Progressive Calendar 02.17.08
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2008 04:07:11 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    02.17.08

1. Atheist radio    2.17 9am
2. Speak V Israel?  2.17 12:15pm
3. FNVW             2.17 1pm
4. German film      2.17 2pm
5. Health Act/AM950 2.17 3pm
6. Amnesty Intl     2.17 3pm
7. Vs corp tyranny  2.17 3pm
8. Conscience v war 2.17 6:30pm
9. KFAI/Indian      2.17 7pm

10. Vs guns         2.18 9:30am
11. MN Health Act   2.18 12:30pm
12. Feminism class  2.18 6pm
13. Iraq/film       2.18 6:30pm

14. Ted Dooley  - A taser for every StPaul cop by RNC time
15. Alan Maass  - Taking Upton Sinclair to the big screen (and beyond)
16. Ralph Nader - An open letter to President Bush/We the Corporations..
17. Alex Cockburn - Terrorist Moody's at Ground Zero
18. ed          - Canine Orange Alert

--------1 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Atheist radio 2.17 9am

Sun., Feb. 17, 9-10 a.m. - Minnesota Atheists "Atheists Talk" radio
program, KTNF AM 950 (Minneapolis/St. Paul).  Stream live at
AirAmericaMinnesota.com/listen.  (MinnesotaAtheists.org)


--------2 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Speak V Israel? 2.17 12:15pm

Sunday, Feb. 17, at Central Lutheran, 333 S. 12th St., Mpls: "When Is
Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic: Always, Never, Sometimes?" Karen Redleaf
speaks at forum sponsored by ELCA Mpls and St. Paul Area Synods. A St.
Paul peace activist, Karen "was raised a Zionist and now is relearning
everything absorbed over a Zionist lifetime." Lunch (optional, $7) at
12:15, program 12:45. Info: Dick Hilden, 612-825-1581


--------3 of 18--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: FNVW 2.17 1pm

Sunday, 2/17, 1 to 3 pm, annual meeting of Friends for a Non-Violent
World, Twin Cities Friends Meeting House, 1725 Grand Ave, St Paul.
matt [at] fnvw.org or http://www.fnvw.org


--------4 of 18--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: German film 2.17 2pm

Sunday, 2/17, 2 pm, German film (1946) "The Murderers Are Among Us" of a
woman returning from a concentration camp to find a Dr Hans Mertins living
in her apartment and refusing to leave, Landmark Center's Weyerhaeuser
Auditorium, 75 W 5th St, St Paul.  http://traces.org/programs.html


--------5 of 18--------

From: Don Pylkkanen <don [at] coact.org>
Subject: Health Act/AM950 2.17 3pm

We're continuing the drum beat for the Minnesota Health Act with the fifth
Air America segment this Sunday which will feature the stalwart
single-payer legislators who brought the Act on tour last week. An
opportunity for folks to hear their inspiring account of the public's
overwhelming support for the Health Act wherever they went.

Last week, legislative leaders brought the Minnesota Health Act to
communities in northern and southern Minnesota where crowds turned out to
hear about this legislation for guaranteed, comprehensive, and affordable
health care for all Minnesotans.

These stalwart leaders are Representatives David Bly, Carolyn Laine, and
Shelly Madore, and they will describe their inspiring experience on Air
America's Of the People, AM 950, this Sunday afternoon, February 17, 3 PM.
Tune in to hear them tell about the overwhelming public support for the
bill wherever they went and how people throughout the state are mobilizing
for it.

They were joined by Senator John Marty, Senate co-author of the Health
Act, and together they are part of the health care reform caucus, which is
leading the bill through the legislative process at the state capitol.

So far, 57 legislators have signed on to the bill due to growing public
demand for a state health plan that is universal, affordable,
comprehensive, provides choice of providers, doesn't deny care, and stays
with you regardless of employment, health status, or retirement.

