Saturday, October 22, 2005

Oh Yea, We're Winning the Hearts and Minds

Poll shows Iraqis back attacks on UK, US forces
Sat Oct 22, 2005 5:49 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Forty-five percent of Iraqis believe attacks on U.S. and British troops are justified, according to a secret poll said to have been commissioned by British defense leaders and cited by The Sunday Telegraph.

Less than 1 percent of those polled believed that the forces were responsible for any improvement in security, according to poll figures.

Eighty-two percent of those polled said they were "strongly opposed" to the presence of the troops.

The paper said the poll, conducted in August by an Iraqi university research team, was commissioned by the Ministry of Defense.

Britain has more than 8,000 troops stationed in the south of Iraq, and has had 97 soldiers killed, the most recent the victim of a roadside bomb on Tuesday night.

Write Your Own Caption!

Republican Family Values

That this happens in America is incredible. That this happens in the state of Washington is inconceivable: a matricidal maniac is running for County Executive!

Take for example Balter’s description of Janet’s refusal to endorse her own son, an oddly expurgated bit of reporting:

Irons’ mother is an independent who votes for — or in this case against — individual candidates. Angry about a different family matter years ago, she won’t support her son.

A “family matter". How concise.

As tearfully recounted to me by Janet, the “family matter” involved an incident that occurred back during the early 1990’s at her office in the family cable company, when David Jr., during one of his frequent fits of rage, hit his mother, knocking her to the floor… and then ripped the phone off the wall when she attempted to dial 911. Frightened, shocked and in pain, Janet fled in her car, hiding several blocks away, “afraid he was coming again.”

Janet has never again allowed herself to be alone with David Jr. since the day the “family matter” occurred. More than a decade later she remains frightened of her own son, even fretting to me that “something might happen” should he read her account in the papers.

As for David Jr., he never denied to his family that something happened that day… he never straightened the office to hide signs of the struggle, nor picked up the typewriter, papers and other objects he angrily swept off his mother’s desk. However, he did deny to his father and sister that he actually hit his mother, incredibly claiming that she ran into his arm… an account that reads like those laughable accident reports where stunned drivers insist that the tree hit their car.

It gets worse, but let Horse's Ass tell you about it (link in the header). He ought to earn the few moments of your time.

It's Miller Time

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece analyzing the security clearances given to Judith Miller. During the course of that analysis, I wondered how the Times, her employer, could protect her so vehemently given her obvious complicity in a plot to out a CIA operative.

Well, here's the answer:

Times: Miller May Have Misled Editors
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Judith Miller's boss says the New York Times reporter appears to have misled the newspaper about her role in the CIA leak controversy.

In an e-mail memo Friday to the newspaper's staff, Executive Editor Bill Keller said that until Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed Miller in the criminal probe, "I didn't know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end" of leaks aimed at Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson.

"Judy seems to have misled" Times Washington bureau chief Bill Taubman about the extent of her involvement, Keller wrote.

Taubman asked Miller in the fall of 2003 whether she was among the reporters who had gotten leaks about the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

"Ms. Miller denied it," the newspaper reported in a weekend story.

Miller and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, discussed Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, in three conversations in the weeks before the CIA officer's status was outed by columnist Robert Novak.
(Full Text of the E-mail here)

Now there's a lot of handwringing and buckpassing on Keller's part here, including the implication that he wasn't really up to speed as editor when this was all happening, but the facts seem pretty clear: Judith Miller was protecting the Bush administration ahead of the interests of either her employer or by extension, hers.

I mean, it's one thing to walk up to your editor and say, "I've got a source that I refuse to tell you who is telling me this," and quite another to say "No, I've never received any information from any source about this." The first is doing your job. The second is doing someone else's for them.

Now, I have friends who are long time friends of Miller's (from college) and they swear she's not like this, that she was always conscientious and truthful, yadayadayada....of course, these friends also support the war, and if there's ANY truth to the AIPAC concerns of the tinfoil hat brigade (which I seriously sounds like the 21st Century version of the Bilderberg Group), these friends would be at the forefront of the pro-Israel movement in America.

Obviously, something has changed in her in forty years. Why would someone who works at the most respected newspaper in the world do something boneheaded like this? And why is she still working there?

Buh bye, Judy, don't let the door hit you on the way out...

How Much Is Your Blog Worth?

Tip of the hat to Jeralyn @ TalkLeft via Crooks and Liars:

My blog is worth $2,822.70.
How much is your blog worth?

