Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt and Israel

Apparently Israel has been sending out distress messages to western powers urging them to maintain Mubarak's authoritarian regime.

NPR today featured various academics in Israel and Israeli officials who made no pretense at democracy. Keeping Mubarak in power is best for Israel, they chimed in chorus.


I've never heard such blatant disregard for another country's sovereignty spoken publicly to the media!

I am astounded that Israeli public officials and academics would feel so comfortable dictating another country's government, on the air!

I know, of course, that the US, European powers, and Russia routinely interfere in other nations' internal affairs. The CIA has mastered this technique and now uses social media, among other less savory tactics, to try to incite and channel popular discontent to create "regime change."

Still, to say so openly, while exhorting foreign interference in Egypt, is amazing.

Israel must have lost its sense of propriety either because the nation has become unbalanced or because its officials are terrified. Or both factors may be involved.

Some links
On the role of economics, especially IMF neoliberal economics, in creating crisis

On the U.S.'s hypocrisy about "democracy"

On U.S. interference in Egypt

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Telegraph Reports on America's Secret Support of Egyptian Resistance

"The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned."

Apparently the U.S. hoped to be one step ahead of the game. Recognizing growing anger in Egypt with Mubarak regime, the U.S. tried to prepare resistance leaders who would guide the "revolution" in a way consistent with US regional objectives.

Accordingly, the Telegraph reports:

"The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

"On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011."

Majia here. There is no doubt that the resistance in Egypt stems from an organic groundswell of anger and frustration. The question is whether the "revolution" remains responsive to popular needs or becomes co-opted by outside influences...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The "Obama Way": Corporatism

This post examines 2 essays written in response to Obama's State of the Union speech.

First, William Black describes many paradoxes and oversights in Obama's speech. One theme described by Black is Obama's big push for new and better educators. No mention is made at all in Obama's speech about how strapped school districts facing never-ending budget cuts are going to pay for these teachers when they cannot even keep the ones they have because of budget-enforced layoffs

If Obama really valued education he would push for a second stimulus targeted at k-university education. In its absence, more schools will be closed, more students will be packed into each class, and more teachers will look to other occupations, even in this job market, to escape the increasingly stressful environment of public education.

Second, Shamus Cooke describes the fundamental hypocrisy in Obama's decision to appoint former GE CEO Immelt as head of his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness:

Cooke writes: "Even more shocking was the announcement that Obama was creating a Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, headed by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, a sworn enemy of working people. The New York Times noted that the "... the company [GE] has closed 29 plants in the United States and one in Canada in the past two years, eliminating more than 3,000 jobs." (January 22, 2011).

"Meanwhile, GE exports have risen in recent years, due to its effectiveness in driving down its workers’ wages, as much as $10 an hour.

"And this is precisely why Obama chose the CEO of General Electric to promote his new economic policy. Obama intends to turn the United States into the exporting nation it once was, as a way to deal with the Great Recession. He has repeatedly stated that he intends to boost exports by "five fold,” which can only be achieved by following the ruthless policies of General Electric: layoffs, reduced wages and benefits, reliance on part-time workers, and so on.

"Increasing exports requires that U.S. workers make far less than they do currently if the corporations are going to hold onto their massive profits...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fascism isn't Coming to America--It is HERE NOW!!!!

One of my favorite websites, Amped Status, was taken down by a denial of service attack. David DeGraw has been a leader in articulating a non-violent transformation of America, away from its current kleptocratic status.

Now I read about peace activists who are being targeted by the FBI! WTF! Apparently, peace activism now equates with supporting terrorism! WTF!

I would say that it appears we have crossed the Rubicon. Things are only going to get worse until the populace raises its collective voice to establish some semblance of democracy.

Growing Economic Inequality a Major Cause of Crisis

This is a post by Washington's Blog. There exists considerable research supporting this thesis that economic inequality in itself is sufficient to produce financial instability. I like Washington's Blogs because he does such a great job referencing his sources in the context of the blog.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jesse: America's Cover-Up of Massive Fraud

Excellent, must-read post by Jesse's Cafe Americain, one of my very favorite blogs

"America Appears To Be Trapped in a Massive Coverup of Control Fraud and Corruption"

Jesse writes: "America is caught in a confidence or credibility trap, in which the changes, investigations, and reforms necessary to restore trust to an economy or market are rendered unlikely because doing so would expose a pervasive corruption that the principals fear would destroy any remaining trust. It could also endanger the careers of politicians and business people who may have permitted and even appeared to facilitate the control fraud that caused the financial crisis in the first place. Personal risk trumps public stewardship.

