Wednesday, December 31, 2008


24 Israeli deaths in 7 years are attributed to Hamas-fired missiles and/or mortar fire emanating from Gaza. Since December 27, 2008 (just 16 days) renewed Israeli military bullyism has caused a Palestinian death toll approaching 900 dead and 3500 injured. Israel claims "most" of the casualties/fatalities are Palestinian police and militants (even as the UN claims half are civilians) so America shrugs its collective shoulders, yawns and praises the murderers even as it ignores the murdered. The White House blames the victims. Even President-elect Barack "Change" Obama states the same ol' same ol' about Israel having to defend itself and the media is quick to repackage his purported comment about how he'd react if his own family was threatened. American media continually regurgitate Israeli propaganda about how half a million Israeli citizens are at risk, terrorized by Qassam rockets; those pathetic devices responsible for the two dozen deaths mentioned above. Poor little Israel. What else could the beleaguered democracy do?

Well, for starters, Israel could live up to the plethora of UN Resolutions it has ignored for decades. Israel could stop its illegal, brutal occupation of Palestine. Israel could actually come to the peace table without self-genocidal preconditions demanded of its victims. Israel could end settlement infringement into Palestinian territories the first requirement of the "Road Map to Peace." Israel could honor the Hamas leadership democratically elected by the Palestinian people living in Gaza. Israel could end the eighteen month long blockade of Gaza which is the primary reason Hamas resumed rocket launches after the expiration (19 December 2008) of the cease fire agreement.

The fact that Hamas is a legitimate political entity duly elected by the people seems to escape American media outlets. The fact that directly after the pre-mentioned election victory by Hamas, the West stopped all humanitarian and monetary aid at Israel's demand thereby creating an impossible situation that could only exacerbate the inhuman conditions caused by sixty years of Israeli occupation worse than South Africa's immanently immoral apartheid rule is somehow lost. The fact that an entire world sees through the blatant hypocrisy of American support for Israel even as it condemns everything of which Israel is guilty, does not yet register on the American psyche. Americans still think 9/11 was the result of freedom hating Islamofascists.

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Al-Mezan Center (Gaza) put out a statement that describes the terror being perpetrated on innocent Palestinians. "Targeting of civilians and/of medical facilities is a breach of international humanitarian law. The targets chosen by the Israeli military include also clearly civilian installations. As occupying power currently in effective control of the area, Israel, which is currently carrying out a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip, must bear responsibility for the wounded of the attack, enable their access to hospitals able to care for them, respect medical neutrality of related facilities and allow entry of all necessary medical supplies for hospitals to be able to handle the wounded people."

Israeli leaders to PHR, "What's that you say? Here's another round of aerial bombardment for you."

Which brings me to the video interview given by Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, those Israeli leaders responsible for the current atrocity. Watch as Olmert gives his best performance for a dramatic role as he basically repeats the same sentiments uttered by Zionist leaders since the inception of the unilateral decision for the Jewish return to Palestine (aliyah) back in 1882 which essentially began an illegal land grab of colossal dimension: "Why…oh, why must you force us to murder you and your children?"

Americans have no cognizance of the fact that the Palestinian historical narrative is one of supreme courage in the face of enormous danger; of a people fighting for their land, their people and, indeed, their very culture; fighting against a rabid, foaming-mouthed foe backed by a brutal empire with ruthless designs for world domination. How could they? Media is absolutely negligent in bringing an unbiased point of view to the American people. Imagine the Middle East's only "democracy" terrorizing another democracy. Not possible? Google "Hamas wins elections" and see what comes up. Not a single reference to the FACT that Hamas won a valid, monitored, fair democratic election. See how easily reality is expunged from reality?

But, with this renewed round of pain and suffering at the hands of Zionist aggressors, Palestinians around the world once again lift their heads in defiance. Again they renew their resolve to reclaim their land, their rights, their humanity so viciously thieved over a century by Zionist transgressions. Their souls are strengthened by a desire to avenge yet more thousands of innocents' murdered and maimed. And, clear on their grief-stuck faces is the determination to stop the carnage and reverse the power equation. What else to live for but to drive these Zionist demons into the sea and reclaim what is rightfully theirs?

Israel is committing suicide. Should we intervene to stop it? Rather, we should applaud it for doing so and pull the rope tighter so that the noose closes more quickly.

