Progressive Calendar 02.19.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 15:50:15 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    02.19.09

1. Eagan peace vigil 2.19 4:30pm
2. Northtown vigil   2.19 5pm
3. RNC court watch   2.19 6pm
4. Police brutality  2.19 6:30pm
5. AntiWarMN         2.19 7pm
6. Amnesty Intl      2.19 7:15pm
7. Foreclosure       2.19 7:30pm

8. Lydia Howell      2.20 11am
9. Turning the Tide  2.20/21 6pm
10. Moyers/oligarchs 2.20 9pm

11. Peter Phillips - Obama Admin continues US military global dominance
12. Mike Whitney   - The global ditch/Is eastern Europe primed to explode?
13. Miohael Hudson - Finance capitalism hits a wall/Oligarchs' escape plan
14. ed             - Power strip  (poem)

--------1 of 14--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at] msn.com>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 2.19 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.


--------2 of 14--------

From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 2.19 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.


--------3 of 14-------

From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at] gmail.com>
Subject: RNC court watch 2.19 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our
meetings.

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent
people.

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at] gmail.com
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!


--------4 of 14--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at] visi.com>
Subject: Police brutality 2.19 6:30pm

COMMUNITY CONVERSATION ON ENDING POLICE BRUTALITY
Thursday, February 19
6:30 p.m.
Minneapolis Urban League
2100 Plymouth Ave, Minneapolis

As a follow up to our rally last week, we are calling on the community to
come together to explore ideas for ending police brutality.  We have a few
ideas to put forward but believe many in the community will have other
ideas to share.  The conversation is necessary and overdue.  The goal is
to come out of this meeting with concrete plans.

--
RALLY CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO POLICE-CAUSED DEATHS

BY <http://www.mndaily.com/2009/02/10//users/khovis>Keith Hovis &
<http://www.mndaily.com/2009/02/10//users/kweinmann>Karlee Weinmann
PUBLISHED: 02/11/2009
http://www.mndaily.com/2009/02/10/rally-calls-investigation-police-caused-deaths#comment-7180

NOTE: Through this rally, we learned that the supposedly stolen car was,
in fact, lent to Ahmed Guled by a friend and that Ahmed was on his way to
visit his father, who had just returned from Somalia.  Yet the mainstream
media continues to promote the lie that Ahmed was eluding police in a
stolen car.  The Strib is now referring to a "possibly stolen car" but
continues to parrot the lie that Ahmed posed a danger to the cops by
simply driving down the street, per multiple witnesses, at 20 mph.

Under gray skies and icy rain, Ahmed Gulad's family huddled together
Wednesday by a north Minneapolis park on the street where, last week,
police shot and killed their brother, son and nephew.

As they spoke to a crowd of about 40 supporters at a rally organized by
Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), family members wept
and called for an independent investigation into Gulad's Feb. 5 death.

According to Minneapolis police, the killing was labeled as a "justified
homicide,"' as the officers involved said they felt their lives were
threatened by Gulad, 23.

While Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the police video camera
corroborates the officers' details of the events, CUAPB President Michelle
Gross and Gulad's family believes his death was unnecessary.

Through a translator, Gulad's grandmother said the family recently moved
from Somalia to Minneapolis. After escaping unrest in their war-torn
homeland, she said, Gulad fell victim to violence in America.

"The bullet of the government that's supposed to save him, killed him,"
she said.

Gulad's father said through a translator that he expected the city to take
the case seriously.

The family also said the police have shown little sympathy since Gulad's
death, and approached CUAPB along with the family of Quincy Smith, a radio
personality from KMOJ who died on Dec. 9 after police used a Taser on him,
ultimately causing heart failure.

Garcia said the deaths are being investigated, but Gross said she believes
investigations conducted on cases of police brutality often aren't
transparent, which leads to questions about the quality of the
investigations.

It's common for deaths caused by police to be labeled "justified
homicides" before a proper investigation is even performed, Gross said.

The rally was important because it's up to the Minneapolis community to
stand up when police do something wrong, otherwise the police will not
have to answer for questionable practices, she added.

"The community has to figure out we need and deserve a quality police
force that's accountable," Gross said. "I'm not trying to say everything
sucks, but I am trying to say we need good. We demand good."

Both Gulad and Smith were black, and Gross said those from minority groups
are common victims of police brutality, which she said is largely confined
to people of color, poor people and homeless people.

"People who have less power in society," Gross said, "police find them
easy targets."

Gross said the CUAPB receives five to 12 complaints of police brutality
per week. One thing incidents have in common is the majority of the
victims have been "falsely charged."

False charges, according to Gross, happen when police charge a person with
a crime, usually disorderly conduct, fourth or fifth degree assault or
obstructing legal process, in order to justify the police's actions.

Gross hopes Wednesday's rally will be a movement toward change and more
regulation of police.

The police, meanwhile, have come to question CUAPB's motives.  Garcia said
he believes the rally has lost its focus.  "They seem to differ on
anything that is law abiding," he said of CUAPB.

