|Progressive Calendar 04.25.07||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2007 06:39:17 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 04.25.07 1. Global warming 4.25 11:45am 2. Africa/social forum 4.25 3:30pm 3. Iraq/labor 4.25 7pm 4. StPaul planning 4.25 7pm 5. Mexico/PRD 4.25 7:30pm 6. Moyers/Iraq war/TV 4.25 8pm 7. God & empire 4.26 12noon 8. Health care/Leg 4.26 2:15pm 9. NWN4P NewHope 4.26 4:30pm 10. Eagan peace vigil 4.26 4:30pm 11. Northtown vigil 4.26 5pm 12. Asian-Am studies 4.26 5pm 13. Demo vs JROTC 4.26 5pm 14. Venezuela/Chavez/f 4.26 6pm 15. NWN4P film 4.26 7pm 16. Kip Sullivan 4.26 7pm 17. Sami/Iraq 4.26 7pm 18. PRD/Mexico 4.26 7pm 19. Ralph Nader - The corporate debasement of Earth Day 20. Mike Whitney - Housing bubble boondoggle --------1 of 20-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Global warming 4.25 11:45am Wednesday, 4/25, 11:45 to 1:30, St Thomas peace prof Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and ELCA Bishop Craig Johnson speak on "The Most Important Decade in Human History: A Call to Address Global Warming and Build a Better Society" at luncheon ($5), Holy Trinity Lutheran, 2730 E 31st St, Mpls. (RSVP by 4/18 at office [at] htlcmpls.org or 612-729-8358.) --------2 of 20-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Africa/social forum 4.25 3:30pm Department of African American & African Studies Coffee Hour "Is Another Africa Possible? Nairobi and the World Social Forum" Professor Rose Brewer Wednesday, April 25, 2007 815 Social Sciences 3:30 - 4:30pm For Additional Information Call Our Main Office at (612)-624-9847 www.afroam.umn.edu <http://www.afroam.umn.edu>_ --------3 of 20-------- From: Deborah <deborahgrace [at] mac.com> Subject: Iraq/labor 4.25 7pm Meeting Face to Face: the Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour and Breaking Walls Wednesday, April 25, 2007 7 p.m., Lakes & Plains Regional Council of Carpenters, 700 Olive St., St. Paul (see www.laboreducation.org for directions and map) Everyone welcome at this free event. Meeting Face to Face (Jonathan Levin, 27 minutes) follows six senior Iraqi labor leaders through 25 U.S. cities during the June 2005 Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour, sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War. Speaking to U.S. audiences for the first time, Iraqis explain why the primary condition for a peaceful resolution in Iraq is ending the U.S. occupation and why an independent labor movement is crucial in creating a democratic society. The documentary captures the energy and emotions of the tour while adding vital perspectives and experiences we almost never hear - those of the Iraqis themselves. Through the film we also see American working people bringing new energy and commitment to the movement for peace and social justice. Includes footage from the tours' Twin Cities stop at the Carpenters Hall. Breaking Walls (Yonatan Ben Efrat, 47 minutes) is an optimistic film about art and labor activism that tracks three people whose roads entwine near a wall in the village of K'ara in Israel. One is labor muralist Mike Alewitz, the second is Danny Ben-Simhon, who abandoned a promising artistic career to work with WAC-MA'AN (Workers Advice Center); and the third is Musav Salameh, a building worker, who is kept apart from his parents in the West Bank by Israel's separation wall. Salameh came to the wall-painting as an observer on the sideline, but quickly took brush in hand. Although the film starts with Salameh's doubts about painting the wall, it ends in a moving scene in the Beit Berl art college. Salameh, together with Ben Simhon, other building laborers and art students set up an impressive exhibition, at the center of which are paintings done on walls that they built themselves in the college's gallery. Deborah Rosenstein Program Coordinator, Labor Education Service Industrial Relations Center 321-19th Avenue South, Room 3-300 Minneapolis, MN 55455 612-626-2034 (phone) 612-624-1585 (fax) drosenstein [at] csom.umn.edu http://laboreducation.org --------4 of 20-------- From: Jean Madden <jmadden_55104 [at] yahoo.com> Subject: StPaul planning 4.25 7pm April 25 Forum: Keeping People Engaged in St Paul Planning - From Central Corridor to Ayd Mill Road What should our St. Paul neighborhoods look like? How should they function? Who should design them? Thomas Fisher, Dean of the University of Minnesota's School of Design, will explore these issues as they relate to Ayd Mill Road, big box development and the University Avenue Corridor. He will be the main speaker at a neighborhood forum on Wednesday, April 25 from 7-9 p.m. at Dunning Community Center, 1221 Marshall Avenue in St. Paul. Barb Thoman, Program Director for Transit for Livable Communities, will follow with an exploration of alternatives to expanding Ayd Mill Road. Community members will have the opportunity to ask panelists questions and voice their opinions about the direction of St. Paul. This event is cosponsored by Neighborhoods First! and University Avenue Community Coalition. · Neighborhoods First! is a grassroots organization that has supported a linear park alongside commuter rail in the Ayd Mill valley, light rail transit that serves communities, improvements to the bus system and new development that is transit oriented. · University Avenue Community Coalition comprises 16 organizations working for equitable development and community benefits in the proposal for LRT and related development on University Avenue. For more information contact Neighborhoods First! cochair Paul Busch at 651.646.4656. --------5 of 20-------- From: stephan peter <stephan.peter [at] stribmail.com> Subject: Mexico/PRD 4.25 7:30pm Mexican Labor Party Leader in Minneapolis. Saul Escobar