|Progressive Calendar 09.15.07||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2007 03:22:51 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 09.15.07 1. Military speakout 9.16 9:30am 2. CSPAN/DC anti-war 9.16 9:30am 3. Philippines 9.16 12:30pm 4. Ellison/AM950 9.16 3pm 5. Palestine 9.17 4:30pm 6. We/power/war/filn 9.17 6:30pm 7. Nazi Germany 9.17 7:30pm 8. Global inequality 9.18 5pm 9. Lake St history 9.18 6pm 10. Leonard Cohen 9.18 6:30pm 11. Impeach 4 peace 9.18 7pm 12. Bus send-off 9.18 7pm 13. Sen John Marty - Growing wage gap at U of M 14. Vincente Navarro - How the US schemed vs democracy in Spain 15. Mike Whitney - Final stop: soup kitchen U.S.A. 16. Mark Morford - Iraq 'war': the great humiliation ours forever 17. ed - Elite heaven on earth --------1 of 17--------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Military speakout 9.16 9:30am Sunday, 9/16, 9:30 am, Military Families Speak Out-MN member Michael Perkins speaks on the huge toll taken on National Guard troops, including his own family members, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, 900 Mount Curve Ave, Lower Assembly Hall, Mpls. http://firstunitariansociety.org --------2 of 17-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: CSPAN/DC anti-war 9.16 9:30am The ANSWER Coalition ANTI-WAR PROTESTS happening in DC today will be broadcast on C-SPAN TOMORROW,Sunday sept 16, 9:30AM (CENTRAL TIME)--the PRO-war Eagles demonstration will ALSO be broadcast. (Do NOT know WHICH demo is first--though I suspect it may be the pro-war folks). C-SPAN 1 IS CHANNEL 21 in Minneapolis. Check local listings. C-SPAN is at http://www.c-spa --------3 of 17-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Philippines 9.16 12:30pm Sunday, 9/16, 12:30 to 2 pm, the ELCA Peace with Justice Committee hosts Dr Gary King of Amnesty International speaking on "Human Rights in the Philippines," Central Lutheran Church, 3rd Ave & 12th St, Mpls. 612-825-1581. --------4 of 17-------- From: Joel Albers <joel [at] uhcan-mn.org> Subject: Ellison/AM950 9.16 3pm [Ellison, after voting for more money for the war, and taking an all-expenses paid trip to Israel from the Isreali lobby AIPAC, is not a progressive. Ask him to explain those two things. -ed] MN Congressman Keith Ellison will be a guest on James Mayer's Air America radio program, "Of the People", this Sunday September 16th from 3-4 PM. Please feel free to call in with comments/ questions on the air: --- From: James Mayer <jmayer [at] academymayer.com> The call-in number is 952-946-6205. You will be asked for your first name, only, and your city, only (i.e., not the state or your last name). I'm going to get in as much phone time with listeners as we can during that one hour. It goes fast. So don't hesitate to get your call in early! We want him to know there are lots of people watching and listening to who's doing what for the land and democratic government of the people. --------5 of 17-------- From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Palestine 9.17 4:30pm Mideast Peace Summit: "Difficult Dialogues:" Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and Dr. Yossi Beilin Monday, September 17, 4:30 p.m. Macalester College, Kagin Commons, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul. Moderated by Former Vice President Walter Mondale. Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and Dr. Yossi Beilin will participate in a panel promoting solutions to the conflicts that divide the Middle East. Dr. Ashrawi is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Jerusalem District, and Dr. Beilin is currently a member of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Sponsored by: Provost. FFI: Visit <www.macalester.edu>. --------6 of 17-------- From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: We/power/war/f 9.17 6:30pm FREE Third Monday Movie and Discussion: "WE" Monday, September 17, 6:30 p.m. St. Joan of Arc Church, Hospitality Hall, 4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis. "WE" is a fast-paced 64 minute documentary that covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation. The film visualizes the words of the eminent Indian author and peace activist Arundhati Roy speaking on such things as the war on terror, corporate globalization, justice and the growing civil unrest -- witty, moving, alarming and a lesson in modern history. Sponsored by: WAMM Third Monday Movies. FFI: Call WAMM, 612-827-5364. --------7 of 17--------- From: Stephen Feinstein <feins001 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Nazi Germany 9.17 7:30pm Omer Bartov, one of the leading historians of Nazi Germany, will present a public lecture and a History Department colloquium. A public lecture based on his newly-released book: "Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine" Monday, September 17 at 7:30 PM Nolte Hall Lounge (See attached flyer) A colloquium to the History Department with a pre-circulated paper: "Testimonies as Historical Evidence: Reconstructing the Holocaust from Below" Tuesday, September 18, 12:00-1:20 Ford Room *precirculated paper available at:* http://chgs.umn.edu/histories/occasional/ --------8 of 17-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Global inequality 9.18 5pm ST PAUL SPNN/channel 15 "Our World In Depth" cablecasts in St. Paul on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings. All households with basic cable can watch! 9/18 5pm and midnight and 9/19 10am "Globalization and the Age of Inequality". Interview of the widely-read, Indian, muckraking journalist P. Sainath. (this show contains economics!). Hosted by Karen Redleaf. --------9 of 17-------- From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Lake St history 9.18 6pm "Right on Lake Street" Opening Celebration Tuesday, September 18, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Minnesota History Center, 345 Kellogg Boulevard West, St. Paul. Take a fun, funky trip through the heart and history of Minneapolis' most vibrant neighborhood with the new exhibit Right on Lake Street. The exhibit will feature WAMM members and activists Marie Braun and Brigid McDonald. Adults: $8.00, Seniors and Students: $6.00, Children (6 to 17 years): $4.00, Children (5 and under) and MHS Members: Free. FFI: Visit <www.mnhs.org>. --------10 of 17-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Leonard Cohen 9.18 6:30pm The Salon Tuesday will be a celebration of the songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen. Please bring any favorites you have to read and maybe to discuss. Lyrics of his music can be found on the internet. We will play some on CD's and show clips from the documentary "I'm Your Man." Hope to see you. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------11 of 17-------- From: Impeach <lists [at] impeachforpeace.org> Subject: Impeach for peace 9.18 7pm Impeach for Peace We meet Tuesdays at 7pm at Joe's Garage (Restaurant along Loring Park) 1610 Harmon Pl Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 904-1163 --------12 of 17-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com> Subject: Bus send-off 9.18 7pm If you are unable to ride the bus to D.C., please consider donating to help pay for someone else's bus seat. Attending a national anti-war demonstration is an inspiring and powerful experience. We don't want a lack of funds to prevent people from participating. We also want to make sure the bus is filled to keep costs down and to best represent the thriving anti-war movement in Minnesota. Any and all financial contributions are welcome and appreciated. On Tuesday, Sept 18, we are holding a send-off party for bus riders at May Day Books (301 Cedar Ave. S, Mpls) from 7-9 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Donations will benefit the bus rider scholarship fund. For a tax deductible donation, make checks payable to the Anti-War Committee Education Fund. Checks intended to reserve your spot on the bus should be made out to the Anti-War Committee with "bus trip" in the memo field. Thanks for your participation and support, Anti-War Committee 1313 5th St. SE Minneapolis, MN 55414 --------13 of 17-------- Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 22:54:12 -0500 From: Senator John Marty <jmarty [at] apple-pie.org> Subject: Growing Wage Gap at U of M Apple Pie Alliance <http://www.apple-pie.org> To the Point! Growing Wage Gap at U of M Causes Real Hardship by Senator John Marty September 15, 2007 "I'm not trying to live in the lap of luxury; I'm just trying to get by. My family has had some medical issues and now we are losing our home in December." -- a 33 year employee of the University of Minnesota The current University of Minnesota strike is typical of labor disputes around the country. The workers say they need and deserve better wages, management says they cannot afford them. As in every strike, management and labor see things differently. The University wants to count existing seniority pay adjustments as part of the increase that they are negotiating. AFSCME, the union representing the striking workers, points out that the seniority increases are already in their current contract, and that level of pay is already owed them. They say that the University, like the state, has always negotiated pay increases on top of the seniority increases and that the U of M did so again for another union just a few weeks ago. Regardless of how one talks about the increases, when inflation is factored in, a new clerical worker starting at the University today makes about 5% less than someone taking the identical job in 2003. These are not highly paid employees; they include some of the lowest paid workers at the University. They really need more money. The average clerical, technical and health care worker makes $34,000 per year. That is the average; starting workers make much less. One striking employee said that even after working at the U of M full-time for 11 years, his family of four qualifies for food stamps. This worker is not alone. A survey of these employees two years ago found many were struggling financially. There were workers who skipped doses of their medications, who couldn't pay their monthly rent, who borrowed money to buy food. Others put their kids on the free school lunch program and rely on energy assistance to make ends meet. A 12-year employee said she used vacation time in order to work more hours at her second job. She was one of many who relied on a food shelf to supplement her family's diet. Just as poignantly, several talked about what they could do with better compensation: --"I could stay on top of my monthly bills instead of constantly picking out the most important ones each month, and pushing the others back months. Monthly bills increase in the winter." --"(I would) save money. That is my main concern - not being able to save for my family's future, and that is what scares me the most." Ironically, many of these people who work for the University of Minnesota could not afford to send their own children to school there. The employees point out that the legislature appropriated funding for 3.25% increases, but the University says that it cannot afford that much for the AFSCME workers. President Robert Bruininks said, "We believe we have a fair offer out there, and we believe we have to run the University in a way that is responsible to all of its employees." Last year, the university president's salary was $384,000. That is more than the average striking worker makes in a decade. On top of that, his compensation package included an additional $150,000 that he receives in deferred compensation, for a total of $539,000. Everybody expects the University President to receive good compensation. But this year, his salary increased by $39 thousand, and his deferred compensation jumped an additional $25 thousand, bringing his total compensation to $598,000. That works out to be a 12% increase this year. Just the increase in his compensation, $64,000, is almost double what the average striking worker makes in a year. This does not meet Bruininks' own criteria that the University be "responsible to all of its employees." It is easy to see why the AFSCME workers feel they are treated unfairly. The growing income gap between workers and management is certainly not unique to the University. Northwest Airlines workers recently had massive wage and benefit cuts imposed on them to help the company get out of bankruptcy. As the airline was emerging from bankruptcy on the backs of its employees, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland and other top executives took multi-million dollar bonuses. The number of