Wednesday's demonstration was a peaceful one, without police presence.

At the park, as cars slowly passed and honked to support the cause,
Gulad's brother, Assad Ali, 20, said he was out of tears to cry.

"This weather isn't cold, but the world is," he said. "You can deal
with the weather, but you can't deal with this world."


--------5 of 14--------

From: Jess Sundin <jess [at] antiwarcommittee.org>
Subject: AntiWarMN 2.19 7pm

ORGANIZE WITH THE A.W.C.: The Anti-War Committee always need help
organizing protests and educational events. Join us at our weekly meetings
(Thursdays at 7pm, 1313 5th St SE #112C, Minneapolis).


--------6 of 14--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 2.19 7:15pm

AIUSA Group 315 (Wayzata area) meets Thursday, February 19th, at 7:15 p.m.
St. Luke Presbyterian Church, 3121 Groveland School Road, Wayzata (near
the intersection of Rt. 101 and Minnetonka Blvd). For further information,
contact Richard Bopp at Richard_C_Bopp [at] NatureWorksLLC.com.


--------7 of 14--------

From: Michele <MRockne [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Foreclosure 2.19 7:30pm

The Inaugural action to Halt Sheriffs' Foreclosures was decided to be on
Wednesday, March 11th at 10:00 am to take place in the basement of
City Hall.

Please plan on attending the next Foreclosure Action Planning Meeting
tomorrow, February 19 at 7:30 pm. The meeting will be held in the
PPEHRC office in the Sabathani Community Center, #126.

Some discussion will be on formulating demands for a moratorium on
foreclosures, as well as coming up with some sort of press release,
blurb announcing the action, and more concrete plans for the action
itself.


--------8 of 14--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Lydia Howell 2.20 11am

TUNE IN to CATALYST, FRI.FEB.20, 11am on KFAI Radio for an interview with
TEATRO DEL PUEBLO's artistic director ALberto Justiano, on their 8th
annual Political Theatre Festival (Mar.19-Mar 7@ INtermedia Arts,
Minneapolis.) Plus actors do a scene about capitalism & Christianity from
"Cigarettes for Jesus" at the 2009 SPIRIT IN THE HOUSE (Feb.28-Mar. 8 at
Hennpin Ave. United Medthodist Church, Minneapolis. For comeplete
schedule: www.spiritinthehouse.org KFAI 90.3fm Mpls 106.7fm St.Paul. Live
streaming & archived for 2 weeks after broadcast on CATALYST page at
http://www.kfai.org Teatro del Pueblo Announces


--------9 of 14--------

From: Jesse Mortenson <teknoj [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Turning the Tide 2.20/21 6pm

Turning the Tide: Toward a Foreign Policy of Human Dignity

Friends for a Non-Violent World invites you to an exciting conference -
"Turning the Tide: Toward a Foreign Policy of Human Dignity" - on February
20 and 21, 2009 at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.
FNVW is be bringing together noted experts and activists from around the
nation and Minnesota to discuss what foreign policy issues are at stake
for the Obama administration, and what we as citizens can do to make
necessary changes a reality. Check out the program below.

Friday
6:00pm Doors open for tabling; Eyes Wide Open exhibit
6:30pm Music
7:00pm Matt Hunter, FNVW's Executive Director, opens the gathering
7:30pm Jim Fine, Legislative Secretary on Foreign Policy for Friends
Committee on National Legislation, discusses legislative opportunities
in Israel/Palestine

Saturday

9:30am Craig Eisendrath, Chair of the Project for Nuclear Awareness,
author and former diplomat; and Reese Erlich, award-winning journalist,
author and documentary filmmaker discuss the role of diplomacy and
U.S./Cuba relations

1:30pm Joanne Landy, Director of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, and
Craig Eisendrath discuss U.S. military bases and the weaponizing of space

3:30pm Lora Lumpe, Coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and
Cluster Munitions and Kathy Robinson of Women's Action For New Directions
discuss Disarmament

5:30pm Book release reception for Bert Berlowe's and Rebecca Janke's
second installment of The Compassionate Rebel

7:00pm Reese Erlich and William Beeman, U of M Anthropology Department
Chair and U.S./Iran expert discuss U.S./Iran relations

We have priced tickets so everyone can attend. Tickets are $25; $10 for
students/low-income. If you have questions, please contact the FNVW
office, 651-917-0383.  It may be most convenient to sign up on-line at
www.fnvw.org

Co-Sponsors to date:// Holy Trinity Lutheran, Minnesota Allinace of
Peacemakers, MN FOR, Pax Cristi, Peace through Justice Committee at
Hennipin Avenue United Methodist Church, Veterans for Peace, St. John
Neuman Church Woman Against Military Madness


--------10 of 14--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org>
Subject: Moyers/oligarchs 2.20 9pm

Bill Moyers | High Noon: Geithner v. the American Oligarchs
http://www.truthout.org/021609J

Bill Moyers, The Bill Moyers Journal: "The battle is joined as they say -
and here's the headline that framed it: 'High Noon: Geithner v. The
American Oligarchs.' The headline is in one of the most informative new
sites in the blogosphere called: baselinescenario.com. Here's the quote
that grabbed me: 'There comes a time in every economic crisis, or more
specifically, in every struggle to recover from a crisis, when someone
steps up to the podium to promise the policies that - they say - will
deliver you back to growth. The person has political support, a strong
track record, and every incentive to enter the history books. But one
nagging question remains. Can this person, your new economic strategist,
really break with the vested elites that got you into this much trouble?'"


