Saturday, March 5, 2011

OT: Music Vid for the Weekend No.2: "Democracy"

is coming, from the desert of northern Africa through the desert of Middle the U.S.A.

By Leonard Cohen.

...It's coming from the sorrow in the street,

the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

BBC Arabic: Government Forces Took Over Zawiya & Misutara, Heading for Benghazi (UPDATED)

(UPDATE) Well, that seems to be a lie from Gaddafi. Or I should say propaganda. Or "narrative" (oooh I hate that word). Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, AFP all deny that Tobruk, Misurata, Az Zawiyah, Ras Lanuf have fallen; they are still in the hands of anti-Gaddafi forces.


Tweets from Sultan Al Qassemi:

BBC Arabic: Libyan State TV announces that govt forces are now heading to Benghazi.

BBC Arabic: Libyan State TV announces that govt forces have taken full control of the towns of Zawiya & Misutara.

I hope they're wrong, for the sake of Libyans and for those of us who are against military intervention by the West. If the West go in, there will be "Boots on the ground".

Brzezinski's sensible options, which I agree with, will fall on deaf ears of the leaders of the West, jockeying for a hero status in the eyes of their respective electorate, be it US President Obama or Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero (who looks like Mr. Bean).

Heavy Gunfire all over #Tripoli, British Soldiers in #Libya

Just heard it on BBC Radio.

Libya's opposition forces seem to be moving in much quicker than the morally bankrupt West has anticipated (and hoped).

The same BBC Radio news says Libyans are furious that British soldiers are ON THE GROUND inside Libya, seen escorting British officials in the eastern part of the country.

So, the rumor that Britain (along with France and the US) sent several hundred special forces to Libya on February 23-24 may have been true.

Libyans, don't ever trust the Western governments.

"The Free Market Death Panel" and Fail-to-Deliver US Treasuries

We are being robbed by Wall Street banks every single day and we don't even know it.

There was an article on Zero Hedge by Miss America aka Rich Hartmann on Friday (3/4/2011) titled "The Free Market Death Panel". "A nice sensationalism," I applauded, and started reading the article. As I read, I kept thinking "This can't be true! Just can't be..."

After all that's happened since the cascading market crash in October 2008, I thought I was immune to any surprise coming from banksters - mortgage fraud, foreclosure fraud, securitization fraud, bailout fraud, high-frequency trading fraud, regulatory capture (revolving doors of Wall Street to Washington), sovereign capture (Libya's favorite banker is J.P.Morgan Chase) - everything they do is fraud, and action to cover up the fraud (that's where the "capture" comes in).

But in the ZeroHedge article, Miss America / Rich Hartmann talks about the Treasury Market Practices Group (TMPG) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (the same bank that does POMO almost every single day to shower money on the Primary Dealers), and how the Group has enabled the same Wall Street banks to swindle potentially billions of dollars from pension funds and mutual funds where the rest of us keep our dwindling savings.

How? By shorting the Treasuries and deliberately failing to deliver them.

The article gives a hypothetical example of how a broker screws a pension fund and ends up collecting money from the pension fund:

BrokerX sells 2 lots of 5mm shares to pensionsuckersfund (PSF) of cusip 912828XXX.
BrokerX then buys 10mm shares back from pesionsuckersfund (PSF) at a small loss in the same day of the same cusip 912828XXX.

PSF’s Net buys = $9,999,950 ($4,999,975 + $4,999,975)
PSF’s Net sells = $10,000,000 (for a $50 gain. These daily turns ranging to 50million par are extraordinarily commonplace, especially for a flooded Treasury Market.)

Sounds good for the pensionsuckerfund as they just made $50. …but here’s the rub:

In the real world of street settlements, BrokerX can now withhold on ACTUALLY delivering 1 of the 5mm pieces to the pensionsuckerfund. Since BrokerX is short, for whatever reason, BrokerX does not deliver the 2nd piece of 5mm. In MANY scenarios, the pensionsuckerfund will now wind up failing on the larger 10mm because they needed both 5mm pieces to position the trade. (Duh!! Thus a “pair-off/turnaround”.) …but BrokerX would never “intentionally” fail to deliver something! (wink wink)

So What!!!

So you say: “But why would Wall Street banks care about that those small claimable amounts!?!?!” They don’t care about that 1 trade. They care about the net of the trades! You see, this is the market! These types of treasury flips are done all day. The entire MBS market of TBA trades equate to thousands of trades netted out to small net gains and losses. This is what they do.

In the meantime their nice little $1,000 gains, in a tightly traded market (With razor thin margins) could add up. How?!?!?! On a daily basis there are $3-$6bilion in fails! Let me repeat!!! $3,000,000,000.00 to $6,000,000,000.00 in fails!!! …and that equates to $250,000.00-$500,000.00 in potential claims daily! EVERY DAY!!!

And with a huge spike ($20-90 billion per day) that seems to happen once in every quarter, potential claims may run into a few billions per year.

And this TMPG has made matters worse for the pensionsuckerfund (and better for the BrokerX) by "actually writing in their “suggestions” that BrokerX does “NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT ANY PARTIAL DELIVERIES”.

So BrokerX can actually reject your partial delivery of the 5mm shares you do have, just to get the claim on something they are intentionally botching! So that loss of $50 actually turns into an $850 gain!

Get it? The process is, as I understand:

  1. BrokerX sells 2 lots of Treasuries, $5M each, to Pensionsuckerfund. BrokerX then only delivers 1 lot, $5M.

  2. Pensionsuckerfund then sells $10M Treasuries it just bought from BrokerX, back to BrokerX, at a slight profit of $50. Problem: it only has $5M Treasuries at hand.

  3. BrokerX says No to partial delivery, and insists on $10M delivery. Pensionsuckerfund cannot deliver.

  4. BrokerX makes a claim for the fail, for $900. Net $850 profit.

Rinse and repeat, by Wall Street banks, every day, every week, every month, every year.

The TMPG has essentially created a new way for Wall Street banks to rob in the broad daylight with their victims unaware that they're being robbed. Or "raped", to use Miss America's word.

Miss America / Rich Hartmann's final words:

We all know that Wall Street has been raping America for years! Finally realizing this, the government stepped in! …and they made Wall Street put a condom on!

Groups like the TMPG are not out to protect us. They don’t stop the rape. No, they are actually protecting Wall Street from the virus that we have become.

…and I am here to spread the disease and spread the word.

Go read the whole piece. A must read, IMHO.

Where's Tony Blair? He Would Make an Ideal Envoy to #Libya...

Since he is on the first-name basis with Gaddafi with numerous business ties representing the world's largest corporations, he would make an ideal envoy to talk some sense into his family friend Gaddafi.

For more of Tony's strong Libyan ties, read this wonderful article, "The Lockerbie Deal", by Vanity Fair.

So where's Tony? His March 3rd tweet claims he's meeting Ban Ki-Moon at the UN:

On way to @ to meet with SG Ban Ki-Moon and USG Valerie Amos ahead of next meeting

Valerie Amos, or rather, Baroness Amos, is the eighth and current UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. She was made a life peer by Tony Blair in 1997

Special Envoy to #Libya

So far Obama hasn't sent his special envoy to Libya, unlike in the case of Egypt.

Remember the disaster (though no one remembers now..) of an envoy that he sent to Egypt, who was the personal friend of Mubarak, ex-AIG vice chairman and Enron board member, who praised Mubarak for his work and insisted that Mubarak stay on to steer the changes for his wonderful legacy?

