Showing posts from 2007

2007 Deadliest for US troops

This is from Google.
The final months of the year have involved much less violence but much of this is due to enlisting Sunnis to fight Al Qaeda and Sadr's peaceful tactics for the time being. There is still not much progress on the political front towards meeting benchamarks set by the US including the oil bill.

2007 Deadliest for US Troops in Iraq
By BRADLEY BROOKS – 20 hours ago

BAGHDAD (AP) — The second half of 2007 saw violence drop dramatically in Iraq, but the progress came at a high price: The year was the deadliest for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion, with 899 troops killed.

American commanders and diplomats, however, say the battlefield gains against insurgents such as al-Qaida in Iraq offer only a partial picture of where the country stands as the war moves toward its five-year mark in March.

Two critical shifts that boosted U.S.-led forces in 2007 — a self-imposed cease-fire by a main Shiite militia and a grassroots Sunni revolt against extremists — could still…

Top economist says America could plunge into recession

Even if the economy just declines slightly early in the New Year this could exacerbate the credit crunch. As noted in my earlier post there could be a credit crunch in auto loans. If people's incomes do not keep pace with debt then there is bound to be increased defaulting on loans.

From The Times
December 31, 2007
Top economist says America could plunge into recession
Suzy Jagger in New York

Losses arising from America’s housing recession could triple over the

next few years and they represent the greatest threat to growth in the
United States, one of the world’s leading economists has told The

Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University, predicted
that there was a very real possibility that the US would be plunged
a Japan-style slump, with house prices declining for years.

Professor Shiller, co-founder of the respected S&P Case/Shiller
house-price index, said: “American real estate values have already
around $1 trillion [£503 billion]. That could ea…

Juan Cole: Top Ten Challenges for US in the Middle East

This is from Juan Cole's blog. As usual Cole's remarks are quite perceptive although I sometimes find him rather naive. He is a bit bemused by the fact that if the US were really interested in combatting terrorism they would bave acted differently. He doesn't conclude, as I would, that combatting terrorism was not the first order of business for the US but projecting US power and securing energy supplies. Iraq was no fool's errand! While terrorism is a genuine threat that threat is also used as a fig leaf to cover the US drive for global hegemony.
Cole seems very confident that US interventionism if properly done will help stabilise the situation in the Middle East. I have no idea why he should think that!
The record so far has not been very good. Even well intentioned intervention can often exacerbate the situation. For example any support for those trying to democractise from inside Iran is most likely to be counterproductive and gives an excuse for authorities to br…

A car loan credit crunch?

So people will lose not only their houses but their cars. Again these loans were sold as securities and no doubt the risk is spread all over the globe. If there is a recession in the US more and more debtors will be unable to make payments and this will cause even more problems within the economy. It could be a very bumpy ride in 2008. But Happy New Year everyone anyway!

[Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!],0,4315064.story?coll=la-home-center

Los Angeles Times

New cars that are fully loaded — with debt
Americans are rolling over loans, often ending up owing more for the
vehicle than it's worth.

By Ken Bensinger / Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 30, 2007

When Jennifer and Bobby Post traded in their 2001 Chevy Suburban last
year for a shiny new Ford F-350 turbo diesel with an extended cab, it
seemed like a great deal. Even though they still owed $9,500 on their
SUV after the trade-in value, they didn't h…

Pakistan to delay elections

The government is no doubt surprised by the fact that Bhutto's party is going to contest the elections. This forced Sharif's party to reverse its decision to boycott the elections. Musharraf no doubt will delay the elections for some time to try and cool the anger against him and also to make arrangements to rig the results if he can make appropriate deals or even if he can't!
The move to make the son the symbolic head of the party was clever in that Bhutto's husband's reputation for corruption is legendary. The son cannot run for office until 25!
I am a bit mystified by all the fuss over exactly how Bhutto died. What possible value the government could gain from saying she died from hitting her head as against a bullet wound is not clear to me. Certainly the government has not denied that she was shot at and that there was a suicide blast. What on earth difference does it make if these events in themselves were not the immediate cause of her death. If they ha…