Toledo, Secretary of International Affairs, Partido de la Revolution Democratica (PRD), will visit Minneapolis on April 25. He will speak about immigration and border relations, NAFTA and globalization, the presidential electoral challenge by popular Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in July 2006, the recent turbulence in Oaxaca, and reactions to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Saul Escobar Toledo became one of the founding member of the PRD in 1989, and has since served the party in various functions. The event will take place Wednesday, April 25, 7:30 to 9:00pm. Party room at Riverview Tower, 1920 1st St., Minneapolis. The event is sponsored by Democratic Socialists of America, Twin Cities Local. For driving/ parking instructions, contact Janette Lever (612)341 4501. Stephan Peter, PhD Anoka Ramsey Community College Political Science Faculty Stephan.Peter [at] anokaramsey.edu --------6 of 20-------- From: PRO826 [at] aol.com Subject: Moyers/IraqWar/TV 4.25 8pm Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS By David Swanson t r u t h o u t | Guest Columnist Thursday 12 April 2007 Bill Moyers has put together an amazing 90-minute video documenting the lies that the Bush administration told to sell the Iraq war to the American public, with a special focus on how the media led the charge. I've watched an advance copy and read a transcript, and the most important thing I can say about it is: Watch PBS from 9:00 to 10:30 PM (8-9:30pm CST) on Wednesday, April 25. Spending that 90 minutes will actually save you time because you'll never watch television news again - not even on PBS, which comes in for its own share of criticism. While a great many pundits, not to mention presidents, look remarkably stupid or dishonest in the four-year-old clips included in "Buying the War," it's hard to take any spiteful pleasure in holding them to account, and not just because the killing and dying they facilitated is ongoing, but also because of what this video reveals about the mindset of members of the DC media. Moyers interviews media personalities, including Dan Rather, who clearly both understand what the media did wrong and are unable to really see it as having been wrong or avoidable. It's great to see an American media outlet tell this story so well, but it leads one to ask: When will Congress tell it? While the Democrats were in the minority, they clamored for hearings and investigations, they pushed Resolutions of Inquiry into the White House Iraq Group and the Downing Street Minutes. Now in the majority, they've gone largely silent. The chief exception is the House Judiciary Committee's effort to question Condoleezza Rice next week about the forged Niger documents. But what comes out of watching this show is a powerful realization that no investigation is needed by Congress, just as no hidden information was needed for the media to get the story right in the first place. The claims that the White House made were not honest mistakes. But neither were they deceptions. They were transparent and laughably absurd falsehoods. And they were high crimes and misdemeanors. The program opens with video of President Bush saying "Iraq is part of a war on terror. It's a country that trains terrorists. It's a country that can arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country." Was that believable or did the media play along? The next shot is of a press conference at which Bush announces that he has a script telling him which reporters to call on and in what order. Yet the reporters play along, raising their hands after each comment, pretending that they might be called on despite the script. Video shows Richard Perle claiming that Saddam Hussein worked with al Qaeda and that Iraqis would greet American occupiers as liberators. Here are the Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, William Safire from The New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Jim Hoagland from The Washington Post, all demanding an overthrow of Iraq's government. George Will is seen saying that Hussein "has anthrax, he loves biological weapons, he has terrorist training camps, including 747s to practice on." But was that even plausible? Bob Simon of "60 Minutes" tells Moyers he wasn't buying it. He says he saw the idea of a connection between Hussein and al Qaeda as an absurdity: "Saddam, as most tyrants, was a total control freak. He wanted total control of his regime. Total control of the country. And to introduce a wild card like al Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do. So I just didn't believe it for an instant." Knight Ridder Bureau Chief John Walcott didn't buy it either. He assigned Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay to do the reporting and they found the Bush claims to be quite apparently false. For example, when the Iraqi National Congress (INC) fed The New York Times's Judith Miller a story through an Iraqi defector claiming that Hussein had chemical and biological weapons labs under his house, Landay noticed that the source was a Kurd, making it very unlikely he would have learned such secrets. But Landay also noticed that it was absurd to imagine someone putting a biological weapons lab under his house. But absurd announcements were the order of the day. A video clip shows a Fox anchor saying, "A former top Iraqi nuclear scientist tells Congress Iraq could build three nuclear bombs by 2005." And the most fantastic stories of all were fed to David Rose at Vanity Fair Magazine. We see a clip of him saying, "The last training exercise was to blow up a full-size mock-up of a US destroyer in a lake in central Iraq." Landay comments: "Or jumping into pits of fouled water and having to kill a dog with your bare