"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"... the Taliban ..on the back foot.... leadership ... severely dislocated and fractured.."licking their wounds" Brigadier Gordon Messenger June 1st

In a well-coordinated attack , which had taken 2 months to prepare, at 9pm on Friday a huge tanker truck bomb blew open the front of Sarposa prison, Kandahar. After a brief battle between 30 attackers on motor bikes and prison staff / police 1,000 prisoners including 380 Taliban "insurgents" escaped many in minibuses ready to take them away.

Wali Karzai drugs overlord, Governer of the provincial council and brother of President Hamid Karzai (in Paris currently begging for more money from the West to give to his crony warlords) was amazed.

"There is no one left," Wali Karzai said after the jailbreak.


British Troops Put Taliban On The Run In Helmand Province

The Taliban have been tactically routed in southern Afghanistan, with enemy forces "licking their wounds" after a series of emphatic defeats, say senior British military commanders.

In one of the most bullish assessments yet of the conflict in Helmand province, Brigadier Gordon Messenger said the Taliban's command structure had been "fractured" and its fighters forced on to the back foot.

As British forces continue to consolidate positions throughout the Helmand valley, Messenger said latest intelligence indicated that the ferocious fighting that had defined Helmand for the past two summers was unlikely to be repeated. "It's become apparent that the Taliban are very much on the back foot. Their leadership both south of the border [Pakistan] and also their local leadership has been severely dislocated and fractured.

"We are not complacent and suggesting that they do not have the capacity to regenerate, but they are very much off the front foot and licking their wounds." ... Read more of this gung ho shite here in the Guradian - Observer Sunday June 1st

ISAF and Coalition Continue to bomb the shit out of Iraq and Afghan in the name of Freedom and to win Hearts and Minds

48 close-air-support missions were flown as part of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

In Afghanistan, Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles performed shows of force to deter enemy activities in the vicinity of Bari Kowt, Gardez, Gereshk, Lashkar Gah and Qalat. On-scene joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) confirmed the missions successful.

An Air Force B-1B Lancer dropped guided bomb unit-31s and a GBU-38 to destroy enemy rocket teams in the vicinity of Bermel. A JTAC reported the mission successful.

In the vicinity of Deh Chopan, a B-1B dropped GBU-38s to destroy anti-coalition members. A JTAC declared the mission successful.

In total, coalition aircraft flew 48 close-air-support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On June 10, USAF and RAF tanker crews flew 52 sorties and off-loaded approximately 2.4 million pounds of fuel to 201 receiving aircraft. (Which is a lot more than usual) .

Another MQ-1 Predator and US$ 9.6 Mn bites the dust

Premature Expectations and Excitement over Haltemprice and Howden ?

The Independent today raises a point of interest. David Davis MP has not actually resigned.

Boris Johnson was the last MP to resign and became the new Crown Steward of the Manor of Northstead on 4 June 2008.

By tradition application for this office of profit under the Crown, alternates with the office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern (Stoke, Desborough, and Burnham) the last holder was his sainthood Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

For the record when Saint Tony resigned, the Treasury issued a Press Notice which can be examined here ;

27th June 2007

Three Hundreds of Chiltern
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed the Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to be Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern."

So perhaps we are all getting our undergarments in a tangle over nothing.

Friday, June 13, 2008

David Davis .... touching a nerve in the country

The resignation of David Davis has shaken the kaleidoscope.

It is far too early to clearly understand the timing of the decision, the reasons for the decision and it's short and long term consequences.

The summer is a bad time for politics. The media are swamped with pictures of busty ladies in funny hats at weddings, horse races and garden parties. Men are off watching rowists, shooting pheasants or catching the dwindling fish species our polluted rivers still support.

Increasingly the TV / Press will praise to death the few Olympians amongst us , ready for their eventual slaughter when they so nobly fail in Beijing.

Not a good time to raise concerns about brown men in beards given an extended opportunity to read their Korans in the comparative ease of Paddington Policer Station whilst Plod ploughs through terabytes of trash.

Whilst Davis is not a loner, his name does not conjure up a tightly knit cabal of like minded souls anxious to slot into an alternative posse of Shadowy Ministers, ready to lever out the toff persuasion.

There is little evidence of planning - when he faced a bemused press to tell them of his decision, he appeared to have no Press release, no supporters, straining every sinew to leap into action to unfold the master plan. No Billionaires, millionaires or modestly wealthy car traders have heard the clarion call. There was no itemised list of the incursions on our liberties - which is just as well because a "bi-partisan" approach to terrists means he and his party were happy to vote for most of them.

The Press, forced to think, are consequently all over the place ... Rupe the Poop however has sprung into action and is ready to spend the odd shilling to promote as candidate, in the late summer by-election his Performing Monkey, the absurd Kelvin McKenzie (proud inventor of the News Bunny and Naked darts) - although the call is even now, sounding a little uncertain.

In the short term, Cameron and his gang of monied shysters are safe - David Davies will not unseat him , soon or easily, although his actions will unnerve him and his callow gang. It may even make them improve their act.

What is certain however is that David Davis has sniffed the faint scent of a hunted , disaffected and numerous crew. There is out there, beyond the world of the Metropolitan mutterers a less than gruntled class of sturdy voters. Over 50, educated, capable not only of reading the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail but also completing the crossword. They listen to Radio 4, Radio 7 rather than Five Live and Kiss FM, they mourn Humph and Alan Coren, would like to meet Ed Reardon and whilst earnest readers with a well used library ticket and keen on self improvement have never read a Booker Prize winner.

There is out there, an ageing , solid middle class who are feeling increasingly dispossessed, harassed, as they slide into the necessary clutches of the state through the NHS. As they and their family become entangled in the many and insanely bueaucratic branches of what are laughingly called the social services ,their concerns mount.

Bewildered, they watch the breakdown of marriage, many of their their own children, the remorseless rise in abortion, illegal drug use, urban squalor, alienation in their own home towns swamped in unwanted multiculturalism.

In Lord Patel's patch , a prosperous urban retreat on the edge of the Pennine moors , in one of the northern Greater Manchester Metropolitan Boroughs, returning Conservative councillors for periods of geological time - a BNP candidate forced the Liberals into third pace in the May elections.

They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.

...we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

Are some lines from G. K. Chesterton which seem somehow appropriate. Probably not what Blunkett, Charles Clarke, kebab eating, plump Mrs Smith understand by Englishness..or even Britishness.

It would be a fool who writes off the maverick David Davis. There is in the hinterlnds a voiceless throng, Mr Brown and Mr Cameron ... and even Mr Clegg would be unwise to dismiss their concerns.

MOD splashing out £Billions on more toys for the boys Part 2

The U.S. Marine Corps variant of Lockheed Martin Corp's US$70 Mn a pop F-35B fighter jet, with Pratt and Whitney engines took it's first (44 minute) flight on Wednesday, Taking a conventional take-off and landing, it climbed to 15,000 feet (4,572 metres) for a series of handling, engine and other systems checks.

The US$300Bn program is the world's largest (well costliest) military program and should eventually produce 3 versions Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. The B version will be bought by the Royal Navy at a cost of £1.8Bn. for the two £3Bn (well at least £6Bn because they will overun budgets by 100% and be delayed 5 years) Aircraft Carriers now put into production.

The Pentagon estimates the overall F-35 program, including research and development, will cost $298.8 billion. Each plane is forecast to cost almost $70 million, based on plans for the U.S. military to buy 2,443 F-35 fighter jets through 2034.

The single-seat, single-engine fighter, designed to be based nearer front lines, is expected to be in the field in 2012. Graham Tomlinson, a former British military pilot, was the controls of the jet, guiding up to an altitude of 15,000 feet where he tested the F-35B's handling, engine-power variations and subsystems.