Or, if you're a lover of the renegade state (the only nation in the world refusing to stipulate what its borders are), then you should besiege your representatives urging that America immediately cuts off all aid to Israel and then demands Israel cease and desist its bloodlust, that Israel adhere to the pertinent UN Resolutions regarding giving back the territories it occupies illegally, that Israel dismantle ALL settlements as they are in violation of International Law, that Israel immediately agrees to a two-state solution, that Israel admits that Hamas is, as was the PLO, completely within the bounds of International Law to resist by any means necessary (including militarily) the occupation of their homeland, and demanding further that Israel gives up its nuclear bombs and missiles, signs the nuclear non-proliferation act and submit to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. This is just the very preliminary beginning. Either Israel complies or the United States will discontinue all military and monetary support. For until that happens, terrorist attacks against America and its citizens will occur as a justifiable response to Israel's usurpation and occupation of Palestine.

Shock and Awe? No, Schlock and Flaw. A trashy historiography premised upon the fiction of "A land with no people, for a people with no land." Israel lies and America hears "truth". Israel aggressively murders yet America sees Israelis as victims. Israel violates every agreement, does not honor UN Resolutions yet America sees Palestinians in violation. Israel wrings its blood-dripping hands and cries crocodile tears for the victims it murders. With every contradiction, the hypocrisy gauge swells to bursting forth righteous indignation that will keep the hate hot and lethal and justified.

But, sadly, nothing is likely to happen here to change the dynamics. Barack Obama will only hear stale Zionist fables from Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and he'll keep believing Israel is guiltless when in actuality, Israel is the second sickest terrorist nation in the world.

May your (g)God(s) have mercy on Palestinian souls. But, also, may your (g)God(s) get off Its/Their ass(es) and smite the evil transgressor, Zionist Israel. Only then will justice be served.

Ah, yes, justice. Another example of change that ain't a-comin' anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Capitalists To Taxpayers: Fuck You Very Much!

As no doubt even homeless, piss-drunk vagabonds encamped around the burn barrel understand, Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program—which extorted $700 Billion of US taxpayer money, equivalent to the Netherlands' entire economy, and redistributed it to financial institutions – is an unwarranted reward for staggering greed and outright thievery bestowed upon those least worthy. The Associated Press (AP) attempted to follow up on that "gift" by asking banks in receipt of a minimum of $1 Billion in bailout funds four simple questions: "How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings? What's the plan for the rest?"

Of the banks questioned, here were some of their responses: "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to," said Thomas Kelly from JPMorgan Chase. "We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking," said Barry Koling of SunTrust Banks, Inc. "We are going to decline to comment on your story," emailed Carissa Ramirez of Morgan Stanley. "We're not sharing any other details. We're just not at this time," said Wendy Walker of Comerica Inc. "We're choosing not to disclose that," stated Kevin Heine, spokesperson for Bank of New York Mellon before adding, "I just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."

Let's see, $25 Billion to JPMorgan Chase, $3.5 Billion to Sun Trust Banks, Inc., $2.25 Billion to Comerica Inc., the others mentioned at least a Billion per which accounts for nearly $33 Billion for just these few banks. And what thanks do we, the American taxpayers, receive from the beneficiaries of our expropriated $700 Billion gift in this festive season of joy, good tidings and giving? That's right, a single-fingered salute a-la-la-la.

How can that be? You might ask with as much righteous indignation as you can muster. And, the answer? "Congress attached nearly no strings to the $700 Billion bailout in October. And the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent." Elizabeth Warren, "the congressional watchdog appointed by Democrats, said…'If the appropriate restrictions were put on the money to begin with, if the appropriate transparency was in place, then we wouldn't be in a position where you're trying to call every recipient and get the basic information that should already be in public documents'."

Congressman Scott Garrett, R-NJ, a House Financial Services Committee member remarked that questions like, "Where is the money going to go? How is it going to be spent? When are we going to get a record on it?" were "legitimate questions that should have been asked on Day One." NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!

So, ask yourself this, how can it be possible that 535 legislators—you know, our Senators and Congressional Reps, those that literally WRITE the laws of the land, many if not most of whom are attorneys – didn't think to include terms for basic accounting disclosure on monetary outlay of such monumental proportions as the TARP give-away? An oversight of stunning blindness. Or, was it willing blindness? The same sort of denial our representatives have shown since Reagan every time closer scrutiny and more regulatory intervention is warranted due to a financial crisis predicated on sheer hoggishness? Because, once again, we get the same outcome: Oops, we did it again! Silly us. Now, gimme yo' money!