Which is actually up two hundred dollars since I submitted my blog.

It's all about the links.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Write Your Own Caption!

The Empire Strikes Out

Seems to me you ought to make the defense fit the facts, and not the other way around, but then again, these assholes have gotten away with that over the sheeple of this country for six years, counting the stolen first election:

White House Defense Shaky in CIA Leak Case


WASHINGTON (AP) - Even if White House aides leaked a covert CIA officer's identity, they were simply passing along information they'd already heard from the news media, the administration's supporters maintain in a defense that looks increasing shaky as new evidence accumulates.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald now knows that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, met three times with a New York Times reporter before the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, that Libby initiated a call to NBC newsman Tim Russert and that Libby was a confirming source about the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson for a Time magazine reporter.

Presidential political adviser Karl Rove has testified that it's possible Libby was his source before Rove talked to two reporters about the CIA operative.

Where Libby first heard the information still isn't publicly known, but a full three weeks before Plame's name first showed up in print, Libby was telling New York Times reporter Judith Miller that he thought Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, according to Miller's testimony.

While Libby maintains that he didn't know Plame's name until it was published in the news media, the now-public evidence suggests Libby at least was aware that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and that he spread the information.

[snippage to the good stuff]

Until this week, ``the news media did it'' was a standard defense among Republicans trying to protect the Bush administration from the political fallout of Fitzgerald's criminal investigation. Loyalists said that even if White House aides had passed on information, they didn't get it from classified sources and were simply repeating what they heard from journalists.

In grand jury testimony shown to Rove, Libby said he had told Rove about information he had gotten about Wilson's wife from Russert, according to a person directly familiar with the information.

Prosecutors, however, have a different account from Russert. The TV network has said Russert told authorities he did not know Wilson's wife's identity until it was published and therefore could not have told Libby about it. Russert also says that it was Libby who initiated the contact with him.
(emphasis added)

So Libby's a slam dunk indictee, probably along with Rove, and very likely, Judith Miller will get hit with an obstruction charge, altho that's likely to be more an arm twisting for her truthful and remembered testimony about what transpired than for an actual attempt to obstruct justice.

Who knows, though? Perhaps Fitzgerald has it on good authority that she knew, and agreed not to write her story? That cryptic note about the aspens turning indicates to me a semi-coded message. Sometimes being a writer and actor forces you to consider a logical alterantive to gobbledy goop.

Aspens turning. It's Fall, as Libby clearly references. October. Surprises. Halloween. John Denver had a song, "Starwood in Aspen". Starwood is a hotel chain. "Aspens" is also the name of a hotel near Whistler in Canada (British Columbia, I think). An aspen is a willow tree. Is Miller taller than Libby?

Libby is correct that aspens are connected by the roots. Funny thing is, the trees only live to be 100-150 years old, but the roots can last for thousands of years? Third Reich? Fourth Reich? PNAC?

This is all free association. My suspicion is Libby and Rove will fall on their swords knowing that they've left in place a root system that will allow their reign of terror and criminal behavior to live on, much like a mafia don's does when he goes to prison.

And it fits with the hubris of this administration that they would consider threatening (because that's the way I see this letter: a threat to Miller to not talk, but to not hide any longer) a reporter to keep the larger agenda out of the public eye.

I don't think it will work, but it might. They've gotten away with less bold manoeuvers.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More From My Vacation

Some of these critters were so weird, or so camera friendly, I promised myself I'd give them some air time.

More On Bird Flu: Looks like it's made the leap

Looks like the chickens are coming home to roost....
Bird flu kills Thai man; fear grows in Europe
Thu Oct 20, 2005 10:40 AM ET

By Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Bird flu has taken another human life, officials said on Thursday -- a 48-year-old Thai man who was the 67th person known to have been killed by a virus steadily creeping from Asia into Europe and toward Africa.

In Indonesia, possible clusters of bird flu among members of the same family raised concern the virus had already mutated into a strain that can pass from human to human, which could start a global pandemic that scientists say could kill millions.(emphasis added)

"With the increase of clusters the possibility has to be thoroughly examined that the virus might have changed and could possibly spread from human to human," Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari was quoted as saying by the state news agency.

A father and son are being treated at a Jakarta hospital for symptoms of the virus but the diagnosis has mot been confirmed.

All the human deaths from avian flu have so far been in Asia but the deadly H5N1 strain was detected this month in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania, worsening fears in Europe and battering sales of eggs and poultry in several countries.

