Friday, November 7, 2008

Tuke didn't lose; Tennessee did









I was a volunteer with the Williamson Country Democratic Party who represented Obama and other Democratic candidates outside a polling location. Our county is among the wealthiest, according to per capita income, in the U.S. and it is overwhelmingly Republican. I was the only Democratic volunteer to work outside the voting location at the Resurrection Episcopal Church. I was the only campaign volunteer. There were no Republicans.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, an Indian Summer day in which a bright blue sky offset the beautiful red and yellow leaves of trees. The trees, mulched by pine straw, lined the drive up to the Church's main entrance which led to the voting location within. I never went inside and stayed well away from the 100 ft. boundary Tennessee law requires for partisan political signs and literature distribution. I carried no Obama sign but wore an Obama T-shirt and a vest with lots of Obama buttons pinned to it and an engineer's cap also bedecked with Obama/Biden campaign pins. I also carried a sign for Bob Tuke who was running for the Senate seat held by Lamar Alexander. I was there 4 hours in all: from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m.

Most voters saw me from their cars as they passed by to park in the closest parking spaces. Most smiled and nodded to me. Some on foot called to me from a distance to comment on the pretty weather. A few gave me the thumbs up or pointed out their Obama signs or bumper stickers.

For the most part my time there was uneventful. But there were some exceptions. After I had been there for about an hour a Sheriff's Department vehicle entered the parking lot and cruised about slowly, then left. One driver yelled John McCain at me as he entered the parking lot. He yelled the same thing at me when he left.

One voter, a woman, brought a poll worker outside after she voted and motioned towards me. When he came towards me I asked, 'Is there a problem.' He assured me that it was part of his job to check the parking lot every hour.

In the afternoon, a woman passing me in her car rolled down her window and said, "I thought political materials were not allowed."

"Within 100 feet," I replied.

"Well," she said, "Since this is a church I won't say 'F--k you,' but go to hell." Then she parked, put her child in a stroller and went in to vote.

After that everything was friendly and non-confrontational. Until...a young woman who had just finished voting approached me holding her daughter (about six, I think) by the hand.

"Can you tell me why you're voting for him?" she asked.

"Well," I began, "I'm not a wealthy person..."

"And you want a hand-out," she said.

"No, but I do think we need a tax structure that's fairer. And I would like to stop giving tax breaks to companies that move jobs overseas."

"And you think he's going to be able to do something about that? He's got no experience..."

"Yes, I think he can do something...I've been impressed with the way he's running this campaign."

She then told me that Obama was a bad person citing his membership in Jeremiah Wright's church and his friendship with Bill Ayers. I pointed out that one or two parts of one or two of Wright's sermons had been endlessly repeated on TV by Obama critics and that he was eight years old when Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground had been active. I also pointed out that Ayers been tried and had not been convicted by a jury and that he was a professor at a university in Chicago when he met Obama. I tried to explain to her that she had some bad information but she said I didn't have enough information about Obama.

Finally, I said, "Then there's the hope. Obama has encouraged me to hope again. And he's encouraged other people to hope, too." She left after that.

When things were slow later that afternoon I took pictures of the trees with their beautiful fall leaves always featuring Bob Tuke's campaign sign. He's a nice man; I saw him speak at an Obama fundraiser and I liked the way he talked about Obama whom he had met briefly. According to a friend of his, Tuke's campaign for the Senate was underfunded but Tuke was more concerned about Obama's success than his own.

Yes, I like Bob Tuke and I like his campaign poster.

But Tuke lost. Tennessee sent the old patrician Lamar Alexander back to the Senate. Obama lost in Tennessee, too, and in several other southern states. But not in all of them. Not in Virginia, and not in North Carolina. More importantly, Obama won the presidential election by a comfortable margin of the popular vote and by a substantial margin of Electoral College votes.

Maybe it's Tennessee and not Bob Tuke that lost this election.

Yes, I think it's Tennessee that lost. Again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Soros: Denmark Offers a Model Mortgage Market

There is a safe way to securitize home loans.

By George Soros


The American system of mortgage financing is broken and needs a total overhaul. Until there is a raealistic prospect of stabilizing housing prices, the value of mortgage-related securities will erode and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's efforts will come to naught. There are four fundamental problems with our current system of mortgage financing.

First, the business model of Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs) in which profits accrue to the private sector but risks are underwritten by the public has proven unworkable. It would be a grave mistake to preserve the GSEs in anything resembling their current form.

Second, the American style of mortgage securitization is rife with conflicts where entities that originate, securitize and service mortgages are generally not the same as those that invest in mortgage securities. As a result, the incentives to originate sound mortgages and to service them well are inadequate. No wonder that the quality of mortgages degenerated so rapidly.


Third, mortgage-backed securitizations, which were meant to reduce risk by creating geographically diversified pools of mortgages, actually increased risk by creating complex capital structures that impede the modification of mortgages in the case of default.


Finally, and most fundamentally, the American mortgages market is asymmetric. When interest rates fall and house prices rise, mortgages can be refinanced at par value, generating the mortgage equity withdrawals that fueled the housing bubble. However, when interest rates rise and house prices fall, mortgages can only be refinanced at par value even though the market price of the securitized mortgage has fallen.

To reconstruct our mortgage system on a sounder basis, we ought to look to the Danish model, which has withstood many tests since it was brought into existence after the great fire of Copenhagen in 1795. It remains the best performing in Europe during the current crisis. First, it is an open system in which all mortgage originators can participate on equal terms as long as they meet the rigorous regulatory requirements.
There are no GSEs enjoying a quasimonopolistic position.


Second, mortgage originators are required to retain credit risk and to perform the servicing functions, thereby properly aligning the incentives. Third, the mortgage is funded by the issuance of standardized bonds, creating a large and liquid market. Indeed, the spread on Danish mortgage bonds is similar to the option-adjusted spread on bonds issued by the GSEs, although they carry no implicit government guarantees.

Finally, the asymmetric nature of American mortgages is replaced by what the Danes call the Principle of Balance. Every mortgage is instantly converted into a security of the same amount and the two remain interchangeable at all times. Homeowners can retire mortgages not only by paying them off, but also by buying an equivalent face amount of bonds at market price. Because the value of homes and the associated mortgage bonds tend to move in the same direction, homeowners should not end up with negative equity in their homes.

To state it more clearly, as home prices decline, the amount that a homeowner must spend to retire his mortgage decreases because he can buy the bonds at lower prices.
The U.S. can emulate the Danish system with surprisingly few modifications from our current practices. What is required is transparent, standardized securities which create large and fungible pools. Today in the U.S., over half of all mortgages are securitized by Ginnie Mae, which issues standardized securities. All that is missing is allowing the borrowers to redeem their mortgages at the lower of par or market.

Because of the current havoc in the mortgage market, there is no confidence in the origination and securitization process. As a result, a government guarantee is indispensable at this time, and may be needed for the next few years. As the private sector regains its strength, the government guarantees could, and should, be gradually phased out.

How to get there from here? It will involve modifying the existing stock of mortgages, so that the principal does not exceed the current market value of the houses, and refinancing them with Danish-style loans. The modification will have to be done by servicing companies that need to be properly incentivized. Modifying mortgages that have been sliced and diced into securitizations may require legislative authorization. The virtual monopoly of the GSEs would be terminated and they would be liquidated over time.


A plan to reorganize the mortgage industry along these lines would inspire the confidence that would allow a successful recapitalization of the banking system with the help of the $700 billion package approved last week.