The fraudulent activity is covered up and therefore continues or appears to continue, crowding out most productive business investment and activity which cannot possibly hope to compete with the highly profitable fraudulent activity under such opaque and uncertain circumstances. Informed market participants are unwilling to invest their liquid assets in a system which they suspect is riddled with accounting fraud, insider trading, and regulatory weaknesses, except of course in a few situations and somewhat ironically in some existing frauds, such as a bubble in equity valuations for example, which they think they understand.

The American government is indeed acting as if it is involved in a massive coverup of a control fraud and corruption that could perhaps be the worst in its history...

read the whole article at the link above...

Friday, January 21, 2011

1% Controls 43% of Financial Wealth

excellent article: "How the financial elite have dismantled the American middle class – top 1 percent share of wealth at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Goldman Sachs offering average bonuses of $430,000 while a record 43,200,000 Americans receive food stamps."


AND inequality produces economic instability, as well as social unrest and individual misery!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse Blog has an outrageous, but true, story about how JP Morgan makes money issuing food stamp cards. States apparently outsource this function to JP Morgan to save costs. JP Morgan saves costs by outsourcing customer service to India.

Unbelievable. So, unemployed state workers now on foodstamps because their salaries were too low to save much (state workers do not make much on average unless professionals) are making JPMorgan that much richer!


Who are the Elite? Try Corporate Execs for Starters

Murray Dobbin writes in an article titled: "The CEO and the New Feudalism":

"Few developments in our era of savage capitalism are so powerfully symbolic of the new feudalism than the obscene compensation paid out to the new economic elite, the CEOs of the most powerful corporations in the country. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives's Hugh MacKenzie now reminds us yearly of this economic and social sickness by identifying exactly when the average CEO (of the 100 largest firms) has earned as much as the average worker makes in a year (this time around it was by 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 3). The average total compensation for Canada's 100 highest paid CEOs was $6,643,895 in 2009.

"The social and political implications of this grotesque overcompensation are more important than the actual dollars. Socially, in terms of class, it represents the ruling elite's deliberate and conscious declaration that they will take as much money as they want out of the system simply because they can. It is the most powerful way that the elite can make clear that they have nothing in common with the rest of us. Their excess compensation has little to do with their value to a firm, their contribution or their ability.....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conspiracies, Elites, and the Politics of Marginalization

I see a concerted effort on the part of "mainstream" political officials and media talking heads to trivialize and ridicule as "conspiracy" right-wing nuts all those individuals who subscribe to the idea that the US Government is unduly influenced by corporations, particularly financial corporations, and thus acts in ways that are not conducive to the general interest.

[I am not referring to people like Anne Coulter or Rush Limbaugh who deliberately promote hate and irrationality but rather people like the blogger at the Burning Platform]

For instance, after the terrible shooting in Tucson, the media have emphasized over and over again that the shooter felt that the US dollar was worthless.

The media representations suggest that such a view point is utterly absurd and that this belief demonstrate's the killer's insanity.

I have no doubt the killer was mentally ill.

However, his belief that the dollar is worthless is actually shared, in moderated form, by many economists who are concerned that the U.S. deficits and quantitative easing programs might provoke a currency crisis.

Another belief represented as outlandish is the idea that elite interests control US foreign and domestic policy.

Yet, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hugely unpopular, opinion polls show.

The bank bailouts were hugely unpopular as well.

Moreover, the U.S. populace feels the nation is in decline, according to a Pew Research survey.

The gap between the wealthy elites in this nation and the remaining 90% of the population hasn't been bigger since the 1920s. Jacob Hacker's new book documents not only growing and vast inequality, but the lack of mobility.

So, in fact, the belief that US domestic and international policies reflect elite interests is probably right on target.

I'm left, not "right," but I do read economic and political commentary by a variety of populist and academic right-wing or libertarian thinkers (e.g., zero hedge). I don't agree with many of their prescriptions for fixing problems, but I do think their analyses of the nature of the propblems are often similar to my own understandings.

