Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Your Backyard in 10 Years Time: Spy Hummingbird and Sparrow

We will have to swat them when we ever see them....

(It is cute, though, isn't it?)

Thanks anyway, DARPA, for the excellent use of our tax money ($3.2 billion per year), setting us against birds if we dare value our privacy...

From (2/18/2011):

( -- A prototype robot spy "ornithopter," the Nano-Hummingbird, has successfully completed flight trials in California. Developed by the company AeroVironment Inc., the miniature spybot looks like a hummingbird complete with flapping wings, and is only slightly larger and heavier than most hummingbirds, but smaller than the largest species.

The Hummingbird's bird-shaped body is removable but it gives the bot an uncanny resemblance to a real . The vehicle can hover and maneuver just like the bird.

The can fly into buildings under the control of an operator flying the spybot with the help of a feed from its tiny . The prototype is capable of flying at speeds of up to 18 km/h (11 mph) and weighs 19 grams, which is about the same as an AA battery.

Manager of the project, Matt Keennon, said it had been a challenge to design and build the spybot because it “pushes the limitations of aerodynamics.” The specifications given to the firm by the Pentagon included being able to hover in an 8 km/h wind gust and being able to fly in and out of buildings via a normal door.

The spybot was developed for the US military's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The hummingbird appearance is intended to disguise the bot, although it would look decidedly out of place and would attract attention in most places in the world since hummingbirds are not found outside of the Americas.

.....The current model is a prototype and more development is required before any decisions are made on its deployment. Keennon said he expected the flight time to improve as the spybot develops, and said he envisaged it could be used for reconnaissance purposes in around a decade. He also said the final version is unlikely to look like a hummingbird, which is rare even in parts of the US, and he thinks a sparrow would be a better choice. has the video of the maiden flight of this spy-hummingbird.

What's next? "Nano-ants"? I'm sure they are already doing that... How about spy-viruses? Oh I forgot, they've already done that - remember Stuxnet?

US Allies in North Africa and Middle East Continue to Kill Their Citizens Who Dare Protest Against Them

While Wisconsin's public union workers, supported and aided by the White House and National Democratic Party (and of course, unions), protest to retain their "rights" to taxpayers' money, the unarmed anti-government protesters in "modern and moderate" Bahrain are being killed by the army under the order from the "modern and moderate" sovereign, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Tanks, firearms, tear gas - supplied by the US and the UK.

The unarmed protesters in Libya are being killed by the security forces under the order from the strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi. Gaddafi's security forces just killed 15 people who were attending the funeral of protesters who were killed by the same security forces during the past week.

Ditto for Yemen, whose ruler, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been the good boy for the US and its allies for a very long time (32 years), longer than Mubarak (30 years). Al Jazeera reports, quoting Reuters, that for the first time, anti-government protesters started fighting back with firearms.

The Western leaders are calling for "restraint" from their favorite (maybe not so with Gaddafi, but he's been getting along quite well these few years), moderate rulers in these countries, just like they did in Tunisia and Egypt.

Restraint? What does that mean? Kill less?

Will There Be A Battle Between Takers and Makers? (Nah, Not in the US...)

Will Grigg said it last year, and he said it last night in a radio program. There are two kinds of people: "Takers" and "Makers".

More and more, it is becoming clearer. It is almost surreal in the 21st century, but the world seems indeed becoming a two-class society: "Takers" who take away money, wealth from others through taxes so that they get paid for their work; and "Makers" who pay those taxes to local, state, federal, governments so that "Takers" get paid for their work and get well taken care of once they retire.

In the case of the US, "Takers" extend all the way from the occupants of the White House, Congress, courts, to federal, state, local government workers, police, firefighters, public school administrators and teachers, public librarians, and private contractors, big and small, who get a chunk of business from the "government" - federal, state, local.

(So, of course Nancy Pelosi strongly support Wisconsin public union workers. She and they are in the same boat, "Takers". After all, Ms. Pelosi has never worked a day in the private sector.)

Never mind if "Takers" may have their jobs guaranteed (in case of Wisconsin public union teachers) in this unprecedentedly severe job market , and on average "Takers" earn much more than "Makers" who have to support them.

Faces of "Takers": Wisconsin public union workers protesting against the WI governor's plan to limit their union's collective bargaining power, to have them pay more for their health care premiums, and have them contribute to their own pensions. These public union workers are protesting, claiming the governor's move will hurt kids. (How can she open her mouth that big without dislocating her jaw?)

Faces of "Takers": The Egyptian counterpart of Wisconsin public union teachers - well-fed, well-clad police demonstrating to demand better pay, while claiming it was not their fault if they beat up and killed anti-Mubarak protesters because they weren't given the proper training. They also claim they are the friends of the anti-Mubarak protesters. The photo is from February 14 Al Jazeera Live Blog. I believe they were later routed out by the protesters.

Faces of "Makers": Egyptians who drove Mubarak out of office, and who return to the streets to push the Army, another class of "Takers", for real reforms. The photo is from Al Jazeera Live Egypt Blog.

Faces of "Makers": Americans who still have jobs in the private sector, who pay taxes to local, state, and federal governments so that the public employees get their jobs, salaries, benefits, and pensions and health care for life, and who have finally decided enough is enough and risen up against "Takers"....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Average Annual Compensation for Milwawkee Public School Teacher: $100,005

Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin, where the public union teachers are staging the protests against the governor's budget rescue bill.

$100K per average teacher. I hate to think how much those school superintendents and administrators get. And that $100K per teacher hasn't done much to improve the Milwaukee Public School system.

The link to MacIver News Service at McIver Institute in Wisconsin was clearly overwhelmed with clicks (the link appeared on Drudge Report) but I've finally got there - here's the snippet:

MacIver News Service – For the first time in history, the average annual compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee Public School system will exceed $100,000.

