Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Fascism V. Socialism

Americans are very inclined to confuse these two terms. Fascism entails the fusion of the state with capitalist interests while socialism entails a collectivization of the means of production.

Socialism, in its pure form, IS essentially DEMOCRATIC.

Fascism is NOT democratic.

Of course, socialism is elusive, while fascism is all too ubiquitous.

Jesse's Cafe Americain has today several excellent links that explore these ideas.

Len Bracken describes the difference between socialism and capitalism using a historical example in his essay, "The Invisible Currency of Fascism":
"While fascists make populist, even revolutionary propaganda, on questions of class they differ from socialists and are more inclined to work with and for the financial elite. In the case of Mussolini, he rewarded the financiers and industrialists who brought him to power and rescued their firms when they failed during the Depression, privatizing profits and socializing losses."

Authentic Socialism would do precisely the opposite: Socialism socializes profits.

Unfortunately, what has happened in the U.S. is precisely what we find in fascism, the socialization of losses after the privatization of profits.

Another noteable essay highlighted by Jesse examines this socialization of losses in more detail.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, a professor of economics at Drake University, explains the financial terrorism being exercised by the fascist-look-alike-bankers-in an essay published at OpEdNews:
"A most outrageous aspect of the debt burden that is placed on the taxpayers' shoulders since 2008 is that most of the underlying debt claims are fictitious and illegitimate: they are largely due to manipulated asset price bubbles, dubious or illegal financial speculations, and scandalous conversion of financial gamblers' losses into public liability..."

Both of the essays cited in this post are instructive and eloquent reads.

One could can hope that enough people will come to understand the fundamental difference between fascism and socialism before it is too late for any hope for America.

I would like to conclude with a final paragraph by Ismael Hossein-zadeh:
"Rectification of this unsavory situation poses stark alternatives: either the powerful financial interests, using the state power, succeed in collecting their debt claims by impoverishing the public; or the public will get tired of the vicious cycle of debt and depression, and will rise in protest--akin to the "IMF riots" in Argentina--to repudiate the largely fictitious and illegitimate debt. This is of course a class war. The real question is when the working people and other victims of the unjust debt burden will grasp the gravity of this challenge, and rise to the critical task of breaking free from the shackles of debt and depression."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wachovia Laundered Hundreds of Billions of Drug Money

Bloomberg reports that Wells Fargo is acknowledging that Wachovia (which WF acquired) laundered huge sums of drug money:

"Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history -- a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s current gross domestic product."

Unbelievable! It is simply unbelievable that Wachovia officials were not aware of the source of $378.4 in funds. How much did Wachovia representatives get paid off is the question that needs to be asked.

I wonder if drug lords were bailed out by the FDIC when Wachovia imploded.


Reuters: "June 29 (Reuters) - Europe told the G8 summit it may consider spending public funds to inject capital into banks depending on the outcome of stress tests now under way in the region, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday.

"A representative from Europe mentioned the possibility of a capital injection at a luncheon of Group of Eight leaders on Friday last week, the paper said, citing an unnamed source.

The European Union is preparing to stress-test more than 100 of the biggest EU banks in July, representing some 50 percent of each member state's banking balance sheet."

Reuters: Doing Nothing May Have Been Better Than BP's Approach
Reuters - "It might have been better for the environment to have done nothing about the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico except to keep the oil out at sea, British scientists said on Monday.

"Marine biology and environmental experts said they feared the aggressive cleanup operation, during which oil has been set alight and oil-dispersing chemicals have been dumped into the sea, might be more damaging than the oil itself.

Previous experience suggests that containing the oil out at sea but otherwise leaving it alone to disperse and evaporate naturally is better in the long run but is regarded as politically unacceptable, they said

Monday, June 28, 2010

Who Takes Their Children To Oil Soaked Beaches

First let me express my appreciation for all of the bloggers who are researching and reporting on the oil spill. I am particularly greatful for Washington's Blog and Alexander Higgins' Blog.

Second, Alexander Higgins today has a detailed post addressing Florida beaches that have been soaked with oil, but were opened to the public nonetheless

The beaches are covered with tarballs, known to be toxic. Oil covers the beaches and there is oil sheen in the water. All animal life is missing. Yet people, CHILDREN, are at the beach and wading in the water.