The concerted attack by mainstream media pundits and politicians against those concerned with the severe nature of the problems in this country seems to me designed to marginalize and ridicule any real debate about these problems and their solutions.

The easiest way to ridicule a position is to call it a "conspiracy theory."

However, conspiracies do occur sometimes. And sometimes elite act in concert to protect their interests without hatching specific conspiracies. I encourage readers to weigh labels carefully and research issues before dismissing claims that strike at the heart of the legitimacy of the status quo.

Recently, the venerable Seymour Hersh was quoted as describing how an elite group seized power and influenced foreign policy in ways counter to longtern US interests:

The article reads: "He [Hersh] also charged that U.S. foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative "crusaders" in the former vice president's office and now in the special operations community."

Hersh was quoted as saying: "What I'm really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over," he said of his forthcoming book. "It's not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it -- how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced."

Monday, January 17, 2011

World Food Supply Stretched to Limits

Article by John Schoen

"Strained by rising demand and battered by bad weather, the global food supply chain is stretched to the limit, sending prices soaring and sparking concerns about a repeat of food riots last seen three years ago.

"Signs of the strain can be found from Australia to Argentina, Canada to Russia.

"On Friday, Tunisia's president fled the country after trying to quell deadly riots in the North African country by slashing prices on food staples.

..."We are entering a danger territory," Abdolreza Abbassian, chief economist at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said last week....

"The U.N.'s fear is that the latest run-up in food prices could spark a repeat of the deadly food riots that broke out in 2008 in Haiti, Kenya and Somalia. That price spike was relatively short-lived. But Abbassian said the latest surge in food stuffs may be more sustained. ..."

majia here: AND let us not underestimate the role of speculation in driving up food prices

"Farmland is the New Gold"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When Fascism Comes to America....

It will come cloaked in restoration of a foundering nation

It will come cloaked in American Exceptionalism

It will come cloaked in God

It will come cloaked in cool and seductive advertising slogans

It will come cloaked in security against contaminating and/or threatening forces and influences

It will come cloaked, however paradoxically, in the language of individual responsibility and initiative

It will come cloaked in salvation

Those are my thoughts.

Here are Danny Schechter's

Friday, January 14, 2011

How Will The Global Western Aligned Elites Maintain Power As America Crumbles?

Andrew Marshall Gavin explains in a very interesting and must read analysis of the road to WWIII
Excerpt below:

"The American Empire is in decline, and is utterly bankrupt; however, its elites, which are in fact more global than national in their ideology and orientation, are seeking to not simply have American power disappear, or be replaced with Chinese power, but rather to use American power to construct the apparatus of a new global structure of authority, and that the American Empire will simply fade into a global structure. This is a delicate balancing act for the global elite, and requires integrating China and the other dominant powers within this system. It also inherently implies the ultimate domination of the ‘global south’ (Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia). This is an entirely new process being undertaken. Empires have risen and fallen throughout all of human history. This time, the fall of the American Empire is taking place within the context of the rise of a totally new kind of power: global in scope, structure and authority. This will no doubt be one of the defining geopolitical events of the next several decades...."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Limits of Education

The Economic Policy Institute has an important paper posted: "Education is Not the Cure for High Unemployment or for Income Inequality" by Lawrence Mishel

The abstract is at the bottom of this post.

It is interesting that I found this post today. Earlier today I had a conversation about this very topic. I addressed it in my book, Governing Childhood: Biopolitical....

The problem for many Americans is NOT lack of education or lack of a relevant education. The problem is that the top 10% of the population is soaking up all the wealth. This problem has been well documented.

When top executives and shareholders soak up all the wealth there is less for engineers, manufacturing workers, salespeople etc.

We saw this problem in the Phoenix housing bubble. The two sales people sitting inside the model homes would make 300,000 to 500,000 a year while the carpenters, electricians, and plumbers who built the houses made $7-15 dollars an hour with NO BENEFITS.

The workers were all employed by sub-contractors who the builders contracted with. The sub-contractors would often make the workers be independent sub-contractors so that no social security wages would have to be payed. Even electricians and plumbers made terrible wages unless they had people under them working for less.

It was a terrible, exploitative pyramid that leveraged illegal labor and marginalized skilled blue-collar workers. Illegal immigrants were disposable if they were injured or made any demands.