MOD splashing out the £Billions on more toys for the military boys.

Bumped into the beautiful,blonde, Blairite Baroness Ann Taylor ( Minister for Defence Equipment and Support ) who is excited to tell everyone that the third hugely expensive Skynet C satellite is aloft. (Note she doesn't seem to get the freebies to the sund and sand of Afghanistan like the men do)

Skynet C now joins Skynets A (launched March 07) and B ( November 07) aloft after a successful launch from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) in Kourou, French Guiana, South America at 11.0 o' clock last night, as we were getting our Horlicks and toddling off to sleep.

The Ariane 5 ECA rocket (183rd launch) , delayed from May 30th had a dual payload and also carried the Turksat 3A satellite - to be utilized by Ankara-based Turksat, providing telecommunication services and direct TV broadcasting of pornographic films for Turkey, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

This Hi Tech wizardry provides global communications with a relay capability for UK armed forces and other government agencies, and also is available to approved international defense, governmental and multinational organizations - including NATO It also supplies a handsome and regular income and a stonking pile of dosh under a £3 Billion Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for Paradigm Secure Communications, and EADS-Astrium who built the satellite itself, partly at their unit in Stevenage.

Skynets world-beating antenna technology improves data rates, giving a significant enhancement to operational capability for UK forces.

Such as ...er... providing free messages between service personnel on operations and their families and friends.... which beats paying them a decent wage or providing decent married accomodation.

It also enables us to control the single armed Reaper UAV we have currently in operation over Afghanistan ,( of the three the MOD bought as an "Urgent Operational Requirement", ( 1 crashed 1 on backup delivery) for £50 Mn.) that can drop an LDGP Mark 82 Raytheon 500lb (226kg) Paveway II-class laser-guided bomb (£55,000 per shot) or fire a Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile(£70,000 per shot) on a land cruiser (when it is cloud free) or a building / compound (when it is cloud free) that operators are happy is free of civilians, women, children etc.,

This Paveway bomb is different from the "enhanced" version 1,000 lb Paveway bomb on the GR9A Harriers in Afghanistan developed by hastily cobbling together joining the body from a UK Paveway 2 and the Enhanced Computer Control Group from a Paveway 4 as an "Urgent Operational Requirement". "Make do and mend dear boys ...."

This hybrid weapon gives the GR9A an integrated, precision bombing capability, through cloud ...which, given the mountains there, happens not infrequently.

2 members of the Parachute regiment on foot Patrol in Sangin, Helmand came under enemy fire and were killed and another was injured yesterday. 5 members of the regiment have been killed in 5 days - the worst experience since the Falklands war..

Pic of "Mike" Jackson in Macedonia where things are nicely hotting up for EU/NATO forces .. daer old Mike..."The Army looks after it's own" .. Jackson. The Lion of Basra.

UPDATE : US Ethanol producers and flooding in Iowa and US$8 a bushel corn

Earth2tech provides a handy chart of the recent performance of ethanol refiners shares , with commentary on the way rains and subsequent floods have hit the mid west... and Gormless Gordon says the world needs to build 1,000 nuclear power stations - The Prime Minister (whose reach doesn't extend to controlling his back benchers) called for a "new global approach on oil and energy" - about 30 reactors open every year for the next 30 to 40 years ..er.. apparently - currently 439 operating . (Scotsman)

Mr Driscoll (?) of Citigroup and other analysts have woken to the broken dreams of ethanol refiners.

He says , without naming them, that 5 ethanol refiners have been shutdown as costs to run the plants are far outweighing profits. He predicts BioFuel will report a 2008 loss of 18 cents a share, compared with an earlier breakeven estimate.

The Denver-based Biofuel which went public last summer, plans to start running its first 2 ethanol plants in Nebraska and Minnesota by the end of this month, he said. The corn will be supplied by agriculture giant Cargill Inc.

BB&T analyst Heather Jones, claims that Vera Sun has no corn hedges and much of its corn is bought from Iowa farmers. Iowa has shouldered the brunt of the flooding. ( see pic.)
The Chicago Board of Trade July Corn contract closed at US$7.09 last night.

Wallace Tyner professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University is predicting US$8 a bushel for corn but Douglas Tiffany, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota ( top researcher on biomass ethanol generation) , estimates that with oil prices above $130 a gallon, at least some ethanol producers could afford to pay as much as $9.50 a bushel for corn.

Click to enlarge picture/graph

UPDATE 10.00pm BST Iowa hospital, residents evacuate as floodwaters rise AP
UPDATE Saturday

US Bio-ethanol shares slump as effects of mid west floods become clearer - Bill Gates cuts biofuel investment 50% .. renewable energy dreams fade ..

The midwest floods have had a dramatic effect on the steadily declining share price of US ethanol producers reflects the loss making industry with shuttered plants and shattered dreams.

Shares of Archer-Daniels Midland (ADM) fell US$ 3.76 = 10% today to US$ 33.52,

VeraSun Energy (VSE) lost 63 cents = 12% to and sank to a new low of US$4.70

BioFuel Energy (BIOF) lost 94 cents = 24 % (gulp) trading at US$2.96 , below $3 a share for the first time.

On top of this Citigroup have said that US government regulations may change in ways that divert some of the corn inventory currently ear-marked for alternative fuels back to the the food chain, because of rising concerns on food prices... and an election is due soon.

Readers might like to re-examine a post Friday, June 16, 2006 Dot Corn Boom : Vera Sun IPO soars when it was pointed out that the IPO issue price ," ... put(s) a value on the company of 200 times its annualized earnings from the March Quarter 2006. Compare that with (say) 50 for Google."

This was followed by Thursday, June 29, 2006 Will the investment boom in ethanol from corn feed the bulls ? when Aventine Renewable (AVR) was launched , initially priced at US$37 the IPO increased by 1 Mn to 8Mn shares and the offer price to US$43. Yesterday they closed down 26 cents = down 5.25% @ $4.69 ... not a happy time for those who bought into the Ethanol dream.

We revisited US ethanol stocks again last year Thursday, October 04, 2007 US Ethanol glut, shuttered plants, shattered dreams

Pacific Ethanol, Inc. (PEIX NASDAQ) (who have yet to make any profits) was another boosted biofuel stock riding on the back of an investment by Bill Gates - he took up 27% of the stock - 5.25 MN shares at US$16 a share ,a total investment of US$84 Mn. "Bill Gates is invested in one of the hottest growth sectors in the stock market." said CNN Money at the time. They IPO'd at the same time as Vera Sun and Aventura and Pacific shareholders have seen the same one way helter skelter slide ...and yesterday they closed @ US$ 2.37 down a hefty 41 cents = down 14.75% .

Very sensibly Bill tells us , he has been selling his stake down which started (IHT) in November 2007 by converting the original preferred stock to 10.5 million common shares and selling off began in May and continued in the first days this month (June 2008) . So he has cut his holding by at least a half (June 4th report) .... taking a big hit selling between US£3 and US$4 a share. At best these sales have recovered US$10 Mn. and he is left with stock worth half that from the original US$84 Mn investment.

All of which makes a bit of a mess of Dubya's plans for sidelining the Saudi black gold... and also the very much oversold cellulosic ethanol ,derived from biomass ***, a fancy name for vegetable matter, corn stalks etc., Now with corn over US$7 the absurd economics of corn based ethanol become hopelessly uncommercial - as pointed out -US Midwest Flooding cuts crop prospects - corn prices hit record high

Federal law requires that the U.S. nearly doubles the amount of ethanol it uses annually to 7.5 billion in 2012 from 4 billion gallons in 2006. There are said to be some 130 ethanol refining plants working today in the US , and as many building...

Hmmmmm... Looks like good news for Brazilian ethanol refiners from sugar cane.

