- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush does a little business with a New
York bank. Next thing you know, Florida taxpayers are holding the
bag for billions.
Corruption, thy name is Bush! This story has the makings of another
Carl Hiaasen novel. All it still needs is a sexy blonde and a
fisherman who finds his bone-fishing grounds occupied by a
politician fellating a banker.
Remarkably, it appeared here on Bloomberg.com.
The nub of it
Here are a few choice excerpts from the Bloomberg News story:
Jeb Bush, who incorporated Jeb Bush & Associates in February 2007, a
month after completing his second term [as Governor], had been hired
as a consultant to Lehman Brothers in June. Bush is the brother of
President George W. Bush.
`Do Something Quickly'
In November, school districts and local agencies that kept their
cash in the state pool rushed to withdraw $12 billion, or 46
percent, of the money in the fund. On Nov. 29, the state froze the
fund to stop all withdrawals. ``If we don't do something quickly,
we're not going to have an investment pool,'' [Carl] Stipanovich
[executive director of the state board of administration] told the
board that day.
Until November, the Florida pool was the largest public money market
fund in the U.S. It held cash for about 1,000 school districts,
towns and local agencies in Florida.
Stipanovich resigned on Dec. 4. He declined to comment.
What Stipanovich, 58, hadn't told his boss, Florida Chief Financial
Officer Alex Sink, was that Lehman Brothers was the same firm that
had sold the state fund $842 million of mortgage- backed debt in
July and August. Those securities defaulted within four months, and
totaled more failing debt than any other bank sold the state,
Florida records show. `
`At the time, I never knew it was Lehman Brothers that actually sold
us these investments,'' Sink says.
Florida CFO Sink is riled up about more than Stipanovich. She says
JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Lehman Brothers were offloading tainted
debt on Florida and other states at a time when those assets were
plummeting in value.
So now, if you're still following all this:
Ex-governor Bush, the President's brother with deep political ties
in Florida, sets up a consulting business. Lehman becomes his
client. Next thing you know, the taxpayers are stuck with a bunch of
nearly worthless paper from Lehman. The public is screwed.
You don't suppose George Bush's new U.S. Attorney General appointee,
Michael Mukasey, will bring corruption charges, against Jeb, do you?
Nah, I don't think so either.
New York Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat), who rammed Mukasey's
approval through the senate, please take note. After all, the AG is
now your boy.
Labels: Banks, corruption, Florida, Jeb Bush, public funds
Israeli conductor 'now Palestinian'
Published: 14 January 2008
Daniel Barenboim, the world renowned Israeli pianist and conductor,
has taken Palestinian citizenship and said he believed his rare new
status could serve a model for peace between the two peoples.
"It is a great honour to be offered a passport," he said on Saturday
night after a Beethoven piano recital in Ramallah, the West Bank
city where he has been active for some years in promoting contact
between young Arab and Israeli musicians.
"I have also accepted it because I believe that the destinies of ...
the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably
linked," Barenboim said. "We are blessed - or cursed - to live with
each other. And I prefer the first."
"The fact that an Israeli citizen can be awarded a Palestinian
passport, can be a sign that it is actually possible."
Former Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouthi, who
helped organise Saturday's concert, said the passport had been
approved by the previous government of which he was a member and
which was replaced in June. The passport had actually been issued
about six weeks ago, he added.
Argentine-born Barenboim, 65, is a controversial figure in his
adoptive homeland, both for his promotion of German music and vocal
opposition to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
Asked about US President George W. Bush's remarks last week on a
visit to the region that a peace could be signed this year,
Barenboim warned of the danger of raising hopes too high.
"It would be absolutely horrible if now, with good intentions,
expectations are raised which will not be able to be fulfilled,"
Barenboim said. "Then we will sink into an even greater depression."
Though he dismissed any wish to play a political role, the former
music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took a dig at
Bush's strikingly forceful call in Jerusalem last week for Israel to
end, in the president's own words, "the occupation".
"Now even not very intelligent people are saying that the occupation
has to be stopped," Barenboim said.
Based in Berlin, he is closely identified with German music and in
2001 conducted an opera by 19th-century composer Richard Wagner in
Jerusalem despite anger in some quarters at a performance of a work
by a German accused of anti-Semitic views.