teeth. I mean, this was coming from people who are appearing in all of these stories, and sometimes their rank would change." Forged documents from Niger could not have gotten noticed in this stew of lies. Had there been some real documents honestly showing something, that might have stood out and caught more eyes. Walcott describes the way the INC would feed the same information to the vice president and secretary of defense that it fed to a reporter, and the reporter would then get the claims confirmed by calling the White House or the Pentagon. Landay adds: "And let's not forget how close these people were to this administration, which raises the question, was there coordination? I can't tell you that there was, but it sure looked like it." Simon from "60 Minutes" tells Moyers that when the White House claimed a 9/11 hijacker had met with a representative of the Iraqi government in Prague, "60 Minutes" was easily able to make a few calls and find out that there was no evidence for the claim. "If we had combed Prague," he says, "and found out that there was absolutely no evidence for a meeting between Mohammad Atta and the Iraqi intelligence figure. If we knew that, you had to figure the administration knew it. And yet they were selling the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam." Moyers questions a number of people about their awful work, including Dan Rather, Peter Beinart and then Chairman and CEO of CNN Walter Isaacson. And he questions Simon, who soft-pedaled the story and avoided reporting that there was no evidence. Landay at Knight Ridder did report the facts when it counted, but not enough people paid attention. He tells Moyers that all he had to do was read the UN weapons inspectors' reports online to know that the White House was lying to us. When Cheney said that Hussein was close to acquiring nuclear weapons, Landay knew he was lying: "You need tens of thousands of machines called 'centrifuges' to produce highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. You've got to house those in a fairly big place, and you've got to provide a huge amount of power to this facility." Moyers also hits Tim Russert with a couple of tough questions. Russert expressed regret for not having included any skeptical voices by saying he wished his phone had rung. So Moyers begins the next segment by saying, "Bob Simon didn't wait for the phone to ring," and describing Simon's reporting. Simon says he knew the claims about aluminum tubes were false because "60 Minutes" called up some scientists and researchers and asked them. Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post says that skeptical stories did not get placed on the front page because they were not "definitive." Moyers shows brief segments of an "Oprah" show in which she has on only pro-war guests and silences a caller who questions some of the White House claims. Just in time for the eternal election season, Moyers includes clips of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry backing the war on the basis of Bush and Cheney's lies. But we also see clips of Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy getting it right. The Washington Post editorialized in favor of the war 27 times, and published in 2002 about 1,000 articles and columns on the war. But the Post gave a huge anti-war march a total of 36 words. "What got even less ink," Moyers says, "was the release of the National Intelligence Estimate." Even the misleading partial version that the media received failed to fool a careful eye. Landay recalls: "It said that the majority of analysts believed that those tubes were for the nuclear weapons program. It turns out though, that the majority of intelligence analysts had no background in nuclear weapons." Was Landay the only one capable of noticing this detail? Colin Powell's UN presentation comes in for similar quick debunking. We watch a video clip of Powell complaining that Iraq has covered a test-stand with a roof. But AP reporter Charles Hanley comments, "What he neglected to mention was that the inspectors were underneath watching what was going on." Powell cited a UK paper, but it very quickly came out that the paper had been plagiarized from a college student's work found online. The British press pointed that out. The US let it slide. But anyone looking for the facts found it quickly. Moyers's wonderful movie is marred by a single line - the next to the last sentence - in which he says, "The number of Iraqis killed, over 35,000 last year alone, is hard to pin down." A far more accurate figure could have been found very easily. -- "Devastating" Moyers Probe of Press and Iraq Coming http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042007H.shtml The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear next Wednesday: a 90-minute PBS broadcast titled, "Buying the War," marking the return of the "Bill Moyers Journal." The war continues today, now in its fifth year, with the death toll for Americans and Iraqis rising again - yet Moyers points out, "The press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush administration to go to war on false pretenses." --------7 of 20-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: God & empire 4.26 12noon Thursday, 4/26, noon, DePaul Univ prof emeritus John Dominic Crossan speaks on "God and Empire Then and Now," Westminster Presbyterian Church, 12th & Nicollet, Mpls. www.ewestminster.org --------8 of 20-------- From: Rhoda Gilman <rhodagilman [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Health care/Leg 4.26 2:15pm A joint House-Senate informational hearing on direct contracting of state programs vs. managed care plans is now scheduled for Thursday, April 26, at 2:15, in the State Office Building, Room 