PS : *** If you want to see the bullshit that passes for promotion of scientific nonsense visit the Xethanol website (XNL : AMEX) and read this , and note it was published on April 1st 2008, and certainly do NOT buy their stock...." For the three months ended March 31, 2008, the company reported a net loss of $2.0 million, or ($0.07) per share, as compared to a $5.5 million net loss, or ($0.19) per share, for the same period of the prior year" and they add this interesting note to the quarterly results. "Because of the continued high prices for corn and gas, on May 1, 2008 the company temporarily ceased production of ethanol at its Blairstown plant to reduce its operating losses."

Look at the birdy ....

Oi...You lookin' at my bird ?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lehman shuffle the team, no new faces, no new ideas, ... the Bonfire of the Vanities ... Wail Street just needs a few more sparks

UPDATE 01.00 BST Lehman stock closed @ US$ 22.70 $ down US$1.05 =4.42% and was as low as US$21.17 in late afternoon. Doesn't look like re-arranging the deck chairs has worked.

Wow!!!! Lehman Brothers, have put Joseph Gregory, president and CEO out to grass but not out the door, the beautiful telegenic Erin Callan is now ex CFO and will...er..will be rejoining the Investment Banking Division in ...er...a .. er .. senior capacity.

Perhaps with more time to enjoy her luxurious Us$ 6.5 Mn. 31st-floor condo she showed us round @ 15 Central Park West she bought when she was upgraded in December to CFO. (pic)

In comes Herbert (Bart) H. McDade III , 48 who will succeed Joe who get's the Dear John .....“Joe has been my partner for over 30 years and has been a driving force behind who we are today and what we have achieved as a Firm," said Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Chairman , and barely paused to say, “Bart, who has been my partner for 25 years and has proven himself to be the Firm’s best operator..."

Ian Lowitt, 44 global head of equities, will now sit in the chair which petite Erin's derriere has barely warmed over since last December. He will join the Firm’s Executive Committee - and get the key to the Executive bathroom , no doubt.

In another announcement they said, "The Firm does not expect to disclose in its quarterly results announcement scheduled for Monday, June 16 any material changes from the preliminary results announced Monday, June 9"

Which means if there are any skeletons in the cupboard (as some folks shorting the stock say there are) they are staying there. Well for the time being.They have also closed today, the US$4.Bn. stock offer and US$2 BN Loan at 8.75% Convertible Stock offer.

At 4.45 BST the stock was down slightly @ US$23.38 off 37 cents - down 1.56% as the market absorbs the news.

Lehman's major problem is not management , although it is a consequence of previous management failures. They are (not alone on Wail Street) chock full of underperforming and questionable assets whose value is declining more the more they get examined.See IHT today "Some derivatives traders taking a closer look at Lehman Brothers" which has a nice quote from a trader about Fed support .."Fed backing does not make you financially invincible."

The problems the market perceives today have their origins in decisions over the last 2/3 years and cannot be wished away, unwound or made to disappear by some accounting legerdemain.

Erin will longer act the role of arm candy, whose undoubted sparkle will smooth over the worries and sniping... Mr Lowitt will not get such a smooth ride. Lehman have tried the "teeth'n'tits" stratagem, now they have shaken (slightly) the team selection .....

Erin is of course good pals with Chicagoan Kenneth C Griffin and has helped over several years (with Lehman's dosh) his US$20 Bn, Chicago based Citadel Investment Group. He is of course a big noise in Chicago, a supporter of Barak Obama and also the lovely Michelle. Citadel daily trading activity reportedly is reputed to account for "more than 10% of daily U.S. listed equity options contract volume" and issued investment grade bonds in 2006.

Bill King, the co-head of JPMorgan Chase's global securitized products, recently left to join Citadel.

The Torture of Lady Dame Jane Baroness Pauline Neville Jones MUST STOP. NOW !!! Amazing Pictures

Concern is mounting in the Lady Dame Jane Baroness Pauline Neville Jones Fan Club. In hushed tones in the Royal United Services Institute spy masters hidden in their arrases speak of their worries about the mental state of Lady Dame Jane Baroness Pauline Neville Jones ...

Click to enlarge (adults only)

Twice this week she has been dragged from her bed, still dressed in her exotic pyjamas, a sad frightened old lady. To be mercilessly grilled, not only by Gavin Esler, but also by the feared Kirsty" Now Minister people are saying" Wark.

She keeps mumbling about 42 days, she cannot stand it any longer , 28 days is enough. Public voices are raised - will the BBC allow her out of her basement dungeon?

Clearly distressed ...is this the way to treat an old age pensioner?...way beyond her retirement? ...wat beyond even her bedtime.

For God's sake ... for her sake, cannot she be left alone? Must she be dragged out gibbering on Tuesday night, then again on Wednesday night, merely for public entertainment, just to be tauntd about things she doesn't know anyhting about?

A sad and lonely spectacle in her once exotic but now fading nightwear.

Is this what we pay our Licence for every year Mr Cameron, Mr Davis. Look into your hearts, can she speak for you any longer ? Deranged, dazed, confused ... THIS MUST STOP NOW.

Geneva Conventions ..."cruel and and inhuman treatment " surely?

Ask yourself .. would you treat a dog like this ?

Do we need "Sir" Alan Sugar to say ...Lady Dame Jane Baroness Pauline Neville Jones ...You're FIRED !!!! ??????

HMG give TOP SECRET documents to BBC to tell everyone that habeas corpus is dead and won't ever get up again

Whooooops now there's a welcome surprise. Just as Gormless Gordon is fighting for his political life someone "leaves behind on a train " a folder in a plain bright ORANGE envelope marked "TOP SECRET" containing documents which are handed in to (Thank God) .... the BBC. Daily Mail ...the intelligence on Al Qaeda is so sensitive that every document is understood to be individually numbered and marked 'for UK/U.S./Canadian and Australian eyes only'

...so that Urban Myth and security expert Frank Gardner can tell us , on Newsnight, having had perhaps the mildest peek at these highly top secret documents that tell us ;

1. How terribly dreadful a threat Al Quaeda is to our children our Christian way of life, peace, security, western civilisation, trains running on time (although the ones from Luton don't always) , cats, dogs, Hazel Blears, .....

2. How corrupt, hopeless, whingeing, un Christian, grasping, dishonest, Muslim, deceitful, arabic, brown and bearded, untrustworthy , friends of the nuclear bombing Iranians, Syrans, the Iraqi Gubment is and how we must stay there forever even though maybe Al Quaeda (who are defeated in Iraq) spring up again.

So we had better lock people up for 42 days so we can find something to charge them with, even if it is only for Bed and Breakfast.

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she would say, without even looking round.

'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'

'Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. 'The idea of having the sentence first!'

'Hold your tongue!' said the Queen, turning purple.

'I won't!' said Alice.

'Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

PS : On the eve of a major international donor conference in Paris the Afghan Govenrment uncover 3 million tonnes of hashish (sounds more sinister than heroin dontcha think ?) in an underground bunker - which shows how keen they are on chasing drug smugglers. A good job it was all bombed so any evidence was totally destroyed , should any body just want to check that it was 7 million tonnes of hashish.

Afghan police received a tip about the drugs cache on Monday morning and found it later that day. Magic our Maurice.... say the same speed Plod would find your stolen motor in the UK then.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lehman Brothers investments exposed as losses pile up..Alpha female CFO Ms Erin Callan NYPD cop's daughter's is on the case

The above chart was available after this post was written ...

Lehman Brothers losses announced last week see Lehman Brothers Q2 losses stun Wall Street - Big cash call looms have now become a trifle more transparent.

After all it takes some pretty smart footwork to have invested in something requiring a US$6Bn write off.

