Uniffors


Who’s bothered by surveys?

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 31st, 2008

Accorfing to Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez, the latest Pulse Asia survey never bothered Gloria Arroyo/

He said,

    “Never po nawindang o never naapektuhan ang ating Pangulo sa mga ganyan. As a matter of fact, everyday she makes sure that she works better, works harder every single day. Lalong nagsusumikap ang ating Pangulo.”

Golez believes that “[S]urveys are usually perception. You can see something, but not actually the gospel truth. Yan po ay para mong sinasabi na it will tell you that the wind is blowing but it will not tell you the direction or the velocity of the wind.”

Mr. Golez, “Basahin mo lahat ng surveys magmula nung umupo si Gloria, hindi ba sinasabi sa iyo ang direksyon at ganong kabilis ang pagbaba ng ratings ni Gloria? GAGO!”
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The Greatest

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 30th, 2008

My column in Business Mirror expresses what I felt after viewing news clips and reading a transcript of the SONA.

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    The greatest

    I’ll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office. —President George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008

    Unlike her American counterpart, Gloria Arroyo chose to detail what she thought Filipinos should have figured out by now: that she is the greatest unelected president they have ever known or will ever be blessed with. Thank God and Garci for that. Thank Congress, the Supreme Court and the uniformed services for preserving and protecting what God and Garci have wrought.

    God gave Gloria “the guts not to flinch in the face of tough choices.” She asked Congress to pass the value-added tax. She saved the country, but it made her more unpopular than a boil on the nation’s behind. But who cares? “Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard.” Thank you for the hardship, Gloria.
    (more…)

The SONA

Posted in Manuel Buencamino,Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the July 29th, 2008

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I tried to watch and listen. I swear.

At the Humanae Vitae 40th anniversary celebration…

Posted in Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the July 27th, 2008

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Understatement of the month

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 26th, 2008

As reported in Philippine Star:

    Lorena Dimaya, a Qantas assistant supervisor in Manila, said the incident had not been life threatening.

    She said the plane had taken off from Hong Kong when it “encountered some technical problems and requested to be diverted to Manila, where it made an emergency landing.”

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A tad inconvenient.

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Johnny B. Goode

Posted in Manuel Buencamino,Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the July 25th, 2008

Is Port Irene the new smuggling center?

Enrile’s son-in-law operates the yard. and muckraker Mon Tulfo wrote that Enrile’s son, Jack, told him “Mon, I don’t want to meddle in things that are not mine, so please write about what’s happening at Port Irene so my father will know.”

So, in the spirit of fair play, let’s allow Enrile to air his side:

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The Straight Talk Express collides with the truth, yet again

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the July 24th, 2008

From The Jed Report

    Keith Olbermann led his broadcast tonight with Spencer Ackerman’s report on John McCain’s most recent gaffe: in an interview with Katie Couric, McCain claimed “the surge” was responsible for the “Anbar Awakening” — which actually began in September, 2006, months before the surge was even announced.

    The strange thing, as Keith notes, is that CBS edited the gaffe out of its broadcast. Fortunately, they posted a transcript — and video — online. Here are the key parts of Keith O.’s report, plus a side-by-side video of what CBS actually broadcast, and what they cut out.

    Here’s some more details on why McCain is wrong:

      *Bush formally announced the surge on January 10, 2007.

      *According to Colonel Sean MacFarland (the same Colonel referenced by McCain in his interview), the ‘Anbar Awakening’ “began in September 2006.”

      *In the Weekly Standard’s IRAQ REPORT, Kimberly Kagan wrote “The number of troops in Anbar province rose even before “the surge” began.”

    None of this is a criticism of U.S. forces — they played an important role in Anbar. However, the surge did not cause the awakening, and McCain’s false claim that it did is just the latest example that he is in way over his head. He’s not intellectually qualified to be president.

Port Irene:A new smugglers’ haven?

Posted in Brownman's Posts,Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the July 23rd, 2008

GMA news reports that Malacanan ordered the PASG to look into allegations of smuggling in Port Irene, Cagaayan.

    Palace to PASG: Go after Port Irene smugglers
    07/23/2008 | 10:03 PM

    MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has ordered the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Task Force to investigate the reports of rampant smuggling of luxury cars in Port Irene in Cagayan Valley.

    The directive was issued after the American Chamber of Commerce or (Amcham) came out in public saying that Port Irene has replaced the Subic Free port as the spot where luxury vehicles are illegally imported.

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    Asked to comment, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that the Palace is taking the smuggling concerns seriously.