For the past decade, Barenboim has promoted Arab-Israeli cultural
contacts, notably alongside the late Palestinian-American writer
Source of Mysterious Antimatter Found
Charles Q. Choi
Special to SPACE.com
Fri Jan 11, 2008
Antimatter, which annihilates matter upon contact, seems to be rare
in the universe. Still, for decades, scientists had clues that a
vast cloud of antimatter lurked in space, but they did not know
where it came from.
The mysterious source of this antimatter has now been discovered
stars getting ripped apart by neutron stars and black holes.
While antimatter propulsion systems are so far the stuff of science
fiction, antimatter is very real.
What it is
All elementary particles, such as protons and electrons, have
antimatter counterparts with the same mass but the opposite charge.
For instance, the antimatter opposite of an electron, known as a
positron, is positively charged.
When a particle meets its antiparticle, they destroy each other,
releasing a burst of energy such as gamma rays. In 1978, gamma ray
detectors flown on balloons detected a type of gamma ray emerging
from space that is known to be emitted when electrons collide with
positrons meaning there was antimatter in space.
"It was quite a surprise back then to discover part of the universe
was made of antimatter," researcher Gerry Skinner, an astrophysicist
at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told SPACE.com.
These gamma rays apparently came from a cloud of antimatter roughly
10,000 light-years across surrounding our galaxy's core. This giant
cloud shines brightly with gamma rays, with about the energy of
What exactly generated the antimatter was a mystery for the
following decades. Suspects have included everything from exploding
stars to dark matter.
Now, an international research team looking over four years of data
from the European Space Agency's International Gamma Ray
Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) satellite has pinpointed the
apparent culprits. Their new findings suggest these positrons
originate mainly from stars getting devoured by black holes and
As a black hole or neutron star destroys a star, tremendous amounts
of radiation are released. Just as electrons and positrons emit the
tell-tale gamma rays upon annihilation, so too can gamma rays
combine to form electrons and positrons, providing the mechanism for
the creation of the antimatter cloud, scientists think.
Billions and billions
The researchers calculate that a relatively ordinary star getting
torn apart by a black hole or neutron star orbiting around it a so-
called "low mass X-ray binary" could spew on the order of one
hundred thousand billion billion billion billion positrons (a 1
followed by 41 zeroes) per second. These could account for a great
deal of the antimatter that scientists have inferred, reducing or
potentially eliminating the need for exotic explanations such as
ones involving dark matter.
"Simple estimates suggest that about half and possibly all the
antimatter is coming from X-ray binaries," said researcher Georg
Weidenspointner of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial
Physics in Germany.
Now that they have witnessed the death of antimatter, the scientists
hope to see its birth.
"It would be interesting if black holes produced more matter than
neutron stars, or vice versa, although it's too early to say one way
or the other right now," Skinner explained. "It can be surprisingly
hard to tell the difference between an X-ray binaries that hold
black holes and neutron stars."
Weidenspointner, Skinner and their colleagues, detailed their
findings in the Jan. 10 issue of the journal Nature.
Dozens in Texas town report seeing UFO
By ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jan 14, 2008
In this farming community where nightfall usually brings clear,
starry skies, residents are abuzz over reported sightings of what
many believe is a UFO.
Several dozen people including a pilot, county constable and
business owners insist they have seen a large silent object with
bright lights flying low and fast. Some reported seeing fighter jets
"People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible
Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times," said Steve
Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw
last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. "It was positively,
absolutely nothing from these parts."
While federal officials insist there's a logical explanation, locals
swear that it was larger, quieter, faster and lower to the ground
than an airplane. They also said the object's lights changed
configuration, unlike those of a plane. People in several towns who
reported seeing it over several weeks have offered similar
descriptions of the object.
Machinist Ricky Sorrells said friends made fun of him when he told
them he saw a flat, metallic object hovering about 300 feet over a
pasture behind his Dublin home. But he decided to come forward after
reading similar accounts in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.
"You hear about big bass or big buck in the area, but this is a
different deal," Sorrells said. "It feels good to hear that other
people saw something, because that means I'm not crazy."
Sorrells said he has seen the object several times. He said he
watched it through his rifle's telescopic lens and described it as
very large and without seams, nuts or bolts.
Maj. Karl Lewis, a spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing at the Joint
Reserve Base Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, said no F-16s or other
aircraft from his base were in the area the night of Jan. 8, when
most people reported the sighting.
