Archive for December, 2006

How Dangerous is the Dollar Drop?

December 24, 2006

Credit-based prosperity.

Zoom

AP

Christmas on Wall Street: Credit-based prosperity

How Dangerous is the Dollar Drop?

By Christian Reiermann

Is an end of an era looming in the foreign exchange markets? The dollar has been depreciating against the euro for weeks. Currency experts and the German government don’t yet see this as cause for alarm. The US currency’s role as a lead currency isn’t as important as it used to be, they say.

Like most central bankers, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), has a penchant for cryptic comments. Injecting a certain degree of incomprehensibility is a signal to the professionals that he’s competent. And when it comes to laymen, industry jargon has the desired effect of generating the necessary respect.

Last Thursday the public was treated to yet another example of Trichet’s convoluted speaking style. A number of risks, the ECB president said, could jeopardize a generally favorable economic outlook in the euro zone. They included, according to Trichet, “concerns regarding possible uncontrolled developments triggered by global economic imbalances.”

What Europe’s most powerful protector of the currency was actually saying was this: The gradual decline of the dollar in the foreign currency markets in recent weeks could pose a threat to the economy. What Trichet was also trying to broadcast is that the ECB has recognized and is aware of the threat.

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Bush Admin: What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Us

December 19, 2006

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002175.php

Bush Admin: What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Us
Just how many different ways has the Bush Administration tried to hide once-public information sources from the public record? Help us count the ways.

On Friday, Justin discovered that the Department of Defense has suddenly classified the numbers of attacks in Iraq for September through November of this year — after providing the figures for every month since the war began. Why classify the information now? If there’s a good explanation, we don’t know it, and the Pentagon isn’t returning our calls.

As others have noted, it’s far from the first time that the administration has tried to deep-six data that was unhelpful to its goals. Over the years, they’ve discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all those examples in one place? Thankfully, Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report has started us off on that goal. But we’re pretty confident there are more examples, so please use the comments to make suggestions, and we’ll update the list as we verify the specifics. Please, include links where possible.

Here’s Steve’s list:

* In March, the administration announced it would no longer produce the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, which identifies which programs best assist low-income families, while also tracking health insurance coverage and child support.* In 2005, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism.

* After the Bureau of Labor Statistics uncovered discouraging data about factory closings in the U.S., the administration announced it would stop publishing information about factory closings.

* When an annual report called “Budget Information for States” showed the federal government shortchanging states in the midst of fiscal crises, Bush’s Office of Management and Budget announced it was discontinuing the report, which some said was the only source for comprehensive data on state funding from the federal government.

* When Bush’s Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.

Our list continues, after the jump.

Update:

* The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has to date failed to produce a congressionally-mandated report on climate change that was due in 2004. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called the failure an “obfuscation.”

* The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced plans to close several libraries which were used by researchers and scientists. The agency called its decision a cost-cutting measure, but a 2004 report showed that the facilities actually brought the EPA a $7.5 million surplus annually.

* On November 1st, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order limiting the public’s access to presidential records. The order undermined the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which required the release of those records after 12 years. Bush’s order prevented the release of “68,000 pages of confidential communications between President Ronald Reagan and his advisers,” some of whom had positions in the Bush Administration. More here. (Thanks to Roger A. and nitpicker below.) Update: TPMm Reader JP writes in to point out that Bush did the same thing with his papers from the Texas governorship.

* A rule change at the U.S. Geological Survey restricts agency scientists from publishing or discussing research without that information first being screened by higher-ups at the agency. Special screening will be given to “findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.” The scientists at the USGS cover such controversial topics as global warming. Before, studies were released after an anonymous peer review of the research. (Thanks to Alison below.)

* A new policy at the The U.S. Forest Service means the agency no longer will generate environmental impact statements for “its long-term plans for America’s national forests and grasslands.” It also “no longer will allow the public to appeal on long-term plans for those forests, but instead will invite participation in planning from the outset.”

Impeach The Cheerleader, Save The World! / Save The Cheerleader, Screw The World!