"There has been a drastic drop in sales, I would say 50 percent," said Vojka Asenoski behind the counter of a Belgrade grocery store. "People look at all those pictures on TV, it's no wonder, they behave as if everything is already infected."

France tried to reassure consumers that poultry was safe to eat as a food industry union said chicken consumption had plunged 20 percent because of bird flu fears. In Brussels, the European Union said more tests were needed to determine whether Greece had become the first EU country to be hit by the virus.

Organic Foods Under Attack

Now, I'm not a granola-crunching, macrobiotic-ingesting vegan, not by any stretch, but I do occasionally have an organic meal or two during the week.

No particular reason except that I'm cautious about my health, and as I grow older (47 and counting, and thank god, cuz the alternative means I'd be organic food for some worm or fish), I think more and more about eating healthier and living longer.

Well, Katrina alerted me to this little-noticed bit of underhandedness:

The Organic Trade Association is aggressively lobbying Congress to include an amendment in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which would overturn Harvey vs. Johanns, a recent court decision that bars the use of synthetic ingredients in the non-organic portion of food labeled "organic." These are food products that must be made with at least 95% organic material but can have 5% non-organic ingredients.

"We are not disputing that the organic law already allows and should allow for synthetics to be used in products labeled as 'made with organic' (products made with at least 70% organic ingredients) but the industry wants the bonus of being able to carry the coveted "organic" label without shouldering the burden of meeting consumer expectations," says Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst at Consumers Union.

"When Consumers Union conducted a nationwide survey in March 2005 of 1,200 US adults online, we found that 85% of respondents do not expect food labeled as "organic" to contain artificial (or synthetic) ingredients," adds Rangan.

"As we approach the third year anniversary of the National Organic Program, it's clear that consumers have grown even more attached to the value of the organic label. An overwhelming number of consumers have registered their opposition to the current attempts to weaken the organic standards. The reaction is nearly as strong as the record number (275,000) of public comments received during the development of the National Organic Program," said Ronnie Cummins, President of the Organic Consumers Association.

Why does this concern me? I mean, 70%, right, still pretty organic.

Well, Consumers Union (the good people who publish Consumer Reports) has a long history of being on top of issues related to consumers and their wealth and health, and what they're saying makes sense:

Why is it necessary for the standards to be lowered? Why can't manufacturers simply improve the content of the non-organic line to either conform to current statndards or, failing that, simply make their non-organic food healthier?

The answer seems exceedingly clear: money. After all, organic products at market fetch a far higher price AND PROFIT MARGIN than mass-produced chemically altered food. Why wouldn't Kraft or Birdseye or any number of food producers want to make more money without spending on the upgrade to conform to current standards?

Here's a list of Congresscritters and Senatoriums who are involved in drafting the legislation to establish organic standards. I urge you to take a few moments and write two, one Representative, one Senator, and let them know how you feel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Write Your Own Caption!

Yes, it's that time again...

Ice Up The Champagne, Mother!

Tom Delay has had an arrest warrant issued!

Texas Court Issues Warrant for DeLay
By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

(10-19) 12:14 PDT Austin, Texas (AP) --

A Texas court issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.

Bail was initially set at $10,000 as a routine step before his first court appearance on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Travis County court officials said DeLay was ordered to appear at the Fort Bend County jail for booking.

The warrant was "a matter of routine and bond will be posted," DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said.

The lawyer declined to say when DeLay would surrender to authorities but said the lawmaker would make his first court appearance Friday morning.

Your One Stop Shop

For Rebutting Right Wing Lies About the Plame Investigation

A Good Time To Take A Break From Politics

So you'll have to endure a show of photos I took on my last vacation :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

This JUST In...

White House Watch: Cheney resignation rumors fly

Posted 10/18/05
By Paul Bedard

Sparked by today's Washington Post story that suggests Vice President Cheney's office is involved in the Plame-CIA spy link investigation, government officials and advisers passed around rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"It's certainly an interesting but I still think highly doubtful scenario," said a Bush insider. "And if that should happen," added the official, "there will undoubtedly be those who believe the whole thing was orchestrated – another brilliant Machiavellian move by the VP."

Said another Bush associate of the rumor, "Yes. This is not good." The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn't get the job or run for president in 2008.

"Isn't she pro-choice?" asked a key Senate Republican aide. Many White House insiders, however, said the Post story and reports that the investigation was coming to a close had officials instead more focused on who would be dragged into the affair and if top aides would be indicted and forced to resign.