The broadcast is fifth in a series on the Minnesota Universal Health Care
Coalition's campaign for the Minnesota Health Act, and the series will
continue on upcoming Sundays.  Stay tuned and tell friends to listen in.

Host James Mayer will get in as much phone time with callers as possible.
Call 952-946-6205.

You can also stream the program, as long as you can put in a MN zip code,
by going to HYPERLINK "http://www.airamericaminnesota.com/listen";
\nhttp://www.airamericaminnesota.com/listen


--------6 of 18--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 2.17 3pm

GROUP 37 FEBRUARY MEETING REMINDER: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17 - 3 TO 5 P.M.

Join us for our regular meeting on Sunday, February 17th, from 3:00 to
5:00 p.m.

We will share actions on human rights cases around the world and get
updates on the work of our sub-groups.

All are welcome at the meeting, and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Center for Victims of Torture, 717 E. River Rd. SE, Minneapolis
(corner of E. River Rd. and Oak St.). Park on street or in the small lot
behind the center (the Center is a house set back on a large lawn).

A map and directions are available on-line:
http://www.twincitiesamnesty.org/meetings.html


--------7 of 18--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Vs corp tyranny 2.17 3pm

Sun., Feb. 17, 3pm:
Tactics for Fighting Corporate Tyranny

Can we reform our way out of the shackles of corporate tyranny, or, must
we take a more radical path toward liberation?  Two panelists with
opposing views begin discussion.

Events @ Mayday Bookstore, 301 Cedar Ave. Mpls.
IMPACT meets on the 3rd Sunday of every month @ 3pm

IMPACT (Ideas to Mobilize People Against Corporate Tyranny) is a
grassroots group of concerned citizens whose purpose is to raise awareness
about the impact of corporations on our society, promote sustainable
lifestyles, and mobilize ourselves and our communities to take cooperative
action. We believe another world is possible: a world where people and the
earth are more valued than profits!


--------8 of 18--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Conscience v war 2.17 6:30pm

Sunday, 2/17, 6:30 pm, Colonel (Ret.) and diplomat Ann Wright speaks on
"Dissent: Voices of Conscience" as government insiders speak out against
the war in Iraq, Davis Lecture Hall, Campus Center, Macalester College,
1600 Grand Ave, St Paul.  http://www.mppeace.org


--------9 of 18--------

From: Chris Spotted Eagle <chris [at] spottedeagle.org>
Subject: KFAI/Indian 2.17 7pm

KFAI¹s Indian Uprising for February 17, 2008 from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CDT #253

Homeless Native Indigenous in Minnesota. Historically American Indian
people have had limited access to housing and service resources,
compounding the strife of homelessness. A survey of six reservations
identified l,239 homeless or near-homeless. The rate of homelessness is
more on reservations compared to off. ­³Homeless and Near-Homeless People
on Northern Minnesota Indian Reservations,² Wilder Research 2007.
www.wilderresearch.org.

A 2006 statewide study shows that American Indian homeless not on
reservations had more problems than other homeless--for instance, more
chronic health problems and incarcerations and less income and education.
They are also less likely to receive services from shelters or housing
programs. ­³American Indian Homeless in Minnesota² fact sheet, Wilder
Research 2007.  See attached.

A 2003 survey revealed that 1,600-2,900 American Indian youth were
homeless sometime during a year in Minnesota--or about 70 on any given
night. About 13% of homeless youth in the Twin Cities are American Indian
compared to the 2% of the general youth population. These youth are more
likely to have, among other problems, been physically abused, have
children, need a dentist, lack medical coverage and have a parent or
guardian who does not allow them to come home. ­³Homeless Youth in
Minnesota,² Wilder Research 2005

Leah Lindstrom (Welsh/Swede-Finn), Program Manager, Corporation for
Supportive Housing, Minnesota

Norma Renville (Dakota/Ojibwe), Executive Director, Women of Nations.
www.women-of-nations.org