Lewis said the object may have been an illusion caused by two
commercial airplanes. Lights from the aircraft would seem unusually
bright and may appear orange from the setting sun.
"I'm 90 percent sure this was an airliner," Lewis said. "With the
sun's angle, it can play tricks on you."
Officials at the region's two Air Force bases Dyess in Abilene and
Sheppard in Wichita Falls also said none of their aircraft were in
the area last week. The Air Force no longer investigates UFOs.
One man has offered a reward for a photograph or videotape of the
About 200 UFO sightings are reported each month, mostly in
California, Colorado and Texas, according to the Mutual UFO Network,
which plans to go to the 17,000-resident town of Stephenville to
Fourteen percent of Americans polled last year by The Associated
Press and Ipsos say they have seen a UFO.
Erath County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan said that he first saw red
glowing lights and then white flashing lights moving fast, but that
even with binoculars could not see the object to which the lights
"I didn't see a flying saucer and I don't know what it was, but it
wasn't an airplane, and I've never seen anything like it," Gaitan
said. "I think it must be some kind of military craft at least I
hope it was."
George of Arabia:
Better Kiss Your Abe 'Goodbye'
by Greg Palast
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Bend over, pull out your wallet and kiss your Abe `goodbye.' The
Lincolns have got to go - and so do the Hamiltons and Jacksons.
Those bills in your billfold aren't yours anymore. The landlords of
our currency - Citibank, the national treasury of China and the
House of Saud - are foreclosing and evicting all Americans from the
It's mornings like this, when I wake up hung-over to photos of the
King of Saudi Arabia festooning our President with gold necklaces,
that I reluctantly remember that I am an economist; and one with
some responsibility to explain what the hell Bush is doing kissing
Let's begin by stating why Bush is not in Saudi Arabia. Bush ain't
there to promote `Democracy' nor peace in Palestine, nor even war in
Iran. And, despite what some pinhead from CNN stated, he sure as
hell didn't go to Riyadh to tell the Saudis to cut the price of oil.
What's really behind Bush's hajj to Riyadh is that America is in
hock up to our knickers. The sub-prime mortgage market implosion,
hitting a dozen banks with over $100 billion in losses, is just the
tip of the debt-berg.
Since taking office, Bush has doubled the federal debt to more than
$5 trillion. And, according to US Treasury figures, on net, foreign
investors have purchased close to 100% of that debt. That's $3
trillion borrowed from the Saudis, the Chinese, the Japanese and
Now, Bush, our Debt Junkie-in-Chief, needs another fix. The US
Treasury, Citibank, Merrill-Lynch and other financial desperados
need another hand-out from Abdullah's stash. Abdullah, in turn, gets
this financial juice by pumping it out of our pockets at nearly $100
a barrel for his crude.
Bush needs the Saudis to charge us big bucks for oil. The Saudis
can't lend the US Treasury and Citibank hundreds of billions of US
dollars unless they first get these US dollars from the US. The high
price of oil is, in effect, a tax levied by Bush but collected by
the oil industry and the Gulf kingdoms to fund our multi-trillion
dollar governmental and private debt-load.
The US Treasury is not alone in its frightening dependency on
Arabian loot. America's private financial institutions are also
begging for foreign treasure. Yesterday, King Abdullah's nephew,
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, already the top individual owner of
Citibank, joined the Kuwait government's Investment Authority and
others to mainline a $12.5 billion injection of capital into the New
York bank. Also this week, the Abu Dhabi government and the Saudi
Olayan Group are taking a $6.6 billion chunk of Merrill-Lynch. It's
no mere coincidence that Bush is in Abdullah's tent when the money-
changers made the deal just outside it.
Bush is there to assure Abdullah that, unlike Dubai's ports purchase
debacle, there will be no political impediment to the Saudi's buying
up Citibank nor the isle of Manhattan.
So what? I mean, for the average American about to lose their job
and their bungalow it doesn't matter a twit whether it's Sheik bin
Alwaleed who owns Citibank or Sheik Sanford Weill, Citi's past
It's the price paid to buy back our money from abroad that's killing
us. Despite the Koranic prohibition on charging interest, the Gulf
princes demand their pound of flesh, exacting a 7% payment from
Citibank and 9% from Merrill. That hefty interest bill then pushes
adjustable rate mortgages into the stratosphere and pushes
manufacturing into China by making borrowing and energy costs
impossible to overcome. Forget the cost of health care: General
Motors' interest burden quintupled in just two years.