1. Tishman Speyer Properties (privately held) and Lehman joined forces just a year ago in May 2007 to buy (US$22Bn)a real estate investment trust (REIT) , another alphabetic black hole, Archstone Smith and S&P 500 company. This exciting investment was the largest apartment apartment building deal EVER. 80,000 "high end" apartments in high end neighbourhoods in New York, California ....where the Case Schiller index is showing 20% year on year price falls. Forbes reported the deal 29th May last year (just one year ago) Tishman Speyer group paid $60.75 a share, (18.8% premium on closing previous day) $22.2 billion including $6 billion in debt... the press release talked of "Archstone-Smith's valuable apartment and land holdings, which are concentrated in red-hot markets, such as the Baltimore-Washington corridor, New York City and California."

So Lehman own a chunk of the Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler building (briefly the Big Apple's tallest skyscraper in 1930 and made with 3,826,000 bricks ) but they are not alone financing was also helped along by Bank of America, Strategic Ventures and Barclays Capital... whose name keeps cropping up in lame duck property deals in the US of A.

Apparently the servicing of the US$16 Bn of debt is not being met by the rental revenues... a US$500 Mn reserve to cover this has already been tapped for US$72 Mn. (they completed October '07 ..gulp.)

Lehman has a new strategy instead of maxing income on rentals, they are selling the apartments. The buyers are not biting and are just waiting for prices to fall.

Since their smart buy in to the REIT , completed on Oct. 5, 2007, such properties have seen a 20% drop in value according to the SNL Financial US REIT Multifamily Index.

2. Then they teamed up with land developer Sun-Cal ( what a name eh ? Sunshine and California , it's open your wallet time boys) was flogging house lots across Southern Californai like there was no tommorow.

This included the so called Inland Empire east of LA where Lehman's $1.6 billion real estate fund helped buy the 710 acres. Lot prices have apparently slumped 60%. It is of major interest that Sun Cal who were just a developer not a builder, announced in October 2007 starting up Mosaic Homes, to build on SunCal’s land in Southern and Northern California. Mosaic gives the company another option to turn to as some homebuilders have backed away from building during the downturn.

“SunCal wanted to control its destiny,” said Jay Moss , Mosaic CEO at the time. Jay is now now running Real Estate Dimensions in Irvine and the Orange County Business Journal reports May 26th ..."The top executive and others at Irvine-based SunCal Cos.’ homebuilding arm have left the business started by the real estate developer late last year. SunCal now is postponing the start of homebuilding by Mosaic Homes, a unit it started so it could put up homes on some of its developments." ..."It’s unclear how many people remain at Mosaic. "...A majority of the company has been laid off in the past few months, as funding issues for the venture began cropping up"

Mysteriously adding that "The company’s been working with investors and lenders to refinance a number of projects. It finalized a sizable restructuring deal with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. last month."

Another was the McAllister Ranch 160 Km from LA a "2,070-acre masterplanned residential community"...." Only one place blends the charm of bygone days ...Greg Norman will design an 18 hole course... "SunCal Companies is honored to bring its Legacy of Fine Living™ to the city of Bakersfield. At McAllister Ranch, homebuyers will find more than a collection of homes; they will discover a comprehensive lifestyle experience. "

Well the Bakersville Californian had a different story in January this year, headlined ; McAllister Ranch at a standstill .... "When homes will appear — and when McAllister’s showcase golf course will open for public play — remains up in the air "..."In September 2007, SunCal defaulted on a loan for land within a proposed housing project "

The Albuqerque Journal in March had a round up of failed Sun Cal projects (8 in total) including " Genesis Golf Course Builders of Nevada filed a lawsuit in December claiming SunCal still owes it $830,000 for a Greg Norman-designed golf course Genesis built in Bakersfield. " ***

The Orange County Business Journal article quoted above said..."In April, a group of lenders filed a default notice—the first step toward foreclosure—for a SunCal project in Bakersfield where 6,000 homes are planned."

Result ? Well - there is US$1.6Mn assets from those deals on the books but the writedowns / writeoffs ? .. well "they are similiar to other large transactions that have occurred in relevant markets" that's beautiful,blonde, lissom and lovely Erin Callan, Harvard, NY Law School, Lehman's Finance Chief and Exec VP (since Dec 2007) speaking ... bankers speak = we got suckered just like everyone else.

Ms Callan is an Alpha female and got star treatment in the WSJ May 17th 2008 "Lehman's Straight Shooter"...."42-year-old Ms. Callan is emerging as a galvanizing force at Lehman and a finance chief who topples much of the conventional wisdom about CFOs. She also is the highest-ranking woman on Wall Street. " She also is not trained in accountancy. She has a personal shopper at New York retailer Bergdorf Goodman - Tina Sussman who trucks racks of clothes to her apartment.

Lehman also sold of US$7 Bn commercial mortgage debts, still leaving them with US$29.2 Mn - Ms Callan says they have taken a hit since the start of fiscal 2007 of US$3.5 Bn on commercial mortgages and cutely named "held-for-sale" assets ..bankers speak .. property that won't sell at any price.

Sassy superwoman Ms. Callan has a hard row to hoe.(See video of her front the Q1 results here with a very optimistic assessment of Q2) She does of ourse have a nemesis bearing down on her Mr Einhorn of Greenlight Capital who is openly shorting Lehman stock appeared on CNBC May 27th with Maria Bartiromo suggesting that the Q1 results were a trifle Transparent Lite ™ and that losses were being pushed forward. He claims Lehman are over leveraged

He does, as one commentator says almost " flat out call Erin Callan a liar "

``We are nowhere near'' the end of the contraction that left Lehman with about $3 billion of writedowns and losses in the past year, Einhorn said May 28th in a Bloomberg Television interview. ``Lehman is undercapitalized. They continued doubling down as the credit crisis evolved.''

As Mr. Einhorn so elegantly put it after Mondays disclosures: “(Lehman) just raised $6 billion of capital that they said they didn’t need to replace losses they said they didn’t have.”

Todays share price slump - see chart tells its own tale. Volume was an incredible 300% of average for the stock. This puts the market cap. at close at US$13.5 Bn so the US$6Bn rights issue dilutes shareholder interest by about 43%. Which in the mid / long term 3 -6 years makes any chance of earnings growth pretty dim.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Lehman have got into some recent deals listed and detailed above which look less than prime and have unwound pretty damn quick. They are leaking supportive information via TV, management is circling the wagons. God knows what they have taken from the discount window sice the end of Q1.

The trajectory of the ordure hitting the air conditioning is beginning to become too, too predictable. There is no friendly Morgan Stanley to absorb them. Sovereign funds have been sniffing for some time without a result.

Is this the start of the unwinding of these big boys and their fictional assets ? Combined with the problems of the Monoliners is this the Bonfire of the Vanities ? It looks very much like it is.

Footnote **** But SunCal, which bought 57,000 acres from the heirs of the Atrisco Land Grant on the West Side (New Mexico) last year for US$250 million, Barclays Capital loaned money for the transaction and holds a deed of trust for the land.

UPDATE Saturday 13th June FT profile of Mr Fulda

US Midwest Flooding cuts crop prospects - corn prices hit record high

The US Department of Agricuture in March ,forecast reduced corn plantings for 2008. They reported Iowa , down 1 million acres from last year’s record, to 13.2million acres and that both Indiana and Minnesota were expected to drop 800,000 acres from their record highs of last year. Their latest figures show a reduction nationwide for corn planting down from 93,600 acres in 2007 to 86,014 this year a drop of 18%.

This was a reflection of a massive change nationwide to soya. Soybean acreage was then forecast to jump 18 % to 74.8 million acres - an increase of 11.2 million acres from 2007.

The USDA have forecast that as a result of the recent sudden and massive flooding in the central corn belt that crop yield will be down , the USDA forecast for corn supplies running to 31 August 2009 is the lowest in more than a decade, at 673 million bushels or .... three weeks' worth of supply.