What kind of parents would bring their children to an oil covered beach and allow them to play on the beach and wade in the water?

Perhaps only psychoanalysis can reveal these complex, death-denying motivations that push parents to expose their children to KNOWN toxins.

Perhaps these are the types of conservatives who believe the government, at every level, always speaks truth and that corporations are always ethical and motivated first by the public interest.

Perhaps these are people so beholden to an oil-based economy and lifestyle that they must repress and deny the concretely evident fact that oil is a poison that controls whose who claim its mastery.

Apparently 400 people sought medical care after visiting these beaches in this county in Florida . I can only hope that none of them were children....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Local Allowed Access Speaks Out Against BP and Pseudo Clean Up

Washington's Blog has an embedded video of a local woman who was granted behind the scenes access to the clean up.

Her observations are deeply disturbing.

1. BP describes their "clean up" as a balloon and pony show. The company is forewarned of offical visits to clean up sites so that they can move in clean crews. 70% to 80% of these crews are moved elsewhere immediately after the official and media leave.

I have heard this story reported by an elected official of one of LA's parishes so I have no doubt it is true.

2. BP makes it very difficult for workers to wear respirators and denying reports that clean up workers have become ill from their efforst. For instance, BP claimed that sickened workers rushed to the emergency room suffered from food poisoning.

3. BP is covering up the extent of the oil spill. Also see

4. BP is lying about the dangers to coastal residents from airborne volatiles stemming from the disaster, including hydrogen sulfide and benzene.

The video is a must watch and I'm grateful to Washington's blog for posting it.

The speaker in the video, the spouse of a fisherman, claims that her local community has been rendered expendable by BP.

Our besmirched nation has reached a stage of empire wherein the population has become more of a liability from the perspective of ruling interests, than a source of national vitality.

The willingness of the government to enable and support BP's cover-up indicates a profound crisis of democratic government.

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that validates the government's ability to designate at will entities as "terrorists," while criminalizing any form of contact with these entities, points to a very dystopic future.

It is easy to imagine how voices such the one in the video mentioned in this post could be designated eco-terrorists counter to the interests of national security. In this scenario, Washington's blog (and mine) could be prosecuted as supporting terrorism. This scenario may sound extreme, but who would have expted that the federal government would tolerate this degree of fraud and deceit by BP?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Alernet: Neurodiversity and the Synergy Across Mind and Body

On why biological susceptibilities do not imply determined destinies:

"Children who have a genetic vulnerability to depression or anxiety (who are emotionally sensitive), for example, need safe, warm and predictable homes and schools. Children who are prone to learning disabilities (that is, those who learn in a different way) need stimulating learning environments that help them with their phonological skills. Children with autism need opportunities for meaningful social interaction. Caregivers should regard niche construction as a form of “special handling” for the child’s brain, to help maximize its positives and minimize its negatives in both adjusting to the world and fulfilling its highest potential..."

The Atlantic: "80% of Americans Think We're Still in Recession"

Michael Hudson on Austerity
Michael Hudson explains how the populaces of Europe and the US are being subject to attacks by a "global predatory class" through demands for austerity, even while this class continues to pillage national (i.e., sovereign) wealth.

He unpacks why austerity will not solve economic contraction.

And, he points out that neoliberal financial capitalism is a poor basterdization of classical laissez-faire (for capitalist committed readers).

An excerpt from the excellent article:

What really is causing the financial and fiscal squeeze, of course, is the fact that that government funding is now needed to compensate the financial sector for what promises to be year after year of losses as loans go bad in economies that are all loaned up and sinking into negative equity.

When politicians let the financial sector run the show, their natural preference is to turn the economy into a grab bag. And they usually come out ahead. That's what the words "foreclosure," "forfeiture" and "liquidate" mean – along with "sound money," "business confidence" and the usual consequences, "debt deflation" and "debt peonage."