-------11 of 14-------

Obama Administration Continues US Military Global Dominance
by Peter Phillips
February 19th, 2009
Dissident Voice

The Barack Obama administration is continuing the neo-conservative agenda
of US military domination of the world - albeit with perhaps a
kinder-gentler face. While overt torture is now forbidden for the CIA and
Pentagon, and symbolic gestures like the closing of the Guantanamo prison
are in evidence, a unilateral military dominance policy, expanding
military budget, and wars of occupation and aggression will likely
continue unabated.

The military expansionists from within the Reagan, George H. W. Bush,
Clinton, G. W. Bush administrations put into place solid support for
increased military spending. Clinton's model of supporting the US military
industrial complex held steady defense spending and increased foreign
weapons sales from 16% of global orders to over 63% by the end of his
administration.

The neo-conservatives, who dominated the most recent Bush administration,
amplified this trend of increased military spending. The neo-cons laid out
their agenda for military global dominance in the 2000 Project for a New
American Century (PNAC) report Rebuilding America's Defenses. The report
called for the protection of the American Homeland, the ability to wage
simultaneous theater wars, to perform global constabulary roles, and to
control space and cyberspace. The report claimed that in order to maintain
a Pax Americana, potential rivals - such as China, Iran, Iraq, and North
Korea - needed to be held in check. This military global dominance agenda
required forward deployment of US forces worldwide and increasing
defense/war spending well into the 21st century. The result was a doubling
of the US military budget to over $700 billion in the last eight years.
The US now spends as much on war/defense as the rest of the world
combined, making Americans the highest war-tax payers in the world.

Barack Obama's election brought a moment of hope for many. However, the
Obama administration is not calling for decreased military spending, or a
reversal of US military global dominance. Instead, Obama retained Robert
Gates, thus making Obama the first president from an opposing party, in US
history, to keep in place the outgoing administrations' Secretary of
Defense/War. Additionally, Obama is calling for an expanded war in
Afghanistan and only minimal long-range reductions in Iraq.

The US military industrial complex is deeply embedded inside the
Washington beltway. According to the most recent reports from
OpenSecrets.org, 151 members of Congress in 2006 had up to $195.5 million
of their personal assets invested in defense companies.
Major defense contractors were seriously involved in the 2008 elections.
Lockheed Martin gave $2,612,219 in total political campaign donations,
with 49% to Democrats ($1,285,493) and 51% to Republicans ($1,325,159).
Boeing gave $2,225,947 in 2008 with 58% going to Democrats, and General
Dynamics provided $1,682,595 to both parties. Northrop Grumman spent over
$20 million in 2008, hiring lobbyists to influence Congress, and Raytheon
spent $6 million on lobbyists in the same period. In a revolving door
appointment, Obama nominated Raytheon's senior vice president for
government operations and strategy, William Lynn, for the number two
position in the Pentagon. Lynn was formally the Defense Department's
comptroller during the Clinton administration.

The International Monetary Fund's prediction for global economic growth in
2009 is 0.5 percent - the worst since World War II. The United Nations'
International Labor Organization estimates that some 50 million workers
will lose their jobs worldwide this year. There are an estimated 62,000
U.S. companies expected to close in 2009, and while official unemployment
is at 7 percent in the US, when you add people no longer looking for jobs
and part-time workers, joblessness is closer to 14 percent. The
military-industrial-political elite are worried about the potential of
increasing global insecurity. The answer inside the Obama Administration
is to continue high defense/war spending to insure military control of
both domestic and foreign instabilities.

The military, industrial, congressional, and administrative elite profit
from defense spending, both financially and ideologically. Insider profit
taking from pentagon spending is widespread in Washington. But perhaps
more important is the belief that this global military machine is seen as
necessary for the protection of US corporate interests and the American
upper classes in an increasingly destabilized world. Given that belief,
the Obama administration is unlikely to change the defense spending
policies of the previous US administrations without significant disruptive
pressure from anti-war activists and global empire resisters.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, and
Director of Project Censored, a media research organization.