The result is that on the Chicago Board of Trade open auction market, Corn for July delivery settled at the close yesterday at a record US$6.73 , up 17 cents on the day.

This has an effect on the crazy subsidised economics of ethanol, animal feed, and therefore pountry, pigs, beef and all types of processed food - corn starch, fructose etc.,

An immediate consequence is that 24 million acres of land enrolled under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) (similiar to EU set-aside) is to be made available for hay and forage after the primary nesting season ends for grass-nesting birds. USDA estimates that this program will make available up to 18 million tons of forage worth $1.2 billion.

Pic : Flood waters covered farmland and roads near Spencer,IN , Sunday June 8,2008. From WTHR Chopper 13. (Alan Petersime/The Star)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kentucky loves Obama ... but they didn't vote for him. AIPAC loved him ...but will they continue to provide the funds for him ?

Extinct Birds, Monk Seals and Indians - Man's rich heritage of extinction

The Dodo is the the symbol of both extinct life and ideas . It was described by Hilaire Belloc in his Cautionary Tales..

The Dodo used to walk around
And take the sun and air.
The sun yet warms his native ground
The Dodo isn't there

The voice which use to squawk and squeak is
Now forever dumb
Yet may you see his bones and beak
All in the Mus-e-um

This flightless bird (Raphus cucullatus) was to be found only on Mauritius and was free of natural predators, (although it's eggs must have fed many a rat) this left it slow witted , with a lack of fear for man, and an unaggressive and curious behaviour - the Dodo (Portuguese = fool) proved a tasty meal for mariners whose overhunting drove it to extinction in the 17th century just 80 years after their discovery. However it probably was not that tasty because the Dutch called it Walgvogel, or "nasty bird'' because it tasted so bad.

A famous skeleton was lost in a fire in an Oxford museum in 1755 but the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge (pic) has one found in a swamp by a group of islanders in Mauritius in 1865 (the source of Belloc's rhyme?) . More recently an expedition in 2006 on Mauritius unearthed a lot of bones claimed to be 2,000 years old.

Last year another more recent Dodo was found by another expedition from which it was hoped that they could extract both some publicity - which they have, and some DNA - which they haven't.

Now a second vertebrate has met the same and now official fate. Federal officials (The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service ) have confirmed that the Caribbean monk seal is extinct - sometime after it was formally declared extinct 12 years ago in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals.

First recorded on Christopher Columbus's 2nd voyage to the Americas in 1494, these sluggish overweight animals , who enjoyed lolling on the beach, were found on the coast of Santa Domingo. They proved a tempting and welcome addition to the mariner's sparse diet and the ships log reports 8 animals (they weigh about 200Kg) fed many of the crew, many times.

The rapidly colonised islands steadily reduced native populations who used the easily hunted animal as a source of food and blubber, and their furs were used for trunk linings, clothing and strapping - it now enters the record books as the only seal (so far) to have been hunted to extinction by humans.

H. Sloan wrote in 1707: "The Bahama Islands are filled with seals; sometimes fishers will catch one hundred in a night".

The last recorded sighting was in 1952 , as a small colony on Seranilla Bank, a group of tiny coral islands halfway between Jamaica and Honduras - it was recorded as endangered in 1967. Now a close watch is being kept on the remaining and related declining populations of a closely related species . NOAA say the 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals is reducing by 4% a year and is due to fall to less than 1,000 in 3/4 years.

Declining fish populations, pollution, hunting and disease and human disturbance of breeding grounds by cooastal developments are all contributing to their decline.

About 80 to 100 live in the main Hawaiian Islands and 1,100 in the largely uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a marine national monument.

The Mediterranean Monk seals are found over a widespread are including the Adriatic Sea, teh North Afrocan coast, the Madeira Islands, the Canary Islands and the Atlantic ridge islands but are numbered in 100.s not thousands. In May 1997, a sudden mass mortality struck the North-west African population. In a month, about 150 animals died. The estimated population size before the die-off was about 300 animals. A bloom of dinoflagellates (algae) producing saxitoxins have been implicated in this mass mortality

"Red tide microbe's killer appetite revealed" New Scientist. "Red Tides "are also said (2005) to be a threat to another Florida sea mammal - the manatee and also possibly dolphins.

The bones of a specimen of the Caribbean monk seal are as rare as those of dodo, a few can be found can be found in a museum - the Tropical Crane Point Hammock Museum in Key Vaca FL.

This is worth visiting, if only to learn about the extinction of a third group of vertebrates - the Calusa (=fierce people)or Shell Indians. The informative displays tell the viewer of the "rich maritime culture of the Calusa Indians" who were not farmers but fishermen and left no pottery, presumably using shells for household tasks of storing, cooking etc.,

They travelled in cypress dugout canoes (said to have sails) and are said to have travelled as far as Cuba. The Caloosahatchee River is a folk memory of their fleeting 3,000 year presence before meeting the Christian conquerors. They also left curious shell mound structures (many on the mainland disappeared to be used in concrete house foundations in the 50's and 60's) one is an articifial island in Estero Bay, and a Fort Myers Beach company called "Calusa Coast Outfitters" offers tours to Mound Island.

The 3,000 year long (they may even relate to Paleo-Indians who inhabited Southwest Florida approximately 12,000 years ago) Calusa story from early occupation in the Keys was interrupted by the arrival of the Spanish when there were said to 20,00 Calusa.

One theory is that their unique use of the atlatl - a dart throwing device suggests Aztec origins rather than a more Northern origin like most Floridan Indian groups - tending to support the theory of dual N/S origins of the original North American population.

Said to be 4" taller than the Spanish , through European contact,their numbers were reduced bydisease (smallpox?)_ , being sold into slavery ,to a time in 1763 the Spanish relinquished Florida to the British , that they were reduced to some 80 or so families and became extinct as has their unwritten language and there are few cultural or archeological artfeacts (see pic of carved cat which also appears on US 1989 45c cent postal airmail stamp). The museum carefully says, "they left Florida forever".

But extinct American Indians is something polite people do not talk about.

See The Evolution of Calusa: A Nonagricultural Chiefdom of the Southwest Florida Coast by Randolph A. Widmer Amazon

As a nod to blogiset cattists the Aztecs kept cats and evidently revered them (as did the Egyptians) Chimalpopoca (who died in 1427) ordered his scribes to record the
lives and deaths of some 300 of his pet cats, all of which were named after local
flowers and plants.

Lehman Brothers Q2 losses stun Wall Street - Big cash call looms

Lehman exposed it's problems and expected losses in Q2 - the quarter ending May 31sts of US $2.8 billion, or US $5.14 a share (Q1 they showed a "profit" of US$489 million ). . On top of this they are making a cash call to fill up the holes on the Balance Sheet of US $6 billion -- $2 billion more than the word on the Street before the announcement. Reuters reports that Lehman blamed the projected loss on $3.7 billion of write-downs from trades and hedges gone sour....which ..er..is what they are supposed to do for a living.

Lehman are in deep shit and more shareholders headed for the exit. The stock closed at US$ 29.48 down US$2.81 a drop of -8.70% (it had been down 13% earlier) -- a five-year low.

Rating Agencies have shaved Lehman's rating which will hit their margins - Fitch this morning cut Lehman's long-term issuer default rating one notch to "A-plus," the fifth-highest investment grade, from "AA-minus" and cut Lehman's short-term issuer default rating one notch to "F1," the second-highest rating, from "F1-plus."The outlook is negative, indicating an additional rating cut is more likely over the next one to two years.

This follows S&P who cut Lehman's long term rating to "A," the sixth-highest investment grade, from "A-plus," on June 2nd. Moody's Have however affirmed Lehman's senior debt rating at "A1," the fifth-highest investment grade, but changed the outlook to negative, from stable.