But UN's Ban Ki-Moon is apparently close to selecting his, according to Foreign Policy magazine (3/5/2011):

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is planning to name one of two former Jordanian foreign ministers, either Abdul-llah Khatib or Marwan Muasher, early next week as his special envoy to Libya, marking an escalation in the U.N.'s effort to address a potential humanitarian crisis in Libya and to prepare the groundwork for a transition of power, U.N.-based diplomatic sources told Turtle Bay.

Khatib is expected to organize a team of experts who will initially help coordinate the humanitarian response to Moammar Qaddafi's violent crackdown on anti-government protesters, which has led to the flight of tens of thousands of foreign nationals. But the mission will also take on a political role, seeking to build consensus among the various Libyan tribal factions and opposition groups, and helping to facilitate a political transition.

The move clearly shows the convergence of U.S. and U.N. efforts to help bring about an end of Qaddafi's 41-year rule in Libya. It appears unlikely that Ban will seek to promote mediation efforts between Qaddafi's government and anti-government rebels. Ban and the United States have questioned Qaddafi's right to rule. "In Libya, a regime that has lost legitimacy has declared war on its own people," Ban said last week during a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. "It is up to us, the community of nations, to stand against this crime."

The U.N. chief had also approached Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister and U.N. trouble-shooter, and Kamal Dervis, a Turkish economist who previously headed the U.N. Development Program. But both men turned the job down. Ban has been in discussions with both Khatib and Muasher. U.N-based diplomats were divided over which candidate prevailed. But two council diplomats said they believed Muasher was the front runner.

A spokesman for Ban, Farhan Haq, declined to confirm or deny the pending appointment of Al-Khatib, saying a final decision has not been made. "As you might imagine, we can't comment officially on any of that, just to say that the search is ongoing and that we expect to make an announcement soon," Haq told Turtle Bay.

Ban discussed his plan to appoint a special representative in a White House meeting last week with President Barack Obama.

Read the full article at the link.

So a former Jordanian minister is going to do... what? Meet .... who? Gaddafi?

And #Obama Goes Golfing Because Spring Is Here

Hahahahaha... because at this point all I can do is to laugh at this guy.

He can't even be bothered to care how he would look (answer: stupid).

From The Hills:

In a sign that spring is nearing in Washington, President Obama hit the golf course Saturday.

Storm clouds have been brewing all day, but the temperature was expected to hit 60 degrees. The president left the White House at 1 p.m. for his first golf outing stateside this year.

A 10-vehicle motocade took Obama to the Andrews Air Force Base golf course.

Obama usually hits the indoor basketball court on winter days.

His golfing partners Saturday are accustomed to hitting the links with the president: press staffer Ben Finkenbinder, trip director Marvin Nicholson and Department of Energy staffer David Katz.

Fighter Jet En Route to #Benghazi Shot Down by Opposition

Way to go, Libyans!

Tweets from Tripolitanian (from oldest tweet at the top, about 1 hour ago):

Unconfirmed: Fighter jet en route to shot down by freedom fighters.

According to Reuters, the downed warplane was piloted by a Sudanese. No surprise there, I doubt any would bomb their own country.

BTW, that warplane was shot down by a man in his 50s, using the AA gun for 1st time w/ only 1 barrel working.

That should send a message to Gaddafi's pilots. Tripolitanian also tweets that Algerian military planes continue to fly into Libya.

Algeria has been awfully quiet, though the discontent there would be just as great as in Egypt and Libya, if not greater.

Biden Leaves Country in Middle of Budget Talks, Obama Sees Nothing Wrong

This administration takes us for fools, although Obama is probably right in saying Biden's absence doesn't matter a single iota.

From Washington Times (3/4/2011):

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. walked out of Thursday's high-stakes negotiations to stop a government shutdown and said the conversations will continue — but he won't actually be part of them since he leaves this weekend for major negotiations with European leaders.

President Obama on Wednesday tapped Mr. Biden, his "sheriff" on the stimulus, to lead negotiations with Congress, though Mr. Biden already had a prearranged trip scheduled to visit Finland, Russia and Moldova next week.

The White House dismissed worries about his absence, saying it would not be an impediment.

"There's no question that our entire budget team stands ready to talk, negotiate, work non-stop starting now to get this done within the two-week CR, if it's possible," said Gene B. Sperling, Mr. Obama's top economic adviser, as he briefed reporters at the White House ahead of Thursday's meeting.

After Democrats said he needed to get more involved in the spending negotiations, Mr. Obama on Wednesday said he would send a high-level team up to begin talking with congressional leaders about a way to finish the 2011 spending bills, which Democrats left undone at the end of the last Congress.

Mr. Biden, who served more than two decades in the Senate before being elected vice president on Mr. Obama's ticket, convened the first meeting Thursday evening in his ceremonial office.

The leaders emerged after an hour saying nothing about how it went. A short time later, Mr. Biden's office issued what all had agreed would be the only statement made.

"We had a good meeting, and the conversation will continue," the vice president said.

Government shut-down? It will be a good thing. We shouldn't be paying for anything that these clowns do (or don't do) at the White House and Congress.

Zbigniew Brzezinski Is All For Indirect US Intervention in Libya

In talking to Al Jazeera, he says "some greater, but indirect involvement of the United States would sent the right message" and move things in Libya in the right direction.

Specifically, he wants US ships right off the shores of Tripoli, which alone sends a strong message, according to him, and even better, to unilaterally evacuate the Westerners. It would be the message to the divided Libyan army that it is not in their interest to support Gaddafi.

Ah, Mr. Brzezinski, there may be two problems to your proposal, which I tend to agree more than imposing a no-fly zone:

  1. (As I said in my last post,) As long as Gaddafi can buy arms and hire mercenaries with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil money each week, I don't think he cares whether he still has the Libyan military or not.

  2. You are expecting the occupant of the White House to actually sit down and think about what to do for more than 10 minutes.

I don't think Prez Obama will or cares. He will simply say yes to whatever proposal that he's given, be it from neocons like McCain and Lieberman or from some trigger-happy generals, as long as it looks like it will increase his chance of getting re-elected next year.

Brzezinski didn't mention a no-fly zone. Interesting.

Here's the segment on Al Jazeera TV:

Fighting Continues in Az Zawiyah, Starts in Sirte, #Libya

as #Gaddafi's forces surround Az Zawiyah. In the meantime, there was a crash in Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, between pro-Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi forces for the first time. Al Jazeera Libya Blog (3/5/2011) reports:


The inter-tribal fighting in Sirte was sparked by one tribe refusing to support Gaddafi's fighters in Ras Lanuf yesterday, Al Jazeera Arabic reports. This has reportedly opened a political divide overnight in the city, which is home to 135,000 people - and which houses several government ministries.

For those of us geographically challenged even within our own town, here's a handy map that shows the key cities in Libya (thank you Al Jazeera):

Az Zawiyah is only about 30 Kilometers away from Tripoli.

Alain Juppe, Foreign Minister of France after the previous one had to resign for having been too cozy with the Gaddafis, is pushing for a UN resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. I'm sure it's well-intended, along with John McCain and Joe Lieberman who are itching to commit the US into Libya.

As long as the oil money (hundreds of millions of dollars) continues to flow to Gaddafi, and as long as there are people, businesses, who are more than happy to help him out in procuring arms and mercenaries, it will continue - no-fly zone or not.