people struggling to find affordable housing and health care continues to grow. The wage gap between employers and management continues to grow. There is a connection. People know this is happening in Corporate America. But we expect better from the University of Minnesota. President Bruininks and his Administration are paid to make some big financial decisions. It is sad that they appear blind to the impact of their actions on the lives of their own employees. --------14 of 17-------- How the U.S. Schemed Against Spain's Transition from Dictatorship to Democracy By VICENTE NAVARRO CounterPunch September 15-16, 2007 According to conventional wisdom in Spain and in the U.S., in Spain's transition from the Franco dictatorship to democracy, it was King Juan Carlos, with the assistance of the U.S. government (first the Ford administration, then the Carter administration), who brought democracy to Spain. In this interpretation of events taking place from 1975, when the dictator died, to 1978, when the first democratically elected government was installed, the U.S. government actively supported the development of democracy in Spain. The reality, however, was very different. As documented in a recent book by Nicolas Sartorins and Alberto Sabio, El Final de la Dictadura (The End of the Dictatorship), the U.S. government was not very keen on having full democracy in Spain. The primary, if not exclusive, concern of the U.S. government in Spain was to preserve its military and economic interests. Democracy in Spain was the least of its concerns. As a matter of fact, the U.S. government would have preferred to keep both Franco and the dictatorial regime alive and in good health, rather than open up a democratic process with an uncertain outcome. As the U.S. ambassador in Spain, Mr. Stabler, wrote in February 1975 to Secretary of State (under President Ford) Henry Kissinger, "It will be much easier to reach an agreement with the Spanish Government to renew the military bases in that country if Franco stays in power. But he is not going to last much longer and the transition to a post-Franco era has already begun"(Archives of the Gerald Ford Foundation. National Security Advisor, Box 12, Spain). Beginning in 1945, the U.S. government saw Spain as a military base. The democratic forces in Spain, which had helped the Allies in defeating the Nazi regime in Europe (the first battalion to liberate Paris consisted of Spanish republicans), were hoping that the collapse of the Hitler regime would be followed by the collapse of one of its main allies in Europe - the Franco regime. To bring about that collapse, the Spanish democratic forces needed U.S. and allied support. But the Truman administration had different thoughts. Even though the Cold War had not yet officially begun, the U.S. government saw Franco's anti-communist stance as an important asset, and his willingness to please the allied forces (to make them forget his support for Hitler) made him very agreeable to the U.S. demands. The most important of these, expressed in a Pentagon study published on April 19, 1945, was the need for the U.S. government to establish its own Gibraltar in Spain. And this it did - not just one (Rota), but six U.S. military bases equivalent to Gibraltar were established in Spain. It was Truman [a real bastard -ed] who gave the green light to save Franco's regime, and it was Eisenhower who visited Spain to give that regime the international recognition Franco craved. From then on, the U.S. government became the major ally to one of the most hated dictatorships in the history of Europe. (Franco assassinated nearly 200,000 people immediately after his fascist coup in 1939.) The U.S. government also pushed for membership of the Franco regime in NATO, a proposal that was too much for the U.S.'s European allies to accept. They vetoed it. The U.S. military bases came up for renewal in 1975, when Franco's days were numbered. The Ford administration was aware that the Franco regime was very unpopular, and so were the U.S. government and its military bases in Spain. Even in a poll carried out during the dictatorship (which repressed all opposition views), the majority of Spaniards had indicated they wanted U.S. military bases out of Spain. During the period 1974-1978, the Spanish working class was restless. Its opposition to the dictatorship was very active. No other country in Europe witnessed such strong popular agitation against its government. From 1974 to 1977, Spain saw enormous labor agitation, the largest in Western Europe since World War II. This worried the Ford administration. Moreover, Portugal was in the midst of a military and popular revolt against Franco's best friend in Portugal, the dictator Salazar. The Pentagon even made plans in case Portugal and Spain were taken over by political forces hostile to U.S. interests: the U.S. would support the establishment of an Atlantic government, allied to the U.S., to include the Islands of Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. The Pentagon was still recovering from its defeat in Vietnam (Saigon "fell" on April 30, 1975), and in Europe the left was positioned to win the elections in France and Italy. It was clear to the Ford administration that however much it might prefer seeing Franco remain in power, things in Spain and elsewhere were getting quite rough for U.S. government interests; it could not afford to lose Spain. And the King became the solution. Franco had appointed Juan Carlos as his successor, and at his coronation he had sworn loyalty to the fascist party (El Movimiento National). But the King (and the U.S. administration) was aware that something needed to change in Spain. The "Democratic Conversion" of the Spanish King King Juan Carlos appointed Arias Navarro, a close confidant of the dictator Franco, to lead his first government. The ministers of this government, presided over by the King, were linked to U.S. economic interests and were profoundly pro-U.S. government. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Areilza, was Spanish ambassador to the U.S. in the 1950s and was close to Rockefeller family interests and the Chase Manhattan Bank. The Minister of Justice, Mr. Garriges Diaz-Caisabete, was Spanish Ambassador in the U.S. in the 1960s (and had played a key role in the renewal of U.S. military bases in Spain) and consultant to many U.S. corporations in Spain. The Vice-President, Mr. Osorio, was once president of the Spanish affiliate of Exxon. The Minister of the Economy, Mr. Vilar Mirt, had been head of a major steel company of the United Steel Corporation. It was this government that signed the renewal of the U.S. military bases. Just as Franco had needed the military bases to gain U.S. government support, so the King now needed U.S. support to gain legitimacy and international recognition. And the U.S. government gladly offered both, even though the brutality of this government of the Monarchy rivaled that of the Franco regime. Torture, political assassinations, and jailing of political opponents were common practice in Spain under the Arias Navarro government, and the U.S. government was fully aware of this. A reception given by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for King Juan Carlos at the Waldorf Astoria in New York was met by demonstrations against the royal visit, organized by Amnesty International. [US foreign policy is now, and has always been, the enemy of democracy. US foreign policy is now, and has always been, run by the ruling class, the arch-enemy of democracy. US foreign policy is just the anti-democracy of the the ruling class, writ large. The ruling class doesn't respect other countries, and it doesn't respect us, the people, either. Sound shocking? The ruling class has the best PR money can buy, so the preceding sounds to most people like wild blasphemy. With near-infinite money, anything is possible, and we can be programmed to believe anything. -ed] The same support for the Spanish monarchy came from the Carter administration and its Secretary of State, Mr. Cyrus Vance. The profoundly anti-communist position of the King made him attractive to the Carter government, which had pressured its European allies to admit Spain to the European Common Market. The U.S. government thought Spain's entry into the Common Market would be good for U.S. business interests based in Spain. Here again, no concerns were expressed by the U.S. government that Spain was still a dictatorship, now led not by a general but by a king. The European governments, however, were not ready to admit the Spanish dictatorship into the Common Market. The German Premier Helmut Schmidt, a social democrat, vetoed it. Not so, incidentally, Germany's foreign secretary, the liberal Mr. Gensher, who supported it. He was fairly representative of the European liberal parties (which are right-wing parties in Europe), which had always put their economic interests above any liberal concerns. It was the social democratic governing parties that vetoed entry of the Spanish dictatorship to the European Common Market. Continuing labor demonstrations forced the fall of Arias Navarro's government and the establishment of a new monarchic government, led by Suarez, who had been Secretary General of the fascist movement and had supported most of the repressive measures of the Arias Navarro government. Suarez, along with the King, knew the situation could become explosive - indeed, the first year of the Suarez government saw the greatest labor unrest - unless a more open process was put in place, with legalization of all parties, including the Communist Party. The electoral rules, however, would be designed to discriminate against the working class and against progressive areas of the country, electoral rules that continue to this day. For example, the province of Segovia, a conservative stronghold, needs only 30,000 votes to elect a member of the Spanish parliament. Barcelona, a stronghold for progressive forces, needs 150,000 votes. And although the alliance of left-wing forces - Izquierda Unida (to the left of the Socialist Party), which includes the Spanish Communist Party - is the third largest party in Spain by popular vote, it is only the fifth largest in Parliament, reduced to a small parliamentary group. This small piece of history explains why European polls show that, of the populations of Europe, the Spanish population is the least friendly toward U.S. foreign policy. However, correctly reading the political situation in the U.S., the Spanish people have never identified the U.S. government and its policies with the majority of the people who live and work in the U.S. According to the same polls, compared with much of continental Europe, the Spanish population has a greater empathy for average folk in the U.S. - that is, for the people and the popular culture. They share the opinion held by the majority of the U.S. population expressed in many polls that the federal government does not primarily represent their interests. Vicente Navarro is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the Pompeu Fabra University, Spain, and The Johns Hopkins University, USA. In 2002 he was awarded the Anagrama Prize (Spain's equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in the USA) for his denunciation of the way in which the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been engineered, in his book Bienestar Insuficiente Democracia Incompleta, De lo que no se hable en nuestro pais (Insufficient Welfare, Incomplete Democracy; a book about what is being silenced in Spain). He can be reached at vnavarro [at] jhsph.edu --------15 of 17-------- Plummeting Dollar, Credit Crunch... Final Stop: Soup Kitchen U.S.A. By MIKE WHITNEY CounterPunch September 15-16, 2007 The days of the dollar as the world's "reserve currency" may be drawing to a close. In August, foreign central banks and governments dumped a whopping 3.8 per cent of their holdings of US debt. Rising unemployment and the ongoing housing slump have triggered fears of a recession sending wary foreign investors running for the exits. China, Japan and Taiwan have been leading the sell off which has caused the steepest decline since 1992. To some extent, the losses have been concealed by the up-tick in Treasuries sales to US investors who've been fleeing the money markets in droves. Investors have been trying to avoid the fallout from money funds that have been contaminated by mortgage-backed assets. Naturally, they bought US government bonds which are considered a safe bet. But that doesn't change the fact that the dollar's foundation is steadily eroding and that foreign support