- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
February 13, 2008
Death of billionaire Georgian leader in London 'is suspicious'
Tony Halpin in Moscow
An exiled Georgian billionaire who claimed less than two months ago
that he was the target of an assassination plot has been found dead
Police said that they were treating the death of Badri
Patarkatsishvili, 52, as "suspicious". The businessman, who was
Georgia's richest man and a close friend of the anti-Kremlin
oligarch Boris Berezovsky, died of an apparent heart attack at his
£10 million mansion in Leatherhead, Surrey, last night.
"As with all unexpected deaths it is being treated as suspicious. A
post-mortem examination will be held later today to establish the
cause of death," a Surrey police spokeswoman said.
Mr Patarkatsishvili, worth an estimated £6 billion, funded an
opposition campaign against Georgia's pro-western leader Mikheil
Saakashvili and stood against him in last month's presidential
election. Georgia accused him of plotting a coup after airing a tape
of him offering a $100 million bribe to a police chief to support
Mr Patarkatsishvili hired Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney
General, to represent him as Georgian authorities mounted
investigations into his business interests in the former Soviet
Mr Berezovsky said that his former business partner had complained
about his heart when the pair met earlier on Tuesday, but had not
Mr Patarkatsishvili lived in Russia between 1993 and 2001. He was
wanted by Russian authorities on charges of theft from the country's
largest car factory AvtoVAZ in the 1990s, which he ran with Mr
He was also accused of plotting to arrange the escape from custody
in 2001 of Nikolai Glushkov, deputy director of Aeroflot, Russia's
national airline, who had been accused of fraud.
The man charged with breaking out Mr Glushkov was Andrei Lugovoy,
who was arrested and jailed after the attempt failed. Mr Lugovoy is
wanted by the British Crown Prosecution Service for the murder of
Alexander Litvinenko, the dissident former Russian spy poisoned in
London with radioactive polonium-210 in 2006.
Mr Lugovoy was responsible for protecting Mr Patarkatsishvili and Mr
Berezovsky at the time as head of security at the Russian TV channel
ORT, which the two men controlled.
Mr Patarkatsishvili remained good friends with Mr Lugovoy, a former
KGB officer who is now a member of Russia's Parliament. The pair
were seen socialising together in the Georgian capital Tbilisi
shortly before Mr Litvinenko was poisoned.
Mr Litvinenko also had links with the Georgian businessman. Sources
in Tbilisi have told The Times that he stayed at Mr Patarkatshvili's
residence in Georgia en route to Turkey when he fled Russia to seek
asylum in London in 2000.
Russian prosecutors claim that Mr Litvinenko also visited Mr
Patarkatsishvili as well as Mr Berezovsky in London shortly before
he was poisoned. They accuse Mr Berezovsky of involvement in the
murder of the former Federal Security Service (FSB) agent as part of
a plot to damage President Putin's international image.
Georgia's former Defence Minister, Irakli Okruashvili, accused Mr
Saakashvili of encouraging him to kill Mr Patarkatsishvili in 2005,
although he later retracted the claim.
The tycoon helped to finance the "Rose Revolution" that swept Mr
Saakashvili to power in Georgia in 2003. But the two men later fell
out and he accused the president of turning into a dictator.
When Georgian police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse
opposition street protests in November, special forces troops also
stormed the studios of Imedi TV and forced it to shut down. Mr
Patarkatsishvili founded the station and News Corporation, which
also owns The Times, was managing it at the time of the incident.
By BRETT ARENDS
Homes in Bubble Regions Remain Wildly Overvalued
February 12, 2008
If you own a home in a former bubble region like California or
southern Florida, there's bad news and really bad news.
And they suggest that it is still way too early to go bargain
hunting in these markets, although -- of course -- there is always
the occasional deal around.
The bad news is fresh market data published Monday night by real-
estate Web site Zillow.com. They show prices, as expected, kept
slumping through the end of last year.
A new report from Zillow.com shows home values dropped nationwide by
3%. Chief Financial Officer Spencer Rascoff discusses which cities
saw the largest declines.
But the really bad news is that, even after a year of misery and
falling prices, homes in many of these regions still aren't cheap.
They remain wildly overvalued compared to average personal incomes.
There is a strong long-term correlation between the two figures. And
in many regions, house prices would still have to fall a very long
way to get back into line.
Try around a third in Florida and Arizona -- and closer to 40% in
Yes, from here. The long-term chart for California is shown below.
Even if house prices stabilized, it would take a decade or more for
rising incomes to catch up.
