Silvio Berlusconi

Future Forecast: Roundup of Scattered Probabilities

[The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse, c. 1902]

While thinking about forecasting the future, I collected a few short-term predictions for the year ahead worth kicking around a bit. After gazing deeply into my crystal ball, I added a few predictions of my own.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at NOAA forecasts below-average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest along with higher than average temperatures in the Southwest through Summer 2013. Looks like rainfall across areas stricken by drought in 2012 might be normal, but this will not overcome the soil moisture deficit.

My prediction: Beef, pork, and milk prices will remain high or increase — and that’s before any weirdness in pricing due to changes in federal regulations after the so-called “fiscal cliff.” And the U.S. government, both White House and Congress, will continue to do even less than the public expects when it comes to climate change.

The European Commission predicted the UK will lead economic recovery in the EU with a meager 0.9% growth rate anticipated in 2013. The southern portion of the EU is expected to continue to struggle while the rest of the EU stagnates.

My prediction: More mumbling about breaking up the EU, with just enough growth to keep at bay any action to that effect. Silvio Berlusconi will continue to provide both embarrassment and comedic relief to Italy and the EU. (What are they putting in that old freak’s pasta? Or are they doping his hair color?)

In September, the Federal Reserve Bank forecast slowish growth in the U.S. through 2013. Did they take into account the lame duck status of an already lethargic and incompetent Congress in this prediction? Did the Fed Reserve base this forecast on a Romney or an Obama win? This forecast seems oddly optimistic before November’s election.

My prediction: All bets are off now, since the over-long backbiting and quibbling over the so-called fiscal cliff has eroded public sentiment. Given the likelihood of increased food prices due to the 2012 global drought, the public will feel more pain in their wallet no matter the outcome of fiscal cliff negotiations, negatively affecting consumer sentiment. The only saving grace has been stable to lower gasoline prices due to lower heating oil demand–the only positive outcome of a rather warm winter to date.

An analyst forecast Apple sales of iPads will equate nearly 60 percent of the total tablet market in 2013. As an owner of AAPL stock, I rather liked this. Unfortunately, that prediction was made in October, before the release of the iPad Mini. The stock market had something entirely different to say about the forecast–more like a bitchslap to the tune of nearly $200 decline per share between October and year-end. *Ouch!* Not all of that was based on the market’s rejection of the forecast on iPad Mini sales, though; much of that fall was related to the gross failure of Apple’s map application launched alongside the iPhone 5.

My prediction: I will continue to bemoan the failure to sell some AAPL stock in September 2012, while many of you will continue to buy Apple products. I thank you buyers in advance for trying so hard to boost my spirits and bolster my kids’ college fund in the coming year. Oh, and Google Maps will continue to eat at market share; it’s going to be a while before Apple recovers from its epic map failures. Conveniently, there’s GOOG stock in the kids’ college fund, too.

What about you? Are any of these predictions worth the pixels with which they’re presented?  What do you predict for the year ahead? Do tell.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly Sees No Evil, Hears No Evil

Yesterday, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly upheld the government’s right to withhold cables already released via WikiLeaks under FOIA (see my earlier posts on this FOIA here and here). Her logic seems to have a fatal flaw: she says the State Department has proven (and the ACLU has not rebutted the claim) that the US Government owns the cables.

The ACLU simply offers no rejoinder to the State Department’s affirmative showing that all the information at issue (1) was classified by an original classification authority, (2) is owned, produced, or controlled by the United States, and (3) falls within one or more of the eight relevant categories. [my emphasis]

But then she says (noting that ACLU made no mention that these cables had also been released via WikiLeaks and therefore pretending that they might be different) that the government has not officially acknowledged these cables are authentic.

No matter how extensive, the WikiLeaks disclosure is no substitute for an official acknowledgement and the ACLU has not shown that the Executive has officially acknowledged that the specific information at issue was a part of the WikiLeaks disclosure.

I guess they should let Bradley Manning go free, then, since the State Department isn’t prepared to say the cables he is accused of leaking were authentic?

But that’s not the most troubling part of this ruling. As I lay out below–and as Kollar-Kotelly presumably knows well–the cables are full of admissions of crime, including murder, torture, and kidnapping. Thus, had she reviewed them to see whether the government’s claims that they were properly classified are valid, she would have seen that–in addition to information properly classified to protect foreign relations–a lot of the original classification and the government’s refusal to officially release them (which would presumably make them admissible in a court) serve to hide confessions of criminal activity.

So Kollar-Kotelly chose not to review these cables in camera, choosing instead to rely on the State Department declaration that makes no mention of the criminal admissions included in the cables.