The only difference for this TARP deal is that the criminals responsible for the crisis to begin with are telling the government to go fuck itself even as they grab the bag o' bailout loot. Wow. Some chutzpah, huh?

Now, for perfect contextual irony, remember that the proponents of deregulated, laissez faire markets, the very environment that has caused repeated financial crises including this one, the mother of all financial storms, these same cheerleaders for unrestrained Capitalism are called Chicago School economists, or von Mises Institute devotees, whose god is Milton Friedman, the very man who came up with the Federal Withholding Tax. You know what that is. That's the government's ability to know what you make and deduct from your paycheck taxes due; this, before you even have access to your own paycheck. Which means the government knows exactly how much you've earned and how much they need from you. Now, Friedmanites in unanimous voice tell the American people to shut the fuck up about knowing their business of where the finances are going even as those finances are some of what was taken out of your paycheck.

How could this be? Well, the only need for government as far as the Friedmanites are concerned, is to safeguard private property (34.3 percent accumulated at the top one percent of American families; 71 percent in the hands of just the top 10 percent). That includes military/police so that the hordes can be beaten back when the tide of extinction threatens to drown them and they violently object. Also, by use of the withholding tax, government can assure it gets enough tax money to build the infrastructure required for commerce and to educate the workforce so our companies can remain competitive in the global economy. Let's see, anything left out? No, that's pretty much the only use for government as far as the Friedmanites are concerned; making sure there's muscle to protect what they've amassed, provide for the necessary infrastructure components, fund the research and development required and educate a knowledgeable class of drones so that even more wealth can accrue to the few who already have and, finally, with full force of the law government redistributing worker wealth earned to the top via financial bailout trillions.

Now the Dems, who by the way do have a majority in both houses, want the rest of the bailout ransom before Obama gets in office. Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, the same guy that chastised the banks just weeks ago for using bailout money to acquire more assets for bank shareholders when that money was to be used for credit purposes, now wants to make sure money is channeled towards "stemming foreclosures and reducing mortgage rates." He claims that the new bill being fashioned would "impose tighter restrictions on the second $350 Billion of the bailout funds, such as requiring banks to report on their new lending every quarter and toughening limits on executive compensation." Again, for review, the government looks into your shit every week via paycheck withholding while it'll be looking at the criminals' business activity every three months with still as yet no mention of including language in the bill to assure absolute transactional transparency. Oh, as to the prior mention of shareholders' benefit? No, that does not include the American people even though government bought into these same banks via bailout money. You must learn that only the costs are to be shared among the people while profits accrue to only the top few.

So, midst this heady intoxicating era of change, we have a Democratic controlled government afraid to demand of finance/big business what is demanded of every working American, a full-accounting of their income and their fair share of the national burden. Barney Frank huffs and puffs about putting $24 Billion in bailout money towards modifying mortgage rates so 1.5 million foreclosures won't happen. Double that number to $48 Billion and the entire cluster of pending American foreclosures (approximately 2.25 million) would be averted. Remember now, the reason given again and again for the staggering financial mess we're in is defaulting mortgages. Correct? So, ask yourself this: If putting up $48 billion dollars would stop the trigger being pulled (via Credit Default Swaps), why are Americans being asked to pony up $8 Trillion? Again, to juxtapose two bits of reality, the Treasury Department just earmarked an additional $250 Billion to buy stock in Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., and JPMorgan Chase & Co., with an additional $40 Billion in capital to AIG Inc., yet our representatives are still at the pleading stage, begging on behalf of American families while the elites get carte blanche. Too afraid to regulate over the course of three and a half decades, our representatives kowtowed to Friedmanites' extortive schemes. That shit has surely hit the fan yet we still have a government too afraid to demand of Free Market Capitalism what is required: A full, transparent accounting. Clear regulations on what the bailout money can be used for. Payback provisions to make the American people once again whole. And, strict regulatory oversight forever more with heavy criminal penalties to be exacted should such greedy practices ever again rear their ugly heads. In other words, demanding via legislation that Capitalism works for the people and not against them.

Will this happen? Well, maybe if you're the type to believe in Santa Claus or Saint Obama.