for the dollar is vanishing. US bonds are no longer regarded as a "safe haven". The dollar slumped to a 15 year low against 6 of its most actively traded peers and set the stage for an early morning market rout on Wall Street. Foreign investment and currency deregulation has been a real boon for the stock market which thrives of a steady flow of cheap capital. It's also been good for ravenous consumers who like to borrow boatloads of low interest cash for their toys, SUVs and McMansions. Of course, when things seem too good to last - they usually don't. The economy is contracting; credit is getting tighter, and the stock market is flailing about aimlessly. As capital flight accelerates; interest rates in the US will rise, unemployment will mushroom, and the dollar will fall. It can't be avoided. American markets and consumers will be compelled to curb their appetite for cheap foreign credit. Overseas investors own more than $4.4 trillion in US debt in the form of bonds and securities. Even if they sell only 25 per cent of that sum, the US would feel the pinch of hyper-inflation. For the last decade foreigners have been eager to by our Treasuries and equities - gobbling up America's enormous $800 billion current account deficit and keeping demand for the dollar artificially high. But just like the subprime mortgage holder whose "teaser rate" has suddenly expired; the US now faces the painful adjustment of higher payments and less discretionary income for indulgences. Maybe the charade could have carried on a bit longer if not for the belligerent Bush foreign policy that has alienated friends and foes alike. But, then, maybe not. After all, the Fed's loose monetary policies added to Bush's extravagant spending - $3 trillion added to the National Debt in just 6 years - doomed the country from the beginning. Deficit spending has been the central organizing principle from day 1. Now comes the hangover. Federal Reserve chairman Bernanke is expected to drop the Fed funds rate on September 18. The move will provide more "easy credit-crack" for the addicts on Wall Street but it could also trigger a run on the dollar. That's what keeps the Fed chief up at night. The Bush Team was warned repeatedly by the Bank of International Settlements, the World Bank, the IMF and the European Central Bank that its policies were "unsustainable" and would end in an economic meltdown. But they brushed aside the warnings with the same casual indifference as they did the critics of the war in Iraq. Why would they care if the country suffered? Their friends would still get their unfunded tax cuts. Their private armies and "no bid" contractors would still get their payola. The Democrats would still cave in on the enormous "off budget" war spending. And, they'd still be able to print as much counterfeit money as they chose until every last copper farthing was drained from the public till. No worries. Besides the media would mop up the mess they'd made with their usual "happy talk". As the economic calamity unfolds, we can expect to see the usual parade of lacquer-haired phonies on the Business Channel singing the praises of "free markets". The problems we're now facing should have been easy to spot for anyone willing to look beyond the empty rhetoric of the TV Pollyannas or their cheerleading co-conspirators at the White House. It was a hoax. And the seven years of sleepwalking has cost us dearly. Unemployment is up, consumer spending is down, the housing market has slipped into recession, and the stock market is lurching back and forth like an overloaded washing machine. All of this could have been foreseen by anyone with minimal critical thinking skills and a healthy dose of skepticism of government. Consider this: US GDP is 70 per cent consumer spending. That means that wages have to increase beyond the rate of inflation OR THE ECONOMY CAN'T GROW. It's just that simple. So how is it that 50 per cent of the American people still believe Bush's supply side baloney that cutting taxes for the uber-rich strengthens the economy? How does that increase wages or build a healthy middle class? If we want a strong economy wages have to keep pace with productivity so that workers can buy the goods they produce. Greenspan knows that. So does Bush. But they chose to hide it behind an "easy credit" smokescreen so they could weaken the dollar, off-shore thousands of industries, out-source 3 million manufacturing jobs, fund an illegal war, and maintain the lethal flow of the $800 billion current account deficit into American equities and Treasuries. In truth, there hasn't been any growth in the economy since Bush took office in 2000. What we've seen is an ever-expanding bubble of personal and corporate debt amplified by a "structured finance" system that magically transforms liabilities (subprime loans) into securities and increases their value through leveraging. That's it. No growth - just a galaxy of debt-instruments with odd-sounding names (CDOs, MBSs, CDSs, etc) stacked precariously on top of each other. That's what we call "wealth" in America. It's all smoke and mirrors. The financial system has decoupled from the productive elements of the economy and is now beginning to show disturbing signs of instability. That's why there's the big blow-off in the bond market. The halcyon days of supplying our armies, funding our markets and building our subprime "ownership society" empire on the backs of foreign creditors is over. The stock market is headed for the landfill and housing is leading the way. Economic fundamentals can only be ignored for so long. The problems began when Greenspan dropped interest rates to 1 per cent in 2003 for more than a year pumping trillions of low interest credit into the economy. This created the appearance of prosperity but it also inflated a massive equity bubble in housing which is now in its death throes. The Fed "rubber stamped" many of the "creative financing" scams which lowered lending standards and turned the subprime fiasco into a $1.5 trillion doomsday machine. Greenspan said this week that he hadn't anticipated the real estate disaster. The devastation in real estate is almost too vast to comprehend. The mortgage bubble is roughly $5.5 trillion, and yet, prices have just begun to fall. It's a long way to the bottom and there's bound to be plenty of bloodshed ahead. Two million homeowners will lose their homes. 