December 8, 2006


This administration just. Doesn’t. Fucking. Get it. They still have yet to grasp that what Iraq, what America needs isn’t reshrink-wrapped damaged goods that find their way in the idea market place’s bargain bin. We don’t need more talking points or agreed-upon catch phrases that everyone dutifully parrots like pitchmen hawking the latest iPod. We don’t need a new spin on the same old shit that Stevie Wonder can see in a dark room wearing heavily smoked glasses:

Iraq is going to the dogs of war. They’re in the first throes of civil war (or worse. At least in a civil war, you know who your fucking enemy is) and all that remains is for Margaret fucking Mitchell to rise from the grave to write a bloated romance novel about it.

And don’t go looking for Estonia and Latvia for much help. The article proudly says that “they are strong allies in the war on terror” without, wisely, venturing a comprehensive definition of the word “strong.” Estonia and Latvia, to the rest of Europe, are probably looked upon as equal contenders for the inspiration for The Mouse That Roared.

Save The Cheerleader, Screw The World!

Al Gore Blasts BushCo as the “Most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice… of any administration in modern history”

December 4, 2006

Al Gore is Pissed

This is the part of Al Gore’s interview with GQ Magazine that will have everyone talking.

And it’s almost too easy to say, “I would have heeded the warnings.” In fact, I think I would have, I know I would have.

We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way.

It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear [voice angry now] as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, “Well, you’ve covered your ass.”

And never called a follow up meeting.

Never made an inquiry.

Never asked a single question.

To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job.

And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off!

And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way.

[Practically screaming now] But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!

He’s bang on the money. Why hasn’t Bush been lambasted for his inaction? A war President? Don’t make me laugh….

Indicting Bush

December 1, 2006

mission-accomplished.jpg

This is the first “indictment” the President, the Vice President, and their colleagues for defrauding us into war in Iraq. I put that “indict” in quotes because what follows, as former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega makes clear in her new book United States v. George W. Bush et al., is “not an actual indictment.” It can’t be, of course; but consider it the second best thing.

De la Vega has, in her career as a prosecutor, prepared numerous fraud indictments and, as she argued in the first excerpt from her book posted earlier this week, “A Fraud Worse than Enron,” what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their senior officials committed was a crime, not just in the colloquial sense of the word, but in the legal sense too (and not a victimless crime either). While their crime was of a magnitude that puts even Enron, no less run-of-the-mill fraud cases, to shame, it also has all the elements of a typical, small-time scam.

De la Vega’s “hypothetical indictment” of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell that you are about to read remains, unfortunately, in the realm of fantasy. But only for now. Until our world comes more fully to grips with the criminal nature of the Bush administration’s acts, you can at least turn to the full de la Vega book. A special project, produced in conjunction with Seven Stories Press, a wonderful independent publisher, it’s officially published on December 1st (but available now).

You won’t want to miss it. It’s superbly done and – though I hesitate to say it, given the nature of the subject matter – genuinely enjoyable to read because De la Vega turns out to be as skilled a writer as she is a prosecutor, and applies both her talents to the book. So check out the indictment, read the first day of grand jury testimony, and in the meantime get the investigative ball rolling by purchasing the book at Amazon.com. After all, the excerpts can only give you a taste of the full case De la Vega makes. This book should be the political stocking-stuffer of the Holiday season. ~ Tom

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We need to stand with Senator Webb and stand up to the GOP bullies

December 1, 2006

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Webb-Bush: There’s More to the Story

A lot of people think Jim Webb may have overreacted to the President Bush when he asked about his son Jimmy at a recent White House function.

I’ve gotten a tip on the background to this confrontation, and it appears that Webb may have under reacted.

As President Bush is well aware, a couple of weeks before this dinner the tank riding next to Jimmy’s in Iraq was under fire and three marines died.

My sources are telling me that the way President Bush approached Webb with his tone, it appeared he was asking the question of how Jimmy was doing in a mocking manner, while he was certainly aware of the tragedy that had hit his unit a few weeks earlier. More Outside Link