People of Az Zawiya Beat #Gaddafi's Forces After 4 Hour Battle and 100 Dead

Go Libyans!!!! (I hope this is true...)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Az Zawiyah, #Libya Falling to Pro-Gaddafi Forces?

Speaking of mercenaries, pro-Gaddafi forces are attacking the town of Az Zawiyah which lies 40km west of Tripoli; this is coming after the town sustained an overnight attack by pro-Gaddafi forces. Things are getting uglier by the hour, if not by minute.

And that jerk of the son of Gaddafi, Saif, taunted the reporters of the Western media and Al Jazeera, "Show me the photo of dead Libyans!"

Oh wait... is this what the same jerk was talking about? "Please, wait for the surprises..."?

From Al Jazeera Libya Blog 3/5/2011 (time is local Libyan time, GMT+2):

  • 9:30am

    Ahmed, a resident of Az Zawiyah speaks to Al Jazeera ont he phone from the middle of the ongoing battle. Shouting to be heard over the sound of artillery and small arms fire, he tells us:

    There is heavy bombing of the city by tanks and heavy weapons and mortars - the rebels are struggling to resist with very primitive means. They [invading forces] have no mercy and are very brutal. There is a large number of injured and a lot of people killed on the streets.

    There is no mercy to civilians. The tanks belonging to to the regime are attacking everything indiscriminately and we have no means of defending ourselves.

    There is a very tragic situation happening right now. It's a very serious situation. We were expecting the world to intervene, but they have let us down. Shelling is now coming in from all sides.

    They are shooting at the Libyan citizens and we have made up our mid that we will die here. I am really sorry, we are in the middle of a battle and the shelling is very heavy - the [phone line] could break at any moment.

    We have taken prisoners out of two vehicles, and we are treating them with respect. But they are shelling us, they are kiling us.

    Where is the United Nations or the Arab League or the international community who have spoken about our rights or protecting us? I don't think they meant what they have said.

    I am in the middle of Martyrs' Square, and we are conducting a battle. The tanks have surrounded us and they are shelling all the buildings - whether they are residential or business properties. The shelling and destruction is indiscriminate and the civilians are taking shelter in the buildings surrouding the square - but they have not given up yet.

    All parts of society - all parts - whether they are professionals and farmers - are all together, supporting each other, hoping that they will be able to survive.

    But it is violent, it is indiscriminate - and the number of dead and injured? I cannot count it yet. We need the world here, we need them to intervene - words are not enough. It's not a matter of oil and gas that you need you of our country - it is human lives and blood being shed - right now.

  • 9:15am

    Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, speaking from Benghazi, tells us Az Zawiyah is in the hands of Gaddafi's forces - but fighting continues, we understand.

  • 9:10am

    Six tanks - each carrying four Gaddafi-loyalist soldiers - have been set on fire in central Az Zawiyah, eyewitnesses tell us.

    Several have been arrested, we are told.

    "Most of those attacking us are mercenaries," Lufti Az-Zawi tells Al Jazeera.

  • 9:08am

    Fierce fighting reported in central Az Zawiyah - with two tanks reported blown up in Shuhada [Martyr's] Square.

    Some security personnel from al-Gaddafi brigades have been arrested, Al Jazeera reports.

  • 8:35am

    The attack against Az Zawiyah - just west of Tripoli - was renewed at 6am, Al Jazeera is told.
  • 8:25am

    The Al-Gaddafi brigades have reportedly renewed the offensive against Az Zawiyah - where 30 were killed in last night's attack. An eyewitness tells Al Jazeera Arabic the city is being shelled, and tanks have been seen entering the city centre.

Mondoweiss: Israeli Company Recruits Mercenaries for Gaddafi

Mondoweiss has a post (3/3/2011) that lists several links to articles that claim an Israeli company headed by retired Israeli army commanders is selling arms to Gaddafi and recruiting mercenaries for him to fight the opposition forces in Libya.

The Mondoweiss' post has the near-verbatim translation of the article in Hebrew, and in it I found an interesting bit of information about Gaddafi's mercenaries:

It should be noted that mercenaries who had already arrived in Tripoli, left from Chad and that is a provable fact. According to publications in the west, Qaddafi pays the company that deals in recruiting mercenaries 2,000 USD per day, per fighter. From that, the mercenaries personally receive about $100 per day. This is a brokerage deal to the tune of billions of dollars. The money is paid to the African supervisors who bring their gangs and rake in a fortune. The large amounts include weapons and ammunition that mercenaries use, and compensation for the mercenaries’ families in the event that fighters are killed, injured, or fall in captivity.

But wait, there's more. It gets curiouser and curiouser.

An Israeli TV interviewed two Israeli woman of Libyan origin last year, who claimed to be Gaddafi's relatives. Gaddafi, if what they said is true, is Jewish, and is entitled to immigrate to Israel, no question asked.

According to Israel Today (2/21/2011):

Israel’s Channel 2 News last year interviewed two Israeli women of Libyan origin who claimed to be distant relatives of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The older of the two interviewees, Guita Brown, said she is Gaddafi’s second cousin (Brown’s grandmother was the sister of Gaddafi’s grandmother). The younger of the two women, Rachel Saada, granddaughter of Brown, explained in more detail:

“The story goes that Gaddafi’s grandmother, herself a Jewess, was married to a Jewish man at first. But he treated her badly, so she ran away and married a Muslim sheikh. Their child was the mother of Gaddafi.”

While Gaddafi’s grandmother converted to Islam when she married the sheikh, according to Jewish religious law (and common sense), she was ethnically still Jewish.

At this point the news anchor stated, “So, the point is that Gaddafi doesn’t just have Jewish relatives, he is Jewish!

The same magazine also reports that Gaddafi tried to fund a "Libyan" political party in Israel.

OT: Music Vid for the Weekend No.1 "Burning Down the House"

Talking Heads "Burning Down the House"

We've got a match

Watch out you might get what you're after
Cool babies strange but not a stranger
I'm an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

Hold tight wait till the party's over
Hold tight We're in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house

Asia's "End Game": China

If #Saudi Arabia is the "end game" in uprising in north Africa and Middle East, the "end game" in Asia will be #China.

Aside from the phony "Jasmine" revolution, which does look to be one of those Soros/US government-funded "color revolutions", the Communist regime in China seems to be feeling the heat. Not from their own citizens (not yet, anyway) but from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, now Saudi Arabia, where the ruled have finally said "enough is enough". In Asia, pockets of protests have started to appear in Communist Vietnam and North Korea, and South Koreans are busy withdrawing their money from their banks.

So, what do they do? Preemptive strike: Placate the populace quickly before they start to get funny ideas in spite of the government banning #Egypt from Twitter.

From Al Jazeera (3/5/2011):

China's government has vowed to clamp down on inflation and urgently raise incomes, as Wen Jiabao, the country's premier, devoted most of his country's equivalent of the US 'State of the Union' speech to addressing citizens' economic concerns.

Addressing the opening of the National People's Congress on Saturday, Jiabao said that the country's working class and rural residents would receive more assistance from the government, in a move aimed at sharing the benefits of rapid economic growth across more sectors of society.

Living standards are rising in China, but there have been complaints about accompanying rises in prices, as well as a lack of equitability in the benefits of national economic growth.

"We must make improving the people's lives a pivot linking reform, development and stability ... and make sure people are content with their lives and jobs, society is tranquil and orderly and the country enjoys long-term peace and stability," Wen told the legislature's nearly 3,000 members.