[Time for those once-upon-a-time hope-filled folks to renew the anti-war
actions they discontinued as Obama took office. Misplaced hope. Back to
the standard bad capitalist imperial reality. The US is the exil axis
(plus Britain & Israel abnd a few others); we have to make it better, and
just sitting around sighing and hoping will do nothing but make it easier
for the US bad guys to get away with it. -ed]


--------12 of 14--------

The Global Ditch
Is Eastern Europe Primed to Explode?
By MIKE WHITNEY
February 17, 2009
CounterPunch

Eastern Europe is about to blow. If it does, it could take much of the EU
with it. It's an emergency situation but there are no easy solutions. The
IMF doesn't have the resources for a bailout of this size and the
recession is spreading faster than relief efforts can be organized.
Finance ministers and central bankers are running in circles trying to put
out one fire after another. Its only a matter of time before they are
overtaken by events. If one country is allowed to default, the dominoes
could begin to tumble through the whole region. This could trigger
dramatic changes in the political landscape. The rise of fascism is no
longer out of the question.

The UK Telegraph's economics editor Edmund Conway sums it up like this:

"A 'second wave' of countries will fall victim to the economic crisis and
face being bailed out by the International Monetary Fund, its chief warned
at the G7 summit in Rome....But with some countries' economies effectively
dwarfed by the size of their banking sector and its financial liabilities,
there are fears they could fall victim to balance of payments and currency
crises, much as Iceland did before receiving emergency assistance from the
IMF last year." (UK Telegraph)

Foreign capital is fleeing at an alarming rate; nearly two-thirds gone in
matter of months. Deflation is pushing down asset prices, increasing
unemployment, and compounding the debt-burden of financial institutions.
It's the same everywhere. The economies are being hollowed out and
stripped of capital. Ukraine is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary have all slipped into a low-grade
depression. The countries that followed Washington's economic regimen have
suffered the most. They bet that debt-fueled growth and exports would lead
to prosperity. That dream has been shattered. They haven't developed their
consumer markets, so demand is weak. Capital is scarce and businesses are
being forced to deleverage to avoid default. All of Eastern Europe has
gotten a margin call. They need extra funds to cover the falling value of
their equity. They need a lifeline from the IMF or their economies will
continue to crumble.

The UK Telegraph's economics correspondent Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has
written a series of articles about Eastern Europe. In "Failure to save
East Europe will lead to Worldwide meltdown" he says:

"Austria's finance minister Josef Prll made frantic efforts last week to
put together a .150bn rescue for the ex-Soviet bloc. Well he might. His
banks have lent .230bn to the region, equal to 70pc of Austria's GDP.

"A failure rate of 10pc would lead to the collapse of the Austrian
financial sector," reported Der Standard in Vienna. Unfortunately, that is
about to happen.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says bad debts
will top 10pc and may reach 20pc....

Stephen Jen, currency chief at Morgan Stanley, said Eastern Europe has
borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must
repay - or roll over - $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's
GDP. Good luck. The credit window has slammed shut.

Almost all East bloc debts are owed to West Europe, especially Austrian,
Swedish, Greek, Italian, and Belgian banks. En plus, Europeans account for
an astonishing 74pc of the entire $4.9 trillion portfolio of loans to
emerging markets. They are five times more exposed to this latest bust
than American or Japanese banks, and they are 50pc more leveraged (IMF
data). (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard UK Telegraph)

An economic crisis is quickly turning into a political crisis. Riots have
broken out in capitals across Eastern Europe. Mr. Geithner had better be
paying attention. The prospects for political upheaval are growing. Public
anxiety can spill out onto the streets at a moments notice. Governments
must act quickly and with resolve. These countries need hard currency and
guarantees of support. If they don't get help, the simmering public fury
will turn into something much more lethal.

UK Telegraph's economics correspondent Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

"Global banks have so far written down half the $2,200bn losses estimated
by the IMF. On top of this, EU banks have $1,600bn of exposure to Eastern
Europe - increasingly viewed as Europe's subprime debacle, and EU
corporate debts are 95pc of GDP compared to 50pc in the US, a mounting
concern as default rates surge.

"It is essential that government support through asset relief should not
be on a scale that raises concern about over-indebtedness or financing
problems. Such considerations are particularly important in the current
context of widening budget deficits, rising public debt levels and
challenges in sovereign bond issuance." (UK Telegraph)

It's the same wherever banks merged their commercial and investment
branches. Debt has skyrocketed to unsustainable levels destabilizing the
entire economy. The banks have been operating like hedge funds, concealing
their activities on off-balance sheets operations and maximizing their
leverage through opaque debt-instruments. Now the global economy is caught
in the downdraft of a collapsing speculative bubble. East Europe has been
hit hard, but it's just the first of many bowling pins that will fall. All
of Europe has been infected by the same virus which originated on Wall
Street. Monday's New York Times summarizes developments in the EU:

"Europe sank even deeper into recession than the United States in the
closing months of last year, according to figures published Friday...The
economy of the 16 countries sharing the euro currency declined by 1.5
percent in the fourth quarter, (an annualized drop of roughly 6 percent)
according to the European Union's statistics office. That is even worse
than the 1 percent decline in the United States economy during that
period, compared with the previous quarter.

