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by Michael Nystrom
Friday September 29, 2006
Cambridge, MA

If you're one of the few remaining citizens in the country who still thinks the US has a free press, take a look at the covers of the international editions of Newsweek (or should I say Newsweak?). Europe, Asia and Latin America feature the exact same cover story on America "Losing Afghanistan" and the "Rise of Jihadistan."

Special thanks to What Really Happened for first pointing out Newsweak's cover discrepancy.

The harsh truth is that five years after the U.S. invasion on Oct. 7, 2001 …[much of ] Afghanistan appears to be failing again. Most worrisome, a new failed-state sanctuary is emerging across thousands of square miles along the Afghan-Pakistan border: "Jihadistan," it could be called. It's an autonomous quasi state of religious radicals… [that] extends well across the Pakistan border where, despite close cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries, jihadist militants … have begun calling themselves "Pakistani Taliban." No longer worried about interference from Islamabad, they openly recruit young men to fight in Afghanistan…
This assessment supports the recent US intelligence report that terrorists "are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion," something Rumsfeld seems inexplicably confused about:
"Are more terrorists being created in the world? We don't know," said Rumsfeld, adding that there are no good ways to measure. "The world doesn't know. There aren't good ways to measure how many terrorists are being trained at camps around the world."
Why is Newsweak gently shielding Americans from this news, and instead giving us a puff piece on a celebrity photographer? By any objective measure, is Annie Leibovitz's "Life in Pictures" a more significant story than what is happening in Afghanistan? Apparently, it is all about keeping up appearances in the run-up to the November elections.

Keeping Up Appearances: The US Stock Market

The Dow didn't quite make it to a new closing high this week, and in my opinion, it is a miracle that the market didn't completely collapse after today's inflation report. The report of the highest level of inflation in 11 years should have been the straw that broke the camel's back. The camel's load already seems to be getting pretty heavy to me: The yield curve has remained inverted for months; we had the first negative reading in the Philly Fed index in three years; national housing sales have plunged and prices are showing their first declines since 1993. The index of leading economic indicators has declined for seven straight months. Online advertising revenue is down; newspaper advertising revenue is down; the help wanted index is down. Across the board the economic news is terrible - everything is pointing to a recession.

Everything, that is, except for the stock market. It makes me consider that the only things standing between this market and a crash are the November elections. Under normal circumstances, today's inflation report - the highest inflation reading in 11 years - would have absolutely creamed the market. This market is priced to perfection, and believes that the Fed is done raising interest rates, that inflation is under control. Under other circumstances, today's news would have been a splash of ice cold water on the buoyant market. But the Dow took it all in stride, just as it has taken all of the bad news of the past few weeks in stride, levitating like the undead near its all time high. There is, to put it mildly, something fishy about this market. Its levitating act has the feel of something unnatural. This being the case, it is impossible not to ask: How hard could it be to manipulate the Dow - just 30 stocks - for a few weeks until the election? Especially considering that your Secretary of the Treasury is the ex-Chairman of Goldman Sachs?

Let's just say that in the next few weeks before the election that the Dow does make a new high. Even so, it will be a meaningless high. For one, the index is still substantially lower than its 2000 peak after adjusting for inflation. And the Dow of today isn't even made up of the same stocks as it was in 2000! A new high, if we do get it, will be meaningless - a phony, sham new high. But it will serve its purpose - the same purpose as the Newsweak cover above: It will give the appearance that everything is just groovy going into November's election. When things start to look bad for Bush & Co, you can expect a big run up in the market and a big, distracting, meaningless piece of spectacular news: Dow Hits New High!

Am I suggesting that the market is being manipulated for political purposes? Gasp! Shocking, I know. But to quote Mr. Bush himself, "If you fool me, you can't get fooled again." (huh?) We've had six years now to see how tricky this administration can be. According to Bob Woodward, Bush has Tricky Dick's evil old mentor himself, Henry Kissenger, dropping by the White House regularly for secret consultations. We know that Bush's father lost the election because of "the economy, stupid," and Bush's Brain Karl Rove isn't stupid enough to let that happen again.

Bush is good friends with Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and if Saudi Arabia opens its oil spigots wide then the price of oil can be made to fall very quickly. Like eighteen bucks a barrel in a couple of months quickly. I wouldn't be surprised to see further strategic reductions heading into the election. Am I suggesting manipulation of the oil market for political gain? Shocking, I know.

Could there be any better way to deflect attention from the issues that really matter in the upcoming 40 days? "It's the economy, stupid." Those words must have been seared into Bush's brain. With new stock market highs - false as they may be - Bush may finally have evidence of the "great economy" that no one else seems to see but him.

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