Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goldman's "Naked Short Selling" Strawman

Zero Hedge

Matt Taibbi has put together a very informative piece on Goldman's lobbying attempts, specifically in the context on the upcoming discussion over naked short selling. The contention here by the majority is that naked short selling, or NSS, promotes bear raids on crippled companies which tend to feed upon each other, with CDS traders also joining in the fray. The argument is a dramatic oversimplification and has little substantiation by facts. "Bear raids" occur only and exclusively in financial stocks: why can't you have a bear raid on a firm like Coke or Johnson and Johnson, or even some leveraged behemoth like Hertz.

As an side, full disclosure before Hertz sues us like it did Audit Integrity for daring to mention that it is a prime bankruptcy candidate: we fully recognize the company's tremendous cash flow potential, its amazing assortment of non-rapidly amortizing fleet vehicles, it manageable capital structure, its absolute lack of reliance on pristine credit markets, and the fact that GM is now entering the rental arena courtesy of GM's 60 day money back guarantee is only a synergistic positive: after all the definition of fleet sales is completely irrelevant for a post-bankruptcy Detroit 3 monster. Hertz is a titan of a company and its prospects foreshadow a future so bright we've gotta wear shades. Zero Hedge however feels for third party research companies like Credit Sights, GimmeCredit, or KDP which may feel otherwise. We hope Hertz' legal team smites them like the irresponsible cockroaches they are if they ever dare to issue a negative report on such a stalwart of American Kapitalism.....

Please...Also link to Matt Taibbis' findings on the SEC meeting. I will continue to post as this emplodes.

My personal take at this juncture, is its difficult to distinguish from 'their' Arrogance an/or Ignorance...they've been slipping a lot lately and even though they are a tool they are defining the map that leads to the wizards of oz...this 'should' be unacceptable to their masters.

RealityZone; A New Era ?: US secretly tried to make deal with Goldman Sachs in wake of financial crisis

RealityZone; A New Era ?: US secretly tried to make deal with Goldman Sachs in wake of financial crisis

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The dead end kids

The dead end kids
Young, unemployed and facing tough future

The number of young Americans without a job has exploded to 52.2 percent — a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept. — meaning millions of Americans are staring at the likelihood that their lifetime earning potential will be diminished and, combined with the predicted slow economic recovery, their transition into productive members of society could be put on hold for an extended period of time.
The number represents the flip-side to the Labor Dept.'s report that the employment rate of 16-to-24 year olds has eroded to 47.83 percent -- the lowest ratio of working young Americans in that age group, including all but those in the military, since WWII.
And worse, without a clear economic recovery plan aimed at creating entry-level jobs, the odds of many of these young adults -- aged 16 to 24, excluding students -- getting a job and moving out of their parents' houses are long. Young workers have been among the hardest hit during the current recession -- in which a total of 9.5 million jobs have been lost.

continue reading...

also read: Commentary: We shouldn't have homeless children in America -- McClatchy

One million schoolchildren are homeless in America. That's an intolerable number, and it's likely to rise unless we do something about it.
For homeless school-age children — with precarious living arrangements and the daily struggles to find food and shelter — attending school is an uphill battle. At least one-fifth do not attend school at all. Often, there is no transportation from shelters to school.
And for those homeless students who do attend, they have more academic problems, are suspended twice as often, and are more likely to repeat a grade. Their math and reading scores are 16 percent lower, and only one in four graduates from high school.

We are punishing these school-age kids for the sins of our economic and social policies.

Starting with President Reagan, the federal government has made one cut after another in the social safety net. President Clinton overturned our welfare policies. And Presidents Bush father and son both were unfriendly to the poor.

read further...

'Social cleansing' as Mexico goes to war with itself

Published Date: 29 September 2009
By Bernd Debusmann

WHEN Mexican president Felipe Calderon ordered 2,500 troops and federal agents into the city of Ciudad Juarez on the US border 17 months ago to crack down on drug violence, the average monthly murder rate there was 66.
In retrospect, those were the days of peace and calm.

Ciudad Juarez has since become the most active front in simultaneous and increasingly bloody wars. One is between drug cartels fighting each other for access to the US market. The other is betADVERTISEMENTween drug traffickers and the Mexican authorities charged with imposing law and order: they have been singularly unsuccessful.

Despite a vastly increased military presence (now about 7,000, plus 2,500 federal agents), the monthly bodycount this year has averaged more than 180. In August, it exceeded 300, a record. According to a study last month by a Mexican non-profit group, the Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice, Ciudad Juarez (population 1.6 million) has become the world's most violent city.

Nationwide, almost 14,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Mr Calderon took office and declared war on the drug business. Casualties on the government side number 725 police and soldiers between the beginning of 2008 and the middle of this year.

But bodycounts tell only part of the story. As residents of Ciudad Juarez tell it, there is a third war going on, waged by common criminals against citizens who are fast losing what little faith they had that the state could provide security. Common crime, from robbery and rape to extortion, car theft and kidnapping for ransom, is up. Ciudad Juarez, divided from its Texan sister city, El Paso, by the Rio Grande, has slid into what one long-time resident calls "a permanent state of criminal anarchy".

Most killings fall into the category of "bad guys eliminating bad guys" and don't inspire much, if any, investigative energy. And there is near absolute impunity for murdering malandros, a colloquial term for an underclass of young addicts, small-time drug dealers, homeless people and others at the bottom of the social pile, according to Gustavo de la Rosa, a senior investigator at the Human Rights Commission in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is the biggest city.

"We estimate that between 300 and 500 malandros have been killed since July of 2008," he said. "Not a single one of these murders has been solved, which leads one to believe what is going on is 'social cleansing' with the tacit permission of the state."

Oscar Maynez Grijalva, a former state forensics chief, has talked about death squads whose activities should be, but are not, investigated.

In the most brutal act so far of the suspected social cleansing, men wielding AK-47 assault rifles stormed into a drug rehabilitation centre this month, herded 18 youths outside, lined them up against a wall and shot them. For good measure, they also put a bullet through the head of the centre's dog. It was the fifth mass killing at a rehabilitation centre in a year, and it took place within sight of the US border fence.

Social cleansing, the targeted elimination of groups considered undesirable, worthless or dangerous, has been practised in a number of Latin American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Honduras, Argentina and Colombia. It has not been a Mexican tradition.

But now, looking too closely into the question "who is killing whom, and why" is becoming an increasingly risky business, as is following up on citizens' complaints about army abuses.

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has documented rapes, executions, torture and arbitrary detentions in states where the army is fighting the drug cartels.

Since Mr Calderon began using the military to bypass notoriously corrupt police agencies, about 50,000 soldiers and 30,000 federal police have been deployed in drug-producing states and border cities. If Ciudad Juarez is a model, they can be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Take the case of Mr de la Rosa, who became an outspoken critic of the military in the course of his job – pressing the army to investigate complaints from victims or their families. That earned him ever more explicit warnings to cool his criticism, from telephoned death threats to the detention and beating of one of his bodyguards.

"I'm convinced my life is at risk and on 25 August, I asked the head of the state human rights commission to arrange for protection for myself and my office," he said.

His request was greeted with silence until last week, when he was suspended from his job because the commission saw no way to guarantee his safety.

He has sent a 3,100-word letter to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission urging it to take measures to protect his life and that of his wife and 21-year-old son. What effect that will have remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, he is going into hiding in the city where he has lived for most of his 63 years: criminal anarchy in action.