151 mortgage lenders have already gone belly up. Many of the hedge funds - which are loaded with billions of dollars in "mortgage-backed" securities are struggling to stay alive. Perhaps the most shocking projection was made by Yale University Professor, Robert Schiller, who believes that home prices could decline as much as 50 per cent in some of the "hotter markets". (Schiller's book "Irrational Exuberance" predicted the dot.com bust before it took place.) The effects on the US economy would be considerable. If other factors come into play - like a stock market crash and a subsequent period of deflation - we could see housing prices descend 90 per cent as they did between 1928 and 1933. It's possible. Typically, housing bubbles deflate very slowly, over a period of 5 to 10 years. Not this time. Credit problems in the broader market are speeding up the pace of the decline. The subprime sarcoma has spread to all loan categories and filtered into the banking system. This is forcing the banks to hoard reserves to cover their potential losses (from CDOs and mortgage-backed bonds "gone bad"). Now, even credit worthy applicants are being turned away on new mortgages. At the same time, "nearly half of borrowers with adjustable rate mortgages were not able to refinance their loans. That's a major concern for policymakers as an estimated 2.5 million mortgages given to borrowers with weak credit will reset at higher rates by the end of next year". (Associated Press) Think about that. It's no longer just a matter of 40 per cent of loan-types disappearing overnight (Subprime, Alt-A, piggyback, negative amortization, interest only etc). Even people with good credit are being rejected because the banks are hoarding capital. That suggests the banks are in dire straights and hiding losses that are kept off their balance sheets. (more on this later) So, it's harder to get a mortgage. And, if you already have one you may not be able to roll it over. This will greatly accelerate the rate of the housing crash. (In fact, the LA Business Journal reported on Sunday that home sales plunged 50 per cent in one month. We can expect to see similar numbers in all the hot spots.) Dollar Woes The troubles facing the dollar are as grave as those in housing. The stock market and the teetering hedge funds are counting on an interest rate cut, but they've ignored the effects it will have on the greenback. If Bernanke lowers rates, as everyone expects, the bottom could drop out of the dollar. We're already seeing gold soar to new highs (above $700 per Ounce) That's an indication of dollar-weakness and a potential sell-off of US Treasuries. If Bernanke lowers rates, the greenback will nosedive. Author Gary Dorsch explains the potential hazards in his recent article, "Hopes for an Easier Fed Policy Boost the Euro and Copper": "Interest rate differentials have played a key role in determining exchange rates. Since the ECB (European Central Bank) began its rate hike campaign in December 2005, the US dollar's interest rate advantage over the Euro has narrowed from 240 basis points to as low as 70 basis points today. Thus, the Fed can only afford a small rate cut to bail out Wall Street bankers who hold toxic sub-prime debt and avoid tipping the dollar into a free-fall. But that might not be enough to prevent a housing led recession in the months ahead". After years of abuse under Greenspan - an $800 billion current account deficit, a $9 billion per month war, and a 13 per cent yearly increase in the money supply - the poor dollar has run out of wiggle-room. If the Fed slashes rates, the mighty greenback will be a dead duck. Commercial Paper: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You Commercial paper is something that is rarely understood outside of the investor class. It is, however, a critical factor in keeping the markets operating smoothly. "Commercial paper is highly-rated short-term notes that offer investors a safe haven investment with a yield slightly above certificates of deposit or government debt. Banks use the money to purchase longer-term investments such as corporate receivables, auto loans credit card debt, or mortgagees". (Wall Street Journal 9-5-07) Commercial paper has been vanishing at an alarming rate in the last month. $240 billion has been drained in just the last 3 weeks. (There is $2.2 trillion of commercial paper in circulation in the US) Because CP is "short term", hundreds of billions of dollars need to roll over (be refinanced) regularly. CP is at the very heart of the credit crisis which has spread through the financial markets and it could result in a massive catastrophe. The large investment banks are in a panic - and that is probably an understatement. Consider this article in the UK Telegraph which provides an eye-popping summary of what is going on behind the scenes. U.K. Telegraph, "Banks Face 10-Day Debt Time Bomb": "Britain's biggest banks could be forced to cough up as much as 70bn over the next 10 days, as the credit crisis that has seized the global financial system sparks a fresh wave of chaos. "Almost 20 per cent of the short-term money market loans issued by European banks are due to mature between September 11 and September 19. Senior bankers fear that they will have to refinance almost all of these debts with funds from their own coffers, putting a further strain on bank balance sheets. "Tens of billions of pounds of these commercial paper loans have already built up in the financial system, because fear-ridden investors no longer want to buy them. Roughly 23bn of these loans expire on September 17 alone. "Fears of this impending call on bank credit lines are the true reason that lending between banks has ground to a halt, according to senior money market sources. "Banks have been stockpiling cash in preparation for this "double rollover" week, which sees quarterly loans expire alongside shorter term debts - exacerbating a problem that lies at the heart of the credit crisis." (UK Telegraph) Fortunately, the British still have a few newspapers.like the Telegraph - that still report the news. That is not the case in the US. There's roughly $1.3 trillion in "asset-backed" commercial paper filtering through American markets. These are the notes that are