Raw Story: Ocean Pollution Threating Food Supply
This story is so depressing I can barely read it. One of my earlier posts addresses the deliberate dumpting of radiocative material and medical supplies off of the coast of Africa. Traces of these and other contaminants such as mercury are found in relatively high concentrations in ocean life, such as whales.

Humans are killing their future. It is not likely that we will not survive the damage we are doing to the eco-system....

WSJ: "U.S. Financial Index Starts Flashing Red."

p. C12.
"How bad is it out there. One index suggests spillover from Europe's sovereign crisis has pushed U.S. financial conditions to their worst since the Lehman Brothers aftermath. In the 2nd quarter, the U.S. Monetary Policy Forum's Financial Conditions Index fell to minus1.82, its lowest since the 4th quarter of 2008, says Deutsche Bank. The index tracks 45 variables, including credit and yield spreads, stock-market data, banks' desire to lend and consumer perceptions."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Alarming Information and Questions About Toxic Rain!

I do not whether or not toxic rain from the oil spill is a legitimate threat. However, I'm becoming very worried based on information I've been reading.

Here is what we know.

In addition to the release of oil, the spill is releasing the following gasses
hydrogen sulfide

We know that BP used the very toxic dispersant, Corexit.

What has been alleged:

The EU Times published an article claiming that the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources had created a report stating that the Eastern US coast would be destroyed by toxic rains composed of the corexit and gasses.

I have good search skills and I cannot find a version of this report. However, it is possible the report was not published on the Internet. However, I cannot verify the truth or falsity of this information.

The scientific community is very quiet. This is strange.

Bloomberg has a report dated june 22 (hat tip Washington's Blog) that states:
"Scientists also are seeing 'large gaps in the data' on the health impact of the spill, said Paul Lioy, vice chairman of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey."

Washington's Blog details some of the known health concerns: "Health Risks from Oil Spill":

However, I cannot seem to find any follow up or verification of concerns about the toxic rain.

I did find a news clip from Mississippi about crop damage. If this were traced to the spill I assume it would be from some of the gasses entering the precipitation cycle.,0,187535.story

I would like to find some "scientific" discussion of this possibility and I would love to find a link to the purported Russian report.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gasland Review

At the Burning Platform
hat tip Jesse's Cafe Am.

I haven't yet seen the video (since i don't get HBO) but after this review I think I need to track it down...

Basically, the documentary expores how gas companies "lease" drilling rights from home owners, many of whom are poor and eager for the leases at first, until their drinking water is contaminated and they are suffering severe health consequences.

The review is worth reading.

Gasland documents yet another instance of ruthless corporations eager to exploit natural resources for a public unwilling to recognize collectively the social and environmental costs of our unsustainable lifestyles.

The question is for me, how can we change the way we live? I am really struggling with this as someone who lives in the metro sprawl area of Phoenix and has to drive everywhere....

GM Labeling on Foods Needed

Ronnie Cummins has an article at Counter Punch on why GM foods need labeling. The article is worth reading because there exists a growing body of research that supports the claims he is making about the cancer, birth defects, and other problems linked to GM food.

It is not that genetic modification is itself the problem. Rather, the problem with GM food is the type of modifications that have occurred. 1 primary type found in corn, soybeans, and (I think) sugar beets allow for heavy use of Round-Up which is implicated now by the EPA in endocrine disruption in humans (potentially leading to birth defects and learning disorders). The other type emits a pesticide that has been genetically inserted. The pesticide is "natural," but that doesn't mean its not toxic.

I've seen research (cited in this blog) which has found that lab animals (guinna pigs) fed exclusively GM products of these types became infertile after a few generations.

That would solve the energy crisis and the global warming problem I guess but what a price to pay...

Anyway, here is an excerpt from R. Cummins article:
Why We Need Labels on GM Foods
Generation Monsanto

"Gen-M, the first Monsanto Generation of humans force-fed genetically modified foods hasn't reached reproductive age yet (they were born in the late 1990s). But, if a critical mass of animal feeding studies are any indication, the millennial generation, reared on Food Inc.'s unlabeled "Frankenfoods" can look forward to a long-term epidemic of cancer, food allergies, learning disabilities, sterility, and birth defects.