Mr. Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management and the author of The New Paradigm for Financial Markets (Public Affairs, 2008).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The end of an era... Soros on financial crisis

Friday night on the PBS weekly program, Bill Moyers Journal, Bill's guest was billionaire George Soros. Soros made his billions as a speculator and withdrew from the market quite a while back. (See former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on that at the link highlighted above.) Republicans and others from the right don't like Soros, partly because he does not believe the free market, if left alone, will always work efficiently and partly because he funds liberal (a dirty word in rightist lexicons) causes and organizations. Move.on.org is one of them. He is also among those who believe global warming is the most urgent issue facing mankind.

Soros is 78 and his demeanor during the program was grave and at times quite emotional though reserved. When Moyers asked him if he thought the American Dream was dead, he shook his head and said, "Oh, no," softly and his eyes lit up slightly. But he did say that the Bush Administration was still "behind the curve" with solutions, adding that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was not up to the job. He criticized Paulson who came to Treasury from the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs for being too enmeshed in the complex mathematical manipulations that had become standard among financial firms and that had led, in part, to the current breakdown.

Moyers also asked Soros, "Is this the end of capitalism?" Soros laughed gently and said something like, 'I hope not.' He did say that free market idealogues had been proven wrong, in that unregulated by government, the free market has fallen prey to its inherent weaknesses.
He added that the U.S. and the world were facing an end to an era of a certain phase of capitalism in which the global economy was based on unlimited spending by American consumers financed by cheap credit and soaring trade inbalances. Soros said this trend which has been going on for the past 25 years could not go on forever and had to come to and end.
He referred to this as the "big bubble" underlying the smaller "housing bubble." The current chaos in world markets is a result of the big bubble exploding which was "detonated" by the collapse of the housing market.

According to Soros, three things must happen to stabilize the world economy:

1. Banks must be recapitalized either privately or through government assistance.

2. Housing prices must be stabilized. Foreclosures slowed down as much as possible.
Homeowners with negative equity must me helped.

3. A new economic engine must be found to replace the endlessly expanding consumer spending by Americans which has driven the world economy over the last 25 years. Americans must learn to save and conserve energy. Capital investment and job creation could focus on development of 'green' energy instead of endless consumer spending.

For Part II of this post click here.

A ripple of hope... Remembering Bobby Kennedy

Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product now is over $800 billion a year but that gross national product, if we judge the United States of America by that, that gross national product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the Redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic fall. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in the cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet this gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy in their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debates, or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.

It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile and it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

-- Part of a speech by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy given in 1968, on his first full day of campaigning while speaking to students at the University of Kansas.

'A ripple of hope'
I first heard the above excerpt from Bobby Kennedy's speech while listening to National Public Radio on June 5, 1993, the 25th anniversary of his death. I was so moved by his words that I wrote to NPR to get a transcript of the program. I think I had to pay for it. That wasn't important to me. I wanted to remember those words. When I heard about Congressman John Lewis' recent warning to Senate John McCain about the increasingly negative tenor of his campaign and McCain's subsequent scolding of Lewis for being an alarmist, I begin to think about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing Lewis mentioned. Back then I wrote a poem about the bombing which I've kept in a folder with news stories about the incident. I got out the folder thinking I might finally put the finishing touches on the poem so I could share it; I found a copy of that NPR transcript of Bobby's speech in the folder. I read it again and begin to think of what George Soros had said on Bill Moyers' Journal about how the world financial crisis represents 'the end of an era' of rampant American consumerism which turned the engine of not just our own but the global economy.

In his beautiful speech of 40 years ago Bobby suggested a basis for the American dream that is beyond materialism, beyond owning things and the wasteful consumption of energy. I'm still not ready to put the finishing touches on my poem about the Birmingham Church bombing. But I couldn't resist reprinting his speech. I find it an appropriate reminder and encouragement for this time and the days ahead.

As for John Lewis and his warning, I agree that John McCain is no George Wallace, and I can understand why Sen. Barack Obama distanced himself from Lewis's remarks. But Obama was a boy during those awful days; Lewis was older and so was I. I remember how much hate was in the atmosphere; I remember how much we lost in the sixties. And I pray, oh God, how I pray that we never have to suffer those awful things again. Racial hatred is bad but it is not the only kind of hatred. And John Lewis is right; many people attending John McCain's political rallies are spewing hatred. I also agree with those critics of Sarah Palin who say that she is coming very close to inciting hatred in some of her speeches. Following is a short tribute to Bobby Kennedy which can be found at Home for Bobby-Kennedy.com. Following the tribute is a video from 1968, that year of hope and heartbreak.

The assassination of Robert Kennedy on June 5, 1968, has never attracted the same level of public fascination and passion as the 1963 assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. But, the passing of Bobby, as many affectionately called him, may have impacted our country in a more significant manner.

Robert Kennedy was unique in American politics; he reached out to the poor and disenfranchised, he reached out to working class whites, he reached out to inner city blacks, he reached out to the migrant worker - the very classes of people most politicians of that time ignored. He came from a place of privilege and money, yet passionately spoke for the victimized and the oppressed. Robert Kennedy embodied an attitude and idealism that is rare for any generation. By leading with an inspiring call to action he asked the American people of that time to support racial and educational equality, to accept environmental responsibility and to negotiate for peace in a war ravaged world. RFK asked Americans to believe that as individuals they could make a difference in the world.

Bobby understood that America's real greatness came from empowering its citizens through equal opportunities to secure a better life, but Robert Kennedy's vision for a better tomorrow was not limited to the United States. He went to Poland and Latin America to tell them that their dream of freedom was obtainable, and when South Africans suffered the tyranny of apartheid, RFK was there to say:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. - RFK

For a companion to this post click here.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mona Charen's 'scarf fantasy'



An open letter to the Tennessean:


Recently Kathleen Parker of the National Review, one of The Tennessean's many syndicated conservative columnists, came to her senses and admitted in print that Sarah Palin is unqualified to serve as vice-president. Meanwhile , Mona Charen, another Republican columnist The Tennessean publishes, is still grinding the GOP axe about Michelle Obama and her "jaundiced" view of the USA. (see "Michelle Obama's jaundiced view of compassionate nation," The Tennessean, Thursday, October 9, 2008, p. 13A).

It's easy to suspect she is trying to change the subject and turn attention away from McCain's huge error in judgment and his willingness to risk the well-being of the country he loves in order to win his political campaign. But face it, first ladies don't become president if their husbands' become ill or, God forbid, die in office. Vice-presidents do. McCain's reckless choice leaves our nation with the possibility that a tragically unqualified person would become our next commander-in-chief.

Charen shows her desperation (and her Party's?) by wrapping this worn out Republican saw about Michelle Obama in a bizarre fantasy about why people were so nice to her (Charen) while she was wearing a scarf! The columnist opines that the reason everyone was so nice was that they thought she was a Muslim.

Get real. No wonder this lady has trouble identifying with the concerns of Michelle Obama and other women of color.

As for her other fantasy, that all United States citizens are bending over backwards to reach out with compassion to Muslims and others who are different from them, perhaps she should talk to Juana Villegas, 33, an immigrant, with no criminal record, whom Nashville's sheriff handcuffed to her bed during labor after she was stopped and jailed recently for a traffic violation.