It is very true that the Chinese are more "economic"-minded than other races; as long as they have money and are well-fed, they couldn't care less about political issues.

Now, however, thanks to Ben "Bernank" of the US Federal Reserve and also to the long-standing Chinese policy of pegging (officially or not, tightly or loosely, it is "pegged") the currency to US dollar to keep their exported (junky) goods competitive, the money people have is worth less and less each day. The food prices have gone so much in a short time that the Chinese government has decided to reduce weight of foods in their CPI.

So what tool that's still left? State propaganda:

Chinese media, meanwhile, warned citizens against attempting to emulate popular protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa, warning that any threats to Communist Party-led stability could bring "disaster".

"Everyone knows that stability is a blessing and chaos is a calamity," said the Beijing Daily newspaper, which is the mouthpiece of the Communist Party administration for China's capital.

Yeah. Try to tell that to Tunisians and Egyptians and Libyans. The mouthpiece sounds like Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, actually.

Everybody knows that dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight is fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

(Leonard Cohen "Everybody Knows")

And against that "fixed" fight people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other Middle East countries have risen. Can the Chinese government succeed in keep fixing the fight?

Robert Fisk: Saudis Mobilize Thousands of Troops to Quell Growing Revolt

In #Saudi Arabia, the end game may be happening right about now. Uprisings against regimes in northern Africa and Middle East seem to be finally catching the House of Saud.

Robert Fisk writes (3/5/2011):

Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week's "day of rage" by what is now called the "Hunayn Revolution".

Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family,

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

Oh wait.. Then the eyewitness account of tanks crossing the bridge to Bahrain, which has been denied by the Saudi government, may have been accurate..

Fisk continues:

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.

Although desperate to avoid any outside news of the extent of the protests spreading, Saudi security officials have known for more than a month that the revolt of Shia Muslims in the tiny island of Bahrain was expected to spread to Saudi Arabia. Within the Saudi kingdom, thousands of emails and Facebook messages have encouraged Saudi Sunni Muslims to join the planned demonstrations across the "conservative" and highly corrupt kingdom. They suggest – and this idea is clearly co-ordinated – that during confrontations with armed police or the army next Friday, Saudi women should be placed among the front ranks of the protesters to dissuade the Saudi security forces from opening fire.

If the Saudi royal family decides to use maximum violence against demonstrators, US President Barack Obama will be confronted by one of the most sensitive Middle East decisions of his administration. In Egypt, he only supported the demonstrators after the police used unrestrained firepower against protesters. But in Saudi Arabia – supposedly a "key ally" of the US and one of the world's principal oil producers – he will be loath to protect the innocent.

It will simply be above Obama's pay grade, Mr. Fisk, and he couldn't care less or is too lazy. As you pointed out earlier, all he cares about is getting re-elected, and in the US it is not by popular vote.

Read the full article at the link.

Got oil?

Got gold? Got silver?

Got food?

FT: Libya's Oil Dollars Still Flow to Gaddafi

Financial Times, whose parent is partially owned by the Libyan Investment Authority, reports that despite the UN, EU, and US sanctions hundreds of millions of dollars from oil export continue to flow to Gaddafi's Libya.

From FT (3/4/2011) [emphasis is mine]:

Muammer Gaddafi’s regime is still benefiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in oil export revenues, even as western powers impose financial sanctions aimed at forcing Libya’s leader from power.

Payments for crude oil exports are finding their way back to Libya’s central bank and, potentially, into Col Gaddafi’s direct control, according to a senior western oil official and traders contacted by the Financial Times.

Oil officials and shipbrokers said that Libya exported about 570,000 barrels a day in the last week of February, when the unrest started, and shipped about 400,000 b/d this week. At current prices, the oil shipped over the two-week period is worth $770m.

.... UN and European sanctions do not target the Libyan central bank and US sanctions do not hit Libyan-owned groups incorporated outside the country.

US Treasury officials say that institutions of American origin cannot make payments to groups subject to Washington’s sanctions, such as the Libyan central bank, but can make deposits into a blocked interest-bearing account to be refunded to the Libyan people at a later date.

.... Col Gaddafi still controls Libya’s largest oil terminal, Es Sider, in the centre of the country. Argus, the energy reporting service, estimated that Libyan crude exports had fallen to about 225,000 b/d on Friday. If Libya is able to sustain exports at that level, which some industry executives and shipbrokers doubt, the country could earn nearly $200m a week.

Sanctions are there so that they know how to get around them. Much like TBTF Wall Street banks welcomed the Dodd-Frank bill on financial regulations so that they can figure out how to get around them.

Protests in #Saudi Arabia

Al Jazeera may soon need "Saudi Arabia Live Blog"...

Just reading tweets by Sultan Al Qassemi:

More chants in Qatif: "We vow that we won't forget our prisoners" "Sunni & Shia we won't sell our nation" Arabic Video
46 minutes ago via web

Other chants include "Mansiyoon - Mansiyoon" "We are forgotten". Qatif is the centre of the Saudi Shia minority population.
48 minutes ago via web

I'm watching internet uploaded videos of the protests in Qateef in #Saudi, chants of "Silmiya - Silmya" "Peaceful - Peaceful"
49 minutes ago via web

Robert Fisk thinks the "end game" in all these uprisings in NAME (Northern Africa, Middle East) is Saudi Arabia.

As I posted in my TA blog, someone bought a large amount of call options on oil ETF (USO) that will expire in July. I bought along with that person, just in case.

Egyptians Back in #Tahrir Square, Oprah Cancels Show

Hilarity of the day, saw it @ Zero Hedge:

And in absolutely hypocritical and hilarious news (cause they are so true), following today's re-escalation in Egyptian violence, Oprah, who was previously scheduled to have a show in Cairo's Tahrir Square, has promptly pulled out, citing "the flu."

Oprah Winfrey is not coming to Egypt’s Tahrir Square, despite an announcement from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism saying the celebrity had accepted an invitation “without hesitation.”

According to a post on Oprah’s Twitter account Friday evening, the star has been in bed with the flu since the Oscars earlier this week. “Hearing reports that I’m taking show to Cairo. NOT TRUE. Have no plans to do so,” she tweeted.

The Ministry of Tourism invited Oprah and other celebrities to Tahrir Square as part of a campaign to bring tourists back to Egypt following the January 25 Revolution, which managed to oust Egypt’s 30-year dictator in just eighteen days.

The prospect of Oprah’s appearance in Tahrir Square has been met with mixed reactions by Egyptians. Some argue that any publicity is good publicity, and believe Oprah’s appearance will help draw tourists back to Egypt. Others are disdainful of the idea, asking, “Where was Oprah during the revolution?”

Please, c'mon Egyptians, don't waste your precious Egyptian Pounds on this woman. Do you know how much the Australian government had to shell out to invite Oprah to do her show (with rapidly dwindling viewership) there?

$3.3 million. That is 19.47 million Egyptian Pounds.

I think you have much better and much needed use of this money instead of wasting on Oprah.

Silver at 31-Year High (Poor J.P.Morgan Chase)

As you can see in the silver chart to the left: $35.57 right now (Friday 3/4/2011, 1:18 PM PST).

Paper silver (SLV) closed today at $34.69, 2.47% discount compared to physical silver.

Gold also got the bid, US Treasuries, some. Still not many takers for the world "reserve currency", US dollar.

Interesting History of Interpol

From Wikipedia entry:

The first significant move towards creating INTERPOL was in 1914 at the First International Criminal Police Congress. Police officers, lawyers and magistrates from 14 countries gathered in Monaco to discuss arrest procedures, identification techniques, centralized international criminal records and extradition proceedings.[6] However World War I delayed this initiative and it was not until 1923 that Interpol was founded in Austria as the International Criminal Police (ICP).

Following the Anschluss (Austria's annexation by Germany) in 1938, the organization fell under the control of Nazi Germany, and the Commission's headquarters were eventually moved to Berlin in 1942. From 1938 to 1945, the presidents of Interpol included Otto Steinhäusl, Reinhard Heydrich, Arthur Nebe, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. All were generals in the SS, and Kaltenbrunner was the highest ranking SS officer executed after the Nuremberg Trial. Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated by Czech (Kubiš) and Slovak (Gabčík) patriots in 1942.

After the end of World War II in 1945, the organization was revived as the International Criminal Police Organization by European Allies of World War II officials from Belgium, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Its new headquarters were established in Saint-Cloud, a town on the outskirts of Paris. They remained there until 1989, when they were moved to their present location, Lyon.

Until the 1980s Interpol did not intervene in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in accordance with Article 3 of its Constitution forbidding intervention in 'political' matters.[7]

On 2 July 2010, former Interpol President Jackie Selebi was found guilty of corruption by the South African High Court in Johannesburg for accepting bribes worth $156,000 from a drug trafficker.[8] After being charged in January 2008, Selebi resigned as president of Interpol and was put on extended leave as National Police Commissioner of South Africa.
SS officers, eh..?

1914. The year the World War I started, and one year after the US Federal Reserve was created. Interesting.

Interpol Issues "Orange Alert" for #Gaddafi and 15-Member Inner Circle

Questions: What's the business of Interpol in this? WTF is "orange alert"?

Let's start with the second question (in a fine day-old tradition of Prez Obama).

According to Reuters who reported the news, orange alerts and red alerts (they are called "notice", not "alert", by Interpol) issued by Interpol are not arrest warrants, but they are helpful notices to local authorities (fast disappearing sovereign states) to track down illegal assets or suspects.

By Interpol's own words, an orange notice is:

To warn police, public entities and other international organizations about potential threats from disguised weapons, parcel bombs and other dangerous materials.

Hmmm... That doesn't sound like a notice issued for "people", does it? If it's about people (like Gaddafi and his inner-circle), they could issue a red notice (which they issue the most - 5,020 in 2009) or a green notice (second-most issued notice, 1,139 in 2009).

Interpol's notices are color-coded, but unlike the alert system of the US Homeland Security, they don't correspond to the seriousness of the threat; rather, they simply depict different types of crimes covered:

  • Red notice - to seek the arrest of a wanted person (the most issued notice by Interpol)

  • Yellow notice - to help locate missing persons

  • Blue notice - to collect information about a person

  • Black notice - to collect information on unidentified bodies (hmmmm.)

  • Green notice - to provide warnings and criminal intelligence about persons who have committed criminal offences and are likely to repeat these crimes in other countries.

Interpol, an organization to facilitate international police cooperation and whose US branch is within the Department of Homeland Security, does not have the authority to issue arrest warrants, and its Constitution "forbids the Organization from undertaking any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character". (See wiki for quick summary of Interpol.)

Well, that applies to Libya almost perfectly, doesn't it? Actively pursuing the Gaddafis with a red or green notice would mean Interpol taking part in political, military, racial (not sure about religious) intervention, which is forbidden in the Constitution of Interpol.

So an orange notice was issued, I think, because they couldn't issue a red or green notice without violating their Constitution.

But why do they get involved, to begin with?

Interpol is being set up to be the police of the UN, say some; the police of the NWO, say others. The current Secretary-General is an American, Ronald Noble, former Treasury Department official in charge of the US Secret Service, BATF, among others.

And as I wrote more than a year ago (after Prez Obama quietly gave Interpol the full diplomatic immunity), the US branch of Interpol is "co-located" within the US Justice Department, with its personnel actually the permanent employees of various US executive branch's agencies and departments. (I do recommend you take a look at my post from 1/3/2010.)

I suspect Interpol is, practically, a US operation, even though the name says "international". Much like the NATO is practically a US operation with a token participation from the "members".

By issuing the orange notice which is for weapons and dangerous materials instead of a red or green notice, Interpol (and so the US) may be setting the stage for a military intervention by an international coalition (the UN, the NATO, or select allies of the US) to eliminate Libya's "weapons of mass destruction".

We will find out soon enough.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stress Test Jr. to Further Shore Up CONfidence Is a Rigged Game

in which TBTF banks came up with the answers AND the questions.

From Pro Publica's Jessie Eisinger (3/2/2011) [emphasis is mine]:

A Test Where the Banks Had the Questions and the Answers

Later this month, the Federal Reserve is going to let banks know how they did on its most recent round of “stress tests.”

Banks are eager to bring doctors’ notes to their meetings with investors, displaying their bills of health. They want regulators to allow them to start paying, or increasing, dividends to investors or to initiate stock buyback programs.

This set of exams, announced in November, is Son of Stress Test 2009, a follow-up to the tests the Fed conducted in the wake of the financial crisis.

But something seems different this time around. It’s almost as if the banks knew their results, even before the testing was complete.

Since the end of last year, banks have been bragging about their rude health. Bank of America’s chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan, suggested that the bank would raise its dividend above its current token amount. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s leader, did the same. Warren E. Buffett suggested in his shareholder letter that Wells Fargo was about to pass with flying colors.

Of course, banks ought to have a good idea of the results. They came up with the questions — and the answers.

The Fed gave the banks one economic assumption — a recession — to test their books against, but otherwise the measures were chosen by banks themselves. The Fed just vetted them. Seems like a low bar.

“It’s a take-home exam where you supply the math and then it’s pass/fail,” said Joshua Rosner, an analyst with the independent research firm Graham-Fisher & Company.

Though the Fed isn’t labeling these exams an official banking system stress test, it could be every bit as consequential. Just as the 2009 tests required some banks to raise money — and the most fragile improved their capital to the tune of about $77 billion — this Stress Test Lite could allow some banks to slough off capital.

Unfortunately, declarations of banking system vigor seem premature. Housing has resumed its fall, and many analysts expect national prices to fall on average this year. Commercial real estate is a looming problem. Unemployment remains obdurately high.

In 2009, critics complained that the stress tests were driven by appearances and that the government’s true, and thinly disguised, goal was to shore up confidence in the markets. The conclusion — that, over all, the system was sound — was inevitable.

“The stress tests were designed to reassure the capital markets that the government was not going to restructure the banks,” said Damon A. Silvers, who serves on the Congressional Oversight Panel, which monitors the Troubled Asset Relief Program. “But the capital raises compared to the problem assets were not that big.”

In the first round, the Fed disclosed the economic assumptions, a baseline and an “adverse” situation, which the banks had to test against. (In that event, even the adverse situation for 2009 wasn’t as dire as reality.)

Unfortunately, the central bank didn’t disclose enough information to actually judge the results. The Congressional Oversight Panel enlisted two University of California, Berkeley professors who specialized in banking and risk assessment to judge the tests. They had to throw up their hands.

The two “were interpreting shapes on the wall,” said Eric Talley, a professor of law at Berkeley, who worked on the project. “We couldn’t see what the shapes were, so had to look at residue to see if those were the shapes you would normally want to use.”