"Today's data wipes out any illusion that the euro zone is getting off
lightly in this global downturn," said Jrg Radeke, an economist at the
Center for Economics and Business Research in London. ("Europe Slump
Deeper than Expected" New york Times)

The "liquidationists" would like to see governments cut off the flow of
funds to ailing financial institutions and let them fail by themselves.
It's Darwinian madness, like waiting out a heart attack on the kitchen
floor instead of rushing to the hospital for emergency care. The global
economy is decelerating at the fastest pace on record. 40 percent of
global wealth has been wiped out. The banking system is insolvent,
unemployment is soaring, tax revenues are falling, the markets are in
shock, housing is crashing, deficits are soaring, and consumer confidence
is at its lowest point in history. This is no time to cling to half-baked
ideology. The global economy is undergoing a massive system-wide
contraction which could spin out of control and plunge us into another
world war. Political leaders need to grasp the urgency of the moment and
keep the vehicle from careening into the ditch.

Mike Whitney lives in the Pacific Northwest and can be reached at
fergiewhitney [at] msn.com


--------13 of 14--------

Finance Capitalism Hits a Wall
The Oligarchs' Escape Plan
By MICHAEL HUDSON
February 17, 2009
CounterPunch

The financial "wealth creation" game is over. Economies emerged from World
War II relatively free of debt, but the 60-year global run-up has run its
course. Finance capitalism is in a state of collapse, and marginal
palliatives cannot revive it. The U.S. economy cannot "inflate its way out
of debt," because this would collapse the dollar and end its dreams of
global empire by forcing foreign countries to go their own way. There is
too little manufacturing to make the economy more "competitive," given its
high housing costs, transportation, debt and tax overhead. A quarter to a
third of U.S. real estate has fallen into negative equity, so no banks
will lend to them. The economy has hit a debt wall and is falling into
negative equity, where it may remain for as far as the eye can see until
there is a debt write-down.

Mr. Obama"s "recovery" plan, based on infrastructure spending, will make
real estate fortunes for well-situated properties along the new public
transport routes, but there is no sign of cities levying a windfall
property tax to save their finances. Their mayors would rather keep the
cities broke than to tax real estate and finance. The aim is to re-inflate
property markets to enable owners to pay the banks, not to help the public
sector break even. So state and local pension plans will remain
underfunded while more corporate pension plans go broke.

One would think that politicians would be willing to do the math and
realize that debts that can't be paid, won't be. But the debts are being
kept on the books, continuing to extract interest to pay the creditors
that have made the bad loans. The resulting debt deflation threatens to
keep the economy in depression until a radical shift in policy occurs - a
shift to save the "real" economy, not just the financial sector and the
wealthiest 10 per cent of American families.

There is no sign that Mr. Obama's economic advisors, Treasury officials
and heads of the relevant Congressional committees recognize the need for
a write-down. After all, they have been placed in their positions
precisely because they do not understand that debt leveraging is a form of
economic overhead, not real "wealth creation". But their tunnel vision is
what makes them "reliable" to Wall Street, which doesn't like surprises.
And the entire character of today's financial crisis continues to be
labeled "surprising" and "unexpected" by the press as each new
surprisingly pessimistic statistic hits the news. It's safe to be
surprised; suspicious to have expected bad news and being a "premature
doomsayer". One must have faith in the system above all. And the system
was the Greenspan Bubble. That is why "Ayn Rand Alan" was put in charge in
the first place, after all.

So the government tries to recover the happy Bubble Economy years by
getting debt growing again, hoping to re-inflate real estate and stock
market prices. That was, after all, the Golden Age of finance capital's
world of using debt leverage to bid up the book-price of fictitious
capital assets. Everyone loved it as long as it lasted. Voters thought
they had a chance to become millionaires, and approved happily. And at
least it made Wall Street richer than ever before - while almost doubling
the share of wealth held by the wealthiest 1 per cent of America's
families. For Washington policy makers, they are synonymous with "the
economy" - at least the economy for which national economic policy is
being formulated these days.

The Obama-Geithner plan to restart the Bubble Economy's debt growth so as
to inflate asset prices by enough to pay off the debt overhang out of new
"capital gains" cannot possibly work. But that is the only trick these
ponies know. We have entered an era of asset-price deflation, not
inflation. Economic data charts throughout the world have hit a wall and
every trend has been plunging vertically downward since last autumn. U.S.
consumer prices experienced their fastest plunge since the Great
Depression of the 1930s, along with consumer "confidence," international
shipping, real estate and stock market prices, oil and the exchange rate
for British sterling. The global economy is falling into depression, and
cannot recover until debts are written down.

Instead of doing this, the government is doing just the opposite. It is
proposing to take bad debts onto the public-sector balance sheet, printing
new Treasury bonds give the banks - bonds whose interest charges will have
to be paid by taxing labor and industry.