Wade Keezer (White Earth Ojibwe), Homeless Advocate, Oyate Oshkabaywis

EVENT: The Homeless Reservation: A fundraising effort to support American
Indian Homelessness in Minnesota, on Monday Feb. 18th, 5-8:00 p.m., at the
Paul & Sheila Wellstone Center, 179 Robie Street, St. Paul.  This event is
an evening of honoring, dinner, spoken word and entertainment. The event
is free--but donations are accepted for three American Indian Shelters:
Women of Nations, St. Paul / American Indian Community Housing
Organization, Duluth / Red Lake Homeless Shelter. FMI: Jaime Edwards
612-850-2124 or Tom Pliner 651-251-1603 * * * * Indian Uprising a one-hour
radio Public & Cultural Affairs program relevant to Native Indigenous
people, broadcast each Sunday at 7:00 p.m. CDT over KFAI 90.3 FM
Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul.  Producer and host is volunteer Chris
Spotted Eagle. To receive or stop getting announcements:
radio [at] spottedeagle.org

For internet listening, visit www.kfai.org, click Play under ON AIR NOW or
for listening later via their archives, click PROGRAMS & SCHEDULE > Indian
Uprising > STREAM.  Programs are saved for two weeks.


--------10 of 18--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org>
Subject: Vs guns 2.18 9:30am

Monday, February 18: American Association of University Women Minneapolis
Branch. 9:30 AM: Fighting Crime & Illegal Guns. 10:45 AM: Teach for
America. Noon: Lunch. 1:15 PM: Patty Tanji, President, Pay Equality
Coalition of Minnesota.


--------11 of 18--------

From: "Don Pylkkanen" <don [at] coact.org>
Subject: MN Health Act 2.18 12:30pm

The Minnesota Health Act (single-payer universal health care bill) needs
you at its Senate Health Committee hearing
Monday, February 18 (Presidents Day), 12:30,
State Capitol, Senate Health Committee, Room 15, below the rotunda.

We need to pack the hearing room to outnumber the 25 or more health
industry lobbyists who will be there in full force to oppose our bill.

We will wear labels saying "Minnesota Health Plan, YES We Can" to show our
greater number to Committee members and media.

Don't miss this momentous step toward single-payer universal care in our
state. Tell your friends.
 
Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition, 651-646-0900


--------12 of 18--------

From: PRO826 [at] aol.com
Subject: Feminism class 2.18 6pm

I am forwarding information on a free class being taught at Macalester by
Ann Fehn, an associate of Ray Tricomo, our GPM US Senate candidate in
2002. Danene Provencher

The class that I am teaching is called "Women more than 1/2 the sky;  the
coming feminist revolution, the real one" and we are talking about
problems women deal with in today's society, positive and negative
consequences of the women's movement and looking at indigenous cultures
that are closer to gender equality than we are and why.

My class meets on Monday nights from 6:00 to 7:30 at Macalester College in
Humanities room 113.  There are only 4 weeks left of this class but I do
plan on teaching it again in the fall.

As for Ray's classes, he is teaching one called "Indigenous Humanity from
the Great Law of Peace to the 21st Century" which meets on Tuesdays from 6
to 8 at Hamline University in the Giddens Learning Center (GLC)  223 W.

His other class is called "Black Folk: Culture Defeats Holocaust,
Imagining a World Beyond Racism" which meets on Saturdays from 1-3 at
Macalester College in Theater room 205.  You can also go to excotc.org for
a list of all the other experimental college classes and more information
on Ray's classes. Feel free to put my e-mail and phone number where ever
in case people have any questions or comments.  My e-mail is
afehn01 [at] hamline.edu and my phone number is 952-334-0981.  Ray and I are
both very excited about our classes and would like to see as many people
there as possible.


--------13 of 18--------

From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Iraq/film 2.18 6:30pm

FREE Third Monday Movie and Discussion: "Iraq in Fragments"
Monday, February 18, 6:30 p.m. St. Joan of Arc Church, Hospitality Hall,
4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis.