"Folks on the inside and near inside are holding their breath and wondering what's next," said a Bush adviser. But, he added, they aren't focused on the future of the vice president. "Not that, at least not seriously," he said.

Wow. The Vice President resigns and all these nincompoops can consider is whether Rice could run in 2008??????

You Almost Feel Sad For Her....

...until you realize a) she married a fucking crook and b) she's in bed with the Bushies....

Pirro's fundraising a far cry from earlier Clinton foes

AP Political Writer

October 18, 2005, 11:35 AM EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Two weeks before she closed the books on her initial drive to finance a run against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jeanine Pirro pleaded for "emergency contributions" because "a poor showing for me in my first quarterly FEC report is simply NOT an option."

On Friday, Pirro's campaign reported to the Federal Election Commission that it raised $438,555 for the three months ending Sept. 30. Clinton reported raising 12 times that, almost $5.3 million.

"The potential for growth is enormous," Pirro told a New York City news conference a few hours before her campaign aides released the fundraising details. At the news conference, Republican Gov. George Pataki had endorsed her.

"Sometimes numbers speak louder than words," said Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson. "These numbers aren't breaking a whisper."

The Clinton camp was quick to note that in 1999 and 2000, as Clinton geared up for her first Senate race, Republicans Rudolph Giuliani and Rick Lazio had no trouble raising money. In the last six months of 1999, Giuliani raised more than $9 million. He dropped out of the race on May 19 in the face of prostate cancer. Lazio, a congressman from Long Island at the time, stepped in and raised almost $5 million between then and the end of June.

Pirro's campaign manager, Brian Donahue, said Pataki's endorsement would help with fundraising.

As if that wasn't bad enough...

WASHINGTON - Jeanine Pirro always says Sen. Hillary Clinton's real goal is the White House. Maybe that's why the Pirro campaign sent a letter to Clinton there - and asked her for money.

"Dear Hillary," begins the fund-raising appeal addressed to Clinton at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington. "You and I have been through a lot over the years."

After the Westchester DA thanks Clinton for previous help - which a spokesman for Clinton said has never existed - the letter hits the former First Lady up for a donation of up to $1,000.

"Hillary, I need to know if I can count on you to stand by my side in my campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the U.S. Senate in 2006," it goes on.

"And you and I know the U.S. Senate isn't Hillary's real goal," says the letter, which was forwarded to the senator. "Hillary wants to use New York as a pit stop on the way to the White House."

This from the woman whose campaign began with a moment of silence...

....that lasted 32 seconds while she scrambled for her notes about why Hillary must not be re-elected.

My god, what HAVE Republicans come to???? I respected this woman as a courageous fighter. Turns out, she's just another pussy.

UPDATED: Jim Romenseko Gets It Right

UPDATE: GreatScat has the letter from John Conyers grilling Dick Cheney on why this was allowed to occur.The telling question, to me...
IV. Did journalists maintain their clearances after completing participation in the embed program? Are journalists with a security clearance or other access notified upon the revocation or termination of such clearance or access? When does such revocation or termination occur? Have any journalists who are or have been embedded with forces in Iraq had their security clearances revoked or otherwise terminated?

A tip of the hat, from one former journalist to one who's obviously well-steeped in the craft:
From BILL LYNCH, retired CBS News correspondent: There is one enormous journalism scandal hidden in Judith Miller's Oct. 16th first person article about the (perhaps lesser) CIA leak scandal. And that is Ms. Miller's revelation that she was granted a DoD security clearance while embedded with the WMD search team in Iraq in 2003.

This is as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists and the New York Times (if it knew) should never have allowed her to become so compromised. It is all the more puzzling that a reporter who as a matter of principle would sacrifice 85 days of her freedom to protect a source would so willingly agree to be officially muzzled and thereby deny potentially valuable information to the readers whose right to be informed she claims to value so highly.

One must assume that Ms. Miller was required to sign a standard and legally binding agreement that she would never divulge classified information to which she became privy, without risk of criminal prosecution. And she apparently plans to adhere to the letter of that self-censorship deal; witness her dilemma at being unable to share classified information with her editors.
In other words, for the sake of a small beat (If WMDs were to be found, which was highly unlikely given the fact that no less than THREE weapons inspectors said there weren't any), she sold her soul, but also likely put herself and her paper in harm's way by being spoon-fed a different beat on Valerie Plame, with the same confidentiality agreement enforced!

The Times should have summarily fired her ass the moment they heard about this arrangement. No editor in his right mind would allow a reporter to have unfettered access to classified information fed to them by a government (and therefore highly suspect) source, without having someone available to fact check the information.