Finally, and this really deserves another letter, but the political caricature of Michelle Obama about which Ms. Charen's scarf fantasy was wrapped went way over the line. It reminds me of the dehumanizing caricatures of the Irish which were published in England during the Irish Famine and the equally dehumanizing caricatures of African Americans published here in the U.S. during slavery times and throughout the Jim Crow era. Shame, shame on the artist... Shame, shame on the Tennessean for publishing it.

And don't bring up that other right wing whine about "political correctness." I'm talking about respecting human dignity not political correctness. Political figures are appropriate targets for caricatures. It is not appropriate or even decent to publish demeaning caricatures of candidates' wives.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dear Cremomma...Please forgive me


Dear cremomma, we certainly are coming from different places aren't we?

You have an advantage over me because I haven't seen the "televised event" which you describe. I do think "chanting" is a better word for what I was doing than "yelling." I was chanting "Obama" in a very low voice on purpose. A few of us had been chatting with Mr. Rich off camera; I gave him an Obama pin which he accepted graciously and then I teasingly suggested that he wear it. He refused politely. I think the fact that he hugged me at the end (was that on camera?) showed that he recognized and respected my heart.

What my heart was feeling was this:
the amazement and pride all of us Obama supporters had in seeing each other for the first time in such unexpected numbers in a state which our own governor has written off for McCain.

It was as if the thirst of a long lonliness had been quenched. It was a joy unseen and unobserved but something we all felt. I just wanted to testify or as my daughter said, "to represent."

Please forgive me. I do stand by what I said in my previous reply to you: All television programming has been skewed to entertainment values and the selling of image and image-related products. Values are packaged and sold like commodities and many in the entertainment media are unwitting accomplices.

When presented in that fashion values which are a matter of the heart lose their meaning and in fact become weapons we began to hurl at each other in what some people call a "Culture War."

I believe this is what many Obama supporters mean when we speak of "change." We long to get down to the "common humanity" that we all share. Your defence of young John Rich is heartfelt and noble. What I mean by "noble" is that it is selfless. But please allow me to defend myself.

I am 65 and remember watching the Vietnam War on television, sometimes during our evening meal. I also remember watching television coverage of civil rights demonstrators getting hosed by huge fire hoses, assaulted by police dogs and beaten on their heads and bodies with billy sticks or something like them. I remember when Life Magazine devoted its cover to tiny square photos of the faces of all the America servicemen who died in the war. I remember when it published photos of flag-draped coffins being unloaded at the airport on its cover. I remember when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis. I was working for a southern newspaper at the time; it published the news on an inside page near the bottom. I first heard his "I have a dream" speech during the television coverage after his death. I saw and heard the horror and devastation of war on television; I witnessed the civil rights movement on television and came to grips with my own country's terrible shortcomings through television.

It was very, very difficult for me to hear a young man, John Rich, sing about that old, awful, killing war as though it were a good, even glorious thing. It was very difficult for me to stand by while he lionized an old man with old ideas because he got shot down while bombing civilian and military targets in an old discredited war. Because we no longer have the draft, John Rich is in no danger of getting caught up in either the war in Iraq or the one in Afghanistan. What value, aside from entertainment value (and perhaps propaganda value), is there in his effort to "raise up" McCain, a man who glorifies war and advocates more and more warfare, as a hero? John Rich risks nothing in this song. And I am forced to wonder what kind of songs he would be writing and singing if he were subject to the draft. What kind of audience would he have if all young men (and possibly women) in the United States were subject to the draft?

The draft was abolished after the Vietnam War. Today the burdens of war are carried by a very few military families. The Bush administration has been sneaking the bodies of our dead soldiers into the country under cover of darkness without any media attention whatsoever. Until recently most Americans paid nothing but hollow rhetoric and the cost of a few flag pins for the Iraq War. We weren't even encouraged to conserve gasoline until recently. But things are changing. The current financial crisis has much to do with the limited sacrifices our people were asked to make for the endless war Bush started and McCain favors. Our war debt is owned by foreign countries most notably China. This has weakened the dollar, formerly the world's standard currency, almost beyond recognition.

And what has the media been doing while our country has been going down the tubes? Not much. Not much at all. Television which used to report the news has become an entertainment medium almost exclusively, pandering to celebrities and their fans and refusing to endanger advertising profits by focusing on news (truth). What television does best is the cheerful nonsense Harry Smith and others package up in morning shows like the one being taped Tuesday morning in front of Belmont University. This sort of media fare is as hypnotic as a narcotic drug but instead of inducing sleep it has allowed us to cultivate our own "in group" fantasies which pit us against one another and keep real life and real reality at bay.

Guess what, Cremomma? Reality is back and it's not a show on MTV or any other television channel, that is unless it is smuggled in by an outlaw or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Obama-rama in Nashville







Nashville's Obama Headquarters asked for volunteers to be a presence for the media who would be descending upon the city in advance of the presidential debate to be held at Belmont University tonight. Thinking about traffic and parking, I volunteered for the first shift: 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. We were to gather at Bongo Java, a coffeehouse across the street from the University. E-mails went out to announce a change in location but I haven't checked mine for a day.

It was after dawn when a few of us out-of-the-loop Obama volunteers got the word to move to another location. We got there in time to gather for a planned appearance by Rich of Big and Rich, the country duo, to sing his song about McCain for the CBS Morning Show. Obama supporters far outnumbered McCain people; our signs were visible in the background but we were told to keep quiet except to cheer on cue.

Most of us were astonished at the way we were being managed by the media for John McCain's benefit. Harry Smith kept mentioning the First Amendment as he admonished us to be silent while Rich sang and was being interviewed. Go figure. I was up front and kept trying to get my Obama sign into the picture but finally just moved in so close to Rich that he decided to hug me. The crowd which had been quite dissatisfied with its CBS designated role as a silent walk-on for McCain was relieved by my action.

Rich's song was "Raising McCain" and I just kept thinking about how Cain in the Bible killed his brother and when God asked him about where Abel was Cain replied to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Later on during an impromptu interview with Ann Payne, a reporter for the Tennessean, I brought that up as an appropriate way to portray the so-called maverick who wants to tax the poor and give the rich as many tax breaks as possible: "Just look at what Cain did to his brother?"

There were so many beautiful Obama people there including a lovely couple from Brentwood who recently moved here from Japan with the Nissan corporation which moved its headquarters here. I also found a soul mate, Keren or KB, a beautiful African American woman who was wearing the best Obama shirt I've seen; it featured portraits of Rosa Parks, Madame C.J. Walker, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Coretta Scott King circling a portrait of Obama, larger in size and sort of golden hued. Later I met Tony, a young grandfather, wearing another beautiful Obama shirt. Another young man had on a T-shirt showing a muscular Obamish Kent Clark busting out as Superman. Along the way I got to meet Bob Schieffer who preceded Katie Couric as CBS anchor and now hosts a CBS news show Sunday mornings. A member of his staff even took my picture with him.

It was wonderful to be with so many beautiful, hopeful people...I'm so glad I was invited to be a part of the early morning Obama crowd.

Monday, September 22, 2008

About this bazillion dollar bailout

Hi, everyone! When it rains it pours, right? A hair- raising presidential election, an overwhelmingly destructive hurricane season and now what many are calling the worst economic crisis our country has faced since the Great Depression. Enough already! It's been hard to keep my head straight.

For some reason though, this bazillion dollar bail-out of Wall Street is the one that's giving me the funniest feeling, a sort of free-floating anxiety that just won't go away.