Yes, folks, 'tis the season for financial folly, fa-la-la-la-la and fuck you very much!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sole Brother

Finally, a "perfect storm" of insults was hurled at the "leader of the Free World" the President of the United States for his pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation, his indiscriminate killing of civilians, his decimation of a civilization's cultural identity. As has been his wont, he ducked, bobbed and weaved, but there is no avoiding the fact that this was/still is/will always remain Bush's blunder. Well, his and his cadre of "best and brightest;" Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Libby, Abrams, Bolton; collectively the PNAC. These were Bush's behind-the-scenes folk, remnants from the Reagan era, domino theorizing Cold Warriors that never defrosted upon the collapse of the Soviet Union thereby disproving that theory used to extract some $6 Trillion dollars over four decades from the American people fighting a hobgoblin called Communism. If you want to know why the United States really went to war with Iraq, read my article Operation Iraqi Freedom: The Why of War written two weeks prior to the invasion (with tense-change edits after the fact) meaning the charge of WMDs was known to be a false premise prior to unleashing our sick Shock and Awe devastation.

Approaching six years after our Mission Accomplished boast, George "W" Bush took an ill-advised in-your-face farewell "victory" lap and was slapped with the reality of his hubris. Iraq is not won over. As stipulated prior to the invasion of 2003, it is not possible to bring "acceptable" democracy to this nation where 60 percent of the population are Shiite with a long history of being brutally oppressed by a minority Sunni population unless the United States is ready to accept radical Islamic dominance as governing authority. Once the American presence is gone, Iraq will become a gigantic free-for-all with Shi'a Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army as rising star.

American forces are now to be redirected into Afghanistan in order to defeat terrorism. Pathetically absurd. So obviously wrong-headed that it shouldn't need to be explained. Yet, a majority of Americans are not only biting, but swallowing whole this ludicrous notion. If we are to stop terrorism, we must go to the source of such lethal animosity. That source is Israel. Public Enemy #1, Osama bin Laden himself, in a speech dated 29 October 2004 stated, "People of America this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan, and deals with the war and its causes and results. Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom… No, we fight because we are free men who don't sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours. No one except a dumb thief plays with the security of others and then makes himself believe he will be secure. Whereas thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again. But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception, and hiding from you the real causes. And thus, the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred. So I shall talk to you about the story behind those events and shall tell you truthfully about the moments in which the decision was taken, for you to consider. I say to you, Allah knows that it had never occurred to us to strike the towers. But after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American/Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind. The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982, when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. This bombardment began, and many were killed and injured, and others were terrorized and displaced. I couldn't forget those moving scenes: blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents, rockets raining down on our home without mercy. The situation was like a crocodile meeting a helpless child, powerless except for his screams. Does the crocodile understand a conversation that doesn't include a weapon? And the whole world saw and heard, but it didn't respond. In those difficult moments, many hard-to-describe ideas bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an intense feeling of rejection of tyranny, and gave birth to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors."

The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon of which bin Laden spoke: some 20,000 civilians lost their lives in the first couple of days of savage, unilateral bombardment; citizens of village sabra-shatilla were massacred then bulldozed en masse into mass graves; the paper of record The New York Times failed to report any of the preceding; NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote a big, thick award winning book From Beirut to Jerusalem and failed to mention the preceding facts; not to mention that despite a bloody century-long history of Zionist usurpation and occupation of Palestine, despite the daily humiliations inflicted on millions of Palestinians, despite the utter hypocrisy of America's stance on nuclear proliferation when Israel has more missile ready nukes at their disposal than all "terrorist" countries combined and yet remains beyond the bounds of accounting for this untoward transgression, despite the Arab world's impotence vis-à-vis American Empire backing of mad dog Israel's repeated asymmetrical aggressions against millions of Palestinians, despite Israel's illegal forays into sovereign airspace and bombing Iraq's nuclear facilities, despite a history of ignoring more United Nations resolutions than any other nation in the world, despite the century of terrorism perpetrated by Israel against the regions minions, only then did it occur to bin Laden that retribution was in order.

Wouldn't any reasonable person conclude that Osama bin Laden is quite a restrained individual rather than the wild and wooly blood-thirsty psychotic that he's portrayed to be? The man tells us what it's all about. And?

President-elect Obama has stated his intention to root out terrorism by putting more troops into Afghanistan. This will, once again (a la Bush), create a magnate for radicalized mujahedeen to learn their trade and make connections for strengthening their war against the oppressors. That's us as in U.S.

All of the above and now the devastation of Iraq along with abuses of Abu Ghraib serve as daily context for an entire people. The Arab sees reality through the lens of reality. And so it was, this huge burden of abuse and outrage brutally shouldered without mercy for a century, weighing on the mind of Muntadar al-Zaidi as he witnessed the indifferent Bush chanting his mantra of victory even as the objective of American invasion is lost forever. No doubt overcome by such effrontery, al-Zaidi sought to express his outrage with the worst insults available to his culture. He removed his shoe and yelled "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is a farewell kiss, you dog!" before hurling the shoe at the sneering Bush. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," he yelled before hurling his other shoe.

Yet, what did our President take away from this occurrence? "That's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves;" this, as al-Zaidi was heard screaming "like a woman" as one of Prime Minister Maliki's stooges reported upon the beating by security guards. While across the face of a planet, countless legions make room in their hearts for another true peoples' hero, Muntadar al-Zaidi.

Okay, you've read this. Go read my article mentioned above. Then, tell me, how proud you are to be an American?

Monday, December 8, 2008

To Thine Own Self Be True

No matter where one turns you hear/read rationalizations and excuses being offered for President-elect Obama's picks for Chief-of-Staff, cabinet posts and his economic team of advisors. The babble goes something like this: In order to rule effectively you must govern from the center. Ideologues are trouble, be they from the right or the left of the political spectrum. Obama's picks show his genius for surrounding himself with those that differ greatly from his points-of-view which will allow vigorous debate; very Lincolnesque. His picks are the "best and brightest" available to solve America's problems.

What is completely absent from the above post-election spin is the substrate reality that the political center—since Ronald Reagan's first term –had been pulled so far right that Bill Clinton actually seemed progressive. You remember him? The guy who accomplished what Reagan could only dream, brutally ending welfare, not even allowing monies to pay for day care for the children of single mothers forced off the dole and into the workplace thereby saving taxpayers billions of dollars while destroying a generation of poor as those mothers were forced to work for paltry salaries that were stretched even thinner by having to pay for their own child care during the hours they worked for minimum wages. Americans cheered; especially the fat pigs at the top who decried such giveaways to Welfare Queens driving Cadillacs (as Reagan portrayed these unfortunate women). The extant reality-- that up to ten times the amount of welfare money spent on single women w/children went (and continues to accrue) to corporate entities that need no monetary assistance --is never brought in to muddy up the preferred context.

Bill Clinton was the guy who championed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) that promised a globalized economy would make America prosperous again by allowing it to sell its manufactures and services without binding hindrances all around the world. Of course, rarely if ever discussed in the media was the fact that such hopes were incredibly naïve at best or, more likely, they were so much rhetoric without merit. For the reality of global trade is this: Ask yourself, how much money do you need to make to live? And, I'm not talking about living the high-life nor even a middle-class lumpen bourgeoisie existence, but rather, the merest survival mode. I'm sure most of you would say you'd need more than a $10 an hour job to survive. Yet, even that meager wage comes to $20,800 if you consider a forty hour week for fifty-two weeks. A quick examination of per capita income around the globe shows us that just 12 economies account for more than two-thirds of the world's output and but 14 percent of the world's people. Once moving down the list of 146 nations, only 26 show per capita incomes higher than $20,800. Move 34 countries down the list and the figure drops below $10,000. Ask yourself, How can people from nations with such low per capita incomes buy anything at all made in America when U.S. working wages are where they must be in order for people to just barely survive? They cannot. So, who benefits from such free trade agreements? At the time of NAFTA passage we heard that Americans would be able to expand their export products (with the attendant promise of producing more jobs) and cheaper goods would be available from other countries. The problem there is only folks that can afford to buy American (usually for status and not quality) are those living in the top 12 economies or basically European nations with Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore in the mix. Price European goods (if you can find them in our stores) and you'll see quite some expense. The $10 an hour worker isn't buying German goods at their regional WalMart/Sam's Club. So, what country's goods do you find in the bulk of American stores? China, of course. Where do the Chinese come down on the income list? At $2010, just below Swaziland and Tonga. How many Chinese can afford to buy American? Not many. How many Americans can afford to buy Chinese goods? Pretty much 300 million of 'em. While being promised exportation of goods, our trade deficit has sky-rocketed (from 3.7 percent of GDP or 369.7 Billion dollars in 2000 to $1.4 Trillion dollars in 2008 or roughly 5 percent of GDP); joblessness is sharply up, manufacturing is in a state of lingering demise all of which prompts demands that unions must accede to less: Less in wages for more hours worked. Less in benefits. Less safety in the work place.