200. There will be introductory statements by the Department of Human Services and testimony from MUHCC, GMHCC, the Council of Health Plans, and county-based purchasing alliances. Like all hearings at this time, it could be changed or delayed with very little notice, but that is something we have to live with. We hope for a strong turnout of supporters. Rhoda Gilman For the MUHCC Legislative Committee --------9 of 20-------- From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net> Subject: NWN4P NewHope 4.26 4:30pm NWN4P will hold weekly demonstrations on Thursday, 4:30-6 PM, at the corner of Winnetka and 42nd Avenue N. in New Hope. You may park near Walgreens or the lot by McDonald's. For more information, Carole nwn4p [at] yahoo.org. --------10 of 20-------- From: Greg and Sue Skog <skograce [at] mtn.org> Subject: Eagan peace vigil 4.26 4:30pm CANDLELIGHT PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south of the river speaking out against war. --------11 of 20-------- From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 4.26 5pm NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy 10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine. Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View, New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park, Fridley, and Coon Rapids. We'll have extra signs. For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com. --------12 of 20-------- From: Stephen Feinstein <feins001 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Asian-Am studies 4.26 5pm Apr. 26 - Sucheng Chan, Professor Emeritus, University of California Santa Barbara, "Why Asian American Studies is Important", 5-7pm, 120 Andersen Library. (Following the talk a reception in the atrium honors Prof. Chan on the occasion of the donation of her Asian American Studies collection to the IHRC.) --------13 of 20-------- From: wamm <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Demo vs JROTC 4.26 5pm Demonstration at JROTC Open House: Teach Peace, Not War! Thursday, April 26, 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Minnesota Transitional School, 2872 26th Avenue South, Minneapolis. The military claim that JROTC is "not a military recruitment" program. Then why is the military interested in promoting itself in public high schools and enrolling students? They may promise to teach leadership and other skills, but they are militarizing our schools with the ultimate result leading to training students in a way that eventually leads to following the leader into war. Students at Minnesota Transitional School are ESL and nontraditional high school students and especially vulnerable to the promises of recruiters. FFI: Mary Bouska 612-721-7129. [The poor must kill and die so the rich may have longer yachts. The American Dream is that you can get rich so you can make the poor kill and die for you. This is the ultimate fruit of capitalism. -ed] --------14 of 20-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Venezuela/Chavez/f 4.26 6pm FILM:Thursday, 4/26, 6 to 8:30 pm, screening ($3 contribution, no one turned away) of film "the Revolution Will Not Be Televised," about short-lived 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 2730 E 31st St, Mpls. 612-860-7834 or msp [at] ushov.org --------15 of 20-------- From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net> Subject: NWN4P film 4.26 7pm On Thursday April 26, 7 PM, NW Neighbors for Peace is offering a free screening of the award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center. The film will be shown in room C, 6126 Shingle Creek Parkway. Global warming and climate change are factually explained in a way that is compelling as well as entertaining. For more information, contact George at unclegeo [at] bstock.com or at 763-560-3292. --------16 of 20-------- From: Kip Sullivan <kiprs [at] usinternet.com> Subject: Kip Sullivan 4.26 7pm [Health insurance guru] Kip Sullivan will discuss his book, The Health Care Mess: How We Got Into It and How We'll Get Out of It. 7:00-8:00 pm, Thursday, April 26 Micawber's Books 2238 Carter Ave. St Paul, MN (651) 646-5506 --------17 of 20-------- From: wamm <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Sami/Iraq 4.26y 7pm Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli Thursday, April 26, 7:00 p.m. Macalester Plymouth United Church, 1658 Lincoln Avenue, St. Paul. Sami Rasouli, a native of Iraq, spent many years in Minnesota and was the successful businessman when, in 2004, he decided to sell his restaurant and returned to his native country. In January of 2005, he started Muslim Peacemaker Teams which seek common ground and intercultural understanding. These teams provide weekly training in the non-violent roots of Islamic teaching, seek common ground through exchanges between mosques, synagogues, and churches, and make emergency response calls throughout the country to provide food, shelter, medicines, clothing, and other needs to internally-displaced Iraqis. During this visit to Minnesota, he will speak about the current conditions in Iraq and the desires of the Iraqi people. Free and open to the public. FFI: Call Molly, 651-633-2743, or email <msring [at] earthlink.com>. --------18 of 20-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: PRD/Mexico 4.26 7pm Thursday, 4/26, 7 pm, top PRD (Mexico) party leader Saul Escobar Toledo talks about Mexico's foreign relations, immigration NAFTA and so on, Resource Center of the Americas, 3019 Minnehaha Ave, Mpls. www.americas.org --------19 of 20-------- More Events, Little Progress The Corporate Debasement of Earth Day By RALPH NADER CounterPunch April 24, 2007 Earth Day the First - launched in April 1970 with 1500 events mostly on college campuses by enormous student