"Corn (85% of U.S. production is GM), soy (91% GM), cotton (88% GM), canola (85% GM) and sugar beets (95% GM) are all genetically engineered by Monsanto to withstand massive doses of the company's glyphosate herbicide RoundUp, or else to exude their own pesticide, Bacillus Thuriengensis (Bt). RoundUp, the favorite weedkiller poison of non-organic farmers and gardeners, causes brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses. And scientists warn that RoundUp, the most extensively used herbicide in the history of agriculture, "may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious." In addition, hundreds of thousands of US dairy cows are injected with genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (developed by Monsanto) in spite of studies linking BGH with cancer, and longstanding bans on the drug in the EU, Japan, Canada, and other industrialized nations...."

Monday, June 21, 2010

bonus: The War on Terror Also Gets to Trump "Free Speech"
Hat Tip Amped Status

John Burton reports on the recent Supreme Court Decision. I had heard several references to the decision on NPR but the stories had not gone into the details and were strangely vague about the implications of the decision. Well here it is, as reported by Burton:
"Supreme Court backs use of terrorism law against free speech"
22 June 2010
"In the only “terrorism”-related case this term, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld 6-3 a provision of law making it a federal crime to 'knowingly provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization,' even if the 'support' consists only of 'expert advice or assistance' for 'lawful, non-violent purposes'—in other words, political speech.

"The US Secretary of State can designate any 'foreign organization' as 'terrorist' based on 'classified information' establishing that it 'engages in terrorist activity' which 'threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.'"

"Under this week’s decision, an individual can be sentenced to as much as 15 years imprisonment if found to “support” a designated organization, even if only by means of engaging in discussions with it or speaking on its behalf."



Next Time the US Invades (or Plans to Invade) a Country, Check its Resources

In a wry but spot on article published at Global Research, Felicity Arbuthnot demonstrates through her 9 year old world atlas, the real reasons for US invasions--oil, precious minerals, rare earths, and other valued commodities.

Satellites can detect mineral deposits from space. The presence of rare minerals in Afghanistan is really old news.

The War on Terror is a convenient cover for invading resource rich nations.

The US populace may still believe in the principle of self-determination, but our government and our largest corporations certainly do not.

The article is definitely worth a read--it is quick but makes the point well...

Nuclear Death

Zero Hedge has 2 different visual aids depicting the 2,000 nuclear explosions that have occurred in the post WW II era. It is sobering and sickening to view these representations of nuclear explosions.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tom Engelhardt in the Asia Times on the US War Machine

The American Way of War--more, more, more, and then some more!

hat tip Jesse's Cafe

Michael Hudson on Fascism in the European Union

On Guns and Butter, the noted economist Dr. Michael Hudson, argues that the European Union, under the regulation of the Matricht Treaty, is run by financial interests who are engaged in outright class war against manufacturing and workers in Europe. The talk is titled, "Europe’s Financial Class War Against Labor, Industry and Government."

He claims the EU is solely an economic entity, not political, because it has no form of political representation.

He claims the EU's bureaucratic control over finance is allowing it to wage war against living conditions in Europe.

He claims (as do other observers) that the bailout of Greece was really a bailout of German banks and that Greece didn't get any benefits from the bailout. "Greece's economy has been sacrificed to pay the foreign banks."

Micheal Hudson argues that if the EU administrators are successful they will reduce living standards for the vast majority of the populace in Europe by at least 30%.

This is a must listen to interview for those interested in democracy and social equality.

Wealth Inequality Grows: It's Like Going Back to the 19th Century!

"America’s wealthiest 25 percent of households own 87 percent of all U.S. wealth. How the middle class face growing income inequality in the new era of the psychopath corporatocracy."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Consuming the Poor

The poor are growing in number and desperation.

Classical liberalism from the time of Adam Smith has found the poor dangerous. Because the poor are difficult to manage with repressive apparatuses, like LA and Phoenix policing, other strategies are pursued.

Neoliberalism, that re-freshed liberalism, has sought for the last 30 years to manage the poor through debt. Microfinance fleeces the poor who have lost their factory jobs due to structural adjustment in developing nations. Credit card companies and banks manage the poor through debt servitude in the US.