    “We have directed (PASG chief Antonio) Villar to take a look at it immediately. It’s very serious since Amcham brought it to us and submitted a report on it,”Ermita said.

    Amcham, in its report, said that numerous luxury cars were being smuggled through Port Irene.

Also in the news

Ralph Recto has been appointed NEDA chief. He is the third loser after Vicente Sotto and Mike Defensor to get a Malacanan job.

Rumors have it that Tessie Oreta will get the Education portfolio while Prospero Pichay will get OWWA.

I can’t wait to see what Cesar Montano, Chavit Singson, and Jamalul Kiram III are going to get.

Misinformation and acrimonius confrontation

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 23rd, 2008

Below is my Business Mirror column for Wednesday, 23 July 2008. It’s on the family planning bill controversy.
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    Misinformation and acrimonious confrontation
    BY MANUEL BUENCAMINO

    Sensing that the debate on the reproductive health bill was taking a turn for the worse, Speaker Prospero Nograles announced the formation of a panel of Representatives to dialogue with the bishops “to obviate misinformation and acrimonious confrontation on the pending consolidated bill on family planning.”

    I share the Speaker’s concern about misinformation so I will shoot down a comment made by a pro- contraceptives Protestant bishop—married, with children and a great grandchild—who insinuated that he was a better authority on the subject of reproduction than Catholic bishops who have taken a vow of celibacy.

    The “lack of experience” argument can be exposed as specious with a simple question:

    Are you not aware that Pope Benedict has been going around the world apologizing for the less-than-celibate behavior of many of his priests and bishops?

    Of course most of what Pope Benedict apologized for involved acts that would not add a single baby to the world’s population. However, there are enough illegitimate children on this planet who can say they are “of the Church” to prove that many of the priests and bishops opposed to the family planning bill are authorities on reproduction.

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    The controversy over family planning is not only about addressing poverty and hunger through population control. It is, more important, also about recognizing every woman’s right over her own body and every couples’ right to decide when and how many children they want to raise.

    The Catholic Church has always denied women and couples the right to self-determination in matters that are “sinfully delightful”, to use Gov. Joey Salceda’s zinger du jour.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2370) teaches, “[E]very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.”

    It adds (CCC 2399), “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception.”

    The Church also refuses to see the connection between overpopulation and poverty. It maintains that greed and corruption are the root causes of poverty.

    But even if it were to accept the link, the Church is still incorrigibly opposed to the idea of contraception.

    “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, February 12, 1997).

    You can go as far back as AD 307 to Lactantius, an early Christian theologian, who wrote, “[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife (Divine Institutes 6:20).”

    Inasmuch as I would like to see it happen, I doubt if Speaker Nograles’ diplomatic offensive would be able to tone down the “acrimonious confrontation” between realists and doctrinaires. A soft approach will not work. A hard line is better.

    Nograles should warn the bishops: “If you don’t drop your opposition to this family planning bill, Congress will be forced to consider alternate legislation to address the population problem. We will legalize same-sex marriage and include masturbation education in school curricula starting from the third grade.”

    Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

It was only after I submitted the article for publication that the following questions came to mind:

1. Does not so called natural methods contradict CCC 2370 and the Vadecum quoted above?

2. Why does the Church, teaching that sex is only for procreation, allow infertile women to marry and have sex? Why are married couples way past child bearing age allowed sex? Why can menopausal women marry and have sex?

3. Will the Church encourage the use of Viagra so that impotent husbands can procreate?

On Oil Price Manipulations

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the July 21st, 2008

This report from Counterpunch will astound you.

    A Secret Oil Gusher Inside Citigroup
    By PAM MARTENS

    If you want to flush out market manipulation, don’t turn to the sleuths in Congress.

    They’ve been probing trading of the oil markets for two years and completely missed a company at the center of the action.

    During that period, a barrel of crude oil has risen from $50 to $140, leaving a wide swatch of Americans facing a choice this coming winter of buying food or paying their heating bill.

    The company that Congress overlooked should have been an easy suspect. It launched the oil trading career of the infamous fugitive, Marc Rich, pardoned by President Clinton in the final hours of his presidency.

    It was at one time the largest oil and metals trader in the world. In the late 90s it bought up 129 million ounces of silver for legendary investor Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, in London’s unregulated over-the-counter market.

    In 1990, it was one of the first entrants into an ill-fated Russian oil venture called White Nights.