That staggering figure was revealed last night at a meeting of the MPS School Board.

The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.

The accompanying video says:
  • $56,500 average salary is more than double the city's average salary;

  • It is more than the median family income of $42,950; and

  • MPS graduation rate is 68%, compared to 90% statewide.

A poster on Yahoo's stock board who lives in Wisconsin says that the state employees in Wisconsin do not contribute to the pension fund, and pay only 0.5% of health care premiums. (BTW, trolls defending the public union teachers in Wisconsin suddenly appeared on the board for a double-short financial ETF... Fun to watch.)

And a clown like Jessie Jackson likens the protest to anti-government fights in Egypt and Tunisia, and these public union teachers go ecstatic.


Dissent Is Not Allowed In the Presence of Queen Hillary

As Ray McGovern found out.

From Karen Kwiatkowski at LRC Blog, "Hillary Clinton versus Ray McGovern":

I suspect Ray is winning the war, but for the “crime” of standing up and silently turning his back on the Mistress of State as she was publicly lying about some thing or another, the 71-year-old retired CIA analyst and past briefer of US Presidents was violently taken to jail, and badly hurt by “security” at George Washington University in DC. As I read about what happened to the courageous and principled Ray McGovern, I was thinking of Gene Sharp’s words: “If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble.

Here's the video of the incident. Hillary, by the way, was speaking about the importance of free speech in her typical monotony. Are we in 1984 or what?

At this point, people in Egypt may have more freedom of speech than us in the US.

Obama Sides with Public Unions (Nothing New), Mobilizes His Political Machine to Crush Wisconsin Bill

Hasn't this guy been saying education is the top priority of his admin, or something close to it? Over and over again?

So what does he do? He goes full in on Wisconsin's anti-union (or so dubbed by MSMs) law, unleashing his community organizing apparatus, Organizing for America, so that teachers will call in sick and/or take a union-provided bus to participate in demonstrations instead of educating kids in schools.

Public school teachers are skipping schools and waving signs like "Silencing Teachers Hurts Kids". What the hell does that mean? If the teachers union cannot negotiate the pay increase above the inflation rate and they have to pay more for their pension and health care premiums, more in line with the private sector workers (who are lucky enough to have such benefits), and if in exchange they have no furloughs and layoffs, that hurts kids? How?

Kids are hurting alright, I can tell when I read the comment like this from a University of Wisconsin sophomore activist Max Love:

“The quality of our institutions would suffer if this bill passes,” Love said. “This is a student cause, and we’re seeing a lot of people who really care about this issue.”

The quality of the institutions suffer from students like him, who blindly recites the party line (anything to do with education, other than increasing teachers and teachers' pay, is bad), to whom protecting the collective bargaining power of the teachers union morphs into "a student cause".

In coordination with the National Democratic Party and public unions, Obama's organization, Organizing for America, has been working the phones and sending out messages via Internet social sites to bring public school teachers of the state to demonstrate against the governor's budget plan. It clearly coordinates with left-leaning alternative media sites on the Internet to identify the demonstrations with those in north Africa and Middle East, two of which has toppled the existing despotic regimes.

For the snippets of MSMs and alternatives glorifying the public union protests, go to this post at Washington's Blog.

(Even Max Keiser says, rather incoherently, that it's all about people rising up against the banksters. Huh?)

Who's paying for these teachers?

Who's paying for Obama?

They are so oblivious it is almost pitiful.

The ruler of the regime (Obama) organizes and unleash the demonstrators, and we are supposed to cheer them on as if they were the anti-government protesters in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria.

It looks to me like the equivalent of those pro-Mubarak demonstrations orchestrated by the Mubarak regime that quickly fizzled in Egypt. With the solid support from the White House and the Democratic Party, I wonder how long these demonstrations in Wisconsin will last.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NYT Nicolas Kristof: Brutal Crackdown in Moderate Bahrain

Nicolas Kristof's latest is from Bahrain. With some detached disbelief and sadness, he reports on the government's brutal treatment of the peaceful demonstrators in a modern, moderate country like Bahrain.

Well, all I can say is that Hosni Mubarak was a "moderate" leader for the West, unless you are Mitt Romney who thought Mubarak was a "monarch-type" person.

From Nicolas Kristof (2/17/2011 New York Times):

As a reporter, you sometimes become numbed to sadness. But it is heartbreaking to be in modern, moderate Bahrain right now and watch as a critical American ally uses tanks, troops, guns and clubs to crush a peaceful democracy movement and then lie about it.

This kind of brutal repression is normally confined to remote and backward nations, but this is Bahrain. An international banking center. The home of an important American naval base, the Fifth Fleet. A wealthy and well-educated nation with a large middle class and cosmopolitan values.

To be here and see corpses of protesters with gunshot wounds, to hear an eyewitness account of an execution of a handcuffed protester, to interview paramedics who say they were beaten for trying to treat the injured — yes, all that just breaks my heart.

Read the full article at the link. But here are the last paragraphs, which I could sense his welling anger:

In the hospital mortuary, I found three corpses with gunshot wounds. One man had much of his head blown off with what mortuary staff said was a gunshot wound. Ahmed Abutaki, a 29-year-old laborer, stood by the body of his 22-year-old brother, Mahmood, who died of a shotgun blast.

Ahmed said he blamed King Hamad, and many other protesters at the hospital were also demanding the ouster of the king. I think he has a point. When a king opens fire on his people, he no longer deserves to be ruler. That might be the only way to purge this land of ineffable heartbreak.

Deposed Tunisian President Is in a Coma

according to The Jerusalem Post (2/17/2011):

Deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had a stroke and is in a coma, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Thursday.

"The former head of state was admitted to an institution for Saudi princes under a false identity for security reasons," the paper reported. "His condition is worrying."