Or as Romenesko puts it:
In an era where the Bush Administration seeks to conceal mountains of government activity under various levels of security classification, why would any self-respecting news organization or individual journalist agree to become part of such a system? Readers would be right to question whether a reporter is operating under a security clearance and, by definition, withholding critical information. Does a newspaper not have the obligation to disclose to its readers when a reporter is not only embedded with a military unit but also officially proscribed in what she may report without running afoul of espionage laws? Was that ever done in Ms. Miller's articles from Iraq?
All this happens on top of the Jason Blair and Ricky Bragg scandals at the Times, so you'd think they'd be extra cautious about letting a reporter go "deep cover" like this, especially one who's journalistic integrity was suspect from the beginning.

My suspicion is Rove calculated this as a sure-fire way to score points. Even if Miller gets outted, the Times ends up with egg on its face and we all know how unloved the New York Times is in certain politicial circles for simply reporting facts.

Facts: such inconvenient things.

This, Eric Alterman at the Center For American Progress, sums up nicely the disgust we should all be feeling towards Miller:
(Washington) Post columnist David Ignatius explained in April 2004 that the media’s “own professionalism” was to blame for them dropping the ball on the phantom WMDs. The reasoning goes like this: “In a sense, the media were victims of their own professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules meant we shouldn't create a debate on our own.”

The “rules” to which Ignatius refers are nowhere written down, and I certainly don’t teach them to my journalism students, but he is not that far off in describing the mores of contemporary Washington journalism. The Times continues to stand by the misleading reporting of Judy Miller despite her amazing February 2004 contention in The New York Review of Books: “My job was not to collect information and analyze it independently as an intelligence agency; my job was to tell readers of the New York Times, as best as I could figure out, what people inside the government who had very high security clearances, who were not supposed to talk to me, were saying to one another about what they thought Iraq had and did not have in the area of weapons of mass destruction.”

Note that the reporter’s understanding of what is actually “true” appears nowhere in these descriptions of the meaning of journalistic professionalism. And that is one big reason this administration has been able to lie, repeatedly, with impunity, as it has led this nation down a path toward economic, political, and foreign policy catastrophe. It is hard to imagine that this reticence is what America’s founding fathers had in mind when they gave the press its privileged status in the very first amendment to the Constitution. But that, as Walter Cronkite used to say, is the way it is…
tags technorati :

Uh oh

Producer price surge biggest in 15 years

By Tim Ahmann
Tuesday, October 18, 2005; 8:57 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. producer prices shot up by an unexpectedly large 1.9 percent last month, the biggest gain in more than 15 years, as energy costs surged in the wake of hurricanes that devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast, a government report showed on Tuesday.

However, outside of volatile food and energy costs, prices received by farms, factories and refineries were relatively restrained, advancing just 0.3 percent, the Labor Department said.

Prices for U.S. government bonds and stock futures fell, while the dollar strengthened, as the report kept alive concern in financial markets over inflation and interest-rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

Wall Street economists had expected producer prices to rise just 1.1 percent, with prices outside of food and energy up a tame 0.2 percent.

That's a real gain of 1.9% in the month of September, and is not annualized over a year. The annualized rate, based on September's inflation, is a 22.8% inflation rate.

And that's just at the producer level. You can expect the consumer price level to rise about 3-5% higher than that (meaning for September, it should come in just over 2%).

All this, ahead of the fourth quarter holiday shopping AND home heating season, it does not look good for several sectors of our economy. I expect we may see massive layoffs in several industries, and certainly some weakening in consumption and of course, home buying and equity borrowing.

In other words, we're on the brink of yet another recession in the Bush years.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Talk About Safe Sex!

That's one choked chicken!

The Daily Show Is Not Just Good TV, It's Good Spam!

============== Web Headlines ===================
From the Writers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


Arctic sea ice has shrunk 30% since 1978, and could disappear
altogether within a hundred years. NASA scientist Dr. Waleed Abdalati explains,
"The most recent estimates suggest that the last time we had an
ice-free arctic was millions of years ago." So when it comes to the skills
you'll need in the future, add "a decent breast stroke."

In the short term, this could actually be good news for fish lovers,
since the warmer arctic waters may wind up increasing the populations of
cod near the North Pole. And, as an added bonus, at the rate the planet
is going, if you like your cod boiled... well, pretty soon, you'll be
in for a real treat.