         The oligarchy's plans for a bailout (at least of its own
                          financial position)

In periods of looming collapse, wealthy elites protect their funds. In
times past they bought gold when currencies started to weaken. (Patriotism
never has been a characteristic of cosmopolitan finance capital.) Since
the 1950s the International Monetary Fund has made loans to support Third
World exchange rates long enough to subsidize capital flight. In the
United States over the past half-year, bankers and Wall Street investors
have tapped the Treasury and Federal Reserve to support prices of their
bad loans and financial gambles, buying out or guaranteeing $12 trillion
of these junk debts. Protection for the U.S. financial elite thus takes
the form of domestic public debt, not foreign currency.

It is all in vain as far as the real economy is concerned. When the
Treasury gives banks newly printed government bonds in "cash for trash"
swaps, it leaves today's unpayably high private-sector debt in place. All
that happens is that this debt is now owed to (or guaranteed by) the
government, which will have to impose taxes to pay the interest charges.

The new twist is a variant on the IMF "stabilization" plans that lend
money to central banks to support their currencies - for long enough to
enable local oligarchs and foreign investors to move their savings and
investments offshore at a good exchange rate. The currency then is
permitted to collapse, enabling currency speculators to rake in enough
gains to empty out the central bank's reserves. Speculators view these
central bank holdings as a target to be raided - the larger the better.
The IMF will lend a central bank, say, $10 billion to "support the
currency:. Domestic holders will flee the currency at a high exchange
rate. Then, when the loan proceeds are depleted, the currency plunges.
Wages are squeezed in the usual IMF austerity program, and the economy is
forced to earn enough foreign exchange to pay back the IMF.

As a condition for getting this kind of IMF "support," governments are
told to run a budget surplus, cut back social spending, lower wages and
raise taxes on labor so as to squeeze out enough exports to repay the IMF
loans. But inasmuch as this kind "stabilization plan" cripples their
domestic economy, they are obliged to sell off public infrastructure at
distress prices - to foreign buyers who themselves borrow the money. The
effect is to make such countries even more dependent on less
"neoliberalized" economies.

Latvia is a poster child for this kind of disaster. Its recent agreement
with Europe is a case in point. To help the Swedish banks withdraw their
funds from the sinking ship, EU support is conditional on Latvia's
government agreeing to cut salaries in the private sector - and not to
raise property taxes (currently almost zero).

The problem is that Latvia, like other post-Soviet economies, has scant
domestic output to export. Industry throughout the former Soviet Union was
torn up and scrapped in the 1990s. (Welcome to victorious finance
capitalism, Western-style.) What they had was real estate and public
infrastructure free of debt - and hence, available to be pledged as
collateral for loans to finance their imports. Ever since its independence
from Russia in 1991, Latvia has paid for its imported consumer goods and
other purchases by borrowing mortgage credit in foreign currency from
Scandinavian and other banks. The effect has been one of the world's
biggest property bubbles - in an economy with no means of breaking even
except by loading down its real estate with more and more debt. In
practice the loans took the form of mortgage borrowing from foreign banks
to finance a real estate bubble - and their import dependency on foreign
suppliers.

So instead of helping it and other post-Soviet nations develop
self-reliant economies, the West has viewed them as economic oysters to be
broken up to indebt them in order to extract interest charges and capital
gains, leaving them empty shells. This policy crested on January 26, 2009,
when Joaquin Almunia of the European Commission wrote a letter to Latvia's
Prime Minister spelling out the terms on which Europe will bail out the
Swedish and other foreign banks operating in Latvia - at Latvia's own
expense:

"Extended assistance is to be used to avoid a balance of payments crisis,
which requires restoring confidence in the banking sector [now entirely
foreign owned], and bolstering the foreign reserves of the Bank of Latvia.
This implies financing outstanding government debt repayments (domestic
and external). And if the banking sector were to experience adverse
events, part of the assistance would be used for targeted capital
infusions or appropriate short-term liquidity support. However, financial
assistance is not meant to be used to originate new loans to businesses
and households... .

"it is important not to raise ungrounded expectations among the general
public and the social partners, and, equally, to counter misunderstandings
that may arise in this respect. Worryingly, we have witnessed some recent
evidence in Latvian public debate of calls for part of the financial
assistance to be used inter alia for promoting export industries or to
stimulate the economy through increased spending at large. It is important
actively to stem these misperceptions."

Riots broke out last week, and protesters stormed the Latvian Treasury.
Hardly surprising! There is no attempt to help Latvia develop the export
capacity to cover its imports. After the domestic kleptocrats, foreign
banks and investors have removed their funds from the economy, the Latvian
lat will be permitted to depreciate. Foreign buyers then can come in and
pick up local assets on the cheap once again.

The practice of European banks riding the crest of the post-Soviet real
estate bubble is backfiring to wreck the European economies that have
engaged in this predatory lending to neighboring economies as well. As one
reporter has summarized:

In Poland 60 percent of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just
halved against the franc. Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine
are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly -
by lenders and borrowers - it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There
is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both.
US banks are not. Almost all East bloc debts are owed to West Europe,
especially Austrian, Swedish, Greek, Italian, and Belgian banks.