Monday, September 28, 2009

RealityZone; A New Era ?: US Dollar Set to Be Eclipsed, World Bank President Predicts

RealityZone; A New Era ?: US Dollar Set to Be Eclipsed, World Bank President Predicts

Crash Course in Global Economics

Crash Course in Global Economics - Cato Institute: (Center for Trade Policy Studies)

G20 leaders convened in Pittsburgh last week during a sticky time for global trade relations. Brazilians, Canadians, Mexicans and Chinese are angry with the Americans. The Indians and the Chinese are furious with each other, as are the Europeans and the Americans. Most of this stems from new trade restrictions imposed despite repeated pledges from G20 countries to avoid protectionism.

To quell the anger and gain a constructive focus, leaders must recognize how outdated it is to view the world in terms of "us" versus "them." A crash course on the global economy is in order.

The largest "American" steel producer is the majority-Indian-owned Arcelor-Mittal, which has headquarters in Luxembourg and Hong Kong, and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and five European stock exchanges. The largest "German" producer, Thyssen-Krupp, a conglomerate with 670 companies worldwide, is investing $3.7 billion in a carbon and stainless steel factory in Alabama, which will create 2,700 permanent jobs there.

California's steel industry consists almost entirely of rolling mill operations that process imported carbon steel slabs from Brazil, Russia and other countries.

The Californian finished products are disqualified from President Obama's Buy American procurement rules for failing to meet the statutory definition of American-made steel. This illustrates the impossibility, futility and harm of attempting to define producers by national characteristics.

continue reading...

Fisking Scientific American on Oil

By Paul Kedrosky

My friend Gregor Macdonald has up a nice and intemperate comment debunking the recent Scientific American article on technology and oil supplies:
I have now read the Scientific American article. It is perhaps one of the more, if not the most insidious of the recent media pieces on peak oil, in that it leverages the truth about technological advances in oil exploration and extraction to create a falsehood: that these technological advances increase aggregate flows in world supply. It was bad enough that the NYT piece invoked Kashagan as an example--a howler of an example really--because of course Kashagan was discovered in 2000 and not a drop of oil will flow until 2014 (at huge expense and after many western oil cos have abandoned the project after huge losses). That the NYT would invoke Kashagan as an example of recent discoveries is almost absurdist. The Sci-Am article also trades on one of the most common, recurring misunderstandings and that has to do with scale. In other words, we are always finding new oil and we have to find new oil because we are losing at least 4 Mb/day each year to decline. So we have to not only find new oil, but we have to develop it and get it flowing each year to make up for existing decline. Sci-Am is reporting on technology advances that have been used for years, but, then very inaccurately runs those advances like a stupid battering ram against peak oil. Which is about peak flows, not peak reserves. It was a truly astonishing article. Any article that conflates reserves and flows is incompetent. The treatment of California and Alberta in particular in the Sci-Am article was so misleading as to be a textbook example of statistical and polemical obfuscation.

continue reading...

and a similar dissing from The Oil Drum:

Peak Oil Not a Problem According to NY Times; Scientific American - Our Response on the Financial Aspects

Recently, we have had two new articles aiming to put to rest people's fears about peak oil. One is from the New York Times:
Oil Industry Sets a Brisk Pace of New Discoveries
It talks about the many discoveries this year, and how, if they continue at the pace they have in the first half, they will be the best since 2000.
The other is from the October Scientific American, called
Squeezing More Oil from the Ground.
It is behind a pay wall (you can get it for $5.95). There is also a draft version available on line. Its premise seems to be that there are a lot of promising areas that we have not yet explored. When you put this together with advances in drilling and the promises of secondary and tertiary recovery, there is a good chance that oil production will not peak for many years.
In this post, we will look a little more at these articles, and see why peak oil, and perhaps the financial issues associated with peak oil, are still an issue, regardless of what these articles may suggest.

continue reading this one...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Four Major Developments All Gold Investors Should Watch

Four Major Developments All Gold Investors Should Watch

Jason Hamlin

Gold has finally breached the $1,000 level and looks like it might hold the line on this latest attempt. I anticipate that this psychologically-important level will turn from resistance into support as gold makes new highs towards the end of 2009. If I am correct, right now is the last chance investors will have to purchase gold for under $1,000/ounce.

A series of new and significant events have unfolded over the past few weeks that have influenced the precious metals markets and will likely continue to support gold's price advance. If you are a gold investor, it is important that you understand these events and the impact they are likely to have on your investments.

(read more here)

Hacking the Sky

Geo-Engineering Could Save the Planet ... and Sacrifice the World in the Process

Earth is busted. Like a supercomputer whose elaborate code has developed a few bugs, the core operating systems of the planet are frayed: Ocean populations are collapsing, forests are disappearing, soils have become thin. Perhaps most worrisome, the globe’s atmosphere, the ecosystem on which all other ecosystems depend, is overheating. The machinery of life appears to have malfunctioned.

Since the scale of the climate crisis became clear, the strategy for fixing this glitch has focused on remediation. To maintain the atmosphere’s equilibrium, we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Our chief goal should be to return the climate to something approximating the pre-industrial status quo.

But what if such a return isn’t possible? What if the planet has gone permanently haywire? As the effects of climate change become obvious and global leaders remain unable to halt emissions, a growing number of scientists say we need to begin researching what’s called “geo-engineering” – ways to artificially reduce global temperatures and/or manipulate plants or the oceans to absorb huge amounts of CO2. Having unintentionally warmed the planet, we may have little choice but to intentionally cool it back down.

Even those most interested in geo-engineering say that the idea of deliberately deforming the planet in order to save it from ourselves is, as Stanford University’s Ken Caldeira told NPR this summer, “scary.” Yet if we shy away from manipulating the whole globe and continue on our present course, we could be left with a burnt Earth unlike anything ever seen. The scientists who are encouraging government-funded research into geo-engineering are driven by a powerful motive: fear. All too aware of the implications of unchecked CO2 emissions – and worried that political systems aren’t moving quickly enough to respond to changes in the planet’s physical systems – these scientists say we may have no other option than to tinker with the sky.

continue reading article and proposals for geo-engineering the planet...

RealityZone; A New Era: Change Bernanke's drugs? Secret White House G-20 notes

RealityZone; A New Era: Change Bernanke's drugs? Secret White House G-20 notes


By George Washington of Washington’s Blog.

As Absolute Return Partners wrote in its July newsletter:
The most important investment decision you will have to make this year and possibly for years to come is whether to structure your portfolio for deflation or inflation.

So which is it, inflation or deflation?

This is obviously a hot topic of debate, and experts weigh in on both sides. I’ve analyzed this issue in numerous posts, but every day there are new arguments one way or the other from some very smart people.
Because the arguments for inflation are so obvious and widely-discussed (bailouts, quantitative easing, Fed purchasing treasuries, etc.), I will not discuss them here (other than pointing to an interesting new argument for inflation by Andy Xie).

How Bad Could It Get?
The biggest deflation bears are rather pessimistic:
David Rosenberg says that deflationary periods can last years before inflation kicks in
Renowned economist Dr. Lacy Hunt says that we may have 15-20 years of deflation
PhD economist Steve Keen says that – unless we reduce our debt – we could have a “never-ending depression”
These are the most pessimistic views I have run across. Most deflationists think that a deflationary period would last for a shorter period of time.

continue reading article with links to and synopsis of other possible scenarios, and comments that follow...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RealityZone; A New Era: PBOC’s Hu Proposes Multinational Fund, Warns on Further Crises

RealityZone; A New Era: PBOC’s Hu Proposes Multinational Fund, Warns on Further Crises

RealityZone; A New Era: Scared Socialist

RealityZone; A New Era: Scared Socialist

‘We still have the same disease'

‘We still have the same disease' - interview with Nassim Taleb

On anniversary of Lehman collapse, author of The Black Swan can say 'I told you so'

Margaret Wente: The markets are buoyant. Can we relax?
Nassim Taleb: Not at all. Central bankers have no clue. In the first place, the financial crisis was not a black swan. It was perfectly predictable. They ignored the phenomenal buildup in leverage since 1980. They acted like airline pilots who'd never heard of hurricanes.
After finishing The Black Swan, I realized there was a cancer. The cancer was a huge buildup of risk-taking based on the lack of understanding of reality. The second problem is the hidden risk with new financial products. And the third is the interdependence among financial institutions.