The amount of money made at the top was simply sick. I know because many of our acquaintances were in the industry.

Jacob Hacker's excellent new book , Winner Take All Politics provides the evidence for why this type of scenario is occurring (and has been) across the US in many industries:

I am all for education but lack of education is not the problem for most American workers.

here is the abstract from Mishel's paper at the Economic Policy Institute

With signs pointing to persistent high unemployment and a recovery even weaker than those of the early 1990s and 2000s, it is becoming common to hear in the media and among some policy makers the claim that lingering unemployment is not cyclical but “structural.” In this story, the jobs problem is not a lack of demand for workers but rather a mismatch between workers’ skills and employers’ needs. Another version of the skills mismatch is also being told about the future: we face an impending skills shortage, particularly a shortfall of college graduates, after the economy returns to full employment.

The common aspect of each of these claims about structural problems is that education is the solution, the only solution. In other words, delivering the appropriate education and training to workers becomes the primary if not sole policy challenge if we hope to restore full employment in the short and medium term and if we expect to prevent a (further) loss of competitiveness and a further rise in wage and income inequality in the longer term.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worried About Food

I'm worried about food. Russia and the Ukraine had a terrible fall, leading to projections for significantly reduced exports of grains. Now Australia, a major source of the world's grains, is flooding. I don't honestly know how much of the country's crops have been compromised but the flooding is not over yet...

A few days ago The Telegraph ran an article about potential food shortages titled, "One Poor Harvest Away from Chaos"

The Telegraph article reports:

"On Wednesday, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that global food prices had hit a record high and were likely to go on rising, entering what Abdolreza Abbassian, its senior grains economist, called "danger territory"

"....Already they are higher than in 2008, when they drove the tally of the malnourished briefly above a billion for the first time in history, and caused riots in countries as far apart as Indonesia, Cameroon and Mexico. That ended nearly two decades during which the number of hungry people had stayed the same, while the world population grew by 1.2 billion, so that the proportion of an increasing humanity without enough to eat steadily fell...."

The Telegraph believes that demand, not inadequate supply, is prompting infalting food prices.

However, I'm not so sure about that.

Clearly speculators are playing a role in driving up food prices. I posted about this problem a couple of months ago.

But speculators are not the whole story.

Erratic weather is causing problems with crops across the world.

I expect that food prices are going to be very high this spring and summer and spark protests abroad.

Americans will also likely see food price increases.

If the people cannot unite about the need to free food from speculative gain by elite traders than I see little hope for humanity...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Robert Reich: The REAL Problem

"The Problem Is That America's Richest 1% Are Raking It in -- Not Public Employee Pensions"

"We can't let the conservatives pit private-sector workers against public servants -- it's a distraction from the ongoing huge wealth transfer to the richest Americans."

Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don’t want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they’d like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.

"It’s far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public’s work - sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees – to call them “faceless bureaucrats” and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets. The story fits better with the Republican’s Big Lie that our problems are due to a government that’s too big.

"Above all, Republicans don’t want to have to justify continued tax cuts for the rich. As quietly as possible, they want to make them permanent.

"But the right’s argument is shot-through with bad data, twisted evidence, and unsupported assertions..."


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Unemployment and Recovery?

Gallup sees unemployment at 9.6% in December.

"Meanwhile, the percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work increased to 9.4% of the workforce in December -- up from 9.2% in mid-December and 8.4% at the end of November"

Unemployment and Underemployment now summing at 19%

Most of the new jobs added to the economy have been part time positions in low-wage service sectors

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spending Trillions on War While Attacking Public Employees and Retirees After Stealing From Their Pensions

Robert Higgs / Independent Institute via FDL is quoted at TruthDig:

"For now, however, the conclusion seems inescapable: the government is currently spending at a rate well in excess of $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes. Owing to the financial debacle and the ongoing recession, millions are out of work, millions are losing their homes, and private earnings remain well below their previous peak, but in the military-industrial complex, the gravy train speeds along the track faster and faster."