Ben Ali, who was overthrown by riots in Tunisia in January, has reportedly been ill for several years.

Le Monde also reported that his wife, Leila Ben Ali, "is no longer at his side."

A diplomat told the French daily that "the new acting president in Tunisia is also aware and follows the events hour by hour."

Hmmmm.. Didn't I hear something similar before for Hosni Mubarak?

Wisconsin Dem Senators Have Left the State to Delay the Vote on Union Bargaining, and They Are In Rockford Clock Tower Resort in Illinois

It looks like Wisconsin is indeed resembling Egypt, except in a bad way - members of the ruling class running away to a resort....

Part of the ruling class of the state - Democratic State Senators - have fled the state in order to avoid the capture so that they cannot vote on the bill that would restrict the collective bargaining power of the public unions. Apparently, they got on a bus and crossed the state line, and they are in Rockford, Illinois at the Best Western Clock Tower Resort.

Rockfort Clock Tower Resort boasts many amenities, I've learned, including Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, pictured below:

What a joke. And the cynical MSM in the US paints it like it is a popular uprising against a despot.

From an even more cynical (well, who isn't, these days?) Zero Hedge, quoting AP:

The farce over the Wisconsin anti-union vote has just passed into the surreal. According to the AP, democrat lawmakers, who are firmly opposed to voting on the bill which is said to already have majority support, and who have been boycotting the vote by being absent from the state capitol, have now escalated and patriotically left the state. The reason is that while the vote can not take place without at least one Democrat being present, the police had been sent out earlier, with orders to sequester the democrats. The democrat response: run away. As the AP reports: "Senate Republicans can't vote on the bill unless at least one Democrat is present. Police could be dispatched to retrieve them, but it was unclear if they would have the authority to cross state lines." So to all who were expecting the latest iteration of members of the executive class to run away (with or without gold) to come from Africa or the Middle East, will be disappointed: it was in America's very own back yard.

From the AP:

A Wisconsin state senator says the 14 Democratic lawmakers who are boycotting a vote on a controversial anti-union bill have left the state.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach says the group wants to force negotiations over the Republican-backed bill, which would strip most public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.

Erpenbach told The Associated Press that he and his colleagues had left Wisconsin, but he would not say where.

He said the plan is to slow down the bill because it's "tearing the state apart."

We don't get what the big deal is here: just call Von Bernankestein's hot line and get him to deliver $10 billion, or trillion, it's all the same these days. These are the Chairman's favorite kinds of inbound calls. After all, the dollar needs all the help it can get to get to zero way ahead of everyone else. It is everyone's patriotic duty to go bankrupt and to demand bail outs from our money printing syndicate. Lastly, not doing so is racist.

So what are these Dem Senators, public union workers in Wisconsin, and the Prez of the USSA upset about this bill? According to another AP article, under the bill:

state employees' share of pension and health care costs would go up by an average of 8 percent.

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs.

See that last sentence? No furloughs or layoffs!

In this day and age of semi-permanent unemployment and underemployment in the private sector, there would be no furloughs or layoffs for these public union workers in Wisconsin.

So, what are they complaining about, again?

I think public unions feel their very existence is being threatened, and therefore they are mobilizing the members to protest. Read the middle paragraph of the above quote; the bill would restrict their ability to force members to pay union dues and force them to hold annual votes to stay organized.

(Union officials must be envious of those Dem Senators spending time in Tilted Kilt Pub...)

State vs Federal: Why Is It Obama's Business Anyway?

Organizing for America, funded by President Obama, is spearheading the effort to defeat the Wisconsin bill on public unions.

State right, Mr. President. That means it's none of your business. Your business, by the way, is outlined in this old document, and it doesn't include meddling with state issues, not to mention setting up and funding an organization to attack states.

Well, you haven't worked a single day in your adult life working for a for-profit business where performance matters. For you, public union members are your friends, neighbors, colleagues, your world.

Bahrain's Police "Aimed to Kill" the Peaceful Protesters in Manama

6 people are dead so far, including a young girl.

The police attacked the protesters - men, women, children - gathered on Pearl Roundabout in Manama, who were sleeping in their makeshift tents. Just like in Egypt, with the US-made and US-supplied live ammunition and vehicles.

Here's the link to Al Jazeera's Bahrain Blog.

The protests, started out as mostly a Shia demonstration to demand more equal treatment under the monarchy, have quickly swelled to include people of all religious beliefs. After the brutal attack by the king's police under the king's order, they probably don't quite care any more to preserve the monarchy.

The police attacked these people (photo from Al Jazeera Bahrain Blog):

Obama: Wisconsin's Collective Bargaining Law "Assault on Unions"

He doesn't speak up for the protesters in Middle East, he doesn't speak up for the (once-)middle-class in the US, he doesn't speak up for the homeowners losing their homes to TBTF Wall Street banksters.

But he sure does speak up in defense of the public unions:

"Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions...."

"... public employees are your neighbors, your friends..."

That's right, neighbors and friends. And thanks to the mismanagement by the state and the local governments we, non-public-union members, are on hook to pay for their benefits FOR LIFE. (And don't get me going how much more these public union employees are getting compared to the private sector.)

Some compare the protests by Wisconsin's public union employees - teachers, firefighters, police - with the anti-government protesters in Egypt.

(What an insult to Egyptians.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DEBKA: Mubarak Moved a Large Part of Assets from Europe to Saudi Arabia On Feb 12-13

With a grain of salt, from DEBKAfile (2/14/2011):

Hosni Mubarak and his family have moved a large part of their assets – guesstimated at between $20 and $70 billion - from European banks to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republics against personal guarantees from King Abdullah and Sheik Al Nahyan to block access to outside parties.This is reported by Gulf and West European sources. Tunisian ex-ruler Zein Al Abdain Ben Ali received the same guarantee when he fled his country and received asylum in the oil kingdom.