The data on median house prices and per capita personal income in
these states have been tracked by Karl Case, economics professor at
Wellesley College. (He is one half of the duo behind the closely-
watched Case-Schiller real estate index).
Professor Case's numbers ran through the end of the third quarter.
I decided to see how they might look today, using Zillow's data for
the fourth quarter.
The company hasn't posted statewide data, but the price falls across
the many cities it tracks give a pretty strong picture. From these I
assumed, for the sake of calculations, that California prices fell
8% last quarter from the third quarter, a huge number by historic
measures but not out of line with Zillow's data. For Florida and
Arizona I assumed declines of 5% and 5.5%. You could use other, more
modest estimates for the recent declines: They won't change the
outcomes much. I also assumed personal incomes in these states rose
in line with recent and historic averages."
The results? In all three markets, the prices are well off their
peaks when compared to incomes. But they remain far above historic
Median prices in California peaked in 2006 at 13.3 times per capita
incomes. Hard to believe, but true. They may be down now to about
But that's still way above the ground. Throughout most of the 80s
and 90s they ranged between six and seven times incomes.
Just to get down to seven times incomes, prices would have to fall
Those who bought at the peak of the cycle may be pinning their hopes
instead on "incomes catching up" instead. But they had better be
patient. Even if house prices stayed exactly where they are, it
would take around 10 years for rising incomes to bring the ratios
back into any sort of alignment.
And it would take even longer before prices started to look very
That's based on average personal income growth of 4.6% a year in
California and Florida and 4.2% in Arizona.
Yes, these are projections and estimates. Time and chance will play
their usual roles. And there will doubtless be different pictures
within regions of the same state.
Nonetheless the overall picture is pretty clear. And, if you are a
homeowner in any of these regions, none too appealing.
Write to Brett Arends at brett.arends@...
Daily Kos: CIA Engineered Controlled Opposition?
Thursday August 09th 2007
Is it possible Markos Alberto Moulitsas Zúñiga, leader of
the "Kossaks," that is to say followers and fawners of the Daily
Kos, is a CIA operative? Francis Holland, posting on the My Left
Wing messageboard, details Moulitsas' relationship with the CIA:
"Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, owner of the DailyKos website, now admits
that he spent six months in the employ of the US Central
Intelligence Agency in 2001," writes Holland. "In a one-hour
interview on June 2, 2006 at the Commonwealth Club, Moulitsas, also
known as `Kos,' admitted that he was a CIA employee and would
have `no problem working for them' in the present."
"I applied to the CIA and I went all the way to the end, I mean it
was to the point where I was going to sign papers to become
Clandestine Services," Moulitsas admits in the interview. "And it
was at that point that the Howard Dean campaign took off and I had
to make a decision whether I was gonna kinda join the Howard Dean
campaign, that whole process, or was I was going to become a spy.
(Laughter in the audience.) It was going to be a tough decision at
first, but then the CIA insisted that if, if I joined that, they'd
want me to do the first duty assignment in Washington, DC, and I
hate Washington, DC. Six years in Washington, DC that makes the
decision a lot easier."
Moulitsas considers the CIA "a very liberal institution," never mind
the agency, according to John Stockwell, former CIA Station Chief in
Angola (see my John Stockwell: The Third World War video), is
responsible for killing more than six million people.
This is a very liberal institution. And in a lot of ways, it really
does attract people who want to make a better, you know, want to
make the world a better place . Of course, they've got their Dirty
Ops and this and that, right but as an institution itself the CIA is
really interested in stable world. That's what they're interested
in. And stable worlds aren't created by destabilizing regimes and
creating wars . I don't think it's a very partisan thing to want a
stable world. And even if you're protecting American interests, I
mean that can get ugly at times, but generally speaking I think
their hearts in the right place. As an organization their heart is
in the right place. I've never had any problem with the CIA. I'd
have no problem working for them
Is it possible Mr. Moulitsas does not have a problem with the
documented fact the CIA's predecessor, the Overseas Secret Service,
imported Nazis to work for the soon to be created CIA under General
Reinhard Gehlen? "Gehlen was far from the only Nazi war criminal
employed by the CIA. Others included Klaus Barbie ('the Butcher of
Lyon'), Otto von Bolschwing (the Holocaust mastermind who worked
closely with Eichmann) and, SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny (a great
favorite of Hitler's)," writes Mark Zepezauer (The CIA's Greatest
Hits, Odonian Press, 1994). "There's even evidence that Martin
Bormann, Hitler's second-in-command at the end of the war, faked his
own death and escaped to Latin America, where he worked with CIA-
Or that the CIA financed the P-2 Masonic lodge, connected with the
Vatican and the Mafia, and enthusiastically supported Operation
Gladio, the "strategy of tension" terrorist "stay behind army"
effort in Europe, responsible of train station bombings and
assassinations, run by former SS Nazis? Is it possible Mr. Moulitsas
supports the CIA effort to create shell banks such as the Bank of
Credit and Commerce International, accurately characterized by
former CIA director and current Sec. Def. Robert Gates as "the Bank
of Crooks and Criminals International"? Does Moulitsas support the
idea of MK-ULTRA, a program designed to test "radiation, electric
shocks, electrode implants, microwaves, ultrasound and a wide range
of drugs on unwitting subjects, including hundreds of prisoners at
California's infamous Vacaville State Prison," as Zepezauer notes?