William Jefferson Clinton was the President that signed into law the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that essentially made it illegal to regulate the very shenanigans responsible for the current financial crisis. Yeah, that Bill Clinton.

The point being, Bill Clinton didn't tug the "center" back to true middle ground he merely nudged it in that direction. Therefore, calls to now rule from the current skewed "center" is to run things from the right: A continuation of bailing out those responsible for gaming the system to nourish their own nest eggs even as they take that new taxpayer money and buy up smaller assets once again nourishing only their own nest eggs. Thereby fucking up again by being too incredibly blatant in their thievery that the shit should hit the fan. Not to worry. Costs paid for by the public. Start it all over. New profits accrue to a few. Yet, claim change is upon us even as more taxpayer money is promised to the very next bunch of greedy bastards with hats in hand asking for a bailout due to their own insatiable craving for more and more wealth. Anyone suspect a circle-jerk goin' on?!

So, please, don't be duped into thinking there will be governance from the "center." The mantra of "run government like business" should once and for all be banished from the common lexicon, but won't be. And, the "center" will remain firmly rightward to the distinct benefit of elite interests.

As for Obama's picks? Let's review: A rabid Zionist, the Father of the devastating International Debt Spiral, several more Chicago School Friedmanites fresh from a decade of whoring the system without a single call between them to regulate the spreading contagion, W's very own Secretary of War, a "We'll Nuke In Israel's Defense of their Defenseless Offenses " Secretary of State. Well, you get the picture. Or should. Rather than having constructed a surround-sound system of differing opinion, Obama has assured he'll be getting old-school advice that will drown out competing ideas especially any that emanate left of the current right-"center."

As for the best and brightest argument, there was a time back in the day exactly the same phrase was used for the cadre of President's men that were hand-picked for their intellectual prowess. It was during Camelot, the reign of John F. Kennedy. Those "best and brightest" got us deeper into Viet Nam ultimately to the tune of murdering some two million Vietnamese, literally laying to waste an entire country, saving it by destroying it. Those "eggheads" brought us the Bay of Pigs and repeated assassination attempts against a true peoples' hero. Kennedy himself championed an economic program for Latin America called the Alliance for Progress that did just the opposite of what was promised, viz., democratizing the entire hemisphere. In fact, the program yielded 17 more dictatorships throughout the region which declared open season on left of center individuals ushering in an era of state terror sanctioned and assisted by the United States against freedom loving people by the millions.

President-elect Obama, just yesterday on Meet the Press, is quoted as saying the first priority would be "shovel-ready" projects, those that could create jobs rights away. "The days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy those days are over," he added. As stated in prior blog, "pork" or "earmarks" are but a fraction of one percent of the Federal budget. Better he should have said, "The days of fucking the American people over and over are over!" Rather, he stays the line drawn in quicksand by the same financial wizards that got us into this mess, "We've got to provide a blood infusion to the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized. And that means that we can't worry short term about the deficit. We've got to make sure that the economic stimulus plan is large enough to get the economy moving."

Now, I want you to remember that the McCain/Palin ticket actually expropriated Obama's message, claiming to be the agents of "change." Ask yourself this, had McCain won, wouldn't he have appointed the same people that created the financial mess with their philosophy of deregulation and laissez faire stating they would fix the problem? Wouldn't he have appointed people that are staunch pro-Zionist stating support for Israel right or wrong? And, had McCain won and was making the exact same statements as Obama has, would you be applauding as you now are? Or would you be hissing your disapproval at the scam of claiming more of the same is change?

To thine ownself be true. Now is not the time for silent relief. Now is the time for activists to put Obama's feet to the fire and demand he break from the policies of the past as fast as he can. He must broaden his base of advisors to include people like Paul Krugman or better yet Naomi Klein for financial advice. He must demand Israel finally adhere to the multitude of broken UN resolutions they so brazenly have flaunted since 1967 and give up their nuclear program and push for a Palestinian state; let him discuss same with Noam Chomsky for instance. He must demand governmental regulation of the market and never again allow such thievery to take place even as he demands the U.S. taxpayers be made whole when this fiasco turns the corner. He must pull, with all his might, the current "center" back to true center.