The newly impoverished--a growing class in the U.S.--constitute a heady market for a growing industry--the "debt relief" industry.

The New York Times has a good article and short video on this roaring industry that exploits impoverished populations' efforts to repay their mounting debts.

For smirking audiences who have no sympathy for debtors, let me ask you how long you could continue to pay your mortgages, car payments, etc if you lost your job? Many Americans--even some with college degrees and no shortage of work ethic--live paycheck-to-paycheck because of stagnating wages and outrageous health and auto insurance requirements. Unexpected illnesses constitute THE major reason for personal bankruptcies in the US.

Payday lenders used to represent the most obvious vultures but now they face a new contender. Debt relief companies apparently have an approximately 1% success rate in eliminating clients' debt. Yet the industry earns plenty of fees managing the payments desperate debtors give them with the understanding that the industry will deliver legitimate debt reduction.

I am sickened yet again by the greed and villainy of the debt industry.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jobless Claims Up and Rand Paul is Down

The Unemployment situation continues, unabated. Today Bloomberg reported an uptick in weekly unemployment claims:
"June 17 (Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits last week unexpectedly rose to a one-month high, indicating firings are staying elevated even as the U.S. economy grows..."

It is in this context that one has to interpret Rand Paul's remarks advocating "tough love" for the unemployed, whom purportedly remain unemployed because they are unwilling to take lower paying jobs.

Mark Thoma's Economist's View discusses the folly of Rand's remarks given the ratio of 5 to 1 of job seekers to job openings. There are simply not enough jobs to employ the unemployed.

Although I am not a libertarian and disagree with many (but not all) libertarian principles, I have been pleasantly surprised by many of the comments made by Ron Paul over the years. I don't always agree with Ron (especially on the economy), but I do find many of his comments about war and civil liberties to be on track.

It is clear that Rand lacks his father's virtues and insights. Rand seems to put his foot in his mouth more often than not. Rand's economic privilege blinds him to the plight experienced by unemployed and under-employed Americans.

Clearly, Rand's brand of libertarianism is elitist and, it must be said, ignorant of the facts on the ground.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jailing Debtors

"It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009..."

A long ago strategy for "governing" the poor is being re-invented for the 21st century

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Public Will Suffer So Banks and Rich Capitalists Will Have Their Cake

I love Henry Liu's analyses. Here is an excerpt from his most recently posted analysis of the EU meltdown and austerity programs:

Fiscal deficits across the eurozone are to be reduced by cutting public sector wages and social benefit and subsidy expenditures so that transnational bank creditors will be paid in full while turning a blind eye to blatant tax evasion and avoidance by the rich with non-wage income that contribute to loss of government revenue and fiscal deficits. The dysfunctional disparity of income and polarization of wealth between the waged-earning masses and the financial elite with income from profit and capital gain, are the main causes of overcapacity in the economy. In past decades, the neoliberal response to overcapacity was to shy away from the obvious solution of raising wages, turning instead to flooding the economy with huge mountains of consumer and corporate debt that eventually resulted in a tsunami of borrower defaults that turned into a global credit crisis. Yet repeating the same response to the current crisis will lead only to another global crisis down the road.

While the culprits of the global credit meltdown of 2008 have been bailed out with the public’s future tax money, the sovereign debt crisis across the globe is blamed on innocent wage earners for receiving supposedly unsustainably high wages and excessive social benefits that allegedly threaten the competitiveness of economies in a globalized trade regime designed to push wages down everywhere...."

British BS and Hypocrisy

How dare British "spokespeople" claim that Americans are unfairly picking on their nation!

BP was negligent, perhaps criminally so, in their drilling.

BP elected not to invest in the safety device that might have stopped this disaster.

BP is clearly covering up what happened on the rig immediately prior to the disaster. BP has tried to swindle its and Transocean employees.

BP has lied about the extent of the spill and persisted in using toxic dispersants even after warned to desist by the EPA.

BP is a deceitful, criminal, entity that is destroying the human, animal, and plant lives of the gulf region because of their risk-seeking greed.