About a year and a half ago I read something on the Information Clearinghouse website that predicted this sort of thing... It was an old article even then and the author was talking about how then Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan was setting the country up for a major ripoff of the middleclass by keeping Fed rates artificially low. The writer predicted the current housing crisis and alleged that it would result in the very rich consolidating and increasing their wealth and power well the rest of us were going to be pretty much diminished in our share of the American dream pie.

Well, my parents lived through the Great Depression and as a result my brother and sister and I were born into a pro-Union, Democratic Party loving and FDR honoring family and that was that. The phrases "the little man," "working people," and "the working class," were a part of their political vocabulary and they were always used with pride. Or maybe it was empathy. But you know, ever since the Reagan Administration, "the little man" has been losing his standing. People don't want to think of themselves as members of the working class. Even the most marginal workers like to identify with the wealthy. Maybe that's what the media-induced celebrity madness is about. And you know that's got to be behind the housing boom: the idea that we can all live like kings and queens even if we have to work two or three jobs to afford it. Newsweek's Daniel McGinn wrote a book about it called House Lust.

Following is an excerpt from the online magazine, Counterpunch

America's Own Kleptocracy, September 20, 2008

By MICHAEL HUDSON

Nobody expected industrial capitalism to end up like this. Nobody even saw it evolving in this direction. I’m afraid this failing is not unusual among futurists: The natural tendency is to think about how economies can best grow and evolve, not how it can be untracked. But an unforeseen road always seems to appear, and there goes society goes off on a tangent.

What a two weeks! On Sunday, September 7, the Treasury took on the $5.3 trillion mortgage exposure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose heads already had been removed for accounting fraud. On Monday, September 15, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, when prospective Wall Street buyers couldn’t gain any sense of reality from its financial books. On Wednesday the Federal Reserve agreed to make good for at least $85 billion in the just-pretend “insured” winnings owed to financial gamblers who bet on computer-driven trades in junk mortgages and bought counter-party coverage from the A.I.G. (the American International Group, whose head Maurice Greenberg already had been removed a few years back for accounting fraud). But it is Friday, September 19, that will go down as a turning point in American history. The White House committed at least half a trillion dollars more to re-inflate real estate prices in an attempt to support the market value junk mortgages – mortgages issued far beyond the ability of debtors to pay and far above the going market price of the collateral being pledged.

These billions of dollars were devoted to keeping a dream alive – the accounting fictions written down by companies that had entered an unreal world based on false accounting that nearly everyone in the financial sector knew to be fake. But they played along with buying and selling packaged mortgage junk because that was where the money was. Even after markets collapse, fund managers who steered clear were blamed for not playing the game while it was going. I have friends on Wall Street who were fired for not matching the returns that their compatriots were making. And the biggest returns were to be made in trading in the economy’s largest financial asset – mortgage debt. The mortgages packaged, owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie alone exceeded the entire U.S. national debt – the cumulative deficits run up by the American Government since the nation won the Revolutionary War!

This gives an idea of just how large the bailout has been – and where the government’s (or at least the Republicans’) priorities lie! Instead of waking up the economy to reality, the government has thrown all its resources to promote the unreal dream that debts can be paid – if not by the debtors themselves, then by the government – “taxpayers,” as the euphemism goes.

Overnight, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve have radically changed the character of American capitalism. It is nothing less than a coup d’ĂȘtat for the class that FDR called “banksters.” What has happened in the past two weeks threatens to change the coming century – irreversibly, if they can get away with it. This is the largest and most inequitable transfer of wealth since the land giveaways to the railroad barons during the Civil War era.

How's that for starters... Michael Hudson was the economic advisor to the campaign of Dennis Kucinich. Checking him out online, I found this interview on KPFA's Guns and Butter for August 15, 2007. I must say listening to this interview was rather alarming but highly informative. Go here to listen to it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Protest Iranian Government's Repression of Feminist Writers

Solmaz Igdar is a student, a child rights advocate, and regular contributor to the website of Kanoon-e Zanan-e Irani -- the Association for Iranian Women (www.irwomen.com). She was arrested on August 29, 2008, while attending a ceremony in Khavaran to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Iranian regime's mass execution of political prisoners. Security forces disrupted the ceremony and arrested some of those in attendance. Igdar's family learned of her arrest that evening when the authorities permitted her to make a brief phone, during which she informed them that she was being transferred to Evin Prison. Her family has been unable to obtain any other information or to visit her in prison.

In addition to Igdar, two other activists, Jafar Eghdami and Ali Amir-Gholi are also reportedly detained.

The ceremony at Khavaran, a cemetery situated to the South East of Tehran, was to mark the 20th anniversary of the Iranian regime's systematic execution of thousands of political prisoners. Estimates of the number executed vary, ranging from 8,000 to 30,000 prisoners. The Iranian regime has never admitted to the full scale of the execution and has tried to keep the killings secret.

In addition, four other women's rights activists who have contributed articles to women's rights websites were sentenced to six-month prison terms for "acting against national security," under Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code. The four women are: Parvin Ardalan, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Jelveh Jahaveri, and Nahid Keshavarz. The conviction is on the basis of articles the women contributed to the websites Change for Equality (the website of the One Million Signatures Campaign) and Zanestan.

Ardalan is a well-known activist who was awarded the Olaf Palme Prize for Human Rights, but was prevented from traveling to Stockholm to receive it. Javaheri spent 32 days in Evin prison after being summoned and interrogated at the security branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on December 1, 2007. She had previously been arrested in March 2007 for peacefully protesting outside the courtroom where five other women's rights defenders were on trial. Keshavarz was also among the 33 women arrested for protesting outside the courtroom, and she was also arrested on April 2, 2007 while collecting signatures on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Following that arrest she spent 13 days in prison before being released on bail. Hosseinkhah is a journalist who had been summoned for interrogation on November 18, 2007 and spent 45 days in Evin prison.

http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Igdar/85s67369l3w6id3?


Thursday, September 4, 2008

I have trouble watching the Republicans..


I have trouble watching the Republicans running down Obama. They never discuss the issues: the national debt, the financial crisis, the falling dollar, the decreasing incomes and increasing costs of living for most Americans, our overextended military. Instead, they talk about Obama's lack of experience, ignoring how he exceeds his jaded opponents in wisdom, compassion and insight.

Because young people, middle-aged and old people have responded to his decency and integrity in such great numbers, they deride him as a rock star and trivialize him with comparisons to Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton. Because he talks about the dignity of work, respect for one's opponents and encourages us to believe in ourselves and each other, because he encourages us to shrug off apathy and to hope, they accuse him of having a messiah complex and make jokes about him walking on water.

It is clear that Obama's Republican detractors have no idea how many of us are longing for a change from the deep cynicism, hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness that has characterized this administration and the Republican Congress that has given it unwavering support.

It is clear they have no idea how concerned so many of us are about how the Bush Administration has been so reckless and incompetent in its use of military power and how careless it has been in its stewardship of our economy.

There are substantial issues at the heart of the Obama campaign; his willingness to address these issues has led so many of us to recognize him as a leader.

It is not surprising that the GOP standard bearers are so intent on ignoring them, misrepresenting them, even lying about them.

It is not surprising that they choose instead to ridicule this unexpected leader who has surprised us all with his clear vision and his authoritative (because it is authentic) demeanor.

It is not surprising that they do this. But I have trouble watching them. Because they're really making fun of me. They are making fun of you and me. They are ridiculing us.

Taking Back the Republic

Four years ago, in concluding his speech before The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Michael Ruppert said: "Our task, if we and much of human civilization are to survive, is not to keep our republic, but to take it back."