This was the West's alternative to Stalinism. It did not help these
countries emulate how Britain and America got rich by protectionist
policies and publicly nurtured industrialization and infrastructure
spending. Rather, the financial rape and industrial dismantling of the
former Soviet economies was the most recent exercise in Western
colonialism. At least U.S. investors were smart enough to stand clear and
merely ride the stock market run-up before jumping ship.

But now, the government's plan to "save" the economy is to "save the
banks," along similar lines to the West trying to save its banks from
their adventure in the post-Soviet economies. This is the basic neoliberal
economic plan, after all. The U.S. economy is about to be
"post-Sovietized".

   The U.S. giveaway to banks, masquerading as "help for troubled
                          homeowners"

The Obama bank bailout is arranged much like an IMF loan to support the
exchange rate of foreign currency, but with the Treasury supporting
financial asset prices for U.S. banks and other financial institutions.
Instead of banks and oligarchs abandoning the dollar, the aim is to enable
them to dump their bad mortgages and CDOs and get domestic Treasury bonds.
Private-sector debt will be moved onto the U.S. Government balance sheet,
where "taxpayers" will bear losses - mainly labor not Wall Street,
inasmuch as the financial sector has been freed of income-tax liability by
the "small print" in last fall's Paulson-Bush bailout package. But at
least the U.S. Government is handling the situation entirely in domestic
dollars.

As in Third World austerity programs, the effect of keeping the debts in
place at the "real" economy's expense will be to shrink the domestic U.S.
market - while providing opportunities for hedge funds to pick up
depreciated assets cheaply as the federal government, states and cities
sell them off. This is called letting the banks "earn their way out of
debt". It's strangling the "real" economy, because not a dollar of the
government's response has been devoted to reducing the overall debt
volume.

Take the much-vaunted $50 billion program designed to renegotiate
mortgages downward for "troubled homeowners". Upon closer examination it
turns out that the real beneficiaries are the giant leading banks such as
Citibank and Bank of America that have made the bad loans. The Treasury
will take on the bad debt that banks are stuck with, and will permit
mortgagees to renegotiate their monthly payment down to 38 per cent of
their income. But rather than the banks taking the loss as they should do
for over-lending, the Treasury itself will make up the difference - and
pay it to the banks so that they will be able to get what they hoped to
get. The hapless mortgage-burdened family stuck in their negative-equity
home turns out to be merely a passive vehicle for the Treasury to pass
debt relief on to the commercial banks.

Few news stories have made this clear, but the Financial Times spelled the
details buried in small print. It added that the Treasury has not yet
decided whether to write down the debt principal for the estimated 15
million families with negative equity (and perhaps 30 million by this time
next year as property prices continue to plunge). No doubt a similar deal
will be made: For every $100,000 of write-down in debt owed by
over-mortgaged homeowners, the bank will receive $100,000 from the
Treasury. Government debt will rise by $100,000, and the process will
continue until the Treasury has transferred $50,000,000 to the banks that
made the reckless loans.

There is enough for just 500,000 of these renegotiations of $100,000 each.
It may seem like a big amount, but it's only about 1/30th of the
properties underwater. Hardly enough to make much of a dent, but the
principle has been put in place for many further bailouts. It will take
almost an infinity of them, as long as the Treasury tries to support the
fiction that "the miracle of compound interest" can be sustained for long.
The economy may be dead by the time saner economic understanding
penetrates the public consciousness.

In the mean time, bad private-sector debt will be shifted onto the
government's balance sheet. Interest and amortization currently owed to
the banks will be replaced by obligations to the U.S. Treasury. Taxes will
be levied to make up the bad debts with which the government is stuck. The
"real" economy will pay Wall Street - and will be paying for decades!

Calling the $12 trillion giveaway to bankers a "subprime crisis" makes it
appear that bleeding-heart liberals got Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into
trouble by insisting that these public-private institutions make
irresponsible loans to the poor. The party line is, "Blame the victim".
But we know this is false. The bulk of bad loans are concentrated in the
largest banks. It was Countrywide and other banksters that led the
irresponsible lending and brought heavy-handed pressure on Fannie Mae.
Most of the nation's smaller, local banks didn't make such reckless loans.
The big mortgage shops didn't care about loan quality, because they were
run by salesmen. The Treasury is paying off the gamblers and billionaires
by supporting the value of bank loans, investments and derivative gambles,
leaving the Treasury in debt.

                   U.S./Post-Soviet Convergence?

It may be time to look once again at what Larry Summers and his Rubinomics
gang did in Russia in the mid-1990s and to Third World countries during
his tenure as World Bank economist to see what kind of future is being
planned for the U.S. economy over the next few years. Throughout the
Soviet Union the neoliberal model established "equilibrium" in a way that
involved demographic collapse: shortening life spans, lower birth rates,
alcoholism and drug abuse, psychological depression, suicides, bad health,
unemployment and homelessness for the elderly (the neoliberal mode of
Social Security reform).