Lehman CEO Richard Fuld Jr.said it cut its exposure to risky residential and commercial mortgages by as much as 20% in the quarter. They had also sharply boosted liquidity -- to US $45 billion from US $34 billion at the end of the first quarter.

Lehman will (?) raise US $4 billion by selling 143 million shares of common stock at US$28 each, increasing shares in issue by 26%. It’s also selling $2 billion of preferred shares that will pay an 8.75% annual dividend yield.

Now that Bear Stearns has been folded into a larger entity stifling all the bad news, the market has turned to the next smallest bank - Lehman Bros. The Vulture funds will be moving silently, sniffing their prey.

Declaring War on Children - Archbishop of Canterbury catches up with the real world

The reported remarks ***of Dr Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury today reminds us that we ran a sister blogsite in May 2005 in response to some local problems of disruptive , disaffected youth, called Big.Bro whose masthead declared ..."A forum to discuss why the response to unruly teenagers in Norden / Edenfield Road exemplifies a thoughtless attitude which amounts to declaring war on our children. A place for the public's voice to be heard and to consider alternatives to a punitive culture of the young, and the resultant reliance on technology to provide a fix to what is a social and community problem."

Alas this site lasted only some few months, in despair, after some 100 posts , but still receives a considerable of visitors and has many, many sources for people who supported the views that Government policies were damaging and now we are facing the results of them ignoring wearning voices ..eg.Sunday, June 12, 2005 Conference on adolescent binge drinking - The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) will host a web-based conference to discuss the significant and growing public health problem of adolescent binge drinking. Adolescents and Binge Drinking: A Clinical Approach, developed under a cooperative agreement with the Health Resources and Services Administration's Maternal and Child Health Bureau, will be held June 14, 2005, from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. ET at Medscape from WebMD.(In most place in the US you have to be 21 to drink alcohol in licensed premises - get killed in Iraq, defending Afghan warlords growing poppies - but don't touch the demon drink boyah!)

The very first post brought attention to a speech on March 14th, 2004 by Brid Hehir, at the quaintly named Institute of Ideas a former health visitor and co-author of Alternative Medicine: should we swallow it? In which she said.

“The notion of medicalising or pathologising childbirth and motherhood is now quite common.”

“The private life of families is therefore no longer considered to be their business but ours too. Because of the insistence that the welfare of children must come first, its fertile ground for the involvement of and intervention by health professionals. We have lower expectations of parents. They might drink too much, take drugs, given their children inappropriate food, not parent well enough, abuse them ……The notion that they can sort out their problems for themselves now seems anathema. We use our mental checklists to assess whether or not they’re doing all right.

I think additionally that many of us (health professionals) have lost our ability and confidence to make common sense judgements. We seldom have the confidence to say ‘all’s well’ or its ‘good enough’ and to leave well alone. Instead we cover our backs by constantly referring on to eg. GPs, who then refer on to consultants….”

“There have been numerous social, political, policy and service changes since the 1980s however and the role of health professionals has changed. This was starkly reflected in the consultation document ‘Every Child Matters’ and is also portrayed in the new Children’s Bill. Ostensibly the bill is about achieving reforms to bring about better outcomes for children. In reality however it assumes that a large number of families cannot bring up children without the involvement of myriad agencies who need constantly to exchange information about the children. It seems that the government and society now fundamentally mistrusts parents to bring up their children and thinks it can do better. Health professionals are influenced by this viewpoint also.”

“Motherhood once seen as an ideal, is now promoted as an ordeal, mothers, we are told, are hyper - vulnerable. “

BBC Online report on Dr. Williams : "I think compared with the rest of Europe we are in a very punitive frame of mind."

In a BBC Newsnight "exclusive" he said: "I think it's a very bad position to be in.

"Sometimes the public rhetoric that you find about children and young people does suggest we don't really like them very much.

"... in a more quantifiable kind of way, if you look at the number of children who have custodial sentences in this country it's an alarming statistic. "

"You've got, I think, 25,000 children given custodial sentences in a three-year period quite recently. You've got 30 deaths of children in custody in an 18-year period.

The UK's four children's commissioners in a report have alerted us to the fact that crime committed by children had fallen between 2002 and 2006, but the numbers being subjected to the criminal justice system had gone up by just over a quarter.

"The system is dominated by a punitive approach and does not sufficiently distinguish between adult offenders and children who break the law," says the report.

"Compared to other European countries, England has a very low age of criminal responsibility and high numbers of children are locked up. Too many children are being criminalised and brought into the youth justice system at an increasingly young age."

Nacro - a history of being ignored

The BBC also report that today Paul Cavadino, chief executive of crime reduction charity Nacro, agreed that custody was overused.

"Every year we lock up thousands of young people with histories of physical and sexual abuse, parental neglect, family conflict, school exclusion, substance abuse and mental health problems," he said.

Which is fascinating because a post @ Big.Bro Sunday June 12th 2005 The Rise of the Yobbocracy - well hard Gubment at work reported :

International Centre for Prison Studies - Prison is never appropriate for children
said Professor Andrew Coyle, the director of the International Centre for Prison Studies, 10th August 2004 and added that prison "is never an appropriate location" for children.

He said: "There are more juveniles in prison custody in England and Wales than in any other country in Western Europe. The treatment of juveniles in detention in England and Wales has been criticised by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has expressed concern about the number of children who have sustained injuries as a result of restraints and measures of control applied in prison and about the placement of children in solitary confinement in prisons. Prison is never an appropriate location for children."

Nacro - We have an over-punitive approach to children in trouble

Paul Cavadino, chief executive of the crime reduction charity Nacro, also said (on the same day - that is 4 years ago) that the death in custody of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood (at Hassocksfield secure training centre) Guradian reportsignalled that "some of the most vulnerable children in society are currently being held in state custody."

He added: "We call on the Government to set up an urgent review of the system for dealing with children who offend. We have an over-punitive approach to children in trouble and pay too little attention to the welfare needs of serious and persistent young offenders and the root causes of their problems. 27 children have died in state custody since 1990. The Government must act now if lessons are to be learnt and further deaths prevented."

Interfering old busybodies .....what do they know ? Of course we can just ignore them......

Monday, June 09, 2008

They're watching you

This is a not very good pic of a poster advertising a book called The Dark River which is the second book in a trilogy entitled The Fourth Realm Trilogy by an author called John Twelve Hawks -"the pseudonym of the popular and reclusive author ". (Amazon) - the first is The Traveler (sic) - which sounds like a lot of crap.

It would appear that the srtiking copy line on the poster relates to what Publishers Weekly breathlessly describes as .."the Brethren continue to control civilization through a computerized information system, the Vast Machine, and a host of offshoot surveillance technologies" Sounds like a very original idea.

I sent a copy to Stef and then eventually caught up with his post today on the posters in Stockwell Tube Station. Spooky or what ?

Anyway here's a pic of a new camera, showing striking shadows in the beautiful bright summer sunshine, noticed during a stroll around the town with the greatest football team in the world.

Shrillary - 'ol Blue eyes is back..again

On the Left : Shrillary on the Letterman show with Eli Manning Feb. 4, 2008 . On the Right : Shrillary studio portrait for New York Times by Damon Winter

John Reid : “We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot” 100 dead,unknown shattered limbs and broken lives , children + women dead

When Britain deployed 3,300 troops to Helmand province in June 2006, then Defence Secretary John Reid said: “We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot.”

Earlier on February 27th , Anne Milton MP (Guildford, Conservative) asked John Reid if he was satisfied that there are enough troops in Afghanistan, bearing in mind the lessons from Iraq that ground troops are essential in order to complete missions adequately?

John Reid (Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence; Airdrie & Shotts, Labour) answered ..."Yes, I am satisfied. The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the Chiefs of Defence Staff fully endorse the force package we are sending. One of the three or four criteria that I laid down before the move south was that the military configuration and size desired by the Chiefs of Staff should be provided, and that was done."