Earlier in the speech, Ruppert referred to the imminent financial collapse of the U.S. (which we are now beginning to experience) and to an article by economist John Kenneth Galbraith, published in 2002, outlining its fundamental cause, to wit, a state of permanent war.

This is the war to which, under false pretences, the Bush Administration committed our nation in 2003 and which John McCain has promised to continue for a long as necessary, even for 100 years.

This is the war which Barack Obama refused to support at the time and which he continues to decry. The idea of permanent war is the primary issue of the current presidential campaign. McCain is for it. Obama is against it. Ruppert's words rang true four years ago. They are deafeningly true today. So is Galbraith's analysis to which he refers below:

Ruppert (in 2004): "What we are witnessing now is a collision: a collision of a financial system relying on fractional reserve banking, debt-financed growth, and a fiat currency system with a planet and energy resources that are finite, limited, and running out. Infinite growth is battling with finite energy. One is not possible without the other and I have absolutely no doubt as to which side will win.

"In November 2002 James Kenneth Galbraith wrote an article titled "The Unbearable Costs of Empire":

'None of these problems will be cured so long as war remains our dominant political theme. But serious though they are, they pale in comparison with the larger problem of the international trade-and-financial order under conditions of permanent war.

It is a straightforward fact that if global oil production starts to decline but U.S. consumption does not, everyone else will be required to cut purchases and uses of oil. But how can oil prices be held stable for Americans yet be made to rise for everyone else? Only by a policy of continuing depreciation in everyone else's currency. Such a policy of dollar hegemony amid worldwide financial instability, of crushing debt burdens and deflation throughout the developing world, is perverse.

'It will make our trading partners' exports cheap, render their imports dear and keep their real wages low. It will price American goods out of world markets and lead to unsustainable dependence on foreign capital. It will be a policy, in short, of beggar-all-of-our-neighbors while we live alone, in increasing idleness and inside the dollar bubble.

'This is the policy that Bush and Cheney are actually imposing on the rest of the world. But they cannot make it last. It will make lives miserable elsewhere, generating ever more resistance, terrorism and military engagement. Meanwhile, we will not experience even gradual exposure to the changing energy balance; we will therefore never make the investments required to adjust, even eventually, to a world of scarce and expensive oil.

'In the end, therefore, that world will arrive much more abruptly than it otherwise would, shaking the fragile edifice of our oil economy to its foundations. And we will someday face a double explosion: of anger against our arrogance and of actual shortage and collapsing living standards, when the confidence of investors in the dollar finally gives way.

'Compared with this future, a new commitment to collective security, to a new world financial structure, to a rational energy and transportation policy, and to spending to meet our actual domestic needs would be a bargain.

' At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government the framers had given our new country. He famously replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."'

Ruppert concludes:

"In 49 BC Julius Caesar, fresh from a battlefield victory in central Italy ordered his legions to cross a small creek called the Rubicon. Under the laws of the Roman Republic, the army was not allowed to enter the capital city. As Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Roman Republic died and the Roman Empire was born. Our task, if we and much of human civilization are to survive, is not to keep our republic, but to take it back. Thank you."

Address of Michael C. Ruppert To the Commonwealth Club – San Francisco Tuesday August 31, 2004

A note from Artemisa's Granddaughter: Michael Ruppert, who used to publish a blog called A Voice in the Wilderness, along with oil industry insider, Matthew Simmons, has been writing about the oil addiction crisis for many years.(Another industry insider, T. Boone Pickens, is talking about it now.)

The economic fallout that he and the late John Kenneth Galbraith (along with many others) were warning us about several years ago has come to pass. Our financial system is experiencing shocks unheard of since the Great Depression.. The standard of living of middle class and poor Americans is falling. Our war debt is owned by China and heaven knows what other foreign nations.

More than ever we need clear thinking and the courage to change in our national leadership. This is what the Obama/Biden ticket is offering. John McCain and Republican Party with its confused social agenda and its commitment to "permanent war" are offering us more of the same. We cannot afford it. Our country cannot afford it. Our planet cannot afford it.

This photo graphic of Bush morphing into John McCain is from Buddy Stone's Flickr photostream.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Vetting Sarah Palin



Bloggers at The Edge of the American West have done a tasteful job of examining Palin's executive experience and evaluating her performance as Mayor of Wasilla. Check it out by clicking the highlighted print.

And here's another link: http://content.vetpalin.com/index.html

And about her standing up to Ted Stevens, the indicted Republican senator from Alaska:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jersey girl defends journalist, irritates Yemeni government


I'm visiting my daughter in Chicago again. Off and on the weather's been hot and humid and she has no air conditioning in her studio apartment. At times I've felt like screaming because of that. I am 65 and appalled at my inability to "process" warm and humid environments; I've come to worship the evaporation as a cooling process and mourn situations (high humidity, etc) which short circuit its operation. Chicago is a place where summer heat waves kill old people living in apartments without air conditioning.

I'm not complaining, mind you, at least not seriously complaining. How could I with the flooding in the Midwest, the earthquake in China and the ongoing weather worsened situation in Burma, not to mention the horrors faced daily by the hungry and poor everywhere on the planet.

The "Damn. it's hot here in Chi-town bit" is my way of setting up a note about something fabulous about my current visit to the Windy City: my discovery of Chicago Public Radio. No time whatsoever for classical music programs which take up about one half of daily programming on Nashville's public radio station. Not that I dislike classical music, but...All week long, all day long this Chicago station airs one fascinating news/talk/feature show after another with stories from ever corner of the world.

The one that sent me to blogdom here just a few moments ago was about a New Jersey wife and mother who after 9/11 decided to reach out to the Arab/Muslim world through internet research and a blog. Her name is Jane Novak and somehow she learned about a Yemeni journalist, Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, arrested by his government for writing a news story about the discovery of mass graves in the northern part of Yemen. He was charged with sedition which carries the probable penalty of death.


The "Damn. it's hot here in Chi-town bit" is my way of setting up a note about something fabulous about my current visit to the Windy City: my discovery of Chicago Public Radio. No time whatsoever for classical music programs which take up about one half of daily programming on Nashville's public radio station. Not that I dislike classical music, but...All week long, all day long this Chicago station airs one fascinating news/talk/feature show after another with stories from ever corner of the world.

The one that sent me to blogdom here just a few moments ago was about a New Jersey wife and mother who after 9/11 decided to reach out to the Arab/Muslim world through internet research and a blog. Her name is Jane Novak and somehow she learned about a Yemeni journalist, Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, arrested by his government for writing a news story about the discovery of mass graves in the northern part of Yemen. He was charged with sedition which carries the probable penalty of death.

Jane began to write about al-Khaiwani's plight in her blog. http://janenovak.wordpress.com/ Then, she began to get e-mails from Yemenis thanking her for her stories, begging her not to stop writing her stories. She learned about the Yemeni government's military operations to suppress rebellion and dissent within Yemen. She waged a campaign for the journalist; the charges against him were changed to "damaging the morale of Yemeni soldiers performing their patriotic duty" with an expected penalty of six years in prison.

In the wake of Jane's internet campaign Yemen has curtailed internet access. The last time she heard from al-Khaiwani was before the charges against him were changed. Still under the shadow of his possible execution, he thanked her for letting the world know that he was a journalist and not a terrorist as his government had portrayed him.