energy - led the television network news and made the covers of the national news magazines. Earth Day the Thirty Seventh - in April 2007 - was broader based than the First Day but in many ways more debased by corporate greenwashing, and political posturing marinated in corporate campaign cash. A comparison of the two periods, both characterized by a surge in ecological recognitions of perils and possibilities, is instructive. In 1970, the environmental arousal focused on pesticides, air and water pollution, with attention to workplace toxics contributing to occupational diseases. Widely publicized were the inversions in the Los Angeles area, chocking with vehicles, and the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland where seeping petroleum slicks were sometimes set on fire - on the river! The action goals were legislative authority directing the federal executive agencies to regulate and reduce permissible pollution. Compared with today, legislation passed through Congress at a torrid pace. Objecting corporate lobbyists were swept aside. Among the bills enacted into law were the water pollution and air pollution statutes, the drinking water safety act, the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). So prevalent and visible were millions of Americans calling for action that Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford signed them into law with strong statements of support for their promised purposes. He rode the wave rolling across the country to Washington, D.C. Some results were measurable. The ouster of lead in gasoline and paint reduced the level of lead in peoples' bodies. Levels of vinyl chloride in the bodies of industrial workers disappeared. Asbestos was close to being banned for most commercial purposes. The first mandatory fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles were issued in 1975 to be met by 1985 at the average fleet mark of 27.5 miles per gallon. Then came the corporate counterattack replete with money, muscle and daily propaganda. Regulation was blamed for everything save spots on the sun. Deregulation became the mantra that rewarded more and more elected politicians who performed the requisite courtesies and bows. By 1980 the Democrats had joined the race for business campaign cash with the Republicans. The Reagan era began, led by an ex-actor who said that most air pollution came from trees. Corporate apologists started writing reams of materials about public-private partnerships and marketplace trading of pollution credits. They compromised government's arms length responsibilities with joint ventures where taxpayer monies were used by Washington, D.C. to subsidize collusive auto industry research, for example, under the Clinton Administration. These projects went nowhere, wasting billions of dollars and shielding in the process auto company exposure to regulation and to the antitrust laws. The massive environmental stall had begun. Less technology-forcing regulation, less enforcement and less overdue lawmaking to provide ethical-legal frameworks for new risks coming from genetic engineering, nano-technology and the relentless use of many invasive new chemicals in the human environment. Today, there are reports of many more global Earth Day events, including the global warming networking of Al Gore. Awareness of both the sustaining role of oceans, rivers, air quality, forests, prairies and the enormous costs of their damage or displacement is understood by many more people then in 1970. Consider the remarkable roll-back of the tobacco industry's deliberate addiction of their customers at an early age. Companies are rushing to give themselves a clearer environmental image with chain stores taking on more organic food and spreading their environmental labeling of products. More so-called green buildings are under construction. Companies like General Electric are talking a good game, but they are working to bring back nuclear power with all its costs, risks and taxpayer subsidies. So for all the greenwashing, the auto industries are still on Congress blocking improved fuel efficiencies for motor vehicles which presently are the lowest since 1980. Electric generating plants - often burning coal - have not significantly changed their gross design inefficiencies of bygone years. The coal barons are still blowing off the mountaintops and widening the land areas they are strip-mining. Asthma rates among children are climbing. Land erosion continues unabated. One can gauge the lack of progress three ways. Is the country moving expeditiously to make existing "best practices" the overall practice throughout the economy? Are we applying the insight of Professor Barry Commoner that prevention is better than tepid often evaded controls of specific, harmful pollutants, as we did when we took the lead out of paint and gasoline? Do we have a massive conversion agenda, led by leading politicians for solar energy in all its efficient forms, including wind power, and for the dramatic improvements in energy efficiency now readily available for application? For the most part, the answer to these questions is NO! Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions --------20 of 20-------- "Is It Too Late to Get Out?" Housing Bubble Boondoggle By MIKE WHITNEY CounterPunch April 24, 2007 Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson delivered an upbeat assessment of the slumping real estate market on Friday saying, "All the signs I look at" show "the housing market is at or near the bottom." Baloney. Paulson added that the meltdown in subprime mortages was not a "serious problem. I think it's going to be largely contained." Wrong again. Paulson knows full well that the housing market is headed for a crash and probably won't bounce back for the next 4 or 5 years. That's why Congress is slapping together a bailout package that will keep struggling homeowners out of foreclosure. If defaults keep skyrocketing at the present rate they are liable to bring the whole economy down in a heap. Last week, the Senate convened the Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Schumer. The committee's job is to develop a strategy to keep delinquent subprime mortgage holders in their homes. It may look like the congress is looking out for the little guy, but that's not the case. As Schumer noted, "The subprime mortgage meltdown has economic consequences that will ripple through our communities unless we act." Schumer's right. The repercussions of millions of homeowners defaulting on their loans could be a major hit for Wall Street and the banking sector. That's what Schumer is worried about - not the plight of over-leveraged homeowners. Every day now, another major lending institution unveils its plan for bailing out the housing market. Citigroup and Bank of America have joined forces to create the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America which will provide $1 billion for the rescue of subprime loans. This will allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages and keep them out of foreclosure. The new "30- year loans will carry a fixed interest rate one point below the prime rate, putting it currently at 5.5 percent. There are no fees, and the banks pay all the closing costs." But why are the banks being so generous if, as Paulson says, "the housing market is at or near the bottom." This proves that the Treasury Secretary is full of malarkey and that the problem is much bigger than he's letting on. Last week, Washington Mutual announced a $2 billion program to slow foreclosures (Washington Mutual's subprime segment lost $164 million in the first quarter) while Freddie Mac committed a whopping $20 billion to the same goal. In fact, Freddie Mac announced that it "would stretch the loan term to a maximum of 40 years from the current 30-year limit." 40 years!?! How about a 60 or 80 year mortgage? Can you sense the desperation? And yet, Paulson says he doesn't see the subprime meltdown as a "serious problem"! Paulson's comments have had no effect on the Federal Reserve. The Fed has been frantically searching for a strategy that will deal with the rising foreclosures. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that "Federal bank regulators called on lenders to work with distressed borrowers unable to meet payments on high-risk mortgages to help them keep their homes". Huh? When was the last time the feds ordered the privately-owned banks to rewrite loans? Never - that's when. That gives us some idea of how bad things really are. The details of the meltdown are being downplayed in the media to prevent panic-selling among the public. But the Fed knows what's going on. They know that "U.S. mortgage default rates hit an all-time high in the first quarter of 2007" and that "the percentage of mortgages in default rose to a record 2.87%". In fact, the Federal Reserve and the five other federal agencies that regulate banks issued this statement just last week: "Prudent workout arrangements that are consistent with safe and sound lending practices are generally in the long-term best interest of both the financial institution and the borrowerInstitutions will not face regulatory penalties if they pursue reasonable workout arrangements with borrowers." Translation: "Rewrite the loans! Promise them anything! Just make sure they remain shackled to their houses!" Unfortunately, the problem won't be "fixed" with a $30 or $40 billion bailout scheme. The problem is much bigger than that. There is an estimated $2.5 trillion in subprimes and Alt-A loans - 20% of which are expected enter foreclosure in the next few years. Any up-tick in interest rates or unemployment will only aggravate the situation. Kenneth Heebner, manager of CGM Realty Fund (Capital Growth Management), provided a realistic forecast of what we can expect in the near future as defaults increase. Heebner: "The Greatest Price Decline in Housing since the Great Depression" (Bloomberg News interview) "The real wave of pain and foreclosures is just beginning - subprimes and Alt-A are both in trouble. A lot of these will go into default. The reason is, that the people who took these out never really intended to fully service the mortgage - they were counting on rising home prices so they could sign on the dotted line without showing what their income was and then 2 years later flip into another junk mortgage and get a big profit out of the house with putting anything down "There's a $1.5 trillion in subprimes and $1 trillion in Alt-A the catalyst will be declining house prices which is already underway. But as we get a large amount of these $2.5 trillion mortgages go into default, we'll see foreclosed houses dumped on an already weak market where homebuilders are already struggling to sell there houses. The price declines which have started will continue and may even accelerate in some of the hotter markets. I would expect that housing prices in "2007 will decline 20% in a lot of markets". "What you are going to see is the greatest price decline in housing since the Great Depression..The one thing that people should not do, is go near a CDO or a residential mortgage backed security rated Triple A by Moody's and S&P because these are going to get down-graded by the hundreds of millions - because they are secured by subprime and Alt-A mortgages where there'll be massive defaults". Question: "Will the losses in the mortgage market exceed those in the S&L crisis?" Heebner: "They're going to dwarf those losses because the losses