A Swiss financial source commented: "If he had any real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now."

According to debkafile's sources, the transfers took place on Feb. 12-13. Although a weekend when European banks are closed, high-ranking officials in Riyadh had their managers hauled out of home to execute Mubarak's transfer orders without delay.

The ousted Egyptian ruler was on the phone to Saudi King Abdullah Friday, Feb. 11, immediately after his vice president Omar Suleiman went on state television to announce his resignation and handover of rule to the army. Mubarak called it a military putsch conducted under pressure from Washington. He denied he had resigned or passed any powers to the army. "I had no idea Omar Suleiman was about to read out that statement. I would never have signed it or allowed it to be published," said Mubarak.

The Saudi king voiced understanding for the ex-president's plight and said the Riyadh government was under orders to meet any requests for assistance received from him.....

In another, earlier article, DEBKA says that Saudi Arabia has initiated a dialog with Iran, and that the Saudi king is extremely upset with Obama over the US handling of the situation in Egypt. The article cites unnamed sources who told DEBKA that the king was so upset talking to Obama on the phone on February 10 that he suffered a heart attack.

As I said at the top, with a grain of salt.

Matt Taibbi: Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

The latest from Matt Taibbi:

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

"Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."

I put down my notebook. "Just that?"

"That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.


Ben Bernank's scheme to goose up the stock market is to benefit the top 5% of the population (including all these rich and famous people), while the most important asset (or what once was) for the middle class (or what's left of them) - homes - continues to fall in value.

Comic Relief of This Morning: GOP Rep Wants to De-Fund Obama's Teleprompter

As part of GOP's effort to cut $100 billion from the 2011 budget (which by the way was never passed by Congress), Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark, proposed an amendment to de-fund President Obama's telepromoter, although he pulled the amendment later.

According to Fox News:

...More than 400 amendments were filed Monday night. Among them were a proposal from Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., to eliminate funding for the president's Teleprompter...

Womack told Fox News Tuesday afternoon that he pulled his amendment because he wasn't able to get an estimate on how much it would save.

"I think we made our point," Womack said. "We're asking people to do more with less. And I think the president ought to lead by example. He is already a very gifted speaker. And I think that's one platform he could do without."

A very gifted speaker?

Where did he get that idea? Hasn't Representative Womack ever heard Obama speak without his beloved teleprompter? Obama can read English, that's for sure (unlike Bush); his teleprompters are indispensable for his reading.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ALL CAP LETTER Warning from Sysco Corp, a Major Food Distributor, on Fresh Produce Prices About to Go Bananas (or Peppers, Tomatoes, Zucchinis....)

This blog has already warned you about fresh produce prices set to skyrocket in yesterday's post due to historic freeze and crop damage in Mexico. Here's another warning from a major food distributor in screaming ALL CAP LETTERS.

From SHTF Plan (oh BTW, SHTF is what you think it is) on 2/13/2011:

Adding to already rising food prices due to monetary inflation and weather related supply problems around the globe, one of the world’s leading food distribution companies, Sysco Corporation, is advising clients and their customers that the recent freeze across North America has significantly impacted growing operations in Mexico (as well as parts of the U.S.) leading to 80% - 100% crop damage:








Source: Sysco Release/Memo: Mexico Freeze [PDF]

Now might be a good time to hit the frozen foods (or fresh produce if you’ve got a vacuum sealer) aisle at your local grocery store and stock up on your favorite fruits and veggies, as there may be a severe supply crunch coming in the next couple weeks lasting perhaps several months. Why pay premium prices later when you can prepare yourself today, before the rest of the country gets wind of it.

I've been long 20lb rice bags (BTW, they are quietly disappearing, as per my personal observation), ramen noodles, tuna cans, bags of flour, sugar, salt. After reading this article, and seeing there was a bargain on roma tomatoes at a nearby supermarket (only 37 cents per pound, can you believe it?), I went and bought 5 pounds and froze them.

But on the other hand, if you believe vegetables are most nutritious and cheapest when in season (they are), then why do we even want summer crops like tomatoes and zucchinis and green beans in the middle of February?

(Well, just in case there are hurricanes and typhoons that will wipe out the summer crops during summer...)

Thanks Ben Bernank. Rising price is a sign of economic growth and rising wealth, as per your definition. Skyrocketing price is surely a sign of explosive economic growth.

Bahrain's Protests Escalate as Army Attacks Demonstrators

Unlike in Egypt, the Bahraini army has no problem running over the protesters, who are Shias under the Sunni royal family rule. Shias comprise 66% of the population of this island kingdom, according to unofficial estimates. Bahrain is also the home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

From Zero Hedge (2/15/2011):

The small country of Bahrain has promptly been displaced in the docket of revolutionary news, by recent developments in Iran. Yet the peace on the Saudi island neighbor is deteriorating as demonstrations escalate. According to, "Tens of Bahraini Army jeeps surrounded the main square and attacked the protesters. Thousands of Anti-Government protesters filled a main square in the Bahrain capital due to discriminations posed by the government. Security forces at first appeared to hold back as the crowds poured into Pearl Square in Manama. After a while, in an extreme violent action the army released more than 50 war vehicles to the square, which resulted in shameless and violent attacks against the righteous freedom seekers. The dramatic move Tuesday comes just hours after a third protester died in clashes with police in the strategic Island Kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet." So while we wait for Al Jazeera or anyone else for that matter to start covering the protests in Manama (which could be a while: the world has suddenly developed revolution burn out), below we present a photographic update from the island nation.

Zero Hedge has the photos of the demonstrations from

But Tyler is wrong. Al Jazeera, who must be really "revolution-weary", has Bahrain covered. They have a video clip of the protests. Women in Islamic garbs are out there, raising their fists and waving signs, but unlike in Egypt they are not mixed with men-folk.