An opus in three parts, award-winning "Iraq In Fragments" offers a series
of intimate, passionately-felt portraits: A fatherless 11-year-old is
apprenticed to the domineering owner of a Baghdad garage; Sadr followers
in two Shiite cities rally for regional elections; a family of Kurdish
farmers welcomes the U.S. presence, which has allowed them a measure of
freedom previously denied. 94 minutes. Sponsored by: WAMM Third Monday
Movies. FFI: Call WAMM, 612-827-5364.


--------14 of 18--------

From: Ted Dooley <614grand [at] winternet.com>
Subject: Das Taser Abteilung of St. Paul on the Mississippi in 2008

ACTIVISTS:

This may be common knowledge to many of you, and certainly it was not
unexpected:

"Last night (Friday) on Fox 9 news they had a story that the St. Paul
Police ordered Tasers for every officer on the force just in time for the
R-convention. "

Everyone attending had best carry at least a disposable camera or two.
And maybe a cheap "pre-paid" cell phone.
The "goon" factor is gaining its head.

Warning to Mayor Chris Coleman: big test, national coverage. Do not become
Mayor Daly. You may survive it politically but your Irish soul will
despair and wither.


--------15 of 18--------

[Bring back the muckrakers! Hit those corporate b*st*rds right where they
live! -ed]

Taking Upton Sinclair to the Big Screen (and Beyond)
Oil, Blood and Greed
By ALAN MAASS
CounterPunch
February 16 / 17, 2008

Upton Sinclair's Oil! is a great book and Paul Thomas Anderson's There
Will Be Blood is a great film, but they're different in many ways - in
tone and themes, their views of the characters, even the basics of what
happens in the story.

There Will Be Blood is racking up the award nominations, and as an added
bonus, Oil! is back in print and easy to find in bookstores. That's a good
thing in today's world of war and corporate greed and worsening poverty -
because the book and the film, despite their differences, do share one
important thing: a revulsion at how the system of capitalism crushes
what's most human out of people.

Anyone who's read Sinclair's most famous novel, The Jungle, about the
meatpacking industry in Chicago, will recognize this subject. The book was
commissioned by the socialist newspaper The Appeal to Reason, where it
premiered in weekly installments in 1905. To write it, Sinclair lived in
the stockyard district in Chicago, soaking up the reality of work and
family life for immigrant meatpackers. Published in book form, The Jungle
had a huge impact - the creation of the Food and Drug Administration to
monitor the food industry was a direct result.

Sinclair's use of naturalistic detail and weaving of real-life events and
people into his stories links him to other great writers of the era, such
as John Dos Passos and John Steinbeck. A member of the Socialist Party for
much of this time, Sinclair wrote with an explicitly political agenda, and
this comes across loud and clear in Oil! which was published in 1927.

The book tells the story of self-made oilman J. Arnold Ross, through the
eyes of his son Bunny. At first, the setting is the oil boomtowns of
Southern California, but the scope broadens to the whole globe. Early on
Bunny meets 16-year-old Paul, who has run away from his desperately poor
family's farm. Much of the rest of the book revolves around these
characters' experiences of the world from their different vantage
points - Bunny's world of wealth and Paul's world of work.

To show the conflict between capital and labor, Sinclair depicts one of
the many oil strikes of the 1910s, with Paul as a union supporter; Ross as
an up-and-coming independent operator, concerned for his employees, but
driven by the competition to take a hard line; and Bunny caught in the
middle, loyal to a father who lives for his happiness, but sympathizing
with Paul and the struggle of labor.

When the U.S. enters the First World War, both young men go into the
military. But Bunny becomes an officer and never leaves the U.S., while
Paul is drafted and ends up serving in Russia, where the U.S. Army
covertly aids the counter-revolutionary White armies threatening the new
workers' state established by the 1917 revolution.