Let us remember the first troops the UK sent to operate outside Kabul was early in 2003 when 60 troops were sent to Mazar-e-Sharif, working as a "provincial reconstruction team". The then Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon said the team would , "focus on improving dialogue between local warlords and politicians."

Since the success n creep has set in and troop deployment soared.

The first move into Helmand by UK forces was in February 2006. An advance party of 850 personnel from 39 Regiment, Royal Engineers and 42 Commando, Royal Marines, with three Chinook helicopters presence.

On July 2006 it was announced that 900 extra military personnel would be deployed to Afghanistan increasing the size of the UK taskforce in Helmand province to around 4,500 by October, from the (then) current level of 3,600.

On the 1st February last year the part Time Defence Secretary Des Browne , ordered out more troops for southern Afghanistan, so that the total UK forces in Afghanistan under ISAF would be 6,300 by April. Less than 4 weeks later on February 26th he ordered a further 1,400 troops bringing the total up from 5,500 in February to 7,700 by .."the summer".

It is worth remembering that John Reid, when asked by Ann Milton in February 2006 to"list the aims of the UK deployment to southern Afghanistan", answered :

"The international community's involvement in Afghanistan is aimed at ensuring that Afghanistan will never again...
1. Become a breeding ground for international terrorism,
2. (and will do this) By helping the Afghan people to rebuild their
3. Democracy
3. Security
2. Economy

United Kingdom deployment to southern Afghanistan is part of the UN-mandated, NATO - led international security assistance force, which is expanding across the country in support of this commitment.

Let's hope that the grandparents, parents, brothers, wives, children, friends, sweethearts think that the the sacrifice of 100 dead, the maimed, crippled and damaged survivors has been worth helping the corrupt and criminal gangsters who run this country desolated by war.

Who is more of a threat - John “We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot.” Reid or the mythical international terrorists?

UPDATE 8.30 am 9th June - BBC4 Today prgramme had Professor Michael Clarke big cheese at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and prominent member of the (recently very quiet) Lady Dame Baroness Jane Pauline Neville-Jones Fan Club. He described the position in Afghanistan as "a stalemate".

He was followed by the blathering Scots solicitor who ,when he is not Minister for Scotland, gets involved in muddling through at the Ministry of Defence. He said "we are making progress" many times and said ,"we have the Taliban on the back foot".

When it was put to him by Mr Stourton that people described the President Mr Karzai as "The Mayor of Kabul" whose writ ran no further than his Palace and who headed a corrupt Government. he replied he was glad that Mr Stourton talked about the "challenges that lie ahead" and repeated that "progress was being made" .. 3 mn Children in school, some of them girls, roads built ("the Taliban start where the road ends")and a "democratic Government".

It was a pity that Mr Stourton didn't ask about the democratic policy of excludimg elected members such as Malalai Joya Wednesday, June 04, 2008 Malalai Joya - telling it like it is in Afghanista. President Karzai - telling lies, more lies and getting unqualified support from the West or the activitoes of the Presidents brothers Mahmoud Karzai ,Qayum and Ahmed Wali who are as he would say "meeting challenges and making progress" in the international drugs trade.

It was also a pity that Mr Stourton didn't ask about the much delayed Minrod replacement which limits the troops ISTAR capabilities - much reduced by the crashing of one of the 2 replacement Reapers - 7th June Grim future for the Reaper - crashed in Afghanistan, short of money in Whitehall- Watchkeeper along real soon now

It ws a pity he didn;t ask about ISTAR capability and the remarks of the coroner at the inquest on the crashed Nimrod - Friday, May 23, 2008 Coroner grounds entire RAF Nimrod Fleet Des Browne another Scots politician , part time Defence Minister ready for a lonely walk in the countryside ?

It was also apity that Mr Stourton didn't ask about his remarks about Dickie Dannatt 's remarks about his brave soldiers being paid less than traffic wardens, and his own unfortunate remarks last year explaining that they were so low paid they couldn't get decent jobs like traffic wardens in civvy street - 6th June Sir Richard Dannatt - War Criminal - Sunday, June 08, 2008
Running the Armed Forces and insulting them simultaneously - a Politicians trick

It was a pity that Mr Stourton didn't ask about sending ships with nothing to launch but a book because their missiles had been stored to "save money" - Saturday, June 07, 2008 Royal Navy ships at sea without Sea Dart guided missiles - to save money - but helping Sebastian Faulks to make lots of it

Nor did he ask any unwelcome questions about replacement tankers ( whose PFI funding is threatened even further by the unwelcome news that "monoline" insurers Ambac and MBIA who insure such PFI projects lost their "AAA" rating from Standard & Poor's last week) - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 AirTankers - MOD PFI financing suffers from Ambac credit rating downgrade - will / can the banks agree a financing deal ?

Nor was he asked about the aerial war and the loss of civilian lives and maiming of women and children as a result of the intensive bombing / strafing ... Saturday, December 22, 2007 Massive escalation in aerial bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan. and see Tuesday, February 19, 2008 Bomb,Bomb,Iran ! Why bother there's plenty of Iraq and Afghanistan left yet

Nor was he asked about the unbeleivable cock up over supply of helicopters and pilots and the massive and incredibly costly shambles of supplying Chinooks - which will happen ..er... well probably ..er.. next year Chinook - National Audit Office - yet more MOD procurement shambles exposed Helicopter suppotr for lifting men and material forcing troops on to roads (leading to looses from mines and IED's has not improved since 2006 - Wednesday, June 04, 2008
We need more, newer helicopters, say stressed pilots (2006)

Professor Clarke and Secretary Browne had 15 minutes running time and blathered, Stourton gave them an easy ride except from asking about the Mayor of Kabul.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

McCain - memory fails him over Katrina - is Al Zheimer making a house call , or is he just lying his way out of trouble ?

Senator McCain on the stump in Baton Rouge last week ..

REPORTER: Senator, Maya Rodriguez at the CBS station out of New Orleans. My understanding is you have voted twice against the creation of a commission to investigate the levee failures in New Orleans. And my question is, why have you voted against that?

McCAIN: I’ve supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy. I’ve been here to New Orleans (once) . I’ve met with people on the ground. I’ve met with the governor. I’m not familiar with exactly what you said, but I’ve been as active as anybody in efforts to restore the city.

I also voted against one of the bills that came down that was loaded with pork barrel projects that had nothing to do with New Orleans too. It had billions for projects and programs that had nothing to do with the recovery of the city of New Orleans.

McCain has actually bragged about opposing the levee commission. Los Angeles Times “[T]here have been many investigations taking place – ” he said on a visit in in April accompanied by dozens of soldiers from the Louisiana National Guard and his beautiful young wife Cindy,that he thought most people in America know “what caused that mismanagement.”

“Never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way it’s been handled,” McCain said in remarks addressed to the people of New Orleans and Louisiana.

“History will judge this president,” he said in answer to a question about President Bush’s legacy. “But it will never, ever again happen.”

McCain opposed a 2006 spending bill “that would have provided $28 billion in hurricane relief, and legislation that would have extended unemployment and Medicaid benefits to hurricane victims for several months.”

“Touring the 9th Ward with reporters (film crews not allowed) can’t hide the fact that John McCain voted against billions of dollars in Katrina recovery efforts, emergency healthcare for survivors, unemployment assistance for displaced workers, and even the creation of a commission to find out what went wrong,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean who came out for Obama.
More White House pics of the fun

St. Petersburg - Energetic discussions by the movers and shakers

Roman Abramovich bought the yacht Pelorus (10th largest in world) from Sheikh Modhassan of Saudi Arabia (bro to Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd) for US$129 million, and merely servicing it costs him US$12 million annually. There are 22 cabins decorated in a vulgar "vintage style" with antique wooden floors, all the interior design was handed to Terence Disdale . A crew of 40, is fairly safe behind bulletproof glass, missile detection systems, and look after an indoor pool, a steam room, two helicopter pads, and a minisub, as well as special lights to ward off paparazzi.