connected to mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) that no one wants and which have NO MARKET VALUE. They are referred to as "toxic waste". (No one is buying anything remotely connected to real estate CDOs) Hundreds of billions of dollars of CP has been issued through SIVs (structured investment vehicles) and "conduits" which are affiliates (subsidiaries) of the large banks. The banks have kept these operations hidden from the public, but now they are in the spotlight because they cannot meet their obligations and are stuck with billions of CP that they cannot refinance. (The reader may recall that Enron kept similar "off balance sheets" operations secret from the public before they declared bankruptcy) The banks are now forced to assume responsibility for the commercial paper held by their affiliates, which means that they need sufficient capitalization to cover the losses. Sound confusing? Don't give up, yet! The bottom line is this: The banks are responsible for hundreds of billions of dollars in commercial paper that probably won't be refinanced. It is beginning to look like they don't have the reserves to cover their losses. That's why we continue to believe that the banks are in trouble. According to the Wall Street Journal: So do the banks and their shareholders have nothing to worry about? Not quite..Negligible losses in August were enough to force the banks to run to the authorities for help. Regulators may decide that the best way to prevent a recurrence is to require banks to hold more capital. They might even limit some types of transactions. Such moves might be good for the economy, but would reduce the bank's returns on equity. ("Banks Seem Fine - For Now", WSJ, 9-8-07) Read carefully and I think you will agree with me that the WSJ is "tipping its hand" and suggesting that the banks needed "more capital" even after "negligible losses". The predicament is much more serious now. Bank troubles are never minor. That's why there has been so much effort put into covering up the real source of the problem. When people lose their confidence in the banks, they lose their confidence in the system. That ends up inciting social turmoil. Don't think they're not aware of that at the White House. The Likelihood of a Hard Landing Notwithstanding the imminent shakeup at the major investment banks, the path ahead is poorly lit and full of potholes. The reckless policies of the last 7 years have edged us ever-closer to the inevitable day of reckoning. Professor Nouriel Roubini summed it up best in a recent blog-entry, "The Coming US Hard Landing": The forthcoming easing of monetary policy by the Fed will not rescue the economy and financial markets from a hard landing as it will be too little too late. The Fed underestimated the severity of the housing recession, its spillovers to other sectors, and the contagion of the sub-prime carnage to other mortgage markets and to the overall financial markets. Fed easing will not work for several reasons: the Fed will cut rate too slowly as it is still worried about inflation and about the moral hazard of perceptions of rescuing reckless investors and lenders; we have a glut of housing, autos and consumer durables and the demand for these goods becomes relatively interest rate insensitive once you have a glut that requires years to work out; serious credit problems and insolvencies cannot be resolved by monetary policy alone; and the liquidity injections by the Fed are being stashed in excess reserves by the banks, not re-lent to the parts of the financial markets where the liquidity crunch is most severe and worsening. The Fed provided liquidity to banking institutions but it cannot provide direct liquidity to hedge funds, investment banks, other highly leveraged institutions and parts of the credit markets - such as asset backed commercial paper - where the crunch is severe. Thus, the liquidity crunch in most credit markets remains severe, even in the usually most liquid interbank markets.(Nouriel Roubini's Blog) There are no quick-fixes or "silver bullets" as Bush likes to say. It'll take years to dig our way out of this mess. In the meantime, there's little to look forward to except the steady weakening of the dollar, the persistent decline in housing and the looming police-state apparatus that's supposed to keep us in line while the soup kitchens open. Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney [at] msn.com --------16 of 17-------- Iraq, Deep In Your Bones A war that isn't really a war, the great humiliation that's ours forever. Is there any upside? by Mark Morford Published on Friday, September 14, 2007 by The San Francisco Chronicle CommonDreams We are, of course, mostly fighting against ourselves. It must be repeated every so often, just as a painful, necessary, ego-tweaking reminder: Iraq was never a war. Not really, not in any sense that mattered or that we could actually define and understand or to which we could truly submit ourselves or our national identity. It never mattered how many little American flags appeared on how many bloated Chevy Avalanches, how many right-wing radio shows found a new reason to pule, how many furiously blindered uber-patriots happily ignored all the harsh words from all those naysaying generals or even all the "turncoat" anti-war Republicans and insisted we're really over there to fight some sort of great Islamic demon no one can actually see or locate or define but that we must, somehow, attempt to destroy - even though doing so only seems to make the situation far, far worse. There was never any coherent, justifiable heroic cause. Indeed, the truth about Iraq, as evidenced by Gen. David Petreaus. muted, bleak testimony before Congress just this week, is much more simple, nefarious, pathetic. Iraq is, was, and forever will be our very own massive strategic blunder, a failed land grab for position and power in a tinderbox region defined by furious instability and corruption and death. It's the great unspoken subtext. Iraq has always been a war between our dueling national identities, a battle over how we are to move and breathe and behave in the new millennium. Are we really this violently paranoid bully, this rogue pre-emptive screw-em-all ideological war machine defined by the dystopian Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld vision of permanent, ongoing global conflict? Or do we try, instead, to move forward and reinvent ourselves over and over again as the world's most commited, forceful peacekeeper, ever striving for balance and cooperation and tact, even in the face of hardship and fundamentalist rage, refusing to be taunted and dragged down lest we take the bait and lose our minds and engage in torture and misprision and ultraviolence and become little better, ideologically speaking, than our taunters? Have we already made our choice? Because the truth is, we are well past the point of salvaging anything noble or honest from Bush's massive, historic debacle. We have only this brutal reality: Iraq is, and forever will be, one of the most extraordinary wastes in all of American history. A waste of money. A waste of time. A stunning, almost unspeakable waste of life. A waste of resources and intellectual capital and a massive waste of national spirit. A waste of energy and hope and a giant squandering of any goodwill or empathy our former allies might've had for America in its post-9/11 state. Heard it all before? Sure you have. Some scenes remain almost comical in their absurdity. Perhaps you saw that money, those enormous, ridiculous piles of American cash, the photos floating around of American soldiers guarding giant, shrink-wrapped pallets of U.S. currency known as "cashpaks," each reportedly containing about $1.6 million in stacks of $100 bills, all airlifted by the ton straight from the Federal Reserve and set down in the Iraqi sun like rotting fruit, small mountains of your tax dollars earmarked to buy off various warlords and pay for covert, unauthorized operations all over the Middle East in an attempt to buy our way into some sort of impossible, forced stability. Right. Or maybe it's the bodies, the sheer waste of American flesh, not merely the thousands of U.S. dead or even the countless tens of thousands of dead Iraqi citizens but also the lesser-known horrors, like the epidemic of brain-damaged U.S. soldiers, thousands of them, so many that they're becoming their own category of study in medical textbooks given how they're beginning to exhibit combinations of trauma doctors have never seen before. What a recruitment poster this is. Come fight in the American military. We're exhausted, overstretched, bewildered, have lowered our entrance barrier to accept D-grade students and former inmates, have almost zero idea what we're actually fighting for, and serve under a Commander in Chief who cares more about trying to shore up his wretched legacy than for the loss of American life. Oh and by the way, odds are extremely high you will return home permanently wounded, traumatized, or brain damaged. How very proud we are. We all know the current reality: We are not safer. We are not better off in any measurable way. We are not stronger or more unified or prouder or more respected or healthier or wealthier or wiser and we have done exactly zero to stem the flood of radical Islam or the general outpouring of global disgust at what America has become under this president. This is our scar. This is our great American shame. So, what do you do with it? Or with the prospect of still more weeks, months, even years of this dull slog of war? Because the fact is, as Petreaus. testimony essentially confirmed, we will be in Iraq at least through the (blessed) end of Bush's nightmare term, and likely well beyond, given how entrenched and ensnared our forces have become. Perhaps we can take the long view, the wide view, the spiritual or karmic view, even, insofar as the short and linear view has become so stifling and deadly and useless. Perhaps this is the only way. Because truly, many in the alternative set, the lightworkers and the gurus and the healers and the deep teachers, those who think outside the war room and beyond the bland academic platitudes, these people tend see Iraq, BushCo, the American right and all the sanctimonious bleakness surrounding them as merely the inky remnants of a passing disease, the last, vicious gasp of a dying ideology, the violent struggle of resistance that always erupts before any great cosmic shift. Which is to say: The screeching of the Christian right, the shrill alarmism from cultural conservatives regarding everything from sex and drugs and music to gays and nipples and creationism, the rejection of science, the attacks on women's rights, the abuse of the environment, all the way up to the bleakest and ugliest manisfestation of all, a brutal and unwinnable war - taken as a whole, these can, if you so choose, be seen as merely the embers of a hugely failed - and yes, nearly extinct - worldview. Here is the hesitant optimism, the hint of the new, the tentative suggestion that all is not lost: By many measures, the worst of it is over. There really is light coming, a new awareness, a shift away from the bleakness and the rot and the wallowing in bland violence. Perhaps you can feel it. Or perhaps you need to be ready to feel it. Either way, it's there. You have but to do the most easy/difficult thing of all: you must look behind the veil, see the two dueling Americas, and make your choice. Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. The San Francisco Chronicle --------17 of 17-------- Elite heaven on earth The ruling class is perfecting the technology to outsource jobs to hell. Work faster or the flames burn higher. Free labor. The main problem is transporting goods to and from; the deal with the devil has long been made (the details are in the devil). Once perfected, it's on to the souls in heaven. What right have angels to sit on their superfine asses all day, playing harps and praising goodness truth and beauty, when they could be doing their bit for the upper upper class? However, it means, whether you're bad or good, in hell or in heaven, work for The Man goes on and on and on, work without end, amen. This is only as it should be. Once the system is up and running, earth-side workers will be "sent early" to their final working places. It saves salary, and preempts revolt. Elite heaven on earth. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - 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 To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney
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