MW: But aren't those the very problems we're supposed to be fixing?
NT: They're all still here. Today we still have the same amount of debt, but it belongs to governments. Normally debt would get destroyed and turn to air. Debt is a mistake between lender and borrower, and both should suffer. But the government is socializing all these losses by transforming them into liabilities for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What is the effect? The doctor has shown up and relieved the patient's symptoms – and transformed the tumour into a metastatic tumour. We still have the same disease.

continue reading...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Landmark Decision: Massive Relief for Homeowners and Trouble for the Banks

A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose – on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound.

RealityZone; A New Era: Break Up America's Banks

RealityZone; A New Era: Break Up America's Banks

Debt-For-Equity Swaps: Goldman And JPM Do A Stealthy Roll Up Of The Media Industry

A Curious Snag In Debt-For-Equity Restructurings As Goldman And JPM Do A Stealthy Roll Up Of The Media Industry

As everyone is focused on such trivial matters as how much money Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon will make this year, or how many quadrillion in Treasuries the Fed will monetize in the next year or two, Wall Street's two behemoths, Goldman and JP Morgan, have been pursuing a stealthy roll up of the media industry, preparing to exercise full equity control over an unprecedented amount of TV, radio, newspaper and magazine companies. Whether their alleged motto "Propaganda or bust" is true, only time will tell.

Read more

Small-Business Owners Fret Over Large IRS Fines

Five years ago, car-wash owner Orman Wilson set up a pension plan for himself and six employees. For that, he may owe the IRS a $1.2 million tax penalty.

Mr. Wilson, the owner of 19 coin-operated car washes in Houston, says he relied on four advisers, including a certified public accountant, to set up a plan that received approval from the Internal Revenue Service. Then, in late 2007, the IRS found fault with the plan and assessed it $250,000 -- plus special penalties of $1.2 million.

The penalties "would wipe us out," Mr. Wilson says.


The source of the distress: tax-law changes made by Congress in 2004. At the time, lawmakers were worried that tax shelters, especially from large corporations, were costing the Treasury billions in revenue. To combat it, they imposed enormous fines on taxpayers who failed to tell the IRS of participation in any transaction the agency might consider a tax shelter.

"The fines are not for the shelter itself," says Mr. Brucker, "but merely for failing to file the form disclosing the transaction."

The penalty is $100,000 per offense, per year for individuals and $200,000 for businesses. In order to put teeth into the law, the provisions gave the IRS no leeway in imposing the fines and taxpayers no way to get them reviewed in Tax Court. (my emphasis)

My comment/question on this - From my understanding of the tax courts, you are presumed guilty and it is the burden of the defendent to prove innocence. This is bad enough, but isn't adding insult to injury to tell someone that they can't even have their day in court at all?

Me Talk Presidential One Day


Matt Latimer worked as one of Dubya’s speechwriters during the president’s final twenty-two months in office. He was there to help sell the surge to a skeptical public. He was there as we pretended that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. And he was there to see a president who failed to grasp his own $700 billion bailout package—even as he was pitching it to the American public on live TV. A disillusioned insider reveals for the first time just how messy things got

By Matt Latimer

As a speechwriter for George W. Bush during the final years of his presidency, I’d seen crises and controversies. But nothing prepared me for the imminent collapse of America’s free-market system.

I was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with another speechwriter, a young man named Jonathan. (His last name was Horn; the president nicknamed him Horny.) We were chatting casually when the president’s favorite speechwriter came in. Chris Michel was in his midtwenties, with sandy blond hair. He was usually chipper, though at the moment his face was so pale he must have been the whitest man in the Bush White House. And that was no small accomplishment. Chris had just come from a secret meeting in the Oval Office, and without so much as a hello he announced: “Well, the economy is about to completely collapse.”

click here for more >

Fed Rejects Geithner Request for Study of Governance, Structure

By Craig Torres and Robert Schmidt

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve Board has rejected a request by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for a public review of the central bank’s structure and governance, three people familiar with the matter said.

The Obama administration proposed on June 17 a financial- regulatory overhaul including a “comprehensive review” of the Fed’s “ability to accomplish its existing and proposed functions” and the role of its regional banks. The Fed was to lead the study and enlist the Treasury and “a wide range of external experts.”

Some top central bank officials, after agreeing to the review, saw a potential threat to Fed independence after the Treasury released the proposal, two of the people said. The Obama plan said the Treasury would consider recommendations from the review and “propose any changes to the Fed’s governance and structure.”

“It is not obvious at all why that is a Treasury responsibility or even appropriate why the Treasury would undertake that kind of study,” said Robert Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Cumberland Advisors Inc. in Vineland, New Jersey, and a former Atlanta Fed research director. “The Fed was created by Congress and it is not part of the executive branch.”

(article continues)

Reform or Bust

by Paul Krugman

In the grim period that followed Lehman's failure, it seemed inconceivable that bankers would, just a few months later, be going right back to the practices that brought the world's financial system to the edge of collapse. At the very least, one might have thought, they would show some restraint for fear of creating a public backlash.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

MW666- we've barely scratched the surface

the purpose of this post is to ask for any general comments or suggestions underneath by members and visitors to this blog, and to give you a few hints about some features weve discovered, mostly by accident...we'd like to make this a little more interactive, ie, so we're looking for opinions on the layout, the template, & the gadgets were using...or if you have an idea for any gadget on other blogs you'd like to see here that we can look into adding to this site....and we'll also try to answer any questions you may have, if they're of general interest we'll incorpate the answers into this post by way of edit...

i havent had time to get into the comments software yet, does anyone else want to investigate i think i would give us threaded comments sections which can be expanded similar to the ones you've seen on other sites, such as alternet...
(see also: and )

here's the general question and answer pages from google; each topic links to FAQs:

& this is the site from blogger where they explain new features as they introduce them:

ill now try to explain below some of the things i learned, mostly by trial and error, (many errors), in my few months blogging:

there are several ways to incorporate links into your blog posts...easiest is just pasting in the url; readers can click on it & go directly to the article...when you paste a url from a source that is not clickable & doesnt show up colored (typically blue) in the draft, position your cursor at the end of the url and hit the spacebar, & it will then take (turn blue) and become clickable...conversely, if you copy a hyperlink you dont want (ie, one that links you to all the articles in the NYTimes on Obama), position your cursor at the end of it and backspace and it will be removed without changing the word or phrase...
you can also copy & paste any other text link to an article or other info from anywhere on the web; the html code is copied with the link and onto your blog post, so it remains a live link...if you want a to create a hyperlink out of text, the fifth icon on the post bar, right after text color, will do it for you: highlight the text you want to be a link (ie, an web article title) then click the link icon; a hyperlink window will appear and you paste your url in it, (after deleting the http that's already there or picking "other" from the drop down menu); click OK & the highlighted text will then become your hyperlink...
for adding links to comments, youll have to enter html code by hand...ive only done this a couple times, just to see if it works, obviously, just pasting the url is easier; i cant paste the rather simple instructions here because blogger interprets my example as real html and creates a link without the code...if you're interested, you can check the example in this article or let me know & ill email my example...
on one occassion i tried pasting a url in a comment and it didnt paste completely; if this happens to you you can shorten your url by using this site:

RZ has added a new feature to the posting capabilities which he discovered while working on his blog; hit "new post" on the top bar of this site and you'll see that you can add a url to make your post title an external link, or add a url to an enclosure link to another site (careful of double http again); examples are on his two posts below, and hopefully he will come on to this post afterwards to explain to me and all of us how to use the "links to this post" under each post...

editing drafts:
if youre typing your post right into a blogger draft and want to rearrange your text by cut and paste, use the edit html careful if you're trying to move a hyperlink or any other hypertext by cutting to make sure that you get all of the associated html code...

i recently changed the comment form placement; instead of appearing in a seperate small window, they're now imbedded below each post...ok with everyone? also, if you want to see which topics are being commented on without scrolling, click "new post", then "edit posts" and a list of labled topics will appear which will show comments for each and a "view" button to get you to the one you want to look at... 9/23 update; non-team members can now comment without completing the captcha word-verification step

i also found something i had filed a few weeks back regards jumps, whereby we can have just a snippet of each post on the main blog page, as an index, and have "read more" follow each as a link to the rest of each article...
i havent really checked into it yet, dont know if you all want it, so any feedback will be appreciated...

i probably missed adding something to this post as ive been pretty harried keeping up my other blog this week, if i think of something else ill be back with edits in this space, so watch for updates...and if im not clear on any of the above, or if there are any features you want to discuss, email me and ill work with you on it...

RZ------ " half of the stuff that i figured out, takes me ten minutes to refigure. i have tro back track. lol
it has been a week now. and for me it has all been trial and error. -----if you want some int to go straight to the article,under neath the title box, there is now another box, just paste the url in there. then when some one hits the title topic on the page it will take them right to the article. you can still post in the post box underneath.
the label tag, and box on the bottom when you post? in that box just type in the [ group ]==label. you want it classified as.
you can have more than one label seperated by commas and the like named "labels" on the sidebar will link to your article.

RealityZone; A New Era: Housing Agency's Cash Reserves Will Drop Below Requirement

RealityZone; A New Era: Housing Agency's Cash Reserves Will Drop Below Requirement

What exactly did the Fed do with Two Trillion Dollars ?

Despite Ben Bernanke's protestations, Congress must be given full access to audit the Federal Reserve's loans expenditure

To combat the financial crisis set off by the collapse of the housing bubble, the Federal Reserve Board has lent out more than $2tn through various special lending facilities. While the Fed discloses aggregate information on the loans made through each of the facilities, it will not disclose how much money it lent to specific banks or under what terms. By contrast, the Treasury puts this information about its $700bn TARP bailout up on its website.

The Imperial Origins of State-Led Development

The Imperial Origins of State-Led Development -
“Imperialism is the Last Stage of Capitalism.”

Globalization protesters routinely link American imperialism to promotion of capitalism overseas. For example, Naomi Klein’s 2008 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism draws a vivid connection between American interventions overseas (like the CIA overthrowing Allende in Chile, or today’s Iraq) and the promotion of free markets (“neoliberal economics”).
It’s plausible that there are sometimes connections between military interventions and the economic interests of the intervener. Yet it is not so obvious that imperialism promotes free markets. Historically, the most egregious imperialism, such as the British Empire, actually promoted state-led development rather than free markets.

companion article:

How the British Invented “Development” to Keep the Empire and Substitute for Racism, by William Easterly:
During the early years of World War II, Japan won major victories (such as the capture of Singapore) against the British and threatened India. Japanese propaganda pointed to British racism and offered themselves as the defenders of non-white peoples. The British feared that non-white people in the colonies might side with the Japanese rather than their colonial masters. The British had to come up with a new justification for colonial rule to replace the unpopular and increasingly implausible idea that they were a superior race destined to rule inferior races. In response, they invented the concept of economic development.

This story is told in an undeservedly obscure book by Suke Wolton, 2000, Lord Hailey, the Colonial Office, and the Politics of Race and Empire in the Second World War

The Japanese charge of British racism was certainly correct. They were so racist they thought even nonwhites acknowledged their own inferiority, like when Julian Huxley referred to the natives’ “childlike belief in the white as an inherently superior being.” After World War I, the Americans and British shot down a League of Nations resolution for Racial Equality proposed by the Japanese. The Colonial Office said in 1939 “most Africans are still savages.”

(use the above links to read more)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SEC Proposes Ban on Allowing Stock Flash Orders

By Jesse Westbrook

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposed banning flash orders after lawmakers said the practice may give hedge funds an advantage over other investors.

SEC commissioners unanimously voted today to seek public comment on a rule barring exchanges and trading platforms from giving clients access to information about stock orders a fraction of a second before the market. The proposal requires a second vote at a later public meeting to become binding.

“Investors that have access only to information displayed as public quotes may be harmed if market participants are able to flash orders and avoid the need to make the orders publicly available,” Chairman Mary Schapiro said.

Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Ted Kaufman urged the commission to halt the practice, arguing frequent traders use technology to profit from access to information not available to retail investors. Direct Edge Holdings LLC has relied on flash orders to take market share from NYSE Euronext.

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and Bats Global Markets voluntarily dropped flash orders last month after the practice drew scrutiny from Congress and the SEC. NYSE Euronext, operator of the world’s largest exchange, is the only exchange that didn’t offer flash orders.

“The SEC has done what we asked for,” Schumer said in a statement today. “This proposal will once and for all get rid of flash trading, which, if left untouched, could seriously undermine the fairness and transparency of our markets.”

(article continues)

It's Business as Usual Again for Wall Street's Casino Capitalists


One year after the bankruptcy of US investment bank Lehman Brothers, governments are divided over what lessons should be learned from the crisis. But the more the economy recovers, the less desire there is to implement radical reforms -- and many bankers have already returned to their old casino capitalism ways.

Everything moves faster on Wall Street, whether it's winning, losing -- or forgetting.

On New York's Seventh Avenue, between 49th Street and 50th Street, there is no evidence today to suggest that this is where the investment bank Lehman Brothers had its offices until a year ago.,1518,649430,00.html

RealityZone; A New Era: Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die

RealityZone; A New Era: Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die

International Monetary Fund to sell over 403 tons of gold

The International Monetary Fund said its executive board endorsed the sale of 403 tons of gold, worth an estimated 13 billion dollars, to boost its lending capacity to poor countries.

The IMF said in a statement the sales would be “in a volume strictly limited to 403.3 metric tons, with these sales to be conducted under modalities that safeguard against disruption of the gold market.”

The 186-nation institution said the decision was a core element of a new income model to make it less dependent on its lending revenue to cover expenses, such as surveillance of members’ economic and financial policies, that the board had approved in April 2008.

The Group of 20 key developed and developing countries, at their April summit in London, agreed the gold sales should allow the IMF to offer favorable conditions on loans to the poorest countries.