Roman tells us he is a generous boss and In 2005 he lent Pelorus to Frank Lampard and John Terry for two weeks as a bonus for being the two best players at Chelsea F.C. After John Terry married his fiancee Toni Poole at Blenheim Palace on 15 June last year, they had a two week honeymoon on Pelorus in the Mediterranean. (after his performance in St Petersburg against MU (the best footie tem in the world) he will probably next see service on Pelorus as an anchor

It is not Roman's biggest yacht. He also owns Ecstasea (rumoured to be is crewed by a crack team of ex SAS servicemen ), and he also gave away Le Grand Bleu to his friend Eugene Shvidler. Eugene 42, is Russian but has he worked for Deloitte & Touche in New York and became a U.S. citizen. He later returned to Russia, where he teamed up with Roman Abramovich to start the oil trading outfit Runicom S.A. he is now chairman of Millhouse, LLC, the investment and asset management company he shares with Abramovich and their various partners.

An interesting lady who makes an intersting contribution to Millhouse is Ms. Olga Pokrovskaya who joined Millhouse LLC as head of corporate finance in July 2006. She previously held several key finance positions in Sibneft since 1997, including serving as head of corporate finance since 2004. From 1991 until 1997, she worked as a senior audit manager at (now defunct) accountancy Arthur Andersen. Moscow born Ms. Pokrovskaya is also on the board of Evraz alongside Mr Shvilder and some other interesting people. In January this year she joined the Highland Gold Board of Directors alongside Mr Shvilder, Millhouse have a 40% interest and their 2007 results are showing a welcome , if modest profit.

When she joined Sibneft , President Eugene Shvidler said, “Her track record in ensuring Sibneft’s high level of financial transparency will provide reassurance to banks and investors.”

Evraz Group’s principal assets include three of Russia’s leading steel plants, Nizhny Tagil (NTMK) in the Urals region and West Siberian (Zapsib) and Novokuznetsk (NKMK) in Siberia. The Company also owns Palini e Bertoli in Italy, Evraz Vitkovice Steel in the Czech Republic, and Evraz Oregon Steel Mills and Claymont Steel in the United States.

The Economic forum will have 1,200 participants and cover many topics.. one of especial interest was yesterday ..‘ENERGY - GLOBAL PLAYERS AND ARBITERS. (INTERDEPENDENCE, PARTNERSHIP, COMPETITION)' (Supported by OAO Gazprom) This was a discussion with this truly stunning list of participants...

Discussion featuring: (comments up to 5 minutes):
1) Alexei Miller, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors, Chairman of Gazprom's Management Committee;
2) Tony Hayward, Group Chief Executive, BP (whose Russki pals are causing even more problems at TNK-BP whose capital is divided equally between British oil major BP and three Russian billionaires owning the Alfa-Access-Renova consortium -- Viktor Vekselberg, Mikhail Fridman and Len Blavatnik this gangster gang of 3 have demanded the removal of CEO brit Robert Dudley, claiming he is running the company exclusively in the interests of the British shareholders.)
3) Vagit Alekperov, President, LUKOIL (Just announced today the deal for West Qurna field with Iraq he has been chasing he tells us for 5 years)
4) Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive Royal Dutch Shell
5) Daniel Yergin, Chairman, Cambridge Energy Research Associates
6) Andrew Gould, Chairman and CEO, S—Āhlumberger
7) Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company (who have justy shoved all their prices up , many by a whopping 20%)
8) David O'Reilly, –°hairman and CEO, Chevron Corp.
9) Rex W. Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation
10) James J. Mulva, President and CEO of ConocoPhillips
11) Thierry Desmarest, Chairman Total

Jeroen van der Veer gave us a call and suggested we listen to his podcast which is of his talk at Princeton in March to the spooky Council on Foreign Relations (download here) on the subject "Energy Scenarios to 2050: Implications for U.S. Energy Security " (if problems on download go here to Princeton site with link.)

Running the Armed Forces and insulting them simultaneously - a Politicians trick

Des Browne the intellectually challenged Scots solicitor spoke to the Royal British Legion's Scottish annual conference last June. His dull speech has now been published as part of the papers for the 2008 conference ending today in Perth. His remarks, about servicemen' s pay, unreported at the time, have timely appeal to historians , military amputees and the guys who tighten up the nuts, wipe an oily rag over the engine and kick the tyres of the Tornado GR7A's, Chinooks, Merlins, Apaches in the balmy and delightful region of Kandahar.

The part time Defence Secretary last year asked hundreds of delegates from Legion branches: "Why don't we pay servicemen and women in a comparative rate to uniformed organisations in civilian street?"

They cheered him to the rafters when he replied ;

"I have to say the honest answer to that, for a number of young people, particularly those who join the Army, before they join the Army, they would not have been accepted by any of these organisations. "

So, Tommy Atkins is too stupid to be a Traffic warden, Community walker abouter with a yellow jacket, maybe, even a school crossing attendant .... a word of advice Des, keep that to yourself when you next visit Bagram wiith a massive security detail.

Wat Tyler (who sounds supiciously like an accountant on the loose) @ Burning our Money in his post on Thursday "The Army And The Navy Need Attention " provides a detailed and usefully annotated breakdown of squaddies pay

According to the cash-strapped MOD, Dannatt's pay discrepancy claims are simply untrue. According to their version, an 18 year old private in Afghanistan gets a fairly healthy sounding £26 grand package, comprising:

  • Salary: £16,227
  • Operational Allowance: (182 days) £2,380.56 (during six month tour of Afghanistan)
  • Longer Separation Allowance: (182 days) £1,132.04
  • Other perks including dental care and free eye tests: £510
  • Financial assistance for learning costs: £2,175
  • Subsidised living accommodation: £425.83
  • Estimated annual employers' pension contribution: £3,148.04
  • Total: £25,998.47

Which is more than a traffic warden, widely reported today to be on £17,000 pa. So the General is way offbeam. .. well up to a point Lord Copper says Wat.

The average pay of traffic wardens is higher than £17 grand. According to the Office of national Statistics ONS, in April 2007 it was running at £20,526 pa - call it £21 grand today. Wat then proceeds to break down the supposed benefits our squaddie enjoys in a detailed and devstating analysis , from cockroach infested flats to being provided with a hospital bed when his legs are blown away. Wat calculates the squaddie ends up net,net with less than the overworked and well liked and respected traffic warden. Read it.

He also supplies the following (MOD ?) chart which reveals a fascinating tale of decline and a continuing recruitment and retainment problem...

As Wat says, ".. our armed forces have been under strength thoughout the last decade - at current rates of pay, they just can't attract and retain enough Tommies and jolly Jack Tars."

Which Dickie Dannat and his gold braided predecessors have, from the evidence of the above chart, have been keenly aware about this accelerating problem for years decades.

Those interested in recent history might like to ponder why we are throwing more ill eqipped, ill trained troops, with insufficient ISTAR capability, helicopter lifting capability wich is putting such an enormous strain on the guys who couldn't hold a job down issuing parking tickets.

They may also like to reconsider why we are in Afghanistan especially after reading Des Browne's fellow scot John "we won't fire a single shot" Reid's response to the question Anne Milton raised 27th Feb 2006 in the House of Commons .

"If he will list the aims of the UK deployment to southern Afghanistan. "

There is an interesting set of pics from Afghanistan / Helmand / Gordon Brown etc on Flikr by Jim Birt - from which the above has been taken. Thanks Jim.

(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish