Progressive Calendar 04.25.07
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


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