The IMF decision comes ahead of a two-day G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that opens next Thursday.
[read more]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dr Benevolence

Dr.Benevolence 1 hour ago
+1 Votes (1 Up / 0 Dn)

Request sent
Did Wall Street quake when President Obama recently addressed its elites on the one year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse? Hardly. If anything, some on Wall Street were heartened by discrete assurances that reforms would not go deeply into the evolved architecture of capitalism. The President’s speech deserves scrutiny, not just because it maps the administration’s financial agenda but because it exposes the limits of the administration’s comprehension of injustices and ills embedded in the system. Most tellingly, the speech reveals a large gap between rhetoric and reality, thus suggesting that the Obama and Bush administrations have more in common regarding political economy than partisans admit. After thanking his audience for its warm welcome Obama moved to the financial crisis, emphasizing the “terrific leadership” of his generals Geithner, Romer and Summers in getting the crisis under control. He then admonished Wall Street executives that there will be no return to the “reckless behavior and unchecked excess” that triggered the economic catastrophe, since Wall Street cannot expect that “American taxpayers will be there to break their fall” a second time. Several themes followed, the essence of which is enlightening. Financial elites were encouraged to develop self-regulation in gratefulness for the retention of their high place in the world. Using tacit means, Obama’s handlers acknowledged through their mouthpiece that the holders of great wealth on Wall Street would have been busted out of their asset ownership (and control of society) had the Bush and Obama administrations not braked the slide toward economic calamity. Moneychangers would be bankrupt because of their unmanageable leverage, their assets relinquished to new owners (including sound Main Street organizations) a few dimes on the dollar. Schemes formed long ago might have been set back, with newer intrigues brought to little – especially with government taking steps to undergird the commerce of businesses unsoiled by Wall Street machinations. A market based disfranchising of super-elites as a result of their own greedy excesses would have served as an unmatched rescue for grassroots populism. Changes in statutory or constitutional law cannot provide such peaceful and sustainable redress for an economically oppressed public. No constitutionally viable law can be written to isolate the wealth of the Wall Street rich (mostly hardened insiders, elite speculators and system manipulators) from the wealth of those who earn it honorably through meritorious contributions. Yet, the market meltdown that was underway in 2008 would have separated wealth quite meticulously for a market event by devastating highly leveraged entities while doing much less damage to other wealth holders. The justice of the outcome would have been undeniable, thus giving disenfranchised elites no recourse against the common good. Wall Street’s predators were so massively leveraged when the crisis hit that there would have been little capital left in their fraternities by which to shore up each other and buy assets on the cheap upon the advent of economic recovery. Super-elites’ losses in derivatives would have required them to cough up their real estate holdings around the world, their gold and diamonds in Swiss vaults, and their title to mines and oil fields globally. They would have lost control of foreign countries’ economies as well as corporate boards at home. Even their claims against the U.S. government would have been forfeited – claims held in Treasury bonds and Treasury notes used as collateral in leveraging speculative plays. The vast majority of the world’s Bernie Madoff types would have been shaken out just like Madoff. When Donald Trump became an independent presidential hopeful in 1999, he proposed a one-time asset tax of 14.2% on the wealth of Americans with ten million or more in capital – no one else touched. Trump’s proposal fell on deaf ears even though the sum was calculated to pay off the national debt ($5.7 trillion in 1999) and shore up the Social Security System. The failure of Trump’s proposal to gain any traction in either political party shows that a market-driven mitigation of economic injustice is more constructive than a remotely plausible electoral action. In 2008 as well as 1999, the people’s representatives in Congress could not act with prudence and strength because they were blinded by greed, pleasure and ambition. As in John Bunyon’s depiction of “Mansoul” (in “The Holy War,” 1682) the public’s attachment to gratifications and entertainment saps their will to fight “Diabolus.” A debtor nation lacks the mental toughness to accept a severe economic contraction as the deserved price of dethroning a rising Leviathan. While Thomas Hobbes used the idea of Leviathan (1651) to heighten the imagery of the sovereign state, the Old and New Testaments use the term “beast” to animate the idea of sovereign powers gone bad. In the Bible’s closing book (John’s Revelation), a satanically inspired hidden power arises to plunder and control the world. It is bigger than any nation-state or single time period. It is amorphous, too – vaguely delineated so as to absorb diverse elements with overt symbiotic relationship only for those enlightened about its mysteries. The beast is anti-Christ for various reasons, not the least of which is its employment of power-grabbing methods that trample the principles of goodness taught by Christ and earlier prophets. The beast John envisioned has ten horns, seven heads, multiple crowns and various features amalgamated from beast images in earlier biblical epochs. Interestingly, one of the beast’s heads suffers a mortal wound; yet, the head and beast somehow recover. The description is intentionally cryptic and the symbolism sufficiently nebulous to make the imagery salient in a variety of tumultuous contexts across the last twenty centuries. Every unjustly oppressed group deserves the solace that an enduring kingdom of righteousness will someday displace the evolution of beastly systems. Thus, it is disingenuous or uniformed to claim an exclusive ‘fulfillment” for John’s vision as some sects do. Nevertheless, allowing for ad hoc, sequential and cumulative applications, it is intriguing that the beast imaged in John’s vision suffers a mortal wound to one of its heads. Could it be that the vision touches our times, too, perhaps culminating in an approaching series of events? The Bible claims to tell of the invisible but Almighty God and his various miraculous interventions in the affairs of humankind. As a consequence, the Bible has little utility as a proof-text; it is unable to compete with scientific methods rightly employed. Indeed, just because the Bible seemingly suggests that an Apocalypse awaits does not mean it necessarily does: the idea must be considered on its own merits just as the Bible’s credibility should be scrutinized honorably. Rationality requires that Bible inquiry be approached with a sound hermeneutic, thus compelling a reassessment of popular theological dogmas and speculations. Once the appropriate work is done, there remains a storyline and set of moral principles that intuition, inductive reasoning and history recommend to our best intellectual energies. Arguably, divine providence has left us with symbolism and insights that improve our ability to understand the world’s evolution. Thus, the picture of a rising beast in John’s vision may encourage us to use scientific and investigative tools more vigorously in our search to understand unfolding events. As President Obama explained in his Wall Street speech, the sudden acceleration in the financial crisis produced meetings “in the dead of night” among government leaders and financial elites. “Several of the world’s largest and oldest financial firms had fallen, either bankrupt, bought, or bailed out.” Because of the incredible leverage Wall Street had over many trillions of dollars of assets and derivative contracts, it suffered a mortal blow – the gravest blow received by any head within the system – London, Paris, Amsterdam and other financial centers notwithstanding. There was no way to save the gravely stricken beast except by miraculous intervention. Perhaps that intervention came in the form of Hank ‘the hammer’ Paulson’s bailout prescriptions or Ben Bernanke’s reviving medications. Maybe the ‘miracle’ is the astonishing way two politically hostile administrations worked in complimentary fashion to repair the ailing Leviathan, most of the partisan worker bees not understanding the true consequence of their actions. Whatever the case, the world stands in awe of the beast’s resiliency and uncanny ability to metamorphose into transnational entities that persist in their intrigues. Who can make war with a Leviathan unfettered by national boundaries – an invisible state that lives off the DNA and assets of its hosts? Sci-fi movie makers have tried to imagine such a thing. Maybe they don’t need to imagine any more. Just let the documentary cameras roll.

China supports "East Asian Community" concept mentioned by new Japanese PM

BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- China on Thursday expressed support for the idea of creating an East Asian Community mentioned by Japan's newly elected Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu commented on the idea in response to a question about China's attitude towards it.

Hatoyama has said his government would promote the long-term idea of an East Asian Community modelled on the European Union with a common currency.

Jiang said it is a long-term objective of East Asian cooperation to establish an East Asian Community to promote lasting peace in East Asia and boost the economic and social development of the region in a comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable way.

"It is also the consensus of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as China, Japan and Republic of Korea," she told a regular press conference.

China is committed to working with East Asian countries including Japan to further deepen cooperation in the region and striving for the goal of an East Asian Community, Jiang said.