Peak Oil and the Environment II

"The Chief Executive Officer of insurance giants Lloyds is warning that the world is facing a “period of deep uncertainty” over the decline of fossil fuels – and may soon be coping with $200-a-barrel oil..."

Report can be found here:

From Washington's Blog
Specifically, BP's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CNN last Thursday that BP's data indicates that BP can't cap the leaking oil, or it might cause the well casing to blow out" although it appears to scientific authorities that the casing has already blown...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Hope This is NOT True

I have no way of evaluating this story. I can only hope it is NOT TRUE...

William Engdahl reports: "According to Kutcherov, a leading specialist in the theory of abiogenic deep origin of petroleum [Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and the Russian State University of Oil and Gas]:

Kutcherov: 'What BP drilled into was what we call a ‘migration channel,’ a deep fault on which hydrocarbons generated in the depth of our planet migrate to the crust and are accumulated in rocks, something like Ghawar in Saudi Arabia.”[2]

Engdahl continues..."Other satellite imagery reportedly being withheld by the Obama administration, shows that what lies under the gaping chasm spewing oil at an ever-alarming rate is a cavern estimated to be the size of Mount Everest. This information has been given an almost national security-level classification to keep it from the public, according to Madsen’s sources..."


"Government officials Tuesday increased the estimate of oil flowing into the Gulf to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels (1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons) per day, up to 50 percent more than previously estimated."

Back From Vacation: Bad News in the Air

I did not keep up with news while on vacation. Sadly, the news stories greeting my return are not positive. There are several key themes:

1. States' fiscal conditions worsen as stimulus wanes, forcing cut-backs that will surely raise unemployment

2. The oil Armageddon continues unabated. BP lied about severity of spill. Wildlife is not expected to survive and certain species are severely threatened. Headlines include: "Oil Spill Worse Than Feared" (AZ Rep. June 11 A1), "BP Took Shortcuts in Oil Rig" (June 15 AZ Rep. A1), "Estimate of Spill's Size is Raised..." (WSJ June 11 A1), etc. There are no words that can adequately capture the extent and horror of this disaster

3. Bad Economic News: Retail sales down, Sovereign Debt Crises Up, and "Double-Dip" Looming...

4. Suspicious "put" activity immediately prior to 9-11 attacks raises questions

maybe I need to go back on vacation in order to avoid being depressed by all this...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vacation Reading

I will be on Vacation Until June 15. I probably will not be able to post during that time.

Vacation Reading:
1. "Desperate Financial Data"

2. "A Plague Upon the World" Paul Craig Roberts

Vacation Though:
A true patriot is one who looks directly at the nation's limitations and challenges and seeks to redress them transparently, honestly, and justly in order to produce a healthier tomorrow.

Economic News and Data Analyses

"Into the Abyss"
"The major problems facing the US economy today—a tsunami or debt defaults, structural unemployment, massive government budget deficits, a contraction of the broad money supply outside of the federal government and the financial system, and a lack of sustainable growth—cannot be addressed as long as excess debt levels are maintained..."

From Ed Harrison at Credit Writedowns (visit his homepage for full details):
1) "While April retail sales were up 9% from the early 2009 low they are still 3.6% below the peak reached 2 1/2 years ago in November 2007...

2) April industrial production (IP) was 6.8% over its March 2009 trough, but still 9% below the late 2007 peak...

3) New orders for durable goods in April were up 21% from the low of March 2009, but still 22% below the top in December 2007...

4) Initial weekly unemployment claims for the latest reported week are 453,000. Claims steadily declined from 651,000 in March 2009 to 477,000 by Mid-November, but have been range-bound with no improvement in the last 6 ½ months...

5) April new home sales were up 14.8% from a month earlier and are up a seemingly robust 48% since the low. However, the current number is still a whopping 64% below the 2005 monthly peak...

6) Existing home sales in April were up 27% from the low in late 2008, but still 20% below the peak in late 2005...

7) May vehicle sales of 11.6 million annualized were up 14% over the prior month and 26% from the trough. However, this remains far below the annual average of about 16 million vehicles in the decade starting 1997.