National Security Outlays in Fiscal Year 2009
(billions of dollars)
Department of Defense 636.5
Department of Energy (nuclear weapons & environ. cleanup) 16.7
Department of State (plus intern. assistance) 36.3
Department of Veterans Affairs 95.5
Department of Homeland Security 51.7
Department of the Treasury (for Military Retirement Fund) 54.9
National Aeronautics & Space Administration (1/2 of total) 9.6
Net interest attributable to past debt-financed defense outlays 126.3
Total 1,027.5
Source: Author’s classifications and calculations; basic data from U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011 and U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970.
Read more

meanwhile, states go after unions
but the new york times and other mainstream press omit how the states have basically stolen from the public unions' pension programs over time

And the government decides to soften regulation/penalties against predatory lenders

While also giving record tax breaks to corporations, which does not appear to actually foster any real foreign direct investment

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wikileaks: US Ambassador Recommends Trade War Against EU Countries Banning GM crops

Let Them Eat Cake!

The Economic Collapse Blog has a good article on the growing, impoverished working poor that is worth reading

Then read Marshall Auerback on "Drinking the Austerity Cool Aid"

It is unbelievable what we are witnessing. The banks, insurance companies, defense contractors and sundry other corporations have stolen trillions upon trillions from the U.S. population.

And the reaction is "Austerity," which translates into massive cuts for education, social welfare, the elderly, the disabled, etc.

Simultaneously, public workers are being held personally responsible for America's fiscal woes and the solution to their supposed greed is to take away their pensions.

This is wrong. Public workers have for decades been underpaid in relation to private sector workers of equal education. Pensions have been a bargaining issue and many unions gave up raises for better pensions. Underfunding of pensions by cities, states, and other public entities was not the unions' fault!

Now it may be necessary to defer the age at which some retirees receive pensions--from 50 to 60 years old for example--but eliminating or cutting pensions is simply wrong.

Additionally, there are good reasons why some professionals such as firefighters need to retire earlier because of the nature of their work and/or shortened life expectancy.

Full disclosure: I will recieve no public pension. I am a public worker but I am not vested in the Arizona State Pension Retirement system.

"Let them eat cake!" is the new mantra of the elite. They would do well to remember what happened to previous elite groups that expressed this sentiment...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes (in Arkansas)

"Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame, a state spokesman said Sunday"

"Ozark is about 125 miles west of the town of Beebe, where game wardens are trying to find out why up to 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve."

Something is very strange here. The article says that only 1 species of fish was affected so the biologist quoted suggested a disease. I suspect there is more to this story.

Why were the fish susceptible to disease? Was it really a disease? What else could be playing a role?

There is all kinds of wild speculation in the comment section. I'll follow this one closely and look for more evidence...

UPDATE: NOW birds dead in LA as well

All possible explanations seem disturbing: oil/corexit links? HAARP? Gas weapons inadvertenly released? New pesticide? Oil refinery leak like the one in Texas last fall? All possible conspiracies come to mind....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

the Plight of the Unemployed and Celente's Trends Predictions

this report by Rutgers University offers a very disturbing look at what happens to those people who lose their jobs in the Great Recession. Few find work and those that do usually have fewer benefits (or no benefits) and lower wages.

This trend explains why America's medically uninsured rate is skyrocketing, now past 50 million

This Huffington Post article by Amy Lee reports that nearly 1/5 of Americans not receiving Medicare are uninsured. Nearly 1/3 of those aged between 19 and 29 don't have insurance.

What does all of this mean? Gerald Celente tells us his opinion at King World News

I like Celente's analyses and find his politics refreshing. I think his trend of a "Wake Up" by Americans in 2011 will depend upon gas prices. I've read competing analyses of gas price trends.

Demand for oil has not picked up appreciatively.

Some people think oil prices will go up as the dollar depreciates.

Some people think oil prices will go up with continuing commodity inflation being caused by global speculators seeking safe havens.

Other people think oil prices will go down with ongoing demand destruction caused by ongoing real-estate and unemployment problems.

I don't know the answer. However, if oil prices do go up then there goes any prospect of even the mildest economic recovery. Higher oil prices will ensure a very visible double-dip in employment and exacerbate public finances for states and cities.

I'll be watching and posting what i find....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Plight of the Unemployed

The unemployed are not finding jobs. When they do, they are often forced to take part-time jobs and/or jobs in a new career area at significantly lower wages/benefits.

The exception to this trend is former, high-ranking militar officers who find a smooth and lucrative revolving door available for them at defense contractors