Being energy dependant by design

Federal and local government doesn’t support solar energy. I guess we’re used to being energy dependant and if we continue on the path we’re on, we’ll continue to be energy dependant.
This week, Gov. Schwarzenegger issued an executive order that requires California achieve his goal of 20% of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. He also pledged to veto legislation that specifies how that goal will be met. California is home to the world’s largest solar equipment manufacturer. It is based in Silicon Valley and it manufacturers no solar panels there. All of its manufacturing is done abroad. In the past 12 months Applied Materials has sold $1.3 billion in solar. None of that will be fulfilled in the US or California. Mr. Governor, why is that? Small sun based industry is embracing solar. The California wine business is converting. In Mendocino’s Anderson Valley many of the wineries run all or part of their businesses on solar power. Navarro Vineyards and Greenwood Ridge leverage extensive solar installations. The Wine Spectator ran a story about thieves using wineries' panels as a parts warehouse . Why won’t California’s government find some way to encourage other businesses to install solar? Applied Materials says the solar market in the US is less stable the California’s budget or its plate tectonics. Before it commits to building solar in California, it has to know the government is behind developing this market. Why hasn’t this been done. California and the US need jobs, we need energy and we need to be able to produce both without being dependant on foreign markets and energy. This would appear to be a “shovel ready” industry ready to grow and eager to solve many problems.

Thursday, September 17, 2009



TaxVox: the Tax Policy Center

: )

More Crumbs...But 'Keep'em Stupid' at all Cost

House bill would kill subsidized student loans

House college aid bill would boost Pell Grants, kill subsidized student loans

  • On Thursday September 17, 2009, 4:29 am EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House is poised to vote to push private lenders out of the federal college loan business and massively expand the government's own lending program.

Lawmakers debated a student aid bill Wednesday that has widespread support, including from the White House. The measure is expected to win passage Thursday and go next to the Senate.

Proponents of putting the government in charge of all federal loans say it would save an estimated $87 billion, though this figure has been disputed.

The money would boost Pell Grants for needy students and pay for a new college completion fund, community college reforms and more college aid for veterans.

"No student in this great country of ours should have to mortgage their future to pursue their dreams," said the bill's sponsor, California Democratic Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Yet the money also would be spent on things that don't help pay for college, such as construction at K-12 schools and new preschool programs.

And while the measure would increase Pell Grants, it would do nothing to curb college costs, which rise much faster than Pell Grants do.

Changes in federal student aid would fulfill a campaign promise by President Barack Obama and transform a long-standing partnership between the government and the private sector.

Republican critics argue it is wrong to put the government in near-total control of student lending.

"Ask yourselves whether another government takeover is what we need right now," said Minnesota Rep. John Kline, senior Republican on the Education Committee.

Many also worry about job losses in their districts.

The measure would end the subsidized loan program under which private lenders made $56 billion in loans backed by the government to more than 6 million students last year, compared with $14 billion in direct loans from the government. Private lenders employ more than 30,000 people whose jobs depend on the subsidized loan program, and the industry says many would be laid off.

Sallie Mae employees have been trying to involve local leaders in the issue and recently held a series of town hall meetings and petition drives in Pennsylvania, Florida, Delaware, New York and Indiana.

Sallie Mae, the biggest student loan provider, has about 8,500 employees in the program. It still will have contracts to service federal loans but would probably lay off about 30 percent of those workers.

Democratic Rep. David Wu of Oregon said lenders still could make all the loans they want. "What will not happen anymore is making those student loans with taxpayer subsidies," he said.

As consumers, college students probably wouldn't notice any difference in their loans, which they would get through their schools. Broadly speaking, the bill doesn't do much to make loans cheaper or help pay them off.

It does keep interest rates for some federal loans -- those based on need -- from jumping from 3.4 percent currently to 6.8 percent as scheduled in 2012. Interest rates for most other loans would remain at 6.8 percent.

Under the measure, Pell Grants would rise slightly more than inflation over the next decade, increasing on average by about 2.6 percent yearly, according to the bill's sponsors.

The bill marks the first time lawmakers have ever agreed to a long-term annual increase in the program. Pell Grants have always depended on annual spending bills and on occasion have stayed flat or been cut when lawmakers came under pressure to reduce spending.

However, the bill does not actually change the situation. Obama originally proposed to take Pell Grants out of lawmakers' hands entirely, making the program an entitlement like Social Security and Medicare, which would have cost an estimated $117 billion -- more than lawmakers have to spend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Spectacle of Illiteracy and the Crisis of Democracy

Here's something we can't post or read on the MW US Politics Board...PRAISE for MW666

By Henry A. Giroux
Source: t r u t h o u t

C. Wright Mills argued 50 years ago that one important measure of the demise of vibrant democracy and the corresponding impoverishment of political life can be found in the increasing inability of a society to translate private troubles to broader public issues. This is an issue that both characterizes and threatens any viable notion of democracy in the United States in the current historical moment. In an alleged democracy, the image of the public sphere with its appeal to dialogue and shared responsibility has given way to the spectacle of unbridled intolerance, ignorance, seething private fears, unchecked anger, along with the decoupling of reason from freedom. Increasingly, as witnessed in the utter disrespect and not so latent racism expressed by Joe Wilson, the Republican Congressman from South Carolina, who shouted, "You Lie!" during President Obama's recent address on health care, the obligation to listen, respect the views of others and engage in a literate exchange are increasingly reduced to the highly spectacularized embrace of an infantile emotionalism. This is an emotionalism that is made for television and is perfectly suited for emptying the language of public life of all substantive content, reduced in the end to a playground for hawking commodities, promoting celebrity culture and enacting the spectacle of right-wing fantasies fueled by the fear that the public sphere as an exclusive a club for white, male Christians is in danger of collapsing. For some critics, those who carry guns to rallies or claim Obama is not a bona fide citizen of the United States are simply representative of a lunatic fringe that gets far more publicity from the mainstream media than they deserve. Of course, this is understandable given that the media's desire for balance and objective news is not just craven, but relinquishes any sense of ethical responsibility by failing to make a distinction between an informed argument and an unsubstantiated opinion. The collapse of journalistic standards finds its counterpart in the rise of civic illiteracy. An African-American president certainly makes the Rush Limbaughs of the world even more irrational then they already are, just as the lunatic fringe seems to be able to define itself only through a mode of thought whose first principle is to disclaim logic itself. But I think this dismissal is too easy. What this decline in civility, the emergence of mob behavior and the utter blurring in the media between a truth and lie suggests is that we have become one of the most illiterate nations on the planet. I don't mean illiterate in the sense of not being able to read, though we have far too many people who are functionally illiterate in a so-called advanced democracy, a point that writers such as Chris Hedges, Susan Jacoby and the late Richard Hofstatder made clear in their informative books on the rise of anti-intellectualism in American life. But I am talking about a different species of ignorance and anti-intellectualism. Illiterate in this instance refers to the inability on the part of much of the American public to grasp private troubles and the meaning of the self in relation to larger public problems and social relations. It is a form of illiteracy that points less to the lack of technical skills and the absence of certain competencies than to a deficit in the realms of politics—one that subverts both critical thinking and the notion of literacy as both critical interpretation and the possibility of intervention in the world. The type of illiteracy is not only incapable of dealing with complex and contested questions; it is also a principle for glorifying the principle of self-interest as a paradigm for understanding politics. This is a form of illiteracy marked by the inability to see outside of the realm of the privatized self, an illiteracy in which the act of translation withers, reduced to a relic of another age. The United States is a country that is increasingly defined by a civic deficit, a chronic and deadly form of civic illiteracy that points to the failure of both its educational system and the growing ability of anti-democratic forces to use the educational force of the culture to promote the new illiteracy. As a result of this widespread illiteracy that has come to dominate American culture we have moved from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting, and in doing so have restaged politics and power in both unproductive and anti-democratic ways.