The warmer temperatures are, however, bad for polar bears, who may find
their habitats threatened. And the rising waters have already proved a
disaster in Santa's Workshop. Sadly, he chose to build in a coastal
area of the North Pole and to hire workers who were only two feet high.

This, by the way, is the most important report to come out of the
national snow and ice data center since their watershed 1978 report, "Don't
Eat the Yellow Snow."

Pensions, Health Care, and The Economy

I ran across this article on today:

GM Has Deal With Union to Cut Health-Care Costs, Posts Net Loss
Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp., the world's biggest automaker, said it agreed with the United Auto Workers on ways to reduce health-care expenses as it posted a fourth straight quarterly loss.

The net loss of $1.6 billion, or $2.89 a share, in the third quarter compared with net income a year earlier of $315 million, or 56 cents a share, Detroit-based GM said. The lure of employee- price discounts waned and the rising cost of fuel reduced demand for some of GM's most profitable models. The loss extends GM's longest unprofitable streak in 13 years

Any kind of deal on health care ``would be a significant milestone, as it would mark growing recognition by all constituents in the industry that the healthcare situation cannot persist indefinitely,'' Jonathan Steinmetz, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in New York, said in a note to investors on Oct. 14.

GM and the UAW have been negotiating for months on ways to lower GM's health-care bill. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner identified the issue as a source of ``crisis'' in January and made reducing those costs his primary goal for the year.

GM initially hoped to cut $20 billion from the $61 billion it estimates it will have to pay in coming decades to cover health care and life insurance for UAW workers, retirees and dependents. In an interview last week, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger described cuts that deep as untenable.

What bothered me about this?

Well, turns out that last night I was watching "NOW" on PBS-U (fine show, even finer network). Remember how Delta and Northwest Airlines both filed bankruptcies last month, citing the blooming pension liabilities it had to its retirees?

Well, Delta lost something on the order of $5billion last year. It's unfunded pension liability is around $10 billion.

Northwest came in around half that, as I recall.

GM has a $31 billion unfunded pension liability.

I'll try not to bore you with details of ERISA and how this could happen, suffice it to say that a little accounting magic, and what should have been a funded annuity to ensure that these payments could be made, was not.

And it will be up to the Federal Government (in the form of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) to make good on these billions, possibly trillions of dollars of payments.

You see, thru the magic of the time-value of money, that $31 billion dollars is not what will have to be paid out. That's what GM would have to deposit now, right now, to make sure all the employees currently in the pension plan would receive the full amounts promised them. Likely, altho I don't have actuarial tables in front of me, and therefore I'm merely guessing, that $31 billion would probably double eveery ten years, and then slowly diminish as the last remaining employee covered by pensions dies off.

And that's presuming GM has switched to 401(k) plans, which are defined contribution (as opposed to a defined benefit plan, like a pension) plans. The unions may not have allowed that to happen.

So what does all this mean?

It means that, between the health care coverage and the pension defaults, corporations are reneging on the social contract they have with their employees: you give us a fair day's work, and we'll take care of you now, and when you retire.

Damnable thing is, corporations have an enormous advantage when it comes to this contract, and now they are starting to abuse that power.
tags technorati :

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Did Anybody Doubt This Was Coming?

In our great crusade against all things Islamic...

U.S., Britain warn Iran over Iraq bomb attacks

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States and its chief ally Britain have warned Iran over its possible involvement in insurgent bomb attacks in Iraq, top officials said on Sunday.

Iran denies meddling in Iraq and says the accusations against it are psychological warfare tied to efforts by Washington and London to report Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this month there was evidence that Iran or its Lebanese Hizbollah allies were the source of sophisticated technology used in roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), that have targeted British soldiers in southern Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that Washington had warned Tehran over the issue.

"We have tried to deliver a message ... about this issue of IEDs in southern Iraq," Rice told reporters while in London for talks with Blair. "We have channels with which to do it. But we use them sternly and pretty specifically to deliver messages."

Having failed to obtain security through the subjugation of one, errrr, nexus of the Axis of Evil, we now turn our attention to the next one.

(Aside: Don't Axes have only two ends?)

Iran is slightly more sophisticated than Saddam, of course and a bit more interested in keeping its economy rolling.

But still...even if we pulled every troop out of Iraq and Afghanistan, who are we kidding? We are in no shape to start a war with Iran, especially since in this case, we could never be assured of the complicity of the rest of the Arabic world (which had never forgiven Saddam for invading Kuwait).

This is madness and must be stopped.