    In 2005, while part of Citigroup, the largest U.S. banking conglomerate perpetually scolded for obscene executive pay, it handed its chief and top oil trader, Andrew J. Hall, $125 Million for one year’s work.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, that was five times the pay package for Chuck Prince, CEO of the entire Citigroup conglomerate that year and $55 Million more than the CEO of Exxon-Mobil.

    Given this storied history and two years of congressional testimony on oil trading skullduggery, one would expect to find volumes of current information available about this oil trading juggernaut.

    Instead, this company’s activities are so secret that its web site is a one page affair and lists only the addresses, phone and fax numbers of its offices in the U.S., London, Geneva, and Singapore.

    No officers’ names, no bios, no history, no press releases. And while the Wall Street firms of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been fingered by Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich) for gaming the system, Phibro has completely escaped scrutiny during a seven year period when crude oil has risen an astonishing 697%.

    Phibro is the old Philipp Brothers trading firm that has resided secretly and quietly on Nyala Farms Road in Westport, Connecticut as a subsidiary of the banking/brokerage behemoth, Citigroup, since the merger of Traveler’s Group and Citicorp (parent of Citibank) in 1998. Traveler’s Group owned Phibro at the time of the merger.

    Despite the fact that Phibro has provided Citigroup with $2 billion in revenue over the past three years, the 205-page annual report for Citigroup in 2007 carries only the following one-sentence footnote on commodity income that acknowledges the existence of this company. “Primarily includes the results of Phibro Inc., which trades crude oil, refined oil products, natural gas, and other commodities.”

    Combing through government archives, the first noteworthy appearance of Phibro occurs on April 6, 2001, when the Wall Street law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell sent a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Federal regulator of oil and other commodity trading, acknowledging that it was representing “the Energy Group.”

    The letter was noteworthy because it delineated just who had teamed up to grease the oil rigging in Washington: namely, two investment banks (Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley); a house of cards that would later collapse (Enron); a proprietary trading firm inside a Frankenbank (Phibro inside Citigroup); and two real energy firms (BP Amoco and Koch Industries).

    What the Energy Group had long lobbied for and finally received from its Federal regulator was the breathtaking ability to trade oil contracts and oil derivatives secretly in the over- the-counter (OTC) market, thus avoiding the scrutiny of regulated commodity exchanges, their CFTC regulator, and Congress. The April 6, 2001 letter was essentially to say thanks and interpret the new rules as favorably as possible for the Energy Group.

    The change in the law occurred via the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) and is called the Enron Loophole. (Since Enron’s trading room went belly up along with the company, and Phibro is still trading oil secretly all over the world, it should perhaps now be called the Phibro Loophole.)

    What the CFTC also granted the big Wall Street trading firms was a license to sneak under the radar by using computer terminals located in the U.S. while trading oil on foreign exchanges like the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) located in London but owned by an Atlanta, Georgia outfit that was funded and launched by Wall Street firms and big oil.

    On June 3 of this year, Dr. Mark Cooper, Director of Research for the Consumer Federation of America, correctly outlined the problem to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation:

    “The speculative bubble in petroleum markets has cost the economy well over half a trillion dollars in the two years since the Senate [hearings] first called attention to this problem…Public policies have made these markets the playgrounds of the idle rich, while consumers suffer the burden of rising prices for the necessities of daily life. We have made it so easy to play in the financial markets that investment in productive long term assets are unattractive…The most blatant mistake occurred when Congress allowed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to forego regulation of over the counter trading in energy futures…Because there is no regulation of this huge swatch of activity, regulators have little insight into what is going on in energy commodity markets…Large traders who trade in commodities in the U.S. ought to be required to register and report their entire positions in those commodities here in the U.S. and abroad…If traders are unwilling to report all their positions, they should not be allowed to trade in U.S. markets. If they violate this provision, they should go to jail. Fines are not enough to dissuade abuse in these commodity markets because there is just too much money to be made.”

    The only correction I would make to the otherwise flawless argument above is that Wall Street is far from the playground of the “idle” rich. Wall Street executives spend every waking minute (and I’ve heard even dream about) how they can separate us from our money, our homes and a voice in Washington. How appropriate that Citigroup’s slogan is “the Citi never sleeps.”

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    Let’s say the CFTC was not a compromised regulator, was not an audition stage and revolving door for million dollar jobs in the industry it regulates. Let’s say it genuinely wanted to report back to Congress on just how big a player Citigroup is in the oil markets. According to a February 22, 2008 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Citigroup has over 2,000 principal subsidiaries (meaning it really has more but it’s not naming them). Of these, a significant number are secret offshore entities where records are unavailable to regulators. (For a mind boggling look at this sprawling octopus click here)

    So the CFTC can’t get its hands on all records and even in jurisdictions where it can, it first has to know under what names, out of a possible 2,000, Citigroup is trading oil and then aggregate the positions.