Krugman: Trouble with Trade

For a long time there was a tendency to pooh pooh the negative results of trade. Krugman at least recognises a few of the negative results but only between high and low wage countries. It is not surprising that unions and workers in general are facing hard times as far as retaining benefits and wages at the level they had before globalisation. There are other negative effects that Krugman does not even touch upon. Trade agreements usually limit sovereignty in numerous ways in the interests of capital. For example agreements usually insist on recognition of international property rights that protect patent holders against no-name competitors for as long as twenty years. This can add huge costs to health care plans but huge profits to pharmaceutical companies. Often regulations will be harmonised downward and local or national preference in contracting outlawed. In the case of NAFTA in relation to Canada the so-called trade agreement is mainly a resource grab for the US. Canada is forc…

Minus Members' Power, Unions Face Mounting Bargaining Woes

This article gives a graphic picture of the problems facing unions in the US. However, similar problems face unions in all developed capitalist societies because of the increasing strength of capital versus labor partly caused by globalisation although I am sure there are multiple factors. Labor has not seemed to be able to develop any powerful international organisations of the sort that they need to confront increasingly globalised capital.

Minus Members' Power, Unions Face Mounting Bargaining Woes

Mark Brenner, Mischa Gaus and Chris Kutalik
Labor Notes
January 2008

William Ehman got acquainted with the current direction of collective
bargaining in his industry from the back of a squad car. The former
president of Steelworkers Local 1537, Ehman led a group of nine
retirees to
a mid-September union meeting to discuss current negotiations with

After the last contract six years ago, the local had stopped providing
transcripts of negotiations with the Pennsylvania specialty ste…

Benazir's son, husband hold key to legacy

This is from the Khaleej Times. Bhutto's husband sounds like a prime candidate to visit the Bush ranch at Crawford Texas. Maybe he could become part of the circle of crony capitalists around Bush and his crew.

Benazir’s son, husband hold key to legacy

30 December 2007

ISLAMABAD - The son and husband of Benazir Bhutto are among the main contenders for the leadership of the slain Pakistani opposition leader’s party, which is likely to be decided Sunday.

A senior aide to Bhutto said the former premier’s son was not keen to enter politics yet, leading to speculation that her widower Asif Ali Zardari could effectively take charge of the party until he is older.

Whatever the outcome, both will remain key figures in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founded four decades ago by Bhutto’s father and now the crisis hit country’s biggest opposition group.

BILAWAL: At just 19, the mantle of the Bhutto family’s bloodstained legacy would lie heavy on the head of Benazir’s only son, Bilawal.

If pi…

Bhutto's Rival Blames Death on Government

This is from the New York Times. According to this article the Pakistan People's Party that Bhutto led has not decided whether or not to participate in the January elections if they are held. If the party decides to run then Sharif's party will probably be forced to run as well. Sharif is not favored by the US and he blames the US for supporting Musharraf and he also blamed Bhutto for trying to make deals with Musharraf. Bhutto and the US have said little about the lawyers and supreme court judges who were removed from their posts and jailed for some time. Sharif on the other hand has made restoring the judges one of his prime aims.

Bhutto’s Rival Blames Death on Government
Published: December 29, 2007
NAUDERO, Pakistan — A former prime minister of Pakistan came and laid a wreath Saturday on the grave of his former political rival.

There were riots Friday across Pakistan, including the eastern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border.
But just before he did it, …

Fisk: They don't blame Al-Qaida. They blame Musharraf.

I have watched CBC and US Spokane Public TV and the story is more or less related as Fisk describes. However I just watched headline news. It is possible that some commentaries were more nuanced.
The situation is much more complicated than the story we are getting. As is natural when a person is assassinated most reports do not relay any of the negative aspects of her story as Fisk has done.
Fisk is probably correct that Pakistani intelligence works for i.e. is paid by Musharraf, US, and Taliban etc. If Musharraf was behind the assassinatiion it is a bit puzzling since most commentators think he is now much weakened. It is more likely that Taliban sympathisers in the intelligence and security services aided in the assassination but without Musharraf's support.