In this case, because the State Department’s declarations are sufficiently detailed and the Court is satisfied that no factual dispute remains, the Court declines to exercise its discretion to review the embassy cables in camera.

It was a cowardly ruling. But all the more cowardly, given that Kollar-Kotelly prevented herself from officially reviewing a bunch of evidence of criminal wrong-doing.

Here are details on the cables Kollar-Kotelly doesn’t want to read:

The famous meeting at which Ali Abdullah Saleh promised to lie about our strikes in Yemen

Kollar-Kotelly agreed to keep what has become perhaps the most famous cable ever, in which David Petraeus and Ali Abdullah Saleh discuss the missile strikes we conducted in Yemen in late 2009.

Mind you, the government likely has a very good legal reason to keep this cable secret. The cable makes it clear we were targeting Anwar al-Awlaki (as well as Nasir al-Wuhayshi) in those strikes. And releasing that would constitute official acknowledgement of the targeting of Awlaki that the government has tried so hard to avoid. Furthermore, as I’ll show in a follow-up post, it also shows that we targeted Awlaki for death before we had evidence implicating him in a crime.

Continue reading

Berlusconi to Testify in Abu Omar Trial

This could be interesting. Nicolo Pollari–the right wing former head of Italian intelligence–is calling Silvio Berlusconi to testify as a defense witness in the Abu Omar rendition trial.

Berlusconi’s testimony had been requested by lawyers for Nicolo Pollari, a former intelligence chief who is one of the defendants in the case.

Pollari hopes the testimony might help prove that he was against the rendition, lawyers said. He could face from one to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Pollari has denied any involvement by Italian intelligence in the abduction.

Berlusconi, one of the United States’ close allies in its battle against terrorism, has expressed support for Pollari and has maintained his government was not informed about the operation and did not take part in it.

I haven’t followed the trial closely enough to know what Pollari intends to achieve. This could be a bid–similar to that of the AIPAC spying trial defendants–to provide the government with a big disincentive to continuing the trial (Pollari already tried a state secrets defense). Or it may be a bid to argue that, since the Italians were tracking Abu Omar themselves, they had no incentive to help the CIA in its rendition plans. (Here’s a NYT story reporting on Pollari getting charged.)

I just wish we could get eriposte to Italy to cross-examine Berlusconi about what he knew of Pollari’s involvement with American GWOT efforts. Pollari was, almost certainly, involved in the plot to propagate the Niger forgeries. He also should have informed Stephen Hadley that the aluminum tubes that the US claimed were nuclear centrifuge parts were clearly intended to support Iraqi reverse-engineering of Italian missiles; either he did, and Hadley proceeded to claim the tubes were for nukes anyway, or Pollari willfully let the Americans make claims he knew were false. In short, Nicolo Pollari has close ties to those Americans (people like Michael Ledeen) who were flogging this war from the start. And he did it, by most accounts, because Silvio wanted to curry favor with the Bush Administration.

I’m not sure we’ll get really astute questioning of Silvio Berlusconi’s knowledge of Pollari’s close ties with the most hawkish elements in America. But it would be fun if we did.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV RT @USDroneWarDept: #JameisWinston is the kind of asshole we need in the Drone Dept. That dude just don't give a f&%k.
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @carwinb Priest said he wsa put on JSOC list shortly thereafter. @charlie_savage was unable to get that confirmed.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @carwinb Whether when JSOC missed Awlaki on 12/24/09 he was targeted. @charlie_savage
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz U.S. military gives Arizona alfalfa inspection agents M-16s under §1033 program because why not http://t.co/QtRNm0TFMk
6hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @dpleasant 81. That might be counted as my 5th computer.
11hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @dpleasant Right--the first computer I USED (very different question, no?) was an Apple II, I think.
11hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @dpleasant Well, I was suckled on them so don't actually know, but I also drew pretty pictures on them. No. Not that old.
11hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel I was suckled on punch cards. #firstcomputer
12hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @AdamWeinstein: Fuck this guy. Fuck Florida. Fuck everything. http://t.co/hT31XD27I6
12hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @isamuel @copiesofcopies @OrinKerr I agree. Theres significant nuance here. Frankly, I think WAY too much. 4th+5th Amendments mean something
12hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @billmon1 After first implicating the woman who accepted the video fr cops and then killing hotel security in process.
12hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @billmon1 A cover up of cover up! But yes. It is rather remarkable they still haven't solved 2rd worst terror attack since 9/11, in't it?
12hreplyretweetfavorite
September 2014
S M T W T F S
« Aug    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930