TGIFriday Reads

Good Morning!

Wow!  It’s Friday!  The week has sort’ve whizzed by for me and I have to admit to feeling like the days are blending together.  The weather is great down here right now.  October in New Orleans is usually a nice blend of perfect weather and no real surge in tourists so that’s a good change.  We had an Occupy New Orleans march–I didn’t make it–that seemed well attended and non-eventful.  I had a lot of friends that showed up and they took a lot of pictures.  I think we all should try to share the events in our individual cities if we get a chance. I’m really hoping this movement doesn’t get captured by the political establishment.

Taking its cues from the New York protest, Occupy New Orleans makes all its decisions through “general assembly,” a series of votes that aims to reflect the views of everyone involved. The process can be lengthy — simply selecting the march’s route took three hours for the group of about 100 to decide.

That’s one reason the group has not made a list of concrete goals, though it intends to in the upcoming weeks, said participant Michael Martin, 25. The movement also has no leader or spokesperson — each member is allowed one vote. The resultant lack of a coherent message has drawn skepticism even from would-be sympathizers.

Organizers of the New Orleans protest say they expect hundreds to participate; the group has more than 1,000 followers on Twitter and more than 4,100 fans on Facebook. The group received permits Wednesday allowing them to march, according to New Orleans Police Department spokeswoman Remi Braden.

In light of 700 protestors’ arrests in New York City on Saturday, Occupy New Orleans held a training session for legal observers Tuesday that drew 20 people, mainly law students.

We really need to have a huge conversation about the idea that a “secret panel” can put an American citizen on a kill list without actual due process in the courts.  Here’s a start at that discussion from Reuters.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.

Current and former officials said that to the best of their knowledge, Awlaki, who the White House said was a key figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate, had been the only American put on a government list targeting people for capture or death due to their alleged involvement with militants.

The White House is portraying the killing of Awlaki as a demonstration of President Barack Obama’s toughness toward militants who threaten the United States. But the process that led to Awlaki’s killing has drawn fierce criticism from both the political left and right.

In an ironic turn, Obama, who ran for president denouncing predecessor George W. Bush’s expansive use of executive power in his “war on terrorism,” is being attacked in some quarters for using similar tactics. They include secret legal justifications and undisclosed intelligence assessments.

Yeah, that’s the word I’m thinking …. ironic… not!!  I am very much attuned to the situation in Europe.  The banks have pretty much done it to us again and it looks like there will be more bail outs coming.  There’s a lot of talk that it could be worse than 2007-2008.  Here’s ZeroHedge’s take on a BBC insider interview with an IMF advisor that says: “In The Absence Of A Credible Plan We Will Have A Global Financial Meltdown In Two To Three Weeks”.  The interview is posted there if you’re more curious.

A week after the BBC exploded Alessio Rastani to the stage, it has just done it all over again. In an interview with IMF advisor Robert Shapiro, the bailout expert has pretty much said what, once again, is on everyone’s mind: “If they can not address [the financial crisis] in a credible way I believe within perhaps 2 to 3 weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system. We are not just talking about a relatively small Belgian bank, we are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France, that will spread to the United Kingdom, it will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected. All those banks are counterparties to every significant bank in the United States, and in Britain, and in Japan, and around the world. This would be a crisis that would be in my view more serious than the crisis in 2008…. What we don’t know the state of credit default swaps held by banks against sovereign debt and against European banks, nor do we know the state of CDS held by British banks, nor are we certain of how certain the exposure of British banks is to the Ireland sovereign debt problems.”

But no, Morgan Stanley does, or so they swear an unlimited number of times each day. And they say not to worry about anything because, you see, it is not like they have any upside in telling anyone the truth. Which is why for everyone hung up on the latest rumor of a plan about a plan about a plan spread by a newspaper whose very viability is tied in with that of the banks that pay for its advertising revenue, we have one thing to ask: “show us the actual plan please.” Because it is easy to say “recapitalize” this, and “bad bank” that. In practice, it is next to impossible. So yes, ladies and gentlemen, enjoy this brief relief rally driven by the fact that China is offline for the week and that the persistent source of overnight selling on Chinese “hard/crash landing” concerns has been gone simply due to an extended national holiday. Well, that holiday is coming to an end.

Some of the weaker Spanish banks have been nationalized.  It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this.

Austrailia's Status of Women Minister, Kate Ellis

 Australia’s Status of Women Minister, Kate Ellis says that “mindless bias” holds women back in her country.  She’s been making the rounds arguing about a report that shows that gender differences in salary and position cannot be explained away by either occupational choices or other factors. Can you imagine Valerie Jarret holding US corporations to account for not promoting and hiring women? Oh, wait, the Prime Minister’s name is Julia … hmmmmm.

”We are saying very clearly to corporate Australia, we want to work in partnership with you to change this – and it’s an offer that I hope corporate Australia will take that up and we don’t have to take that conversation any further.”

Asked yesterday about the portrayal of women in the media, Ms Ellis said there was sometimes unequal treatment ”handed out”, and said the treatment of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was ”a case study before our eyes”.

”I think there’s a really interesting issue, where often I will be encouraging people where if you see unfair treatment, if you see discrimination you should stand up and call it out for what it is,” she said.

”In politics, there’s often the opposite pressure, where if you do that constantly it looks like female politicians are whingeing and they’re not tough enough to handle the environment.”

She said her office was collating examples of the media dealing with gender issues in ways that were not ”acceptable”.

According to the government’s latest census of women in leadership, last year females made up just 8.4 per cent of directors and 8 per cent of executive managers in ASX200 companies.

The report calls for companies to adopt a range of reforms, including making their workplaces more flexible and setting targets for gender diversity.

The Guardian has a killer interview up with retired US General McChrystal who says the US is only about 1/2 done with the war in Afghanistan.  That means 10 more years if he’s right.

The US began the war in Afghanistan with a “frighteningly simplistic” view of the country and even 10 years later lacks the knowledge that could help bring the conflict to a successful end, a former top commander has said.

Retired US army general Stanley McChrystal said in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations that the US and its Nato allies were only “a little better than” 50% of the way to reaching their war goals.

Of the remaining tasks to be accomplished, he said, the most difficult may be to create a legitimate government that ordinary Afghans could believe in and that could serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.

McChrystal, who commanded coalition forces in 2009-10 and was forced to resign in a flap over a magazine article, said the US entered Afghanistan in October 2001 with too little knowledge of Afghan culture.

“We didn’t know enough and we still don’t know enough,” he said. “Most of us, me included, had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”

US forces did not know the country’s languages and did not make “an effective effort” to learn them, he said.

McChrystal said the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq less than two years after entering Afghanistan made the Afghan effort more difficult.

Well, that’s some depressing things to think about which is about what’s on my mind today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?