I believe Barack Obama is a man of deep convictions. I hope he decides to live those convictions rather than simply talk about them. To thine own self be true, indeed!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Financial Crisis: An Explanation

Amazing that all reports to date have been uniformly erroneous as pertains to what exactly occurred, how it occurred and who were the responsible parties. We keep hearing that this mess in the financial markets is due to mortgage defaults. That's like saying a forest fire was caused by a match; true, perhaps but woefully inadequate for an explanation. An explanation must describe how the match was brought to the location, how it was struck, who carelessly threw a burning match down to the ground thereby starting the conflagration and whether the act was accidental or intended. While article after article states that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are the originators of this disaster, we will see, upon a more thorough analysis, that is not true. Such charges against the FMs are diversionary; meant to divert attention away from substrate reality. Much like when reporters ask financial experts what their explanations are, we get the same answers: The government is responsible because of oversight failure and deregulation legislation. The Fed (Federal Reserve) is responsible for policies that created "cheap credit". Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are responsible for their evolving philosophy of extending home ownership to as many Americans as possible.

Again, while those answers have some small measure of truth to them, do they accurately portray the real explanation? In a word, no! I've heard Chicago School advocates go so far as to claim the Fed has been responsible for every economic crisis, including the Great Depression, thereby laying blame upon the United States government; usually with much side-talk of Liberal spending practices and exorbitant taxation. Any unbiased look at the Congressional record will prove that any/all attempts at regulation of financial markets has given rise to such hue and cry the only legislation that passes concerns deregulation of those markets. In fact, the main cause of the current financial debacle stems from Credit Default Swaps, (CDS) "…invented in 1997 by a team working for JPMorgan Chase. Credit Default Swaps became legal, and illegal to regulate, with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. They were introduced and rushed through congress as a companion bill, the last day before the Christmas holiday. It was never debated in the House or the Senate. The bill was 11,000 pages long. Less than a week after it was passed by congress, President Clinton signed it into Public Law (106-554) on December 21, 2000." Obviously, this major legislation was never even read by those passing it into law. As stated previously, up to $62 Trillion dollars has been invested in CDS which is said to be more than three times the combined worth of all economies (as measured by GDP; Gross Domestic Product which is the sum total of all goods and services) on Earth. These complex financial instruments were then bundled and sold; they are a significant part of nearly all portfolios worldwide. The value of these portfolios is now ambiguous as the value supposedly held in CDS is essentially worthless. This ambiguity in holdings is what has prompted the severe credit crunch as investors hold onto the money they do have; not knowing how much they are worth, people are not willing to risk any further investment.

While CDS are often compared to insurance like instruments for home and automobile, there is a huge difference: Such insurance policies involve loss of material assets that one owns. CDS were issued on suppositions of what might occur; like a business folding or mortgage defaulting. According to CDS "promise to cover losses on certain securities in the event of a default. They typically apply to municipal bonds, corporate debt and mortgage securities and are sold by banks, hedge funds and others. The buyer of the credit default insurance pays premiums over a period of time in return for peace of mind, knowing that losses will be covered if a default happens. It's supposed to work similarly to someone taking out home insurance to protect against losses from fire and theft…Except that it doesn't. Banks and insurance companies are regulated; the credit swaps market is not. As a result, contracts can be traded—or swapped –from investor to investor without anyone overseeing the trades to ensure the buyer has the resources to cover the losses if the security defaults. The instruments can be bought and sold from both ends – the insured and the insurer." These instruments padded portfolios even as they padded banks' ledgers with value that was hypothetical. But such value added gave the impression that more and more gains were accruing thereby enticing more and more investors to invest their money.

Do you see what I see? Ever hear of pyramid/Ponzi schemes? It's when money promised one investor can only come from ever-expanding the investor base to pay off those already invested. As you no doubt can figure out, the actual investments don't bring in enough money; it's the new investor money that purchases more leveraged instruments that add to the "growth" of an investment firm which serves to bring in even more new investor money. Such a scheme works as long as new investors offer a constant stream of revenue. However, as soon as new investors don't pump capital into the scheme, it collapses. This constitutes felonious activity prosecutable in a court of law. Yet, not word one as to anyone being so charged. Funny how "white collar" criminals never seem to get jacked up like regular folk caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Stealing crumbs? Go to jail. Fuck up a worldwide financial system? No golden parachute for you. Of course, some of those people responsible for the mess are now being tapped to solve the problem. When you consider that they probably should go to prison, being asked to work for only paltry government pay is supposed to be punishment enough? Need more? Already there are abuses using the bailout money which has prompted Congressman Barney Frank to state, "Any use of these funds for any purpose other than lending--for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions, etc.--is a violation of the act."