Or what about the CIA getting into the heroin business with the
Corsican Mafia, paving the way for highly profitable drug
importation operations in Central America and Afghanistan, money
used not only to enrich the "investment" (in death and misery)
bankers but also used for the CIA's black budget? How liberal is it
to engage in assassination, genocide, and plotting the overthrow of
governments in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia (where more than 500,000
people were put to death, many of them due to CIA drafted "death
lists"), and dozens of other countries?
Of course, the CIA long ago penetrated the "liberal" as well as
the "conservative" corporate media in America. "Among the executives
who lent their cooperation to the Agency were William Paley of the
Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays
Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the
Louisville Courier-Journal and James Copley of the Copley News
Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include
the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting
Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters,
Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual
Broadcasting System, The Miami Herald, and the old Saturday Evening
Post and New York Herald-Tribune. By far the most valuable of these
associations, according to CIA officials, have been with The New
York Times, CBS, and Time Inc.," writes Watergate journalist Carl
Bernstein (Rolling Stone, Oct. 20, 1977). "From the Agency's
perspective, there is nothing untoward in such relationships, and
any ethical questions are a matter for the journalistic profession
to resolve, not the intelligence community."
Indeed, it would appear Markos Moulitsas finds nothing "untoward in
such relationships," if we are to believe his above quoted comments.
Finally, Moulitsas' relationship with the CIA makes perfect sense,
as Daily Kos appears to be yet another political front operation
tasked with cracking the whip over "progressive" Democrats and
marching them off to support the Bilderberger Queen Hillary Clinton
and her probable running mate, Barack Obama, both on record as
supporting the neocon plan to reduce the Muslim world to a
smoldering wasteland, albeit with stylistic policy changes. It is no
secret the CIA has long stage managed the controlled opposition and
Moulitsas' admitted relationship with the agency should be
considered a coup de grâce, an effort designed to reduce
the "progressive" Democrat opposition to the invasion and occupation
of Iraq and the impending attack to be leveled against Iran as
little more than an empty and absurd rhetorical slogan.
February 14th, 2008
House holds Bush confidants in contempt
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis / Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The House voted Thursday to hold two of President
Bush's confidants in contempt for failing to cooperate with an
inquiry into whether a purge of federal prosecutors was politically
Angry Republicans boycotted the vote and staged a walkout.
The vote was 223-32 to hold presidential chief of staff Josh Bolten
and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt. The
citations charge Miers with failing to testify and accuse her and
Bolten of refusing Congress' demands for documents related to the
Republicans said Democrats should instead be working on extending a
law set to expire Saturday allowing the government to eavesdrop
on phone calls and e-mails in the United States in cases of
suspected terrorist activity.
"We have space on the calendar today for a politically charged
fishing expedition, but no space for a bill that would protect the
American people from terrorists who want to kill us," said Rep. John
A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the minority leader.
"Let's just get up and leave," he told his colleagues, before
storming out of the House chamber with scores of Republicans in tow.
The White House said the Justice Department would not ask the U.S.
attorney to pursue the House contempt charges. However, the measure
would allow the House to bring its own lawsuit on the matter.
It is the first time in 25 years that a full chamber of Congress has
voted on a contempt of Congress citation.
The action, which Democrats had been threatening for months, was the
latest wrinkle in a more than yearlong constitutional clash between
Congress and the White House.
The administration has said the information being sought is off-
limits under executive privilege, and argues that Bolten and Miers
are immune from prosecution.