You can participate in the campaign to gain his release from prison by contacting the Yemeni government. Her website, Armies of Liberation, has the details: http://armiesofliberation.com/

Friday, May 16, 2008

Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru


Last night, my husband and I watched the first half of Akira Kurosawa's 1952 film Ikiru. His (my husband's) back hurts by the end of the day and the movie is 143 minutes long. I am a big fan of Kurosawa's films, many of which I have seen via Netflix, one of the main reasons I am a member. How could I see these old films any other way?

Ikiru is what my husband would call a "slow" film, lots of dialogue, not much violence and little fast action filmography. But that is one reason Kurosawa is so great. Every frame in each of his movies is a fascinating composition of light and shadow. In Ikiru, the plot unfolds in large part through many conversations between only two characters. The intensity of the main character's emotion is portrayed as much by the camera shots as it is through the actor's facial expressions and movements.

The story itself -- Kurosawa is screenwriter as well as director-- is as much an indictment of bureaucracy and the rationalization of everyday existence as it is a celebration of life. There is such an intensity here, the feel of a Dostoevsky novel, the passionate struggle of life to escape the bonds, internal and external, personal and social, of existence. And all this from the point of view of a boring and bored public official who has just learned of his eminent death from stomach cancer.

But it is his death sentence that brings this character to life. And the film is a chronicle of the unfolding of this, one of life's blossoms in slow motion, close-up photography.

This sacred process begins in a bar, smaller and far more intimate than the one in the television series Cheers, where the hero goes to drown his sorrows and physical pain in saki. He tries to pay a drinking companion to show him what life is about. His new friend refuses the payment but does agree to take him out for a night on the town. The pilgrimage begins with a tour of jazz bars and includes a confrontation with a haughty streetwalker who grabs the old man's hat. He buys another at his friend's insistence, in honor of his "new self." Towards evening's end they visit a club where the dying bureaucrat sees his first striptease act. This scene reveals no flesh but is exquisitely and seductively filmed. Despite its tawdry setting, it represents the turning point in our hero's journey from a living death to living life.

One of the most intriguing things about Ikiru is its post WWII setting. Scenes of family life -- the bureaucrat is a widower living with his son and daughter-in-law -- reflect the influence of the West on Japanese traditions. But the scenes of night life could have been scenes of Harlem or Los Angeles with adjustments for skin color and accents of speech. This set me to thinking about the war's end: the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about the post-war U.S. occupation, about this chapter of Japan's national experience. The film came out in 1952, just seven years after the end of World War II. It is a study in human consciousness from the hand (and eye) of a master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa.

Have I left you hanging? You should see this movie!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mama, oh Mama


Right before she died, Mama turned to the nurse who was taking care of her and said, "You know, my husband was a most unusual man." At least that's what my sister says happened. I was at work at the regional library about 25 miles up the road from the little town where my mother was born, grew up and was then dying. We had brought her home from the hospital in Atlanta because her doctor cousin, Levering, had said there was nothing more to be done. That had been just a couple of days ago. She had a fungal infection of the lungs, rare in the days before AIDs, and it scarred her lung tissue and kept her from taking in oxygen when she breathed. She was drowning in the air. It had taken a while for her to get this bad. For a year or two she would get out-of-breath and tire easily. But right before she died she was on oxygen all the time. Finally, even that wasn't enough. The scarring was too extensive.

Mama had huge hazel eyes that caught the light when she looked around the room. This gave her an expression of alarm unless she was laughing or smiling. She probably wasn't smiling when she said that about Daddy. I imagine that she was reliving her life there on her deathbed and thinking how he had totally changed her life in ways she could not have imagined in the years before she met him.

My father had died barely two and a half years earlier of a cerebral hemorrhage. They were living out in the country then on the farm land Mama had inherited from her own mother. They raised a few cattle and grew hay to feed them. I figured she got the fungal infection from messing with the hay; she'd go into the barn with someone she'd hired and get hay for the cows in the winter. In damp dark places hay can get moldy. My sister thinks her lungs were ruined when she was young because her town sprayed for mosquitoes during the summer with a chemical that is now outlawed. Whatever the cause of her infection there was no cure for it then. She died a horrible death, drowning on land.Her name was Mary, but Daddy pronounced it May or May ry.
She was 11 years older than my father and when she married him it scandalized the good people in the little southern town were she was a schoolteacher. He was a good looking stranger dragged to family dinner by my namesake Aunt Annie during the Christmas holidays.

Pearl Harbor was bombed a year before I was born. Daddy was rejected by the military because of an abcess in his thigh bone from a badly healed break. He was a geologist though and worked for a company that manufactured aluminum, a much needed metal during WWII. He was prospecting for bauxite in the Dominican Republic right after my brother and sister were born. Then he was sent to Oregon. Mama had to travel from Georgia to Oregon by train alone with me, a two-year-old, and baby twins. She carried them in a big basket where they faced one another. She always said she couldn't have made it without all the soldiers on the train who helped her take care of us.
Mama was a fabulous cook and an accomplished hostess, an asset to my father who kept moving up in the corporation after the war. She had Bette Davis eyes and a wonderful laugh that made others laugh involuntarily. She had auburn hair when she was young and made the best strawberry shortcake I've ever had. When I went away to college she started writing me letters and kept it up until I moved closer to her towards the end.

Daddy, her handsome and brilliant husband, turned out to be an alcoholic. Alcoholism gets worse as time goes on and eventually he lost his job as an executive at company headquarters in Pittsburgh. That same summer I got pregnant while working at a beach resort. My parents talked me into going to a "home for unwed mothers" in another state. I had a red haired daughter whom I gave up for adoption.
My parents sold their house and moved to Mama's farm in Georgia. Daddy became a geological consultant and Mama returned to teaching. She loved her students and they loved her.

But bad things kept happening. My brother was killed by his girlfriend in an Atlanta hotel. He was 23. My sister and her husband divorced and she returned with her daughter to live with them. Daddy got TB and gave it to my niece. They were quarantined in a hospital 30 miles away until they got well. Almost a year. Still, Mama was living near the town where she had grown up. She had family, including two sisters and a brother, living close by and I know they were a comfort to her. After she retired she would drive to town in the big Buick and meet her sisters for lunch at the Greyhound Bus Station cafeteria. Meanwhile, I quit my job at a newspaper in the state where my daughter had been born. Attracted by the "counterculture" I protested the Vietnam War and joined the women's liberation movement. Sometime later I went out West, took acid and had a very bad trip which shattered my self confidence. Back East, I sort of fell apart at the end of the Vietnam War.

Mama didn't know what to do but she kept writing me her cute letters talking about life on the farm. They lived in a dry county so Daddy never got drunk unless he had occasion to drive to a "wet" county for something. I got involved with Al-Anon and was working in a shoe store when fell in love with a Mexican American engineer on assignment in the area. After he left I followed him to Los Angeles. Things didn't work out between us. I was working in a restaurant in Santa Monica when Daddy had surgery for cancer of the larynx. He refused to let the surgeon remove his voice box and was really sick. I was going to fly home to see him. But then some cops saw a marijuana plant on my back porch. Pot was legal in LA at the time. Growing it was not but I didn't know that. A friend had just given me the plant before he left town.

I was a grown woman but when they handcuffed my hands behind my back, I started sobbing and calling out to my mother. "Mama, oh Mama," I kept crying. Daddy sent money for bail but the charges were dismissed after I attended drug education classes. Then Daddy died and I flew home to attend his funeral. Mama was so happy to see me. She was always happy to see me. We buried Daddy on the farm next to where my brother had been buried.