Paul returns from the war a socialist, and Bunny is won over to his
ideals, but the two get different treatment during the post-war Red Scare
- the Ross family lawyers protect Bunny, while Paul spends more time in
jail.

* * *
Oil! IS as much a social history of the U.S. during the early decades of
the 20th century as anything else. Sinclair uses a fictional story to cast
a light on the forces at work behind the non-fictional crimes - both great
and small - of capitalism.

Because he is so intent on drawing the bigger picture, the plot of the
book often feels one step removed from the human drama - sometimes
literally, like when Bunny is whisked away for a vacation among
Manhattan's high society as another strike by oil workers begins, leaving
him to get news of the struggle and offer his sympathy at a distance.

On this point, the contrast with There Will Be Blood is striking. The
movie focuses on the micro level - the details that make up the big
picture - in a way that gives it an immediacy and gut-level emotional
power the book doesn't have.

Some of the main characters and the southern California setting are the
same, but that's about it. J. Arnold Ross becomes Daniel Plainview, and he
has no soft spot at all, for his son or anyone else.

We see him first down a cramped hole, bent over a rock face and pounding
away with a pickax in search of oil shale. The symbolism is obvious -
Plainview's humanness has been stunted by the ambition for wealth that
drives him to spend his days in the shadows, underground. There are almost
no crowd scenes in the movie - the largest groups at any point number no
more than three dozen - which underlines the desolation of the landscape,
both natural and human.

Plainview's one connection to the world of other people seems to be Bunny,
but when a freak accident puts a barrier between them, he cuts this last
tie. The most wrenching scene in a movie filled with them shows Plainview
walking away from this one last social relationship.

This is no less a critique of capitalism than Oil! but rather than show
how the forces of a system built on greed cause monstrous events to take
place in society at large, There Will Be Blood shows how they turn one man
into a monster. In the process, the character of Bunny recedes into the
background and his friend Paul disappears altogether - which means, sadly,
that the strikes, the political debates and the Russian Revolution end up
on the cutting-room floor.

Interestingly, one character gets more prominence in the movie: Eli,
Paul's preacher brother. In the book, a cynical Ross makes peace with Eli,
and uses him as a kind of social support for his oil operation. In the
film, Plainview and Eli are fierce enemies, mutually dependent on one
another, but constantly in conflict.

It's like watching a war from some past life between the hostile factions
of the present-day Republican Party, the big-business schemers vs. the
Religious Right - and as far as this movie is concerned, if anything is as
bad as the crimes committed in the name of business, it's the lies and
moral corruption of Eli's snake-oil version of religion.

Judged by the standards of moviemaking, There Will Be Blood is
magnificent. As Plainview and Eli, Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano give
performances that people will be talking about years from now, and even
after two-and-a-half hours, you won't be tired of Anderson's incredible
visual images.

So There Will Be Blood would be a must-see anyway for anyone who likes
movies. And if the film draws more attention to the politically committed
novels of Upton Sinclair, so much the better. Together, they make a
critique of a capitalist system that worships at the alter of greed and
power.

Alan Maass is the editor of the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at:
alanmaass [at] sbcglobal.net


--------16 of 18--------

An Open Letter to President Bush
We the Corporations ...
By RALPH NADER
CounterPunch
February 16 / 17, 2008

Dear President Bush:

I was listening to your address before the self-described Conservative
Political Action Committee gathering in Washington, D.C. last week, while
reviewing materials on occupational hazards in the workplace. The contrast
between your declarations and the ongoing annual tragedy of 58,000
Americans losing their lives due to workplace diseases and traumas (OSHA
figures) was astonishing and deplorable.

Your remarks included such phrases as "You and I believe in
accountability;" "People should be responsible for their actions;"
"Maintaining a culture of life;" and that "My number one priority is to
protect you;" "All human life is precious and deserves to be protected."

These are words and phrases that you have been using year after year in
your capacity as a judicially-selected President who has sworn to uphold
the Constitution and the laws of the land.