Think of the forces at work in the larger culture that work overtime to situate us with a privatized world of fantasy, spectacle and resentment that is entirely removed from larger social problems and public concerns. For instance, corporate culture within its unrelenting commercials and ads carpet bomb our audio and visual fields with the message that the only viable way to define ourselves is to shop and consume in an orgy of private pursuits. Popular culture traps us in the privatized universe of celebrity culture, urging us to define ourselves through the often empty and trivialized and highly individualized interests of celebrities. Pharmaceutical companies urge us to deal with our problems, largely produced by economic and political forces out of our control, by taking a drug, one that will both chill us out and increase their profit margins - this has now become an educational measure applied increasingly and indiscriminately to children in our schools. Pop psychologists urge us to simply think positively, give each other hugs and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps while also insisting that those who confront reality and its mix of complex social issues are, as Chris Hedges points out, defeatists, a negative force that inhibits "our inner essence and power." There is also the culture of militarization, which permeates all aspects of our lives - from our classrooms and the screen culture of reality television to the barrage of violent video games and the bloodletting in sports such as popular wrestling - endlessly at work in developing modes of masculinity that celebrate toughness, violence, cruelty, moral indifference and misogyny. All of these forces, whose educational influence should never be underestimated, constitute a new type of illiteracy, a kind of civic illiteracy in which it becomes increasingly impossible to connect the everyday problems that people face with larger social forces - thus depoliticizing their own sense of agency and making politics itself an empty gesture. Is it any wonder that politics is now mediated through a spectacle of anger, violence, humiliation and rage that mimics the likes of the Jerry Springer Show? It is not that we have become a society of the spectacle - though that is partly true - but that we have fallen prey to a new kind of illiteracy in which the distinction between illusion and reality is lost, just as the ability to experience our feelings of discontent and our fears of uncertainty are reduced to private troubles, paralyzing us in a sea of resentment, waiting to be manipulated by extremists extending from religious fanatics to right-wing radio hosts. This is a prescription for a kind of rage that looks for easy answers, demands a heightened emotional release and resents any attempts to think through the connection between our individual woes and any number of larger social forces, including an unchecked system of finance, the anti-democratic power of the corporate state, the rise of multinationals and the destruction of the manufacturing base or the privatization of public schooling along with its devaluing of education as a public good. As the public collapses into the personal, the personal becomes "the only politics there is, the only politics with a tangible referent or emotional valence";[1] the formative educational and political conditions that make a democracy possible begin to disappear. Under such circumstances, the language of the social is either devalued, pathologized or ignored, and all dreams of the future are now modeled around the narcissistic, privatized and self-indulgent needs of consumer and celebrity culture and the dictates of the alleged free market. How else to explain the rage against big government, but barely a peep against the rule of big corporations, which increasingly control not only the government, but almost every vital aspect of our lives from health care to the quality of our environment?

Stripped of its ethical and political importance, the public has been largely reduced to a space where private interests are displayed - and the social order increasingly mimics a giant Dr. Phil show, where notions of the public register as simply a conglomeration of private woes, tasks, conversations and problems. Most importantly, as the very idea of the social collapses into an utterly private discourse, everyday politics is decoupled from its democratic moorings and it becomes more difficult for people to develop a vocabulary for understanding how private problems and public issues constitute the very lifeblood of a vibrant politics and democracy itself. Emptied of any substantial content, democracy appears imperiled as individuals are unable to translate their privately suffered misery into genuine public debate, social concerns and collective action. This is a form of illiteracy that is no longer marginal to American society, but, increasingly, becomes one of its defining and more frightening features. The raging narcissism that seems to shape every ad, film, television program and appeal now mediated through the power of the corporate state and consumer society is not merely a clinical and individual problem, it is the basis for a new kind of mass illiteracy that is endlessly reproduced through the venues of a number of anti-democratic institutions and forces that eschew critical debate, self-reflection, critical analysis and, certainly, modes of dissent that call the totality of a society into question. As the society becomes incapable of questioning itself, the new illiteracy parades as just its opposite. We are told that education is about learning how to take tests rather than learning how to think critically. We are told that anything that does not make us feel good is not worth bothering with. We are told that character is the only measure of how to judge people who are the victims of larger social forces that are mostly out of their control. When millions of people are unemployed, tossed out of their homes, homeless or living in poverty, the language of character, pop psychology, consumerism and celebrity culture are more than a diversion; they are fundamental to the misdirected anger, mob rule and illiteracy that frames the screaming, racism, lack of civility and often sheer and legitimate desperation.

Authoritarianism is often abetted by an inability of the public to grasp how questions of power, politics and history and public consciousness are mediated at the interface of private issues and public concerns. The ability to translate private problems into social considerations is fundamental to what it means to reactivate political sensibilities and conceive of ourselves as critical citizens, engaged public intellectuals and social agents. Just as an obsession with the private is at odds with a politics informed by public consciousness, it also burdens politics by stripping it of the kind of political imagination and collective vision necessary for a viable notion of meaning, hope and political agency. Civic literacy is about more than enlarging the realm of critique and affirming the social; it is also about public responsibility, the struggle over democratic public life and the importance of critical education in a democratic society. The US government is more than willing to invest billions in wars, lead the world in arms sales and give trillions in tax cuts to the ultra rich, but barely acknowledges the need to invest in those educational and civic institutions - from schools to the arts - that enable individuals to be border crossers, capable of connecting the private and the public as part of a more vibrant understanding of politics, identity, agency and governance. The new illiteracy is not the cause of our problems, which are deeply rooted in larger social, economic and political forces that have marked the emergence of the corporate state, a deadly form of racism parading as color blindness and a ruthless market fundamentalism since the 1970s, but it is a precondition for locking individuals into a system in which they are complicitous in their own exploitation, disposability and potential death. The new illiteracy is about more than learning how to read the book or the word; it is about learning how not to read the world. It is a problem as serious as any we have ever faced in the United States. At the core of any viable Democratic politics is the ability to question the basic assumptions central to an imagined democracy. This is not merely a political issue, but an educational issue, one that points to the need for modes of civic education that provide the knowledge and competencies, for young and old alike, to raise important questions about what education and literacy itself should accomplish in a democracy.[2] This is not an issue we can ignore too much longer.

After Capitalism: Ethics?

Five ideas on value and the crisis.

September 16, 2009 By Adam Arvidsson

As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure of] use value.'

Karl Marx, Grundrisse

We are, it would seem, in the midst of a historical crisis of the capitalist system. As the dynamo effects of the sub-prime collapse ripple through the economy, from financial markets to consumer spending and industrial production, it has become common to point at how our present capitalist system lacks long-term sustainability. If this used to be the privilege of a handful of left-leaning economists like André Gunder Frank (2005) or Robert Brenner (2004), economists, politicians and business leaders who used to be more than happy with the existing order of things have now joined the ranks. Even Richard Florida, whose theories of the 'creative class' stood at the heart of the gentrification-driven real estate boom that preceded the present crisis now proclaims that '[t]he housing bubble was the ultimate expression, and perhaps the last gasp, of an economic system some 80 years in the making, and now well past its "sell-by date" (Florida, 2009:9).

However, in order to understand why the 'system is past its "sell-by date"' and, by implication, what can be done about this, it is not enough to go beyond populist cries of managerial greed and corrupt banks. We need to move even deeper into the heart of the matter, beyond even most current explanations that focus on the perversities of advanced financial instruments and the need for tighter regulation of financial markets; we need to 'descend into the depths of production' to quote (an increasingly popular) Marx (1939[1973]:105) once more, and engage with the fundamental concept of any economic analysis: value.