I went back to LA to get my Volkswagen bug, packed it with everything that would fit and moved to Georgia to stay. with Mama. I got a job in town but after a year took the library job and moved there. Soon after, Mama's health started to fade. When she died, my sister and I arranged for a blanket of shasta daisies to cover her casket. She loved flowers and shasta daisies had become favorites. Later we learned that the ladies of the Episcopal Church altar guild disapproved. White flowers were for priests and bishops, not for lay people. But they didn't see them until the funeral and by then it was too late. They were beautiful, happy looking flowers and Mama had loved them. Mama, oh Mama, I love them, too.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Which is worse? Cyclone Nargi or Burma's military regime?

While here in the U.S. we're worrying about the price of gasoline or perhaps, less selfishly, concerned about how U.S. biofuels are putting upward pressure on the price of food throughout the world, the people of Burma (Myanmar) are struggling to survive the assault of a natural disaster that appears to be record breaking, the worst in Burma's history.

And because of shortsightedness and fear of losing their authoritarian control of Burma's people, the country's repressive rulers are refusing to allow rescue and aid agencies from throughout the world to enter the country. At this writing, the U.S. Secretary of Defense was weighing the possibility of air drops of essential medical supplies and water and France's ambassador to the U.N. had complained that two Security Council members have shut the door on a Security Council discussion of Burma's plight. Meanwhile, Burma's rulers appear to be more concerned with the fake elections scheduled for this week.

All this is adding to the embarrassment of China surrounding the upcoming Olympic games. Supporters of a Free Tibet are calling for a boycott of the games and the U.S. Campaign for Burma is calling for a boycott in support of the people of Burma. China which deals with Burma's generals to secure oil and natural gas supplies from that country has been reluctant to pressure them on human rights issues.

As a U.S. citizen it is hard for me to point the finger at China for doing what the U.S. has done throughout its history: support dictators who made it easy for U.S. corporations to get what they wanted whether it was oil or bananas. But I'm boycotting the Olympics. Not to pressure China but to let all those U.S. corporations know that I'm sick of their role in oppressing poor people all over the world.

In fact, why doesn't Chevron, the one U.S. company still allowed to do business with the generals, start pressuring them to open Burma's borders to those agencies and countries who are able to help the Burmese people in this hour of their need.

If you wish to find out more about the boycott and other ways to help Burma's people the U.S. Project for Burma is a good place to start:

http://uscampaignforburma.org/index.php

For information about current events in Burma related to the cyclone, the generals' response to the peaceful protest led by Burma's monks last year and links to other Burma websites go to Takizen's Burma World:

http://takizen.wordpress.com/

If you want visual testimony to the cruelty of Burma's current regime, please visit the Flickr account of Burma Friend:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14568106@N03/1933537155/






Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Energy Crisis of 1973, Tomcats and Cars

This week we had new carpet (made of recycled plastic bottles) put down throughout the upper floor of of our tiny home. To prepare for this traumatic event my husband and I moved boxes of stuff from closets and bookshelves to the lower floor. Today, we are putting stuff back and I came across a notebook filled with tear sheets of my old newspaper stories. This blog is a result of that discovery.

In the fall of 1973 I was working for a small newspaper in Virginia while the U.S. was experiencing its first oil shortages. One November issue of the weekly featured a huge photograph of railroad cars piled high with coal awaiting export to places around the globe. A sudden surge in the demand for coal had clogged up supply lines as unexpected demands for
shipping vessels were unmet in the short term.

Stories on the frontpage discussed solar energy research, the increasing demand for coal and the local demand for electricity. (I think the issue a week before had featured photos of closed gas stations and cars lined up around the block at stations that were still open.) One in particular caught my eye. The headline: "Local refinery still depends on Iran." For a moment I was confused. The oil crisis of 1973 was a result of the Arab Oil Embargo of Western nations during the Yom Kippur War. Then I realized Iran was not considered an Arab country. Its people were and are still Persians. I turned to an internet search to find out more and learned that in 1973, one of America's most powerful allies, the Shah, was still in power in Iran. I also learned that the Nixon Administration had just sold a bunch of Tomcat airplanes to Iran. The story was old but had been updated last December. It went on to say that Iran still owns about 30 Tomcats and that the planes are capable of carrying payloads which has turned out to be a problem for the U.S. and Israel.

Check this out at: http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/f14_6.html.

The following entry from Wikipedia explains the causes of the 1973 oil crisis:

The 1973 oil crisis began on October 17, 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, consisting of the Arab members of OPEC plus Egypt and Syria) announced, as a result of the ongoing Yom Kippur War, that they would no longer ship oil to nations that had supported Israel in its conflict with Syria and Egypt (the United States, its allies in Western Europe, and Japan).

About the same time, OPEC members agreed to use their leverage over the world price-setting mechanism for oil in order to raise world oil prices, after the failure of negotiations with the "Seven Sisters" earlier in the month. Because of the dependence of the industrialized world on crude oil and the predominant role of OPEC as a global supplier, these price increases were dramatically inflationary to the economies of the targeted countries, while at the same time suppressive of economic activity. The targeted countries responded with a wide variety of new, and mostly permanent, initiatives to contain their further dependency...

Despite being a target of the embargo as well, Japan fared particularly well in the aftermath of the world energy crisis of the 1970s compared to other oil-importing developed nations. Japanese automakers led the way in an ensuing revolution in car manufacturing. The large automobiles of the 1950s and 1960s were replaced by far more compact and energy efficient models. (Japan, moreover, had cities with a relatively high population density and a relatively high level of transit ridership.)[citations needed]

A few months later, the crisis eased. The embargo was lifted in March 1974 after negotiations at the Washington Oil Summit, but the effects of the energy crisis lingered on throughout the 1970s. The price of energy continued increasing in the following year, amid the weakening competitive position of the dollar in world markets.

The crisis was further exacerbated by government price controls in the United States, which limited the price of "old oil" (that already discovered) while allowing newly discovered oil to be sold at a higher price, resulting in a withdrawal of old oil from the market and artificial scarcity. The rule had been intended to promote oil exploration.[8] This scarcity was dealt with by rationing of gasoline (which occurred in many countries), with motorists facing long lines at gas stations.

In the U.S., drivers of vehicles with license plates having an odd number as the last digit (or a vanity license plate) were allowed to purchase gasoline for their cars only on odd-numbered days of the month, while drivers of vehicles with even-numbered license plates were allowed to purchase fuel only on even-numbered days.[9] The rule did not apply on the 31st day of those months containing 31 days, or on February 29 in leap years — the latter never came into play, since the restrictions had been abolished by 1976...

Coupons for gasoline rationing were ordered in 1974 and 1975 for Federal Energy Administration, but were never actually used for this crisis or the 1979 energy crisis. [11]



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The unbearable costs of Empire: from an address by Michael Ruppert, 2004

What we are witnessing now is a collision: a collision of a financial system relying on fractional reserve banking, debt-financed growth, and a fiat currency system with a planet and energy resources that are finite, limited, and running out. Infinite growth is battling with finite energy. One is not possible without the other and I have absolutely no doubt as to which side will win.