9) Payroll employment in April increased 290,000, leaving the total still 7.8 million jobs below the pre-recessionary peak. In fact, on a point-to-point basis no new jobs have been added since November 1999..."

Read more:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Role of Fraud: White Collar Crime Pays

Fraud--deliberate and premeditated fraud--played a big role in the financial crisis and the biggest culprits were not "subprime" borrowers but rather were sophisticated Wall Street "suits."

Isn't it interesting how these white collar criminals get away with bringing down economies and destroying lives yet the street criminal who burglarizes is put away for years in the worst of prisons.

James Galbraith has a great essay exploring white collar fraudsters. Max Keiser and Gerald Celente have also explained in great and exceptionally clear detail how Wall Street CRIMINALS pilfered the nation and continue to do so.

Galbraith's essay is staid compared to Keiser's and Celente's accounts, but Galbraith specifically addresses academic and government economists' complicity in helping Wall Street CRIMINALS get away with murdering a country...

May Personal Bankruptcy Filings Up 9% from May 09

Additionally, as the Gulf economy collapses we will be seeing huge increases in personal bankruptcy filings over the next 1 or so.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Disgust and Other Negative Emotions in Politics

Alternet has a very interesting study on the role of disgust in politics. The article discusses research that finds the emotion of disgust is rooted in a cultural response to biological contamination.

The argument goes as follows. Humans have a biologically based aversion to poisonous/contaminated food. Overlaying this biological aversion is a cultural code of pure/contaminated.

The cultural code of pure/contaminated gets applied to cultural phenomena. For example, we view the toilet as a contaminated object, but are generally not included to view the kitchen sink as contaminated, even though the kitchen sink harbors far more toxic bacteria. Cultural distinctions do not necessarily map directly onto biologically risky phenomena.

It is important to understand how cultural distinctions between pure/polluted are applied because the application of distinctions is often political. Think about the "untouchables" in the Indian caste system. In the U.S., the cultural category of "white trash" illustrates how the polluted designation is unfairly and unjustifiably applied to working class white people.

Obviously, we can see in the example of "white trash" how contaminated/polluted designations have political implications. In the case of "white trash," the designation denigrates people of working class status and thereby explains their lack of affluence in relation to intrinsic liabilities/weaknesses, rather than explaining lack of affluence in relation to lack of opportunity.

What happens when a political strategist--like Carl Rove--taps into these cultural designations with the intent to manipulate populations? German propagandists engaged in precisely this type of activity when villifying and de-humanizing Jews and people with disabilities in the 1930s and 1940s.

The article linked above examines the political implications of this type of "propaganda." By assigning policies or people as "polluted," evil rhetoricians can engineer popular support for their agendas, even when these agendas ultimately harm the populace.

This type of denigration has been applied to "illegal immigrants." Immigration is a complex topic. Few U.S. citizens really understand how NAFTA spurred illegal immigration due to the dumping of US agricultural products onto Mexican markets. Dumping put Mexican subsistance farmers out of work and also harmed small-to-middle-sized Mexican firms. NAFTA therefore spurred illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration was welcomed by US industries that benefit from cheap, unregulated labor, like housing and agribusiness. Simultaneously, illegal immigration eroded the wage earning power of low-income US farm and construction workers in states such as Arizona (this I believe from my observations of the AZ economy).

There is little wonder illegal immigration is considered a significant problem among working class Americans.

However, rather than examining the policies and interests that have driven and benefited from illegal immigration, publics have villified the illegal immigrants (rather than the policies and employers who have produced illegal immigration).

The denigration and dehumanization of illegal immigrants scape-goats the problem and displaces blame. Publics encouraged to react to illegal immigrants with disgust are likely to tolerate human rights and/or civil rights abuses.

De-humanizing illegal immigrants doesn't address the root problems and leads to potential hate crimes. Disgust is a powerful tool for those puppeteers who wish to escape notice and blame.

If those in power really to redress illegal immigration then NAFTA would be re-negotiated, guest worker programs would be formalized and monitored, and employer sanctions would really be enforced.

Obviously, there are many who benefit from the status quo and have no problem with the displacement of blame on the immigrants themselves.