emerging:

Obama is winning big in the red states: Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Utah (and losing in the liberal ones — New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts — not counting his home state of Illinois). With some small modifications, one can now apply the “spoiler” argument to Obama: he is drawing upon the votes of idealistic minorities (African-Americans, in this case) to establish a lead that is worthless in the real election where the votes of these groups, in those states, will be swamped by that of the white majorities who will prevail as before in installing a Republican in the White House.

Extending the logic a bit further, we can see that Hillary is a spoiler candidate too. Because she is drawing upon the votes a few idealists (women, in this case) to win primaries… etc… you get the drift!

I, of course, do not accept this strange logic, and am under no compulsion to consider any of these three a spoiler candidate.

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Feb 5th, 2008 by ravi
Interesting picture via Spiegel

Click to view

[ Link]

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Feb 4th, 2008 by ravi
History vs Hope

The Democrats finally have their “Mission Accomplished” moment and boy is it good to get all that guilt off your back! In a piece that is embarrassing for not just the lack of content but also the adolescent gushing, Andrew Rosenthal writes in the New York Times:

Michelle, Maria, Caroline and Oprah on the Hustings in California – New York Times


Ms. Winfrey — finally — spoke to the most emotionally fraught aspect of this contest. “Now look at this campaign: the two front-runners are a black man and a woman,” she said. “What that says to me is we have won the struggle and we have the right to compete.”

Instead of seeing a painful choice, voters, Ms. Winfrey urged, should see a moment when they “are free from the constraints of gender and race.”

After watching the candidates struggle with the issue, painfully and awkwardly, in the past month, it was a relief to hear someone finally frame it in a way that celebrated what the Democratic Party has achieved — and then move beyond it.


And that ladies and germs, is the promise of Obama (and Hillary too, if you believe Oprah). His candidacy assuages the soft leftist’s guilt about the disparities and discrimination that surround us, offering him the opportunity to cast one small vote for himself but achieve a giant leap for humankind. Vote for Obama and you can keep your SUV and iPod and save the environment too! Vote for Obama and you can move beyond all pain and awkwardness! Free of the constraints of gender and race! This is a competition between unbounded hope and inescapable history. Is it a matter of surprise that older people, women, and those with lesser formal education, choose Clinton over Obama (though they may prefer neither)?

Note that that is the explicit core of the Obama campaign which started out frugally short on detail and gained steam while staying light on substance. As Obama and his wife point out, his campaign is not about him (a messianic Christ-like figure who thunders about “his God”) but about “you”. And if by voting for him and electing him, you have not managed to move beyond the constraints of gender and race, it cannot be your class (which we eliminated from consideration via John Edwards) or the environment you are thrown into, but as Reagan would say, perhaps its your lack of responsibility? (Obama identifies the success of Reagan with dissatisfaction with large government growth and excesses, without accountability).

If there is any further doubt that Obama’s rhetorical dictionary is an approximate facsimile of the Republican one (he has consciously but barely stopped short of calling himself the “uniter”), you can consult Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who points out repeatedly that not only is Obama’s healthcare plan to the right of Hillary, but that his tactic of criticising Hillary’s plan echoes that of conservative and insurance industry operatives in 1992.

Recently, there have been a spate of pro-Obama editorials and opinions on the online pages of the New York Times. One among the many was poignant — it quoted the words of a younger feminist parting ways with her feminist mother on the issue of Obama vs Clinton. The young feminist offered that “her [Clinton’s and by extension her mother’s] issues are not my issues”. In keeping with Oprah’s proclamation, I guess she felt that she was free from the constraints of gender. But her characterisation is inaccurate. Her mother’s issues will always be her issues (at least so long as she considers herself a feminist), especially if she is unaware of that!

As Gloria Steinem writes writes in the same rag, under the apt title “Women Are Never Front-Runners“:

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

This country can no longer afford to choose our leaders from a talent pool limited by sex, race, money, powerful fathers and paper degrees. It’s time to take equal pride in breaking all the barriers. We have to be able to say: “I’m supporting her because she’ll be a great president and because she’s a woman.”

(I would ignore the part about Clinton’s “progressive policies”)

Some very intelligent people whose opinions I respect greatly are supporting Obama today. I do not believe that they are misled by the baseless hope that Obama represents. I do not even think that they are weary of struggle and want for once to taste some victory (even at some cost). Nonetheless, I think they are on the wrong track.

[ Link ]

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Feb 4th, 2008 by bookie
Links and News [2008.02.04]
  • Democracy Now! | Ralph Nader Launches Presidential Exploratory Committee to Mull ’08 Run

    The same day John Edwards exited the race, longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader launched a presidential exploratory committee to decide whether to run as an independent candidate.

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  • Exxon Mobil Profit Sets Record Again – NYT

    The company reported Friday that it beat its own record for the highest profits ever recorded by any company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion, thanks to surging oil prices. The company’s sales, more than $404 billion, exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries.

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  • Massachusetts Accuses Merrill of Fraud – NYT

    William Galvin, the Massachusetts secretary of state, filed a civil fraud complaint against Merrill a day after the firm took the unusual step of agreeing to reimburse Springfield for losses on the investments.

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  • AlterNet: Obama Is Sub-Prime on Lending Crisis

    As the subprime mortgage debacle drives a recession that threatens financial markets around the world, the Democratic presidential candidates are pushing plans to address the crisis. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton are pledging substantial federal resources to stabilize the mortgage market and intervene on behalf of borrowers. Barack Obama’s proposal is tepid by comparison, short on aggressive government involvement and infused with conservative rhetoric about fiscal responsibility. As he has done on domestic issues like healthcare, job creation and energy policy, Obama is staking out a position to the right of not only populist Edwards but Clinton as well.

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