    On May 6 of this year, Tyson Slocum, Director of the Energy Program at the nonprofit watchdog, Public Citizen, testified before Congress on yet another roadblock preventing a meaningful investigation of oil price manipulation:

    “Thanks to the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, participants in these newly-deregulated energy trading markets are not required to file so-called Large Trader Reports…These Large Trader Reports, together with the price and volume data, are the primary tools of the CFTC’s regulatory regime…So the deregulation of OTC markets, by allowing traders to escape such basic information reporting, leave federal regulators with no tools to routinely determine whether market manipulation is occurring in energy trading markets…The ability of federal regulators to investigate market manipulation allegations even on the lightly-regulated exchanges like NYMEX [New York Mercantile Exchange] is difficult, let alone the unregulated OTC market.”

    Next comes what can only be described as an act of insanity on the part of the Federal Reserve. After allowing for the repeal in 1999 of the depression era investor protection legislation known as the Glass-Steagall Act in order to let Citigroup house retail bank deposits, investment banking, insurance, stock brokerage and speculative proprietary trading under one roof (the perfect storm that intensified the Great Depression) the Federal Reserve decided on October 2, 2003 that Citi wasn’t scary enough.

    It needed to allow this company that had already been named in hundreds of lawsuits for securities frauds and manipulations and could not remotely manage itself as a financial firm to ramp up its oil trading business by allowing it to take possession of crude oil on tankers because it would “reasonably be expected to produce benefits to the public.”

    Here are excerpts from the Fed’s release suggesting the expansive plans Citi had in the oil storage and transport business:

    “…Citigroup has indicated that it will adopt additional standards for Commodity Trading Activities that involve environmentally sensitive products, such as oil or natural gas. For example, Citigroup will require that the owner of every vessel that carries oil on behalf of Citigroup be a member of a protection and indemnity club and carry the maximum insurance for oil pollution available from the club. Citigroup also will require every such vessel to carry substantial amounts of additional oil pollution insurance from creditworthy insurance companies. Furthermore, Citigroup will place age limitations on vessels and will require vessels to be approved by a major international oil company and have appropriate oil spill response plans and equipment. Moreover, Citigroup will have a comprehensive backup plan in the event any vessel owner fails to respond adequately to an oil spill and will hire inspectors to monitor the loading and discharging of vessels. Citigroup also has represented that it will have in place specific policies and procedures for the storage of oil… The Board believes that Citigroup has the managerial expertise and internal control framework to manage the risks of taking and making delivery of physical commodities… For these reasons, and based on Citigroup’s policies and procedures for monitoring and controlling the risks of Commodity Trading Activities, the Board concludes that consummation of the proposal does not pose a substantial risk to the safety and soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally and can reasonably be expected to produce benefits to the public that outweigh any potential adverse effects.”

    Voting in favor of this unprecedented action was then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as well as current Chairman, Ben Bernanke.

    Could the Fed have been more wrong about Citigroup having “the expertise and internal controls to integrate effectively the risk management…?” Two years later, in March 2005, the bipolar Fed had this to say about Citigroup: “Given the size, scope and complexity of Citigroup’s global operations, successfully addressing the deficiencies in compliance risk management that have given rise to a series of adverse compliance events in recent years will require significant attention….”

    Today, the situation is as follows: Citigroup has taken $42 billion in credit losses and writedowns in the past year, just announced that more writedowns are coming, and the Fed has an intravenous money feeding tube hooked up between its vault and this banking/brokerage/subprime mortgage lending/oil trading mad scientist experiment.

    In addition to the secretive Phibro oil trading unit, Citi has formed Citigroup Energy and moved it to Houston. In a help wanted ad placed in Canada it described itself as follows: “Citigroup Energy is a global energy trading, marketing and risk management company based in Houston with offices in Calgary, New York, London, and Singapore. Our goal is to become the premier global energy commodities marketing and trading organization. Currently our capabilities include trading and marketing derivatives/structured products in power, natural gas, crude and crude products.”

    Enron also called itself the “premier” energy trading organization. Apparently impressed with that model, Citigroup Energy has hired a significant number of former Enron traders.

Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years. She has no securities position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She can be reached at pamk741@aol.com

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