From Al Jazeera:

Anti-government protesters are continuing to occupy a square in Bahrain's capital, Manama, after two days of violent clashes left at least two demonstrators dead.

The protesters, seeking political reforms and better human rights in the kingdom, are refusing to disperse, despite a rare apology from the king over the deaths in police firing.

An Al Jazeera correspondent in Bahrain, who cannot be named for his own safety, said that thousands of protesters were occupying a major landmark on Wednesday morning.

"They are well organised and say that they will make Manama's Pearl Roundabout Bahrain's version of Egypt's Tahrir Square."

Our correspondent said that some of the protesters were planning a march from the roundabout, while others planned to remain and keep it occupied.

Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa made a rare television appearance on Tuesday in which he expressed his condolences for "the deaths of two of our dear sons" and said a committee would investigate the killings.

"We will ask legislators to look into this issue and suggest needed laws to resolve it," he said, adding that peaceful protests were legal.

... Al Jazeera's correspondent said that police took a very heavy-handed approach towards the protesters.

"Police fired on the protesters this morning, but they showed very strong resistance," our correspondent said.

Mubarak's Son Gamal Prompted Father to Change the Last Speech

from the one given by the military ("he will resign") to the defiant one that he would stay until September. The defiant speech was thus delivered on Thursday (2/10) last week, which brought an even greater number of people on the streets in Egypt in protest on Friday (2/11).

Al Arabiya reports (2/13/2011):

A heated argument broke out between Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, the two sons of the former Egyptian president, inside the presidential palace last Thursday during the recording of their father's last speech to the nation, Egypt's government owned al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Sunday.

Hosni Mubarak reportedly was supposed to announce his resignation in a speech that the military sent to him on Thursday but his son Gamal and senior officials in his entourage pressed him to deliver a different speech in which he insisted on staying in power until September.

During the recording of the speech Gamal and Alaa engaged in a heated argument that almost developed into a fight. According to the report, Alaa accused Gamal of dragging the country into corruption by helping his friends in the business industry climb the echelons of political power.

"Instead of working to help your father be honored at the end of his life, you helped damage his image this way," Alaa reportedly told his brother Gamal, who was the head of the ruling party's policies committee.

The argument was so loud that almost everyone in the palace heard them, the newspaper reported, adding that some senior government officials interfered to calm them down.

Al Arabiya also reports that Hosni Mubarak fell into a full coma on Saturday night at his seaside resort villa.

Some sort of justice, I suppose. ("How convenient" are the words that come to mind, putting on a tinfoil hat.)

Perhaps he could join Ariel Sharon in Israel.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Peggy Noonan on Egyptian Revolution

The first I've read so far among American analysts and columnists, who seems to be able to see without the clouded lens of "radical Islam", "Israel", "stability in Middle East", "war on terror", "military coup", and who seems to be sincerely congratulating Egyptians for what they've achieved so far and wishing them well for tackling the challenge that awaits them.

From Wall Street Journal (Peggy Noonan, 2/12/2011):

A Young Nation Triumphs as an Old Ruler Falls
No vulnerable dictatorship will survive this era.


The revolution in part was a struggle between the ambivalent and the impassioned. Those who backed Mr. Mubarak for reasons of stability or personal gain knew they were supporting a system that was corrupt and oppressive. Their support made them complicit, morally compromised. They didn't want to be targeted. They weren't going to do interviews making the case for a dictator; they weren't going to take to the streets holding signs.

Those who opposed Mr. Mubarak had no ambivalence. They were happy to make their case. They were fighting for a dream of the future; they were fighting for superior principles. In modern revolution, passion trumps ambivalence.

Although I don't agree 100% with her characterization that this was the revolution led by and dominated by the young (I've seen enough visual evidence to the contrary - that it has been an all-age, all social-class, all-religion affair), I wholeheartedly agree with her assertion that this has been about "Egypt for Egypt"; it's not about the US (or the West) "losing" or "retaining" or "controlling" Egypt:


Finally, it was Egypt's story, Egypt's drama, Egypt's decision about Egypt's future. What happens now will have implications for America, but the revolution was not about America, which appears to have been hard for some Americans to grasp. "America's invasion of Iraq prompted Egypt's freedom movement." That's one way to look at it, an odd way. "Did Obama Lose Egypt?" It was not his to lose. Egypt prompted Egypt's freedom movement. We are not the center of everything, the reason for everything.

And her last paragraph:

It is hard to know, if you're not Egyptian, what to make of this. Not only will the world be watching to see what Egypt becomes, what future its people will choose, but Egypt itself will be watching, and discovering what and who it is. A Hollywood director once said that a great Western is defined by this dynamic: "The villain has arrived while the hero is evolving." Egypt itself is evolving. May its people be heroes and do great things.

May they be heroes and do great things, just as they have been and they have done in the past 22 days.

Obama's FY 2012 Budget: $1.5 Trillion Tax Hike Over 10 Years

And he thinks that will help the economy and win him another term as the president (so that he can throw parties every week and play golf every weekend). He's delusional.

From Americans for Tax Reform (2/14/2011):

President Obama released his budget this morning. Rather than focusing on Washington’s over-spending problem, the budget calls for higher taxes on families and small businesses to pay for even more government spending. Under the Obama budget, tax revenues will grow from 14.4% of GDP in 2011 to 20% of GDP in 2021. By comparison, the historical average is only 18% of GDP.