In November 2002 James Kenneth Galbraith wrote an article titled "The Unbearable Costs of Empire":
None of these problems will be cured so long as war remains our dominant political theme. But serious though they are, they pale in comparison with the larger problem of the international trade-and-financial order under conditions of permanent war. It is a straightforward fact that if global oil production starts to decline but U.S. consumption does not, everyone else will be required to cut purchases and uses of oil. But how can oil prices be held stable for Americans yet be made to rise for everyone else? Only by a policy of continuing depreciation in everyone else's currency. Such a policy of dollar hegemony amid worldwide financial instability, of crushing debt burdens and deflation throughout the developing world, is perverse. It will make our trading partners' exports cheap, render their imports dear and keep their real wages low. It will price American goods out of world markets and lead to unsustainable dependence on foreign capital. It will be a policy, in short, of beggar-all-of-our-neighbors while we live alone, in increasing idleness and inside the dollar bubble.
This is the policy that Bush and Cheney are actually imposing on the rest of the world. But they cannot make it last. It will make lives miserable elsewhere, generating ever more resistance, terrorism and military engagement. Meanwhile, we will not experience even gradual exposure to the changing energy balance; we will therefore never make the investments required to adjust, even eventually, to a world of scarce and expensive oil. In the end, therefore, that world will arrive much more abruptly than it otherwise would, shaking the fragile edifice of our oil economy to its foundations. And we will someday face a double explosion: of anger against our arrogance and of actual shortage and collapsing living standards, when the confidence of investors in the dollar finally gives way.
Compared with this future, a new commitment to collective security, to a new world financial structure, to a rational energy and transportation policy, and to spending to meet our actual domestic needs would be a bargain. At the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government the framers had given our new country. He famously replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."

In 49 BC Julius Caesar, fresh from a battlefield victory in central Italy ordered his legions to cross a small creek called the Rubicon. Under the laws of the Roman Republic, the army was not allowed to enter the capital city.

As Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Roman Republic died and the Roman Empire was born.

Our task, if we and much of human civilization are to survive, is not to keep our republic, but to take it back.
Thank you



Address of Michael C. Ruppert
To the Commonwealth Club – San Francisco
Tuesday August 31, 2004

Posted: Tue - October 12, 2004 at 11:50 AM Dacha Dude Weblog Guilty

http://homepage.mac.com/kaaawa/iblog/C177199123/E1651996174/index.html

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Please Pray For Zimbabwe

Posted on Brother Martin's Advocacy site on Multiply.com, April 17, 2008. This is from Margaret Kriel's Morning Mirror, please try and pass it on to as many people as you can. the situation of Zimbabawe is worse than here in the Philippines in terms of food crisis and economic problem. Prayer is the last resort I think. Many thanks.

Dear World,

I am a 16 year old person living in Zimbabwe . I think the time has come for a more direct appeal, and so I am writing to you, the world.

Maybe, just maybe, there might be someone out there who can help us...

It's tough here now. The inflation rate is so high that if you don't change money within 6 hours you could get half the amount of foreign currency that you would have originally received.

We're starving now; people die around us. In the last year alone at least ten people associated personally with my family have died despite the fact that they were only
middle-aged. Other people don't make it to middle age. They don't even make it past childhood.

Our once-proud nation is on it's knees. We flee or die. This beautiful, bountiful once-rich land has become a living hell. We have dealt with it until now; we have made a plan. That was the Zimbabwean motto: "MAKE A PLAN".

But now we can't make a plan. We're too tired, too broken, too bankrupt. We can't afford life, and life does not cost much, not really. We cannot afford to eat, we cannot afford to drink, and we cannot afford to make mistakes, because if we do we die. We don't have the capital to support ourselves, and those few who do, have to deal with the horror of watching their friends and family fall into absolute poverty as they cannot afford to help them.

We're waiting desperately for a great hand to pick us up out of the dirt because at the moment we are outnumbered by Fate herself, and so we close our eyes and pray. We have fought for too long, and have been brought to breaking point. We simply stand, heads down, and bear it. Our spirit has gone; we are defeated. After a valiant struggle of over fifteen years, we have been broken.

There is no will left, no spirit. Like a horse that has been beaten until it cannot fight anymore; we are the same, and, like that horse, we stand dusty, scarred and alone, with dried blood on our sides and lash marks along our flanks. Our ribs too stand out; our hide is also dull. Our eyes are glazed, our throats are parched, and our knees struggle to support us so that we stand with splayed legs to bear the brunt of the next beating, too dejected even to whimper...

This is my plea. The thought of picking ourselves up again is sickening; one can only take so many blows before oblivion is reached, and we are teetering on the rim of the bottomless void. One more push will be the end of us all...There must be someone out there who can do something. There must be someone out there who cares! We are a destroyed nation, and the world sits back and watches, pretending they cannot hear our cries. I appeal to you all...

HELP US!
A 16 YEAR OLD ZIMBABWEAN......

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Loving Children in Tennessee

Several members of Tennessee’s State Legislature have voiced their disappointment at our state’s failure to pass legislation further limiting the right of Tennessee’s women to control their bodies’ reproductive function through abortion.

These lawmakers and their constituents claim that their concern is for the lives of unborn children. It would therefore seem logical to expect that those in the state of Tennessee who wish to protect the unborn would be equally concerned about children already living in Tennessee.

But, judging from the votes of Tennessee’s delegation to the US, Congress on 10 votes in the House and the Senate, deemed important to the health, safety, education and general welfare of children by the Children’s Defense Fund this is not the case. The CDF ranks the Tennessee delegation 29th out of the 50 states in their record of votes on pro-child legislation in both Houses of Congress. Overall our delegation voted 62% in favor of bills that would improves the lives of children in the U.S. Our Republican senators both scored 60%. Tennessee’s U.S. Representative brought our state’s score up but no thanks to the four Republicans who voted in favor of pro-child legislation only between 20-30% of the time. In marked contrast, our states four Democratic Representatives voted for children between 80-100% percent of the time.

This extreme difference in voting records for pro-child legislation according to party affiliation holds up throughout the U.S. All of the 25 best pro- child voting records in the U.S. Senate are held by Democrats, each one with 100% pro-child voting records.
The 13 worst are Republicans, voting for children only 10-30% of the time. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee for President voted in favor of children only 10% of the time. Of the 173 best in the House each and every one was a Democrat with a 100% pro-child voting record. Of the worst in the House, voting for children at a rate of 0 to 30%, each and every one was a Republican.

This is a consummate irony to me, revealing a great contradiction in the values of the ardent voters who chose to support George Bush and so many Republican lawmakers during the last two presidential elections. If they value the lives of unborn children why have they not valued children already living in the U.S. Why have they supported a war in which the deaths of children are considered an acceptable form of “collateral damage.”

Are pro-life voters in Tennessee and other states myopic or afflicted with tunnel vision? Or are they hypocrites? If they care about unborn children why do they not care about those who are already born here and in Iraq and in Iran.

I would really like to know.
Annie Middleton

2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council® Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard
http://www.childrensdefense.org/site/PageServer?pagename=act_learn_scorecard2007

A Partial Breakdown:

10 pro child bills in Senate

Presidential candidate scores:
Clinton 70%
Obama 60%
McCain 10%

Overall Senate Scores
25 Best Records 100% All Democrats
13 Worst 10-30% All Republicans

10 pro child bills in House In the House of Representative
173 Best Records 100% All Democrats
132 Worst 0-30% All Republicans


Tennessee’s Senators
Alexander 60% Republican Corker 60% Republican


Tennessee’s Representatives
Blackburn 20% Republican
Davis, D.K. 20% Republican
Duncan 20% Republican
Wamp 30% Republican
Cohen 100% Democrat
Cooper 80% Democrat
Davis, L. 90% Democrat
Gordon 100% Democrat
Tanner 100% Democrat

Tennessee Delegation Average 62%
Tennessee Rank 29th of 50 states