This time, the Fed hasn’t made even that cursory amount of criteria public.

The first round of tests was based on self-reported data of asset quality and loss estimates. This time around, that weakness is squared. Now the banks are reporting on their own internal capital plans based on their own asset assessment.

“It could be that banks have been really assiduous about own risk portfolios,” Professor Talley said. “Or it could be that too much control over the process has been handed over to banks. It’s hard to tell.”

While the Fed got hammered by critics who assailed the tests as too deferential to the banks, the central bank was doing something unprecedented and holding the banks to what it viewed as a solid capital standard.

Inevitably, though privately, banks screamed to the regulators about how harsh they were. They were reluctant to do so publicly because we were still in that fleeting period when bankers displayed a modicum of chagrin for the debacle they had caused. That moment has passed.

It would be alarming if the regulators had internalized their complaints. The operating theory of supervision from the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and the banking regulators continues to hold: we can push banks to restructure, without forcing them. Banks can be made to raise capital and reduce their risky activities, largely through encouragement and moral suasion. They can please shareholders and be safe at the same time.

We had better hope that the banks actually are healthy. The banks say ‘Trust us,’ and the Fed is doing just that.

Well, "hope" is a dirty word now. (You can thank Obama.)

Even the "pass/fail" is too discriminatory, isn't it?

Can't wait to see the spin on the government-controlled channels when the results are announced.

Here's SNL video on the 1st stress test. Ah, fond memories...

Now Please, C'mon, We Have No Money, and Please, Wait for Surprises

says #Saif al-Islam #Gaddafi in Al Jazeera interview that is scheduled to air on Friday. A sneak preview was posted on their Libya Blog for 3/4/2011.

This guy has the most irritating mannerism. I don't know where he learned it from. (LSE?) Over-use of "please" and "c'mon", don't be silly...

What "surprises" is he talking about, though?

Yes Minister Episode "The Official Visit"

It is about the official visit of a tin-pot dictator from Africa, who happens to be the classmate of Hacker at LSE, the school Sir Humphrey, an Oxford graduate, belittles at every single occasion.

I think it was about Libya; or could easily have been.

Here's Part 1:

and Part 2:

and Part 3. Enjoy..

LSE Director Steps Down Over #Libya, #Gaddafi Ties

Announcement from LSE:

It is with great regret and reluctance that the Council of the London School of Economics and Political Science announces that it has accepted the resignation of Sir Howard Davies as Director. The Council has asked him to stay on until arrangements for a successor have been resolved.

The Council has commissioned an independent external inquiry into the School’s relationship with Libya and with Saif Gaddafi and into related matters.

The inquiry will be conducted by Lord Woolf, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and former Chairman of the Council of University College London.

Sir Howard Davies said: “I have concluded that it would be right for me to step down even though I know that this will cause difficulty for the institution I have come to love. The short point is that I am responsible for the School’s reputation, and that has suffered.

“I advised the Council that it was reasonable to accept the money and that has turned out to be a mistake. There were risks involved in taking funding from sources associated with Libya and they should have been weighed more heavily in the balance.

“Also, I made a personal error of judgment in accepting the British government’s invitation to be an economic envoy and the consequent Libyan invitation to advise their sovereign wealth fund. There was nothing substantive to be ashamed of in that work and I disclosed it fully, but the consequence has been to make it more difficult for me to defend the institution.”

Sir Howard’s letter of resignation can be found below.

Peter Sutherland, Chairman of the Court of Governors, said: “Howard has been an outstanding director of the LSE these past eight years and his achievements here will endure long after the current controversy has died away.

“We accept his resignation with great regret and reluctance but understand that he has taken an honorable course in the best interests of the school.”

Sir Howard, knighted in 2000 by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, was the chairman of the Financial Services Authority in the UK. He became the director of LSE in 2003, but he himself had graduated from Merton College, Oxford. He has been a Director at Morgan Stanley since 2004. He is on the advisory boards for China's commissions on banking and securities regulations, and is an advisor to the sovereign fund of Singapore.

(It seems, at least so far, Goldman Sachs' sovereign and regulatory capture is confined within the US, whereas J.P.Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley seem to be all over the world..)

Obama Allows One Question, and Answers NFL Lockout First

Not #Libya. Oh boy do we have the lightest weight at the White House. And what kind of question is that? NFL?? In the joint press conference of Obama and the Mexican president?

I guess the AP reporter, Ben Feller, figured that Obama would be more comfortable with the topic he has a better grip on... Obama hates press conferences, because he cannot read on his beloved teleprompters.

Here's a video clip from Real Clear Politics.

Algo Bots Positioning for Tomorrow's NFP Number in the US

The stock market remain high into the close, but the volume doesn't seem to be matching the out-sized gains. The only players? HFT bots.

Which way is it gonna be tomorrow, up or down? Place your bets on the non-farm payroll (NFP) number from your trusted government!

Here's a good one from J.P.Morgan Chase, Gaddafi's banker:

“All the stars seem to be aligned for a stronger number,” said Anthony Chan, chief economist for J.P. Morgan Chase’s Private Wealth Management group.

It's in the stars, people! Laugh and be merry, everything is great.

Chart of S&P futures, from Zero Hedge:

Obama on #Libya: I Don't Want to Be "Hamstrung"

Uh oh. I think he said the same thing right before the Afghan surge, meaning the US military brass was NARROWING THE OPTIONS for him. And we know what happened on that: the surge, that continues to kill and injure Afghan civilians and US and NATO soldiers.

Watch out Libyans and the segment of the US taxpayers (majority) who do not want to meddle in the affairs of others in other countries and who certainly do not want to foot the bill of Obama's adventures.

From AFP Libya Live Report on Yahoo (3/3/2011):

1912 GMT: US President Barack Obama is weighing a "full range of options" he told reporters Thursday."In addition to the non-military actions that we've taken, I want to make sure that those full range of options are available to me," he said. Asked whether that included the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, he said, "That is one of the options that we would be looking at."Obama said the priority now was to provide humanitarian assistance as thousands of people flee the unrest in Libya. And he said Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was encouraging violence against unarmed citizens."I don't want us hamstrung. I want us to be making our decisions based on what's going to be best for the Libyan people, in consultation with the international community," he said, adding that Washington is consulting closely with America's NATO partners.

Well, NATO is not really about "humanitarian aid", is it?

I am afraid Obama is deluded if he thinks he has a choice, not to mention choices.

Aggghhh I'm Being Priced out of Donuts!

Seriously. One donut, filled with custard creme and coffee glaze on top, costs $1.75. A few months ago I think it was $1.20 or so. A year ago, definitely below $1, more like 70, 80 cents.

Ben, stop that goddam QE2. I need my donut below $1, and I don't care if the stock market crashes.

#Libyan Rebels Reject Hugo Chávez Mediation Offer

("Rebels" word by Guardian, not mine.)

From UK's Guardian (3/3/2011):

Leaders of anti-Gaddafi fighters say talk of peace is too late and they will not negotiate via Venezuelan president.

Libya's rebel leaders have ruled out any attempt by Hugo Chávez to broker a truce between them and Muammar Gaddafi, whom they insist must leave the country.

"No one has told us a thing about it and we are not interested anyway," said the spokesman of the national committee in Benghazi, Abdul Hafif Goga. "We will never negotiate with him."