Tax hike lowlights include:

  • Raising the top marginal income tax rate (at which a majority of small business profits face taxation) from 35% to 39.6%. This is a $709 billion/10 year tax hike

  • Raising the capital gains and dividends rate from 15% to 20%

  • Raising the death tax rate from 35% to 45% and lowering the death tax exemption amount from $5 million ($10 million for couples) to $3.5 million. This is a $98 billion/ten year tax hike

  • Capping the value of itemized deductions at the 28% bracket rate. This will effectively cut tax deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, property taxes, state and local income or sales taxes, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and unreimbursed employee business expenses. A new means-tested phaseout of itemized deductions limits them even more. This is a $321 billion/ten year tax hike

  • New bank taxes totaling $33 billion over ten years

  • New international corporate tax hikes totaling $129 billion over ten years

  • New life insurance company taxes totaling $14 billion over ten years

  • Massive new taxes on energy, including LIFO repeal, Superfund, domestic energy manufacturing, and many others totaling $120 billion over ten years

  • Increasing unemployment payroll taxes by $15 billion over ten years
  • Taxing management capital gains in an investment partnership (“carried interest”) as ordinary income. This is a tax hike of $15 billion over ten years

  • A giveaway to the trial lawyers—not letting companies deduct the cost of punitive damages from a lawsuit settlement. This is a tax hike of $300 million over ten years

  • Increasing tax penalties, information reporting, and IRS information sharing. This is a ten-year tax hike of $20 billion.

Add it all together, and this budget is a ten-year, $1.5 trillion tax hike over present law. That’s $1.5 trillion taken out of the economy and spent on government instead of being used to create jobs.

The “tax relief” in the budget is mostly just an extension of present law, and also some refundable credit outlay spending in the tax code. There is virtually no new tax relief relative to present law in the President’s budget.

PDF Version

China's January Inflation at 4.9% (That's After They Changed the Weighting of Foods)

From AP:

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were mixed Tuesday as investors digested news that China's inflation rate remained elevated in January following a jump in food prices.

.... China on Tuesday said inflation rose to 4.9 percent in January, driven by a 10.3 percent increase in food costs. The January figure was an increase from December's 4.6 percent rate and close to November's 28-month high of 5.1 percent.

Beijing has hiked interest rates three times since October to cool rapid economic growth and inflation pressures, causing worry among investors who fear such measures could slow Chinese growth -- affecting the United States, Australia and other economies by cutting demand for their exports. But those worries were eased to some degree by January's inflation not being as high as feared.

"The increase was not as big as investors anticipated. This may show some of the measures implemented so far are already working, such as monetary tightening," said Dariusz Kowalczyk of Credit Agricole in Hong Kong.

"Now markets are speculating that further tightening will not be as aggressive as once feared."

"This means China will continue to demand exports from the rest of Asia," Kowalczyk said.

Now that's funny. See no evil, hear no evil.....

From my earlier post:
From Dow Jones:

China has adjusted the weighting of the components making the consumer price index and lowered the weighting of food at the start of the year, the state-run China Securities Journal reported Tuesday...

Go Buy Tomatoes Today (Peppers, Zucchini, Asparagas, Cucumber, too)

Speaking of food prices in the US, the prices of fresh produce are set to jump significantly thanks to unprecedented crop loss in Mexico and Southwest, due to frost.

Portland's news channel KGW reports:

PORTLAND -- Get ready to pay double or even triple the price for fresh produce in the coming weeks after the worst freeze in 60 years damaged and wiped out entire crops in northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S.

The problem started less than a week ago, when our nation was focusing on the Superbowl and sheets of ice falling from Texas Stadium.

Farmers throughout northern Mexico and the Southwest experienced unprecedented crop losses. Now devastation that seemed so far away, is hitting us in the pocketbooks.

"We've had to double and triple some prices and consumers come in and it's quite a shock to them," said Rusty Peake, GM of Food4Less in Southeast Portland.

"Increase, increase, increase," said produce manager Troy Winterhalter as he watched urgent messages coming across his laptop computer. "Peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, asparagus, the entire asparagus crop was wiped out," said Winterhalter.

Roma tomatoes have more than doubled in price since Thursday and very soon they may not be available at all.

It is possible to freeze tomatoes, by the way. Not for eating fresh, obviously, but for cooking. No need to take the skin off.

Surging Food Inflation? No Problem, Says China, We'll Just Change the CPI Weighting

And they did it one day before the release of January CPI data on Tuesday. Here you go, Ben, Timmy, and Barry. Learn from the Chinese! Dispense with the subtleties (substitutions and hedonics) and just do it.

(That what Mubarak and Ben Ali of Tunisia should have done to show the populace that there was no inflation in their respective countries.)

From Zero Hedge:

China Lowers Weighting Of Surging Food Prices In CPI

As we speculated earlier, China has just lowered the weighting of food in its CPI. The reason: the nearly 5% surge in food prices in the past 10 days. Turns out the US can still learn a thing or two about data manipulation from the Chinese...

From Dow Jones:

China has adjusted the weighting of the components making the consumer price index and lowered the weighting of food at the start of the year, the state-run China Securities Journal reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed official at the National Bureau of Statistics.

But the report quoted Xian Zude, chief statistician of the bureau, as saying that the new CPI statistical model will reflect changes in consumption and price levels more accurately, and won't result in a lower index reading.

The report came ahead of the release of January CPI data Tuesday morning. On Monday, state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted government economist Ba Shusong as saying that China's CPI for January may be lower than market expectations, without elaborating.

The median forecast in a Dow Jones Newswires survey of 12 economists was for January's CPI to have risen by 5.4% on year, up from December's 4.6% rise and November's 5.1% increase.

As a result of this pre-emptive manipulative action, expect to see a CPI lower than the 5.4% consensus when the number prints later tonight.

Urgent! : Call Your Representative to Stop Patriot Act Extension! (Updated with Roll Call)

(UPDATE) As expected, they passed it. Keep calling your Congressmen who voted yes.