Which brings me to the near uniform "promise" coming from Obama and other Congressional leaders that CEOs will not be getting any bonus money from the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program. As if such bonuses/golden parachutes are at all the issue. It's meant to soothe the anger vis-à-vis public sentiment and calls for a revengeful response. Much like the "earmarks" issue brought up again and again during the campaign with most Americans against such "wasteful" spending when, in actuality, such perks amount to just $20 billion dollars in a $3 Trillion budget; or accounting for less than a fraction of one percent. But, we hear daily pledges against letting CEOs have a bonus package. This is not an endorsement for allowing those perks, but rather, a word of warning since the news media's uniform excuse for never giving adequate context to news stories is that space/time constraints don't allow for such detail, one must then ask themselves if wasting such precious space/time on pointless points of discussion isn't subterfuge?

Sure the collapse may have begun with defaulting mortgages whereby those holders of CDS wanted to collect their insurance money and the insurers had nowhere near enough cash to settle up; a scenario that multiplied across the face of the planet. But, it is the suspect nature of the CDS platform that lacks stability, not the mortgage market. Nationally less than six percent of prime mortgages are in default; approximately ten percent in Alt-A mortgages and about 16 percent in the infamous subprime mortgages. To consider the preceding percentages in a more positive (and informative) light, 94 percent of prime mortgages are still being paid; 90 percent of Alt-A mortgages are still being paid; 84 percent of subprime mortgages are still being paid. One should now see that mortgage defaults aren't the main problem. Creative thievery by a greedy financial sector is and has been the problem. To blame the FMs is ludicrous as combined the FMs hold about 20 percent of defaulted mortgages; many of these having been originated elsewhere, bundled with CDS and sold to the FMs. A common gripe from the Chicago School cadre is that they shouldn't be held accountable because the FMs offered such affordable rates and access to mortgages that the rest of the mortgage market players (commercial banks and mortgage lenders) were at a disadvantage, so of course, they were forced to compete by offering even better rates and shoddy due diligence as regards background checks which are undertaken to assure the people taking out these mortgages were making enough money to pay them off. These other mortgage market players then bundled the suspect mortgages with CDS and sold them to FMs. Now these same mortgage market players decry the Federal government for having attempted to expand the "ownership society" to include regular people with modest incomes. How is that wrong-headed? No one can dispute such ownership feeds the economy via multiplier effect (every house needs constant maintenance as well as house wares, etc.). And, every house has its nooks and crannies to cram with trinket-talismen (or what is called "fetish consumerism" that comprises as much as two-thirds of the U.S. economy). And, woe unto he that stands in the way of this particular expression of Savage Capitalism.

The actuality of this financial debacle is that the American Congress/Senate acquiesced to kneeling at the altar of deregulation thereby allowing Free Marketeers to game a system that was already totally in their favor. You see, the centuries-old mainstay of Capitalism or, a reasonable rate of return on one's investment, has since the era of Reagan been replaced with a what the market will bear philosophy. In such a climate, no perverse scheme of extortion is too much. Profits continued accruing to the very few at the very top. And, as has been now witnessed, once such extortive schemes collapse, the costs are to be shouldered by the people; regular folk by the millions now indebted through several generations to come.

Which brings us to President-elect Obama's campaign promises regarding rebuilding America's infrastructure, retooling its manufacturing base, funneling more money into the education system, not to mention the tax cut promised to 95 percent of American workers earning less than $250,000 a year. Not going to happen. Impossible in light of the massive outlays for the financial bailout which fattens an already too fat budget deficit (the National Debt interest alone at $451 Billion a year). It won't be long before we read about China's refusal to invest any more money in America (which has been a large part of deficit funding) because of fear that such loans will never be paid back. That will require huge sacrifices from the people starting with massive loss of jobs. Those lucky enough to keep their jobs will be forced to endure wage diminishment, benefit give-backs, continued inadequate health coverage, etc. etc. Retirement funds will evaporate. Social Security will wither and die. The safety net will unravel.

This scenario is a repeat of worldwide catastrophes detailed in "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" by Naomi Klein. The American empire has peaked and is now in decline. The American people will soon learn how much of the world survives day-to-day without hope of any improvement in their lives. As has the Third World, Americans will now pay for the profligate ways of a tiny few. And, should we rise up in anger? Like the unfortunate masses have already experienced, we'll be put down by brute force of arms.

Buckle up, people. It's going to be one long bumpy ride to the other side.