Democrats said they were acting to protect Congress' constitutional
If Congress didn't enforce the subpoenas, said Rep. Steny Hoyer of
Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, it would "be giving its tacit consent
to the dangerous idea of an imperial presidency, above the law and
beyond the reach of checks and balances."
Republicans argued that there had been no evidence of wrongdoing in
the prosecutors flap, and called the vote a waste of time that would
actually damage Congress' standing.
"We don't have evidence that we can give to the U.S. attorney. What
we're giving to him is the desire to continue a witch hunt which has
produced up to today zero nothing," said Rep. Chris Cannon, R-
Under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department
officials consulted with the White House, fired at least nine
federal prosecutors and kindled a political furor over a hiring
process that favored Republican loyalists.
Bush's former top political adviser, Karl Rove, has also been a
target of Congress' investigation into the purge of prosecutors,
although Thursday's measure was not aimed at him.
Fred Fielding, the current White House counsel, has offered to make
officials and documents available behind closed doors to the
congressional committees probing the matter but off the record and
not under oath. Lawmakers demanded a transcript of testimony and the
The White House blasted Democrats for scheduling action on the
contempt measures instead of moving to extend the eavesdropping law.
"The American people will find it baffling that on a day that House
leaders are trying to put off passing critical legislation to keep
us safer from the threat of foreign terrorists overseas, they are
spending scarce time to become the first Congress in history to
bring contempt charges against a president's chief of staff and
lawyer," said Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman.
The contempt debate sparked an unusually bitter scene even in the
fractious House. Democrats accused Republicans of marring the
Capitol memorial for their fallen colleague Rep. Tom Lantos, D-
Calif., by interrupting it with a protest vote. GOP leaders shot
back that it was Democrats who were responsible for dishonoring
Lantos, by calling the House into session for the contempt debate
before the service had ended.
It's not clear that contempt of Congress citations must be
prosecuted. The law says the U.S. attorney "shall" bring the matter
to a grand jury.
The House voted 259-105 in 1982 for a contempt citation against EPA
Administrator Anne Gorsuch, but the Reagan-era Justice Department
refused to prosecute the case.
The Justice Department also sued the House of Representatives in
that case, but the court threw out the suit and urged negotiation.
The Reagan administration eventually agreed to turn over the
The last time a full chamber of Congress voted on a contempt of
Congress citation was 1983. The House voted 413-0 to cite former
Environmental Protection Agency official Rita Lavelle for contempt
of Congress for refusing to appear before a House committee. Lavelle
was later acquitted in court of the contempt charge, but she was
convicted of perjury in a separate trial.
On Thursday, three Republicans joined 220 Democrats to support the
contempt resolution, including Rep. Walter B. Jones of North
Carolina, presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Rep.
Wayne T. Gilchrest of Maryland, who was defeated this week in a
primary. One Republican, Rep. Jon Porter of Nevada, voted "present."
Castro resigns as president, state-run paper reports
Fidel Castro announces resignation as Cuban president, commander in
Castro ceded power to brother Raul Castro in July 2006 after
Castro's reign started in 1959, outlasted nine U.S. presidents
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Fidel Castro announced his resignation as
president of Cuba and commander-in-chief of Cuba's military on
Tuesday, according to a letter published in the state-run newspaper,
Castro, 81, temporarily handed power to his younger brother Raul
Castro in July 2006 after undergoing intestinal surgery. He hasn't
been seen in public since his surgery, but he has appeared in
numerous videos and photos in state media.
The announcement of Castro's resignation appeared just before 3 a.m.
on the Web site of the state-run newspaper.
The news is likely to send shock waves across the island and through
the tens of thousands of Cuban exiles who have sought refugee in the
In December 2007, a Cuban television news anchor read a letter
reportedly written by Fidel Castro promising he would not "cling to
office" or be an impediment to rising young leaders.
Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and has ruled the island nation
ever since, governing the first communist nation in the Western
Fidel Castro captured the world's attention and imagination at 32
when the bearded revolutionary led a band of guerillas that
overthrew a corrupt dictatorship -- and then became an irritating
thorn in Washington's paw by embracing communism and cozying up to
the Soviet Union.
For the next 47 years, Castro reigned in Havana with an iron hand,
outlasting nine American presidents and defying a punishing U.S.
economic embargo designed to dislodge him.
Raul Castro is generally seen as more pragmatic and less inclined to
deliver the kind of long-winded speeches for which his brother is
Ordinary Cubans have wondered whether a permanent change in power in
Cuba will lead to lower food prices, higher salaries and more
freedom to travel.