Roll call for today's vote:

Yeas: Republican 210, Democratic 65, total 275

Nays: Republican 27, Democratic 117, Total 144

Not voting: Republican 3, Democratic 11

And this was the February 8 roll call:
Yeas: Republican 210, Democratic 67, total 277

Nays: Republican 26, Democratic 122, Total 148

Not voting: Republican 5, Democratic 4
The House Republicans are at it again TODAY to extend the provisions in the Patriot Act. The vote is set in the evening.

The previous vote on the extension was defeated because it required 2/3 majority. This time, all they need is a simple majority, and they expect it to pass easily.

Contact your Representative and tell him/her to vote NO.

Particularly those Democratic Congressmen, 67 of them, who voted YES the last time around.

Crashes Reported in Iran Between Protesters and Security Forces, With US Secretary of State Egging the Protesters On

The protests in Egypt have largely failed to become "hot", although the Mubarak regime tried their best to make them that way. And there has been no "radical Islam" taking over the country.

So, TPTB (the powers that be) must create a "hot" "revolution" somehow. Why, you ask?

Why not? Just for fun, maybe? As a diversion from the mess (like insolvent states in the US)? Or Israel needs an enemy, perhaps.

From Al Jazeera [emphasis is mine]:

There are reports in social media sites and non-state Iranian news sites of clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Thousands of demonstrators were marching on Monday on Enghelab and Azadi streets [which connect and create a straight path through the city centre], with a heavy presence in Enghelab Square and Vali-Asr Street, according to these reports.

Several clashes have been reported on Twitter, the micro-blogging site, with claims of some demonstrators being teargassed and others beaten and arrested.

Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari, in Tehran, confirmed reports that security forces used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against the protesters.

She said up to 10,000 security forces had been deployed to prevent protesters from gathering at Azadi Square, where the marches, originating from various points in Tehran, were expected to converge.

...As night fell in Iran, the BBC reported that city lights were being turned off and that security forces were attacking protesters in the dark.

...Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, hailed the "courage" of the protesters, and pressed Tehran to follow Egypt's example and "open up" its political system.

Our correspondent in Tehran said that as far as Iran's leaders are concerned, Monday's protests "are not a reflection of what people actually want."

They believe these are small groups of individuals who have ulterior motives, they are a threat to national security and therefore the security forces are necessary to prevent them from becoming a threat inside the country," said Jabbari.

TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky Resigns

That's too bad.

From CNN Money:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, informed President Obama on Monday that he is resigning from his position, effective March 30.

"I believe that it is the right time for me to step down and pursue other opportunities," Barofsky wrote in his resignation letter.

Barofsky said he has fulfilled his goals related to TARP since his nomination by former President Bush on Dec. 8, 2008. These goals, he said, were "to build a robust law enforcement agency to bring to justice to those who sought to profit criminally from TARP" and "to ensure transparency in the operation of TARP."

He said he also achieved the goal of providing "effective oversight over the government's decision-making process to minimize instances of waste, fraud and abuse."

He said that he had only one co-worker when he started the "SIGTARP" job and was "working out of a small office in the basement of the Main Treasury building." Since then, he said the position has grown to 140 auditors, investigators and attorneys, with offices in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The team is now being led by Deputy Special Inspector General Christy Romero who will continue its mission.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California praised Barofsky for his "extraordinary commitment to public service" but he said the work that he begun is not finished.

Issa said the next Inspector General needs to demonstrate Barofsky-style "vigilance, courage and commitment" in dealing with the 150-plus TARP recipient banks that have missed their regulator dividend payments.

Issa also said the next Inspector General needs to deal with the Home Affordable Modification Program, which "has fallen short of its goal to preserve home ownership."

Barofsky did not say what he plans to do next.

Just don't go work for Goldman Sachs or PIMCO.

I don't know whether Ms. Christy Romero will become the next Inspector General or not, but we shouldn't be expecting much from her. Her resume shows she worked for Mary Shapiro and Christopher Cox at the SEC before she came to SIGTARP.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Over Here, Over There, They Are Everywhere ...

Who are they? Goldman Sachs. In your face, and people still refuse to see it.

Mish Shedlock linked a few articles in his blog post (2/13/2011) concerning the reach of the Vampire Squid sprawled on the face of mankind.

According to these articles,

  • An ex-Goldman is the leading contender for the next ECB president replacing Trichet.

  • Another ex-Goldman is the governor of Bank of Canada, the central bank of Canada.

  • Yet another Goldman becomes the SEC division head to oversee asset managers and hedge funds.

Mish's parting shot:

As I said a couple days ago, all we need now to complete the picture is for an ex-Goldman employee to run for president of the United States and for another ex-Goldman employee to replace Bernanke at the Fed.

Washington Post: Biggest CPAC Loser Is Ron Paul

It's just another hit piece on Ron Paul from the establishment.

Winning is losing, losing is winning, you see? Or should I say there is no such thing as losing, it is "unwinning"... (How long do we want to be in this 1984? Like, forever?)

According to Gen-X reporter Chris Cillizza of Washington Post, the biggest loser in the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) was Ron Paul who was No.1 with 30% of the straw poll.

From WaPo (2/13/2011):

The Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual rite of passage for Republicans with an eye on the presidency, concluded over the weekend with Texas Rep. Ron Paul emerging as the winner of the gathering's 2012 straw poll.

But, sometimes winning can actually be closer to losing -- as in Paul's case - and losing (or at least not finishing in the top few in the straw poll) can mask a winning performance at the three-day convention.

So who are the winners in the eyes of this WaPo writer?

Mitt Romney
Mitch Daniels
Michele Bachmann
Rick Perry
Chris Christie

And the losers?