could easily approach $1 trillion - that dwarfs anything that has ever happened. Enron was $100 billion - this will be far greater than that..The good news is that most of these loans are owned by Hedge Funds. You hedge funds buying these subprime and Alt-A loans and leveraging them at 10 to 1. They buy a pool of mortgages at 8% and they borrow against it in yen for 3% and then lever it at 10 to 1 so you have a lucrative profit. And the hedge fund you are running, the manager is going to get 20% of the gain - so even if it's a year before you go broke; you get rich until the fund is shut down". Heebner added this instructive comment: "The brokerage firms created "securitization" - they know the products are toxic. I don't think they are going to suffer losses; they simply passed them on to everyone else. The only impact this will have is the profits that flow from it will get less. But it is less than 3% of revenues in even the most exposed brokerage firm so THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GET CAUGHT." Although Heebner believes the brokerage houses will do fine; the same is not true for the small investor. Nearly 70% of subprimes have been securitized. That means that the vast number of shoddy "no down payment, no document, interest-only" loans (that are headed for default) have been transformed into securities and sold to hedge funds. As the housing market continues to falter, these funds will plummet at an inverse rate to the amount of leverage that has been applied. That may explain why, (according to Bloomberg Markets) the "wealthiest Americans have been bailing out" of hedge funds at an alarming rate. A report in last Thursday's New York Times stated: "Americans with a net worth of at least $25 million, excluding the value of their primary homes, reduced their exposure to hedge funds in 2006" - The amount of money held by wealthy investors in hedge funds has dropped dramatically - "The average balance, which was $2.8 million in 2005, was just $1.6 million last year, a 43 percent decline". So, what do America's richest investors know that the rest of us don't? Could it be that the over-leveraged hedge funds industry is about to get hammered by the subprime implosion? If so, it won't be the brokerage houses or savvy insiders who get hurt. It'll be the little guys and the pension funds that take a drubbing. In Henry C K Liu's "Why the Subprime Bust will Spread" (Asia Times) the author states that the bursting housing bubble will trigger a major pension crisis. After all, who are the "institutional investors? They are mostly pension funds that manage the money the US working public depends on for retirement. In other words, the aggregate retirement assets of the working public are exposed to the risk of the same working public defaulting on their house mortgages". (Liu) The origins of the housing bubble are complex, but they are worth understanding if we want to know how things will progress. The housing bubble is not merely the result of low interest rates and shabby lending practices. As Liu says, "the bubble was caused by creative housing finance made possible by the emergence of a deregulated global credit market through finance liberalization. The low cost of mortgages lifted all US house prices beyond levels sustainable by household income in otherwise disaggregated markets". The deregulated cross-border flow of funds (via the yen low interest "carry trade" or the $800 billion current account deficit) have played a major role in inflating the US real estate market. Liu adds, "Since the money financing this housing bubble is sourced globally, a bursting of the US housing bubble will have dire consequences globally. "Since nearly 50% of "securitized" mortgage debt is owned by foreign investors; the subprime meltdown is bound send tremors through the entire global financial system. The housing decline is further complicated by Wall Street innovations in derivatives trading which has generated trillions of dollars in "virtual" wealth and is affecting the Feds ability to control inflation through interest rate manipulation. As Kenneth Heebner said, "You have hedge funds buying these subprime and Alt-A loans and leveraging them at 10 to 1. They buy a pool of mortgages at 8% and they borrow against it in yen for 3% and then lever it at 10 to 1 - so you have a lucrative profit." In other words, low interest foreign capital has flooded US markets and contributed to distortions in housing prices. In her recent article "War Drags the Dollar Down", Ann Berg refers to Wall Street's "swirling galaxy of exotic finance" which has "worked magic for the government and the elite", but has yet to weather a severe downturn in the economy. But how will market deal with sudden downturn in the hedge fund industry? Will the dodgy subprimes and shaky collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) trigger a crash or has the risk been wisely dispersed through derivatives trading? No one really knows. As Berg says, "Derivatives numbers are staggering. The Bank for International Settlements estimates that the notional amount of derivatives traded on regulated exchanges topped a quadrillion dollars last year and that the outstanding unregulated off-exchange (called over-the-counter OTC) amount stood at $370 trillion in June 2006. Because the OTC market is composed of endless strings of bilateral transactions the systemic risk is unknown." The comments of the President of the New York Fed, Timothy Geithner, help to clarify the abstruse activities of the modern market: "Credit market innovations have transformed the financial system from one in which most credit risk is in the form of loans, held to maturity on the balance sheets of banks, to a system in which most credit