Therefore, let us apply your verbal sensitivities about accountability,
responsibility and the safety of working Americans, to your sworn duty to
uphold the job safety laws of your Administration.

Having been deeply involved in the creation of the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970 - during the Nixon Administration, I
know that its principal mission was regulatory: to establish federal
workplace safety standards, enforce them and upgrade them to avoid
obsolescence.

Although in its 37 year history, OSHA regulations and inspections saved
many lives, the latter two-thirds of its history has witnessed a serious
deterioration in its performance. It is now a captive of industry, under
budgeted, understaffed with a consulting attitude rather than a
law-and-order, live-saving determination.

Under the Clinton Administration, not one chemical control regulation was
initiated and issued in eight years. Under your regime, OSHA is dormant.
Your Secretary of Labor ignores it where she does not actually operate to
keep it asleep. Yet, on average, every week over 1000 Americans die from
the workplace exposures.

Under the Reagan Administration, the White House rejected an urgent
request by the physicians at the Centers for Disease Control for a three
million dollar budget to send certified letters to 250,000 workers found
in a lengthy field study to be exposed to significant hazards - chemical
and particulate - in their factories, foundries and mines. The letters
were to urge the workers to have their doctors check them out for actual
or incipient diseases. Instead, the workers were left defenseless.

Last week, an explosive fireball imploded the century-old Dixie Crystal
sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, taking, at latest count, seven
lives and causing many serious injuries. This is only the latest of a
steady series of explosions, mine collapses, cave-ins at construction
sites and other fatally traumatic occurrences.

And who can forget the gripping, prize-winning series in The New York
Times in January, 2003 that began with these words:

"Tyler, Texas - It is said that only the desperate seek work at Tyler
Pipe, a sprawling, rusting pipe foundry out on Route 69, just past the
flea market. Behind a high metal fence lies a workplace that is part
Dickens and part Darwin, a dim, dirty, hellishly hot place where men are
regularly disfigured by amputations and burns, where turnover is so high
that convicts are recruited from local prisons"

Tyler Pipe is owned by McWane, Inc. of Burmingham, Alabama, which is a
very large manufacturer of cast-iron sewer and water pipe. Since 1995,
according to a nine-month investigation by the Times, PBS and the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation, "at least 4,600 injuries have been recorded in
McWane foundries, many hundreds of them serious ones." They included
fatalities.

Numerous coal companies were finally caught a few years ago faking their
coal dust samples to avoid federal regulations designed to diminish coal
miners' Pneumoconiosis. Fines for these deliberate violations were, as
usual, slaps on the companies' wrists. Since 1900, more coal miners have
lost their lives from coal dust and mine collapses than all the Americans
lost in World War II. And that is just one industry!

So, where is George W. Bush? The man who says his Job One is to protect
the safety of Americans. Has he visited any of their disasters caused by
corporate wrongdoing, not by natural disasters? Has he ever made a major
speech or proposed a decent budget and stronger enforcement and authority
for the federal worker safety and health agencies?

Has he been maintaining "a culture of life" under an "accountability"
framework? Does he believe that he and his top appointees have "been
responsible for their actions." Not at all.

Perhaps you are not worried about this lonely epidemic of death, disease
and injury day after day, since it is not caused by terrorists. Even if
every three weeks, workplace conditions lead to a fatality toll greater
than 9/11. Imagine, every three weeks, on average.

Remember Mr. Bush, you said "all human life is precious and deserves to be
protected." This is especially so when the perils are so preventable by
timely regulatory inspections and enforcement of up-to-date life-saving
standards.

It comes back, in the final analysis, to that oath of office you took,
doesn't it, to enforce the laws under our Constitution whose preamble
starts with "We the People." Not "We the Corporations."