Back in the 1970s, people speculated whether the US and Soviet economies
were converging. Throughout the 20th century, of course, everyone expected
government regulation, infrastructure investment and planning to increase.
It looked like the spread of democratically elected governments would go
hand in hand with people voting in their own economic interest to raise
living standards, thereby closing the inequality gap.

This is not the kind of convergence that has occurred since 1991.
Government power is being dismantled, living standards have stagnated and
wealth is concentrating at the top of the economic pyramid. Economic
planning and resource allocation has passed into the hands of Wall Street,
whose alternative to Hayek's "road to serfdom" is debt peonage for the
economy at large. There does need to be a strong state, to be sure, to
keep the financial and real estate rentier power in place. But the West's
alternative to the old Soviet bureaucracy is a financial planning. In
place of a political overhead, we have a financial and real estate
overhead.

Stalinist Russia and Maoist China achieved high technology without
land-rent, monopoly rent and interest overhead. This purging of rentier
income was the historical task of classical political economy, and it
became that of socialism. The aim was to create a Clean Slate financially,
bringing prices in line with technologically necessary costs of
production. The aim was to provide everyone with the fruits of their labor
rather than letting banks and landlords siphon off the economic surplus.

Ideas of economic efficiency and "wealth creation" today are an utterly
different kind of liberalism and "free markets". Commercial banks lend
money not to increase production but to inflate asset prices. Some 70 per
cent of bank loans are mortgage loans for real estate, and most of the
rest is for corporate takeovers and raids, to finance stock buy-backs or
simply to pay dividends. Asset-price inflation obliges people to go deeper
into debt than ever before to obtain access to housing, education and
medical care. The economy is being "financialized," not industrialized.
This has been the plan as much for the post-Soviet states as for North
America, Western Europe and the Third World.

But we are far from having reached the end of the line. Celebrations that
our present financialized economy represents the "end of history" are
laughingly premature. Today's policies look more like a dead end. But that
does not mean that, like the Roman Empire, they won't lead us down toward
a new Dark Age. That's what tends to happen when oligarchies do the
planning.

                     Is America a Failed Economy?

It may be time to ask whether neoliberal pro-rentier economics has turned
America and the West into a Failed Economy. Is there really no
alternative? Have the neoliberals made the shift of planning from
governments to the financial oligarchy irreversible?

Let's first dispose of the "foundation myth" of the idea still guiding the
United States and Europe. Free-market economists pretend that prices can
be brought into line most efficiently with technologically necessary costs
of production under capitalism, and indeed, under finance capitalism. The
banks and stock market are supposed to allocate resources most
efficiently.  That at least is the dream of self-regulating markets. But
today it looks like only a myth, public relations patter talk to get a
generation of increasingly indebted voters not to act in their own
self-interest.

Industrial capitalism always has been a hybrid, a symbiosis with its
feudal legacy of absentee property ownership, oligarchic finance and
public debts rather than the government acting as net creditor. The
essence of feudalism was extractive, not productive. That is why it
created industrial capitalism as state policy in the first place - if only
to increase its war-making powers. But the question must now be raised as
to whether only socialism can complete the historical task that classical
political economy set out for itself - the ideal that futurists in the
19th and 20th centuries believed that an unpurified capitalism might still
be able bring about without shedding its legacy of commercial banking
indebting property and carving infrastructure out of the public domain.

Today it is easier to see that the Western economies cannot go on the way
they have been. They have reached the point where the debts exceed the
ability to pay. Instead of recognizing this fact and scaling debts back
into line with the ability to pay, the Obama-Geithner plan is to bail out
the big banks and hedge funds, keeping the volume of debt in place and
indeed, growing once again through the "magic of compound interest". The
result can only be an increasingly extractive economy, until households,
real estate and industrial companies, states and cities, and the national
government itself is driven into debt peonage.

The alternative is a century and a half old, and emerged out of the ideals
of the classical economic doctrines of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John
Stuart Mill, and the last great classical economist, Marx. Their common
denominator was to view rent and interest are extractive, not productive.
Classical political economy and its successor Progressive Era socialism
sought to nationalize the land (or at least to fully tax its rent as the
fiscal base). Governments were to create their own credit, not leave this
function to wealthy elites via a bank monopoly on credit creation. So
today's neoliberalism paints a false picture of what the classical
economists envisioned as free markets. They were markets free of economic
rent and interest (and taxes to support an aristocracy or oligarchy).
Socialism was to free economies from these overhead charges. Today's
Obama-Geithner rescue plan is just the reverse.

Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research
Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author
of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of
American Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002) He can be reached via his
website, mh [at] michael-hudson.com


--------14 of 14--------

 To raise cash, Sarah
 Palin does her power strip
 in empty strip malls.


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