The rebel leadership said the international community had yet to inform them of any initiative from the Venezuelan president, who reportedly contacted the embattled Libyan leader earlier this week in a bid to enter the fortnight-long violent standoff.

"Talk of peace is far too late," said a second member of the organising committee, Salwa Bogheiga. "A lot of people have died and there is no one to negotiate with. They lost that right when they started killing people on 17 February."

Gaddafi's side accepted the generous offer by the strongman of Venezuela. Guardian calls Gaddafi's side "the Libyan government", but I'm not sure it can still be called a "government", when it doesn't have the full support of the military, the diplomats, half the government officials have defected, it doesn't provide essential services to the populace, it doesn't protect instead it attacks and kills.

If I were a Libyan, I wouldn't want Gaddafi and his family out of the country until Libya gets the money back. They have appropriated the wealth of the country (with the help of crooks like Tony Blair), which is duly managed by the international banksters like J.P.Morgan Chase. If you simply kick Gaddafi and his family out of the country, bankers and wealthy friends like Rothchild and fellow crooks like Tony Blair would make sure the Gaddafis have a luxurious after-life on the money they've taken from Libya.

The US stock market gapped up higher following the overnight ramp-up in the futures, partly due to the seemingly better unemployment number and partly due to this Venezuelan mediation prospect. Oil and precious metals have been slammed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ron Paul vs Hillary Clinton: No Dollars for Dictators

The video was tweeted by . Good for the Libyans, they are discovering Ron Paul.

Lockerbie Deal and J.P.Morgan Chase as #Libya's Central Bank

All thanks to Tony Blair.

I was re-reading the article on the Wall Street banks who has their hands on the Libya's sovereign wealth fund money (which I linked on my post here), and something caught my attention on the second read:

JPMorgan Chase

reportedly handles much of the LIA's cash and some of the Libyan central bank's reserves. The summer after then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Gaddafi in 2008, LIA gave "mandates to some of the international banks, including JPMorgan to manage their funds in the interbank money markets, according to Vanity Fair.

JPMorgue manages reserves of the Libyan central bank??


So I went to the Vanity Fair link in the article, and I landed on "The Lockerbie Deal", Vanity Fair exclusive on 1/26/2011 by David Rose. Note the date - one day after the large demonstration in Egypt, but Libya was still "peaceful", and I don't think the article got much attention:

In 2009 the convicted Lockerbie bomber was sent home to Libya from a Scottish prison on grounds of “compassionate release”—he had only three months to live, authorities said. A year and a half later the man is still alive—and a Vanity Fair investigation reveals new details about the business interests and private dealings that lay behind the prisoner’s release. At the heart of the matter: the cozy and “profitable relationships” between the Blair government and Qaddafi’s Libya.

It so turns out that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his officials bent over backward to accommodate Gaddafi so that their favorite businesses would get lucrative business deals with Gaddafi's Libya and they would land on a cushy job in the private sector.

And J.P.Morgan Chase purchased Tony Blair for $3 million per year.

The relevant part of the Vanity Fair article:

And then there is Blair himself, who in the three and a half years since stepping down as prime minister has reportedly earned at least $30 million from his various business dealings around the world. Like many retired politicians, Blair commands high fees for public speaking, but in terms of income these fees represent a sideshow. In January 2008, Blair accepted a position as a consultant to the American bank J.P. Morgan Chase for a reported compensation of $3 million a year.

.... But Blair’s employer, J.P. Morgan, does have commercial relationships with Libya. Three senior British officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say that Blair has made numerous trips to Libya since leaving Downing Street, at least partly on behalf of the bank. “The Blair magic still works with Qaddafi,” one of these officials observes. “Qaddafi will drop everything to see Blair.” Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi’s probable heir, said last summer that Blair was “a personal family friend” and added that Blair had visited Libya “many, many times” since leaving office.

Neither Blair nor the bank will say anything about what he does to justify his salary, either in Libya or elsewhere. Executives at other banks with Libyan interests say that J.P. Morgan now handles much of the Libyan Investment Authority’s cash, and some of the Libyan central bank’s reserves. Blair joined J.P. Morgan in early 2008—just as the authority began to ask foreign banks and asset-management companies for specific proposals as to what they might do with its billions. There was no shortage of takers. A Libyan official says: “We were besieged.” A voice at the table like Blair’s would get attention.

For J.P. Morgan, there was a further factor at work. It was able to start looking for Libyan money in 2008 because the climate had improved thanks to Qaddafi’s payment of the final tranche of compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims ($10 million per family), a rapprochement sealed by the visit by then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Tripoli. By the summer of that year, says a Libyan financier, “a great percentage of the L.I.A.’s funds were in the interbank money markets, channelled through the central bank. They have given mandates to some of the international banks to manage this liquidity”—including J.P. Morgan. J.P. Morgan has not indicated whether it intends to take the next logical step and apply for one of the licenses being offered to foreign banks to set up operations there. I asked J.P. Morgan’s spokesman, Brian Marchiony, about this specific matter, about the bank’s handling of Libyan assets in general, and about Tony Blair’s role in developing its business. He replied by e-mail, saying simply: “We’re going to decline to comment.”

Another interesting tidbit in the article:

Until 2009, Rothschild was an adviser to the Libyan Investment Authority.

Well, no wonder Gaddafi says "People love me." Everyone wanted to do business with him, at whatever cost - BP, J.P.Morgan Chase, Tony Blair, Rothchild.

I wonder if the Libyan central bank reserves that J.P.Morgan Chase handles include gold...

Opposition in #Benghazi, #Libya, Wants No-Fly Zone, Bombing by UN on Gaddafi Forces

Libyans, do you agree? Do you want foreigners fighting your war, if not for you but alongside you? Instead of Libyans taking care of the Libyan dictator and his entourage, would you rather have the outsider (the UN) bomb and kill Libyans who don't agree with you?

A no-fly zone would mean Gaddafi's planes would be shot down. The pilots, unlike Gaddafi's rag-tag "African" mercenaries, are Libyans. Do you want to have Libyans killed by the foreigners, because they are flying the planes for Gaddafi?

What would the opposition offer to the UN (or the US, or the NATO, or Arab League, or whatever entity who seems suddenly eager to impose a no-fly zone), in exchange for the no-fly zone and bombing of Gaddafi's forces? Quid pro quo. Don't believe the UN, particularly the West, would do anything purely out of goodwill.

Imposing a no-fly zone requires extensive logistics. I cannot imagine such an action without "boots on the ground" - i.e. foreign troops, special forces, military advisors, inside Libya. Hey that's not much different from the Gaddafi days, is it?

All I can say is "As you wish", and "Be careful what you wish for".

From Al Jazeera Libya Blog 3/3/2011:

12:36am Speaking of the opposition in Benghazi, they say they are not just calling for a no-fly zone, but for UN forces to conduct airstrikes on forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

The city is tense, as volunteers continue to sign up for ad-hoc military training ahead of an expected counteroffensive.

12:32am Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the UN, says the international body may consider setting up the much-debated no-fly zone over the country if the interim National Council formed by the opposition in Benghazi submits a formal written request for one.

What is needed at this time is that such decision be made officially and that we, in New York, are notified of it so that we make a formal request to the United Nations."

CNBC's (Regular) Insult to Ron Paul

From Lew Rockwell at LRC Blog:

Writes a friend:

CNBC didn’t run any commercials during Bernanke’s testimony this morning, until Ron Paul began to speak. They came back live after his questioning, choosing to resume with Maxine Waters. State-controlled media indeed.