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions


--------17 of 18--------

CounterPunch Diary
The Terrorists Still at Ground Zero, 7 World Trade Center, Lower Manhattan
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
CounterPunch
February 16 / 17, 2008

Terrorism flourishes brazenly at Ground Zero, in the new 7 World Trade
Center building. Here can be found a secretive entity of fabulous wealth
and power. Kingdom and corporations alike tremble at its shadow and make
haste to pay it tribute. I refer to Moodys Investor Services, wholly owned
subsidiary of Moody's Corporation, which reported $2 billion in revenues
in 2006.

On January 10 Moody's, in concert with the other main bond rating firm,
Standard and Poor's, gave the United States its top AAA credit rating. The
terrorist blackmail threat came in the form of a demand by Moody's that
the U.S. government "reform" Social Security and Medicare: "In the very
long term, the rating could come under pressure if reform of Medicare and
Social Security is not carried out as these two programs are the largest
threats to the long-term financial health of the United States and to the
government's Aaa rating."  [Up Moody's junk butt. -ed]

Steven Hess, Moody's top analyst for the US economy spelled it out even
more explicitly to the London Financial Times: "If no policy changes are
made, in 10 years from now we would have to look very seriously at whether
the US is still a triple-A credit. The US rating is the anchor of the
world's financial system. If you have a downgrade, you have a problem."

US interrogators torture men in secret prisons seeking to catch those
members of Al Quaeda still at large, starting with Osama bin Laden and
Aiman al-Zwahiri. Yet here's Moody's man calmly threatening to destroy the
US government's credit ranking unless it follows his agenda, and he
strolls around Lower Manhattan unmolested, even if his threats could add
up to the financial equvalent of a thermonuclear device planted under the
Statue of Liberty.

Moody's runs a protection game. It issue credit ratings, (in 2007 no less
than 39 percent of the global credit rating market by revenue, according
to Bloomberg) based on public data and private information made available
by those clients that have "voluntarily" retained their services. The
price of not volunteering can be high. As vividly described by Alec Klein
in his excellent 2004 series in the Washington Post on the credit-rating
giants, the giant German insurance corporation Hannover declined repeated
Moody's offers to rate its credit, at a time when the latter was trying to
extend its reach in the European Community. Moody's promptly issued an
unsolicited and adverse rating, then - just like a small time mobster
after hurling a brick through the window of a liquor store - went back to
Hannover and reissued its invitation to offer protection-by-rating.
Hannover's top man said he wouldn't surrender to blackmail and so between
2001 and 2003 Moody's steadily reduced Hannover rating all the way down to
Junk. This cost Hannover a great deal of money in paying the higher risk
premiums on money it borrowed.

By contrast Enron handled relations with Moody's with ermine gloves. All
the way through 2000 until a few days before Enron filed for Chapter 11,
Moody's, like S&P, declined to lower the boom by demoting bonds issued by
Enron company to below-investment grade. Banks with huge sums at stake
allegedly pressured Moody's to keep quiet, even though Moody's had
privileged access to Enron's internal financial operations.

Today, the world's credit system is strained to bursting point by such
financial scams as CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) which are
bundles of debt instruments, ranging from junk bonds through subprime
mortgages. Moody's and the other rating agencies have played a crucial
role in putting the CDOs together in the first place.

Of course the terrorists in lower Manhattan want Wall Street to get its
mitts on the pools of money held in the Social Security trust funds. But
if Moody's is going to present itself as a major political player,
presuming to dictate national policy down the barrel of a financial gun,
its executives and analysts should be hauled into the Star Chamber. Let's
have a war on terror and a rendition of Moody's executives to explain,
before a special investigative committee of congress with full subpoena
power, their own role in causing the financial upheavals afflicting the
planet right now, due to the collapse of the housing bubble and its impact
on the home mortgage market.

As Prof. Robert Pollin of U Mass/Amherst remarked last week to me, "We
could say the Bubble and crisis occurred because people like Moody's
rating agency always misread the build up of bubbles. They assume the rise
in asset prices represents something fundamentally different about the
economy, and then open the floodgates for financial speculation. Based on
this, we should rather be talking about the stability of U.S. and global
financial markets coming under immediate pressure due to the fact that
market analysts, like Moody's, don't have a clue as to what they are
talking about."