risk now takes an incredibly diverse array of different forms, much of it held by nonbank financial institutions that mark to market and can take on substantial leverage." Geither's right. The markets now operate as unregulated banks generating mountains of credit through massively leveraged debt instruments - a monster credit bubble larger than anything in the history of capitalism. So, where is all this headed? No one really knows. But when the housing bubble crashes into Wall Street's credit bubble,; we can expect the "big bang". That may explain why America's wealthiest investors are running for cover before the whole thing blows. (A number of investors have already cashed out and put there holdings into foreign funds and currencies) One thing is certain - time is running out. With $1 trillion in subprimes and Alt-A loans headed for default the system is facing its greatest challenge. US- GDP has been revised to a measly 1.8%, foreign investment is down, and the dollar is losing ground to the euro on an almost weekly basis. Falling home prices have already precipitated a number of other problems. For example, Gene Sperling reports in "Housing Bust Meets the Equity Blues" that "The Fed data showed an amazing expansion (in Mortgage-Equity Withdrawal). In 1995, active MEW had been $37 billion. By the fourth quarter of 2005, it soared to $532 billion annualized, a 14-fold expansion". These equity withdrawals have translated into consumer spending which accounts for at least 1 full percentage point of GDP. Declining house prices means that extra boost for the economy will now disappear. Foreclosures are soaring and expected to get worse for the next two years at least. In California foreclosure filings jumped 79% in March alone. Other "hot markets" are reporting similar figures. The glut of new homes for sale on the market has slammed sales of the nation's major builders; most are reporting profits are down by 40% or more. The collapse of the subprime mortgage market is also pushing some big U.S. homebuilders toward Chapter 11. According to Bloomberg News, "Some builders are staying out of bankruptcy by relying on the profits they made when sales boomed" in 2004 and 2005. Starting next year they must begin to repay $3.6 billion in public debt in what will certainly be a falling market. The prospects don't look good. Also, Credit card debt is way up (nearly 7% in one year) and economists are predicting that the trajectory will continue now that home equity is vanishing. Americans savings rate is in negative numbers and the steep increase in credit card debt (with its high interest rates) only compounds the problem. The American consumer has now compiled more personal debt than anytime in history. The Grim Reaper Meets the Housing Bubble Those who follow developments in real estatehave heard many of the wacky anecdotes related to the housing bubble. Stories abound of young people buying homes just to pay off tens of thousands of dollars of collage loans with their "presto"-equity - or low paid construction laborers securing 105% loans without any proof of income and a poor credit history. One of the stories that got national attention was about Alberto and Rosa Ramirez, who worked as strawberry pickers in the fields around Watsonville each earning about $300 a week. They (somehow?) qualified for a loan of $720,000 which paid for a "new" four-bedroom, two-bath house in Hollister. It's sheer madness! Obviously, those days are over. The speculative frenzy that was generated by the Fed's low interest rates, the banks lax lending standards, and the deregulated global credit market is drawing to a close. The fallout from the collapse in subprime-loans will roil the stock market and hedge funds, but, as Heebner says, the investment banks and brokerage firms will escape without a bruise. Where's the justice? Despite Hank Paulson's cheery predictions, we are no where "near the bottom". In fact, a recent survey showed that only 1 in 7 Americans believe that house prices will go down. Even now, very few people grasp the underlying issues or the potential for disaster. We're on a treadmill to oblivion and they think it's a merry-go-round. As housing prices tumble, more homeowners will experience "negative equity", that is, when the current value of their home is less than the sum of their mortgage. This is the very definition of modern serfdom. We can expect to see an erosion of confidence in the market, a rise in inventory, and a steady increase in defaults. More and more people will walk away from their homes rather than be hand-cuffed to an asset that loses value every day. This could transform a "housing correction" into a nation-wide financial calamity. Many peoples' futures are linked directly to the "anticipated" value of their homes. It is impossible to determine how shocked they'll be when prices retreat and equity shrivels. The housing flame-out has all the makings of a national trauma - another violent jolt to the fragile American psyche. So far, we're still in the first phase of a process that will probably play out for 10 years or more. (Judging by Japan's decades-long decline) None of the bailout plans are large enough to make any quantifiable difference. The numbers are just too big. Housing prices are coming down and the real estate market will return to fundamentals. That much is certain. The law of gravity can only be ignored for so long. Just don't count on a "soft landing". Special thanks to (Housing Crash News) See entire Kenneth Heebner interview at http://patrick.net/housing/contrib/future.html Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney [at] msn.com ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments
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