This article will attempt a couple of moves in that direction. It will argue that we are witnessing a fundamental re-configuration of the very core logic of value with which our economy works: We are moving from a capitalist economy where value is directly related to investments in productive time, to an ever more influential ‘ethical economy' where value is related to the quality of social relations. I will develop this argument by presenting five (interconnected) ideas: One, that our crisis is a crisis of transition from one system, industrial capitalism, to another economy that has yet to find its political, juridical and ideological form, its 'superstructure' to keep using Marxist terms. Two, that this crisis of transition is driven by the emergence, within the institutional framework of capitalism itself of a new mode of production that works according to a logic of value that is different from that of industrial capitalism. Consequently a lot of the wealth actually produced by the economy cannot be adequately valued and, by implication, managed within existing structures of accounting, control and measurement. Seen this way, the crisis we are now living through is essentially a value crisis, where, as the opening quote claims, exchange value no longer adequately reflects use value, or, to put it in less cryptic terms, there is a general sensation that a lot of the real values that circulate in our economy cannot be adequately represented. Three, that the emerging 'new economy' has a distinct value-logic of its own. It is an economy where value is related not to productive time as in the capitalist economy, but to the ability to build ethically binding relations: it is, in this sense and 'ethical economy'. Four, that the emergence of such an ethical economy is the outcome of a dialectic that has been immanent to the very development of the capitalist economy, and in particular to its post-War globalization-phase. Five, that since, as recent economic sociology would argue, 'value' is essentially a shared convention as to the representation of economic processes (cf. Barry & Slater, 2005, Chiapello, 2008ii), the solution to the present 'value crisis' is contingent on the establishment of a new shared convention. Given the nature of the ethical economy, such a convention must be centred on a transparent and systematic measure of the social impact of companies and organizations.

I am aware that a bold statements like these are risky in an academic setting, particularly when expressed in the condensed format imposed by the medium of the journal article. (This article is in fact an attempt to summarize the ideas behind an ongoing book project.iii) As a sort of pre-emptive defence against the (legitimate) criticism that this article will no doubt produce, I want to remind the reader that its purpose suggest ideas that can guide our interpretation of current events. Although such theoretical work needs to proceed in close dialogue with the available facts, it stands no chance of even approaching the empirical rigour needed for a thorough substantiation of the hypotheses proposed. All this article aims to do is to present a number of ideas that can serve as heuristic devices, that may be, hopefully, developed, corroborated, criticized or refuted by others.

5 Ideas...

Obama Seeks PATRIOT Act Extensions

Despite promises during the campaign that he would review certain of the most intrusive portions of the PATRIOT Act, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department today is calling for Congress to extend all three expiring provisions, though they were “willing to consider” civil rights protections “as long as they don’t weaken” the president’s powers under the act.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Balochistan is the ultimate prize

By Pepe Escobar
PART 1: Obama does his Bush impression

It's a classic case of calm before the storm. The AfPak chapter of Obama's brand new OCO ("Overseas Contingency Operations"), formerly GWOT ("global war on terror") does not imply only a surge in the Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A surge in Balochistan as well may be virtually inevitable.

Balochistan is totally under the radar of Western corporate media. But not the Pentagon's. An immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistan's area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistan's natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistan's 173 million citizens. Balochs are the majority, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the provincial capital, is considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon, which for all its high-tech wizardry mysteriously has not been able to locate Quetta resident "The Shadow", historic Taliban emir Mullah Omar himself.

Strategically, Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.

Gwadar - a port built by China - is the absolute key. It is the essential node in the crucial, ongoing, and still virtual Pipelineistan war between IPI and TAPI. IPI is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline", which is planned to cross from Iranian to Pakistani Balochistan - an anathema to Washington. TAPI is the perennially troubled, US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which is planned to cross western Afghanistan via Herat and branch out to Kandahar and Gwadar.

[read more]

Obama does his Bush impression

By Pepe Escobar

The "lasting commitment" Washington war-time summit/photo-op between United States President Barack Obama and the AfPak twins, "Af" President Hamid Karzai and "Pak" President Asif Ali Zardari was far from being an urgent meeting to discuss ways to prevent the end of civilization as we know it. It has been all about the meticulous rebranding of the Pentagon's "Long War". Obama's opium war
By now it's clear that the upcoming, Pentagon-enabled, summer surge in the "Af" section of Obama's war in AfPak will be deployed essentially as Obama's new opium war. In a spicy historic reversal, the British Empire (which practically annexed Afghanistan) wanted the Chinese to be hooked on its opium, while now the American empire wants Afghans to stop cultivating it.

The strategy boils down to devastating the Pashtun-cultivated poppy fields in southern Helmand province - the opium capital of the world. In practice, this will be yet another indiscriminate war against Pashtun peasants, who have been cultivating poppies for centuries. Needless to say, thousands will migrate to the anti-occupation rainbow coalition/motley crew branded as "Taliban".

Prison Industrial Complex

I read this article, very long article, by Catherine Austin Fitts sometime back and it was an eye opener for me. I feel it is too long to post here so I'll provide the link and recommend you read it. It is about Wall Street and Government joining together to privatize and profit from incarceration of moere and more citizens while crime has declined.

Pipelineistan goes Iran-Pak

By Pepe Escobar

The earth has been shaking for a few days now all across Pipelineistan - with massive repercussions for all the big players in the New Great Game in Eurasia. United States President Barack Obama's AfPak strategists didn't even see it coming.

A silent, reptilian war had been going on for years between the US-favored Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline and its rival, the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline". This past weekend, a winner emerged. And it's none of the above: instead, it's the 2,100-kilometer, US$7.5 billion IP (the Iran-Pakistan pipeline), with no India attached. (Please see Pakistan, Iran sign gas pipeline deal, May 27, 2009, Asia Times Online.)

[read more ]

An Inconvenient Truth for the GOP: Canada's System is Better

by Eugene Lang and Philip DeMont

It is rare for Canada to get noticed in the United States. In fact, it is almost unprecedented for anything Canadian to be the focal point of debate in Washington. Yet we have seen just that in recent months during the congressional wrangling over U.S. President Barack Obama's attempts to reform health insurance.

Canada's medicare system has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight south of the border. It has been pilloried by the Republicans in Congress, the subject of derisive and distorted television advertisements, described variously as a system of medicine by bureaucrat, a statist form of health care afflicted by gross inequities and inefficiencies, one that pales in comparison to the U.S. model. The hysterical tone of the anti-medicare rhetoric among Republicans would make one think Canada is North Korea.

But there is an inconvenient truth that the Republican ideology cannot dispute. Canada's approach to providing citizens with universal health insurance is superior to the U.S. model of private insurance. When we get beyond the anti-medicare ideology and histrionics on Capitol Hill, we can establish this by reference to four basic numbers that give a good sense of our system versus the system in the United States.

read more

Priceless: How The Federal Reserve Bought The Economics Profession

by Ryan Grimm
HuffPost Reporting

The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found.

This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed's thrall, the economists missed it, too.

"The Fed has a lock on the economics world," says Joshua Rosner, a Wall Street analyst who correctly called the meltdown. "There is no room for other views, which I guess is why economists got it so wrong."

One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field's gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll -- and the rest have been in the past.

The Fed failed to see the housing bubble as it happened, insisting that the rise in housing prices was normal. In 2004, after "flipping" had become a term cops and janitors were using to describe the way to get rich in real estate, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that "a national severe price distortion [is] most unlikely." A year later, current Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the boom "largely reflect strong economic fundamentals."

The Fed also failed to sufficiently regulate major financial institutions, with Greenspan -- and the dominant economists -- believing that the banks would regulate themselves in their own self-interest.

Despite all this, Bernanke has been nominated for a second term by President Obama.

In the field of economics, the chairman remains a much-heralded figure, lauded for reaction to a crisis generated, in the first place, by the Fed itself. Congress is even considering legislation to greatly expand the powers of the Fed to systemically regulate the financial industry.

(article continues)