Right now the US deficit is around $200 billion, 1.5 percent of GDP, not
large and presenting no danger in itself to U.S. financial soundness. But
as Pollin adds, if Moody's analysts want to discuss causes of fiscal
laxity, "why not look at the Iraq war? The Defense budget for 2006 was
$617 billion. That is 4.8 percent of a $13 trillion GDP. Before the Iraq
war, the defense budget was about 3.0 percent of GDP. So Iraq alone is
costing between $150 - 200 billion annually, about 1.5 percent of GDP..
And what has that war achieved? Social security and medicare combined were
about $900 billion in 2006. Why assume we first have to attack our minimal
welfare state, and leave the imperial budget intact? "

In fact it's almost entirely Medicare, not Social Security, that accounts
for the projected rising costs in our shrivelled welfare state. The
culprit here is not the swelling ranks of older people but the insurance
and drug companies' grip on our health system. Conversion to single-payer
would mean huge savings. The U.S. pays around 14 per cent of its gross
domestic product for health care, twice what other advanced industrial
countries pay. Shift to single payer and quit shoving money - 4.8 per cent
of GDP - down the imperial sink-hole and there's no fiscal crisis of any
sort, short or long term for Moody's or anyone else to fret about. And in
the even shorter term, if Moody's sees fiscal crisis looming, why don't
its overpaid executives for once put the national interest first and call
for a tax hike on the rich? Bob Pollin tells me that just going back to
Clinton, as opposed to Bush-2, on taxes for those making over $200,000 a
year, would generate $60 billion a year. Do this and end the war in Iraq
and you wipe out the deficit at a stroke.

Let a real war on terror commence!

Amid its blackmailing threats to launch a terrorist onslaught on the
credit rating of the United States, Moody's has its moments of honesty
about the capitalist rackets in which it is a major player. Witness its
extraordinarily forthright recent background document, "Archaeology of the
Crisis", part of its series, "Moody's Global Financial Risk Perspectives"
"In the financial industry, in contrast with other businesses, there is a
point beyond which increased competition is not stability-enhancing, but
rather potentially destabilizing past a certain point - difficult to
identify - more competition means more, and perhaps socially undesirable
risk-taking."

With bracing frankness Moody's archeologist of capitalism concedes "it is
also possible that the welfare benefits of some financial innovations may
be lower than expected. Accepting the existence of crisis is the Faustian
pact that policymakers have made with the financial industry. However, the
pact is an implicit one, as policymakers are reluctant to concede that
they will have to intervene in extreme situations - that is when almost no
capital cushions could be large enough to absorb truly exceptional
problems."

In other words, says Moody's man, capitalism is impelled by competitive
pressures that are often profoundly anti-social in consequence and lurches
from crisis to crisis, - on average roughly 7.5 years apart since the late
1800s, as the late Charles Kindleberger once demonstrated - that in the
end require the intervention of the state, which has to save the system
from the consequences of the market's excesses - which is why we have the
scant protections we do, such as Medicare and Social Security.

Finally, why did Moody's man suddenly flourish the supposed threat to
national security of the Social Security and Medicare programs? Chances
are he was reading Niall Fergusons Colossus where the Wall Street
Journal's favored historian uses some transparently bogus calculations to
argue that "Imposing democracy on all the worlds rogue states would not
push the U.S. defense budget much above 5 percent of GDP" whereas Medicare
and Social Security are a far greater drain on the pubic purse, and should
be pruned back. The fellow at Moody's probably gulped down this exciting
dram and duly issued his terrorist demands.

Footnote: a much shorter version of this column ran in the print edition
of The Nation.


--------18 of 18--------

 Canine Orange Alert:
 USA swept by Scottish
 Terrierism!


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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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