Robert Fisk: They don't blame al-Qa'ida. They blame Musharraf
Published: 29 December 2007
Weird, isn't it, how swiftly the narrative is laid down for us. Benazir Bhutto, the courageous leader of the Pakistan…

Income Inequality in the United States

Here is an article from this blog. I have invented a new theory to explain what happens when the economy grows. I am not sure what to name it. Originally I thought I would call it the trickle up theory to compete with the original trickle down theory. Unfortunately, the flow upwards is more like a gusher than a trickle. Even the original trickle down theory disguised the fact that when there is a trickle down there is almost always a much larger flow to the upper income earners. It would have been better termed the falling crumbs theory wherein the poor get more crumbs since it is a bigger cake.
Another pop theory is captured by the idea that a rising tide raises all boats. This is a real laugh when applied to economic growth. You can be sure that the extra money created by a growing economy is not shared equally in the way that a rising tide raises all boats big and small equally.

Boy, Have We Got an Inequality Problem
By Jared Bernstein | bio
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) jus…

Pakistan govt. reveals how Bhutto was killed

This is from Information Clearing House.
This account will probably fuel more speculation. Although one would wonder what point there would be in the Pakistan government inventing this account!
A great many Pakistanis apparently think that Musharraf was involved in the operation if not directly at least indirectly through his security or intelligence services.
But it is not clear to me that Musharraf gains anything much from the assassination. The biggest gainers will be the Islamic extremists who can hope to fan the flames of resentment against Musharraf and the US and strengthen support for the overthrow of Musharraf.

Pak govt reveals how Benazir was killed


12/28/07 "IBNlive" -- - -New Delhi: Mystery shrouds the death of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto. In an explosive revelation, Pakistan's Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz on Friday said that Bhutto did not die of bullet wounds.

Nawaz said that Bhutto died from a head injury. At least seven…

Of GCC state oil companies and geopolitics

This is from the Khaleej Times. Leave it to an investment banker to set forth the connections between Gulf oil and Big oil and the goings on in national oil companies. An article such as this is worth a dozen of the fluff stuff that passes for reporting in the mainstream press. The GCC is the Gulf States Co-operation Council a body that will merit nary a mention in the puff stuff of the western press.

Of GCC state oil companies and geopolitics

27 December 2007

GEOPOLITICS has shaped the creation, operations and worldview of Middle East owned oil companies ever since the earliest regional oil strikes in Dammam, Persia’s Masjid Suleiman and Kirkuk in the 1930s. Saudi Aramco, Kuwait Petroleum, National Iran Oil Company (NIOC), Algeria’s Sonatrach and Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC own 600 billion barrels of crude oil, half the world’s proven reserves.

Qatargas operates the world’s largest LNG export terminal and owns the world’s third largest offshore oil reserves after Russia and Iran.…

Tariq Ali: On Bhutto's Assassination

Guardian - December 28, 2007
Tariq Ali is a well know leftist commentator who knows Bhutto and the situation in Pakistan quite well. He is quite critical of Bhutto but notes that her party has the many poor in Pakistan as its base and could if reformed provide a foundation for democracy in Pakistan.
On the news this morning I see that the US is calling for elections to go ahead. However the main opposition party remaining that of Sharif plans to boycott the elections so if they go ahead they will have almost zero legitimacy.

A tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto heaps despair upon Pakistan. Now
her party must be democratically rebuilt

Tariq Ali

Even those of us sharply critical of Benazir Bhutto's behaviour and
policies - both while she was in office and more recently - are
stunned and angered by her death. Indignation and fear stalk the
country once again.

An odd coexistence of military despotism and anarchy created the