Ben Bernank was in the House Financial Services Committee this morning, prevaricating as usual.

#Libya: 'Rag-Tag' Army Seems to Be Winning

#Gaddafi's pilots bombed sand dunes in Brega, as the battle raged on between pro-Gaddafi fighters and anti-Gaddafi fighters on a university campus nearby.

The pilots, maybe, just maybe, didn't want to bomb the fellow Libyans no matter which side, and didn't want to bomb oil refineries either.

These people don't need a no-fly zone imposed and controlled by the US and the US allies. Let them finish their job.

From Al Jazeera:

Steve Jobs Is At Apple's March IPad2 Event in San Francisco

He looks no thinner than he has appeared in Apple's events in the past year or so.

Live Blog of the event from LA Times.

And here's what Job's taking the stage did to the stock. AAPL intraday chart:

Hilarity of the Day: Chile Delays End of Summer Time to Save Energy

Let there be summer for three more weeks...

From Reuters (3/2/2011):

* Chile grappling with energy squeeze amid drought

* Government has lowered voltages to save power

* New measure will save 22 gigawatt-hours per year

* Copper industry seen safe from any outages
(Updates with Energy minister comments, adds link)

SANTIAGO, March 2 (Reuters) - Chile will delay the end of its summer
time until for three weeks as the country faces an energy squeeze because
of drought and high demand, the government said on Wednesday.

The country will end its daylight savings time on April 2.

"This change in time looks to save a certain amount of energy with
better use of sunlight," Mining and Energy minister Laurence Golborne said.
"This will save around 22 gigawatt-hours per year."

Chile relies heavily on hydroelectric power to meet energy needs in the
world's top copper producer, and rain shortages force generators to rely on
costly fuel-driven plants, compounding inflation risks in the country's
fast-growing economy.

The energy squeeze is not, however, expected to affect the mining
industry, which is concentrated in the northern part of Chile.

#Gaddafi Speaks for 3 Hours As He Orders Air Raids

Al Jazeera #Libya Blog (3/2/2011) has a running commentary of his speech as he spoke earlier today for THREE hours. (I hope his audience was paid well.) Read from 1:54PM to 4:09PM.

As he spoke of his patriotism and his determination to fight the colonial powers (the West), his air force started to bomb cities. (Mubarak Redux, isn't it? Mubarak didn't have the military on his side though.)

Right on cue, Mr. Gaddafi, you've just given the opening for the West (particularly Washington, where neocons have been agitating) to rally the gullible populace for imposing a no-fly zone.

For what? So that he can die a hero's death, defending his country against foreign aggressors.

Again, reminder: Imposing a no-fly zone in Libya will involve the US and whoever allies of the US bombing Libya's airfields and taking out planes, patrolling 24/7 over Libya to enforce the no-fly zone, setting up bases near and probably inside Libya to support the bombing and patrolling.

From Al Jazeera Libya Blog 3/2/2011 on airstrikes:


Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley was just on the phone with us - 10km away from the oil-rich town of Brega. As we spoke, he was watching a Libyan airforce jet bombing the area.

It’s now an air attack. We just watched an air force jet from the Libyan air force fly over Brega and drop at least one bomb - and huge plumes of smoke are now coming out over Brega. Another bombed near our position, where anti-Gaddafi forces have gathered.

All the fighters here are massing. We understand that something like 250-300 pro-Gaddafi fighters inside Brega and they are being surrounded. 
Gaddafi is still a force to be reckoned with, he is not giving up.

The population here want an air exclusion zone to prevent this sort of attack - but they don'twant foreign troops on the ground.

All major oil and gas installations in the town are in thehands of the opposition. We believe this is the main reason for the attack.


Airstrikes also reported in city of Ajdabiya, just northeast of Brega, Casualty count not yet known.


We're hearing from our colleagues at Al Jazeera Arabic that four people have been killed and ten injured in an air raid on the town of Brega.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

#Libya's Bankers: Goldman Sachs, J.P.Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Carlyle Group

As the US Treasury Department froze $30 billion assets of the Gaddafis and the Libyan government, all I wanted to know was "Who are the bankers who have managed that assets?"

My guess was Goldman Sachs, and either Merrill Lynch or J.P.Morgan Chase. I got two right.

From Huffington Post's Marcus Baram (3/1/2011):

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order freezing $30 billion in assets of Muammar Gaddafi, his family and the Libyan government could impact several U.S. banks and private equity firms, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and the Carlyle Group. The Obama administration described it as the largest seizure of foreign funds in U.S. history.

The oil-rich country's sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority, controls at least $70 billion in fixed assets and reserves. It has invested the bulk of its money in European banks and businesses, including Dutch-Belgian bank Fortis, Italian bank Unicredit, the Pearson publishing empire, Italian defense firm Finmeccanica SpA, an oil-production sharing agreement with BP and even a slice of the Italian soccer team Juventus.

In the wake of the Bush administration's lifting of sanctions against Libya in 2004, following Gaddafi's agreement to give up weapons of mass destruction, American businesses and private equity firms also came flocking to the North African country to court government and LIA officials. As The Huffington Post reported last week, a broad coalition of U.S. oil companies, defense manufacturers and businesses lobbied the U.S. government to repair relations with the longtime international pariah and to take advantage of business opportunities in the country.

The secretive Libyan Investment Authority has reportedly invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Goldman Sachs Asset Management funds, including a loan fund designed to invest in new hedge funds set up by the Kuwait Investment Authority. Goldman Sachs already has a relationship with Libya -- in 2008, Goldman was the first U.S. bank to get a contract with the country following the removal of sanctions, when it was hired by Libya's central bank to provide information on its behalf to credit rating agencies. A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs did not return calls seeking comment.

The Libyan government, including LIA, has also banked with Citigroup, according to several sources familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for Citigroup declined to comment on the bank's interactions with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is in charge of carrying out Obama's order regarding Libyan assets.

JPMorgan Chase reportedly handles much of the LIA's cash and some of the Libyan central bank's reserves. The summer after then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Gaddafi in 2008, LIA gave "mandates to some of the international banks, including JPMorgan to manage their funds in the interbank money markets, according to Vanity Fair.

The LIA fund's general consultant has been Mercer Investment Consulting, a unit of Marsh & McClennan, the global risk consulting and advisory firm. A spokesperson for Marsh declined comment. The fund set up a $2 billion investment fund with the Qatar Investment Authority to invest in Libya, Qatar and Western markets, which could complicate the effort to freeze the LIA's assets.

Two years ago, the Carlyle Group's co-founder and managing director, David Rubenstein, and Blackstone chief executive Steven Schwarzman traveled to the Libyan capital of Tripoli to help celebrate the wedding of Mustafa Zarti, the deputy director of the LIA, in a massive tent set up on the outskirts of the city, reported the Financial Times. And when Gaddafi's son and longtime likely successor, Saif al-Islam, visited New York in November 2008, Schwarzman hosted a lunch for him at the Blackstone CEO's Park Avenue apartment. The younger Gaddafi was also honored on that trip by Carlyle's retired chairman, former defense secretary Frank Carlucci, who hosted a dinner for him in a private room at the City Club.

Thanks to the efforts of Rubenstein, who first traveled to Libya in 2006, the Carlyle Group received funds from the LIA. A spokesman for Carlyle declined comment. A spokesman for Blackstone told The Huffington Post, "We have no investments in Libya. They have no investments with us."