As the great economist Paddy Chayefsky wrote in the film The Network:
"The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and
now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity .
There are no nations, there are no peoples. There is only one vast
and immense, interwoven, multi-national dominion of petro-dollars.
There is no America. There is no `democracy.' The world is a
business, one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men
In 2005, the US consumer paid Arab and OPEC nations a quarter
trillion dollars ($252 billion) for oil - and the USA received back
100% of it - and then some ($311 billion) via Gulf nations'
investment in US Treasury bills and purchases of US businesses and
property. Bush's trip to Abdullah's tent is all about this vast
business of keeping this petro-dollar treadmill spinning.
The Bush Administration, rather than tax Americans to cover our
deficits or make the banks suffer the consequences of their
predatory lending practices, is allowing the Saudis to charge us big
time at the pump with the understanding they will lend it all back
to us - so the party never has to stop.
It has been reported that the President's Secret Service men
traveling with him seemed embarrassed by the eye-popping loads of
diamond and gold gifts which they have to carry back for President
Bush. They need not feel they have taken too much from their hosts:
Bush has assured Abdullah that the King can suck it back out through
our gas tanks.
Greg Palast is the author of The Network: The World as a Company
Town, in the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse. Hear Ed
Asner read from the book and the film `The Network' at
Wham-O toymaker Richard Knerr dies at 82
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Richard Knerr, co-founder of the toy company that popularized the
Hula Hoop, Frisbee and other fads that became classics, has died. He
Knerr, who started Wham-O in 1948 with his childhood friend
Arthur "Spud" Melin, died Monday at Methodist Hospital after
suffering a stroke earlier in the day at his Arcadia home, his wife
Dorothy told the Los Angeles Times.
Knerr and Melin got their start in business peddling slingshots.
They named their enterprise Wham-O after the sound a slingshot made
when it hit its target.
They branched into other sporting goods, including boomerangs and
crossbows, then added toys that often bore such playful names as the
Superball, Slip 'N Slide and Silly String.
When a friend told them in 1958 about a large ring used for exercise
in Australia, they devised their own version and called it the Hula
Around the same time, they bought the rights to a plastic flying
disc invented by Walter "Fred" Morrison, who called it the Pluto
Platter. Wham-O bought the rights and renamed it the Frisbee.
The rest is amusement history.
"If Spud and I had to say what we contributed, it was fun," Knerr
told the Times in 1994. "But I think this country gave us more than
we gave it. It gave us the opportunity to do it."
Melin died in 2002 at age 77.
Besides his wife, Knerr is survived by three children from a first
marriage that ended in divorce, two stepchildren, and eight
Services will be private.
Jan 18 2008
Dr. Phil Apologizes For Britney Spears Visit
'Was it helpful to the situation? Regrettably, no,' TV personality
tells audience in show airing Monday.
By Gil Kaufman
Dr. Phil is sorry. The TV physician has issued a statement
apologizing for his controversial visit with Britney Spears while
the singer was in the hospital on January 5, as well as a subsequent
press release he issued about the incident.
"Was it helpful to the situation? Regrettably, no. It was not, and I
have to acknowledge that, and I do," Phil McGraw told his audience
Thursday during an episode of Dr. Phil that will run Monday,
according to USA Today. "I definitely think if I had it to do over
again, I probably wouldn't make any statement at all. Period."
McGraw said he issued an earlier statement about the visit to
Entertainment Tonight because he knew the media would see him
arriving at the hospital, and disputed criticism that he
inappropriately discussed the troubled singer's condition in the
release, in which he referred to her as being in "dire need of both
medical and psychological intervention." Phil explained in the new
statement that he "said that before I ever met her." Asked if he
would make a similar visit at the request of concerned parents in
the future, he said, "How do you not?"
A complaint was filed against McGraw earlier this week that accused
him of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act. The complaint alleges Dr. Phil practiced clinical psychology
without a license and further violated doctor-patient privilege by
discussing the pop star's case with the media. Although the
California Board of Psychology is compelled to investigate all
complaints, this one might not have much ground: According to state
regulators, McGraw would have had to practice psychology in the
legal sense, which is clearly defined in Section 2903 of the
California Business and Professions Code, and he has stressed that
he visited Spears as a family friend.