Ron Paul
Rick Santorum
Orrin Hatch

Japan's GDP Drops 1.1%, and Nikkei Goes Up

because the drop was less than the forecast (which was between -2.0 to -2.4%). Nothing can drop the stock markets of the so-called developed countries any more. BRIC, without the exception of R, have been dropping while Dow, Nikkei, Dax, CAC, FTSE continue to levitate.

From MarketWatch:

LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- Japan's gross domestic product fell 1.1% in October-December on an annualized basis, the Cabinet Office reported Monday, beating forecasts but also marking the first economic contraction since July-September 2009, when the economy shrank by 1.2%. The GDP was expected to fall by 2.4% for the quarter, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey of economists, and was tipped to drop 2.0% by separate surveys from Bloomberg News and FactSet. On a quarter-on-quarter basis, GDP lost 0.3%, after growing 0.8% in the previous three months.

Nokia CEO Defends Deal with Microsoft

It sure looks like a sell-out to me, particularly when this guy, Stephen Elop, a Canadian who became the CEO of Nokia in September 2010, is a former Microsoft executive in charge of Microsoft Office products.

From AP:

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Nokia Corp. will get billions of dollars from Microsoft Corp. to ditch its current smart-phone software in favor of Windows Phone 7, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said Sunday, in a defense of the deal.

Nokia, the world's largest maker of phones, and Microsoft announced their alliance Friday. Both investors and employees reacted with dismay: Nokia's stock dived 14 percent and Finnish employees used flex time to go home early.

On Sunday, a day ahead of the start of the Mobile World Congress cell phone trade show in Barcelona, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told press, analysts and industry players that apart from the benefits of the alliance that were laid out Friday, Microsoft is paying Nokia billions of dollars to switch to Windows Phone 7.

"This is something I don't think was completely explained" on Friday, Elop said.

Elop said Finland-based Nokia had been courted by Google Inc. as well, which sought to convince it to use its popular Android software for smart phones. Microsoft's payments are a recognition that Nokia had "substantial value to contribute," said Elop, who until recently was a Microsoft executive.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7 last year, on phones made by LG Electronics Inc. and HTC Corp., but has only captured a few percent of the smart phone market, according to analysts. Getting Nokia on board sets Windows Phone 7 up to gain a much bigger share of the market.

I don't know what Nokia's board was thinking when it picked him. He worked for three of the companies I most despise for having churned out (and still churning) not just defective and buggy but harmful products one after another to the tremendous productivity loss all around the world for decades: Microsoft, Adobe, and Macromedia. He was the last CEO of Macromedia who sold the company to Adobe. And that's why your Flash update almost always crashes your system.

If he had worked for the HP printer division in addition to these three companies, I would throw stones at him if I ever see him.

Next step for Nokia? Maybe this CEO is set to do what he did while at Macromedia: sell the company to Microsoft, while pocketing billions himself.

Again, who does Nokia's board serve? Digging around to figure out this almost self-destructive move at Nokia, I've found this from (1/26/2011) [emphasis is original]:

Just a day before Nokia announces its quarterly and yearly results, some ground-breaking news about the company's CEO appeared on the Finnish daily Kauppalehti. The newspaper claims that Nokia's chairman, Jorma Ollila, started to look for a replacement to Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo as early as spring 2010. But the search was a mere formality as Ollila had already picked his favorite - Anssi Vanjoki, former VP of the Finnish company. Vanjoki was getting ready to step in as the company's head honcho when just a week before the announcement of the new CEO, ex-Microsoft Stephen Elop's name surfaced.

The report states that Espoo chairman Ollila was threatened by American investors to pick a man from overseas. Vanjoki quit almost immediately after it was announced that Elop will be the new chief executive officer.

So the board serves "American investors", who demanded Nokia install this Canadian working for Microsoft. Who are the major American investors of Nokia?

Here's the top ten institutional investors of Nokia, all American, controlling about 8.47% of all outstanding shares:

Capital Research Global Investors
Tradewinds Global Investors, LLC
Invesco Ltd.

Any guess about which investment bank is advising these American investors? The American investment bank which Ben Bernank was afraid would topple after Lehman Brothers, perhaps? (6th paragraph from the top at the link)

(And maybe the same bank who has been advising Hosni Mubarak to hide his money and gold for the past 18 days?)

Telegraph: Hosni Mubarak Used Last 18 Days in Power to Secure His Fortune

Ha! Of course he did, and now we know the wishy-washy response of the Western leaders, most notably from the US, over the past 18 days was to give Mubarak long enough time to hide as much wealth as possible. A just reward, I suppose, for having been a good boy for 30 years for the West and their allies in Middle East.

From UK's Telegraph:

Egypt: Hosni Mubarak used last 18 days in power to secure his fortune (2/12/2011)

Hosni Mubarak used the 18 days it took for protesters to topple him to shift his vast wealth into untraceable accounts overseas, Western intelligence sources have said.

The former Egyptian president is accused of amassing a fortune of more than £3 billion - although some suggest it could be as much as £40 billion - during his 30 years in power. It is claimed his wealth was tied up in foreign banks, investments, bullion and properties in London, New York, Paris and Beverly Hills.

In the knowledge his downfall was imminent, Mr Mubarak is understood to have attempted to place his assets out of reach of potential investigators.

On Friday night Swiss authorities announced they were freezing any assets Mubarak and his family may hold in the country's banks while pressure was growing for the UK to do the same. Mr Mubarak has strong connections to London and it is thought many millions of pounds are stashed in the UK.

But a senior Western intelligence source claimed that Mubarak had begun moving his fortune in recent weeks.

"We're aware of some urgent conversations within the Mubarak family about how to save these assets," said the source, "And we think their financial advisers have moved some of the money around. If he had real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now."

Ah. I just wonder who those astute financial advisers are.

I also wonder if there's any gold left in the central bank of Egypt. (Remember the wife of the Tunisian government, who grabbed 1.5 tonnes of gold from the central bank and ran?)