Shut Up (About) Chavez By Paul Buchheit

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Buchheit
11/24/07 “ICH

It gets tiresome to hear the one-sided media coverage of Hugo Chavez. Yes, he’s authoritarian. He’s also abrasive, arrogant, stubborn, and all too human. But he knows what happened to leaders in Iran and Guatemala and Chile and Haiti over the past half-century when they tried to defy the western world by nationalizing oil and other industries. He’s influenced by the memory of the US-backed attempt to depose him in 2002. And he can see the effects of unregulated multinational companies in Nigeria, where in 2004 80% of the revenue from the oil industry went to only 1% of the population, and only 2% of Shell Oil’s employees were from the local population.

Chavez has alienated the wealthy, the business establishment, thousands of upper-class student protesters, and, perhaps worst of all for him, the media. But the mainstream media rarely speaks for the poor majority. Chavez has instituted a literacy program, land-acquisition policies that benefit the poor, job training for unskilled workers, free health care, and manufacturing cooperatives which give the poor an active role in business development. He was democratically elected, and recent polls still place him about 20 percentage points ahead of his nearest challenger.

The Venezuelan leader’s popularity is summarized by human rights activist Medea Benjamin:

“Walk through poor barrios in Venezuela and you’ll hear the same stories over and over. The very poor can now go to a designated home in the neighborhood to pick up a hot meal every day. The elderly have monthly pensions that allow them to live with dignity. Young people can take advantage of greatly expanded free college programs. And with 13,000 Cuban doctors spread throughout the country and reaching over half the population, the poor now have their own family doctors on call 24-hours a day.”

Opposition to Chavez comes from those with connections to the old political elite: the Venezuelan business community, the Chamber of Commerce (Fedecámaras), and the major union federation CTV, who used their control over the media to disparage Chavez for economic problems and communist ties. Many officials and journalists in the U.S. dismiss him as a troublesome dictator. An editor of the leading El Nacional newspaper said Chavez and his cabinet “just want to steal and get rich.” Even some of the Venezuelan poor resent his attempts to spread his influence with anti-poverty programs outside the country.

Ironically, Chavez was criticized for two initiatives that most Americans would like to see implemented in the U.S. — health care and increased oil company taxes. He is maligned for his friendship with Fidel Castro, even though some 10,000 Cuban doctors and health care workers came to Venezuela in return for oil. His industry reforms included a doubling of oil company taxes. He also opposes U.S. efforts to implement free trade agreements that would surrender the country’s raw materials in return for expensive products from abroad. Perhaps most significantly, Chavez is feared because of his growing independence in a country whose vast oil reserves are coveted by the north.

One doesn’t have to be a socialist to cheer for equal opportunity for hard-working citizens of any country. According to the U.S. Department of State, the income gap in Venezuela decreased between 2003 and 2005, with the Gini coefficient (a measure of income disparity from 0 (equal) to 1 (unequal)) dropping from .618 in 2003 to .514 in 2005. Chavez speaks, however noisily, for the poor. Most of the media speaks for the people with money.

Paul Buchheit is a professor with the Chicago City Colleges, co-founder of Global Initiative Chicago ( www.GIChicago.org )
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

If Conservatism Is The Ideology of Freedom, I’m The Queen of England by David Michael Green

Dandelion Salad

by David Michael Green


I wish I had a nickel for every time a conservative told a lie in order to sell an ideology that would otherwise be hopelessly unappealing.

But, then, what the hell would I do with ten kazillion, trillion, dollars? I wouldn’t know how to spend that much loot.

These lies are legend, and they’re endlessly retold. Everything from the one about the liberal bias in the media, or the one about Ronald Reagan ending the Cold War, to the one about how the private sector is so much more efficient than the government. And how about Saddam’s arsenal of WMD, eh? Or the tax cuts that weren’t going to drive the federal government into deficit? Or remember when George Bush told us that the war in Iraq was over, before it had even really started? Or the bit about how global warming is just a great big conspiracy among those noted well-known cabalists, er … climatology scientists?

I’m only just getting started here, but you get the point. If you’re a conservative you basically have two choices – lie or lose. ‘Cause if you tell the truth, no one in his or her right mind would buy the garbage you’re peddling.

The list of lies is endless, but my personal favorite is the one about how conservatism is the ideology of freedom, and specifically freedom from an overweening, intrusive, liberty-stealing, nanny-state government.

Sometimes when I hear that howler, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not off in some virtual reality world (like ‘Liberty’ University, or the Republican national convention) somewhere. Because, clearly, between me and the well-programmed fool mouthing these hopeless inanities, one of us is, that’s for sure.

But I’ll tell you what, if conservatism is the ideology of freedom – then I’m the Queen of England. And, one thing you can be sure of is that I’m not the Queen of England. I don’t even have the right parts and pieces, and the only crown I’ve ever worn was given to me forty years ago by some pimply-faced teenager working the cash register at Burger King. Somehow, I don’t think that counts.

Meanwhile, here’s what I’d like to know:

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who fought against the American Revolution?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to take that freedom away from us, especially women and minorities? Why did they fight against the effort to end slavery, or to give women and minorities the vote, or to protect them from discrimination? Why are they still supporting efforts to disenfranchise minorities?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who bitterly opposed the New Deal at a time when Americans were ravaged by the Great Depression and the only freedom they were desperately seeking was from unemployment, starvation, humiliation and death? We should give thanks for their efforts ever since then, though, as they’ve been kind enough to keep trying to liberate seniors from the hell of receiving their Social Security benefits, bravely volunteering Wall Street to carry that burden instead.

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always propping up foreign dictators, like Saddam, Musharraf, Mubarak, Marcos, Pinochet, the Shah, Batista, the House of Saud and apartheid South Africa? Why did they, in some of these cases, secretly topple democratically elected governments to install repressive regimes, which they then assisted in the torturing of their own citizens? Exactly which definition of ‘freedom’ does that fall under?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to control other people’s sexuality? Why are conservatives always telling us whom we can sleep with and what we can do in bed, even including whether we can use birth control?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to make sure that the state takes control of women’s bodies, denying them reproductive choice and freedom?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to tell us who we can marry? How come they believe that the state – which they always seem to hate, except when it is at war – should be able to make that most personal decision for us?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always blocking the environmental regulations which are the only hope to keep our bodies free from carcinogens and other harmful effects?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who refuse to allow us to use medical marijuana when we are suffering the effects of chemotherapy, and even perhaps at risk of dying from the wasting it causes?

Indeed, if conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are limiting the freedom of individuals to use drugs of any sort? If people want to use these substances and can do so without harming others, why do conservatives insist on restricting that freedom?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who refuse to allow us to die with dignity when we have a terminal disease, instead thrusting the state into the most personal and private decision a human being can make?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who passed an act of Congress intervening in the personal family tragedy of Terri Schiavo, with the president of the United States – the same one who couldn’t be bothered to come off vacation to deal with the 9/11 threat or the Katrina disaster – flying across the country to sign it?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are denying many of us the freedom to live by forbidding the stem-cell research that would likely produce cures to all manner of diseases now killing of millions of us every year?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are loading up our children with mountains of debt that the federal government has borrowed under the stewardship of such notorious liberals as Ronald Reagan (who quadrupled the national debt) and George W. Bush (who borrowed more money from foreign governments than all 42 of his predecessors, combined)? Right now, every eighteen year-old just starting a payroll job owes $60,000, and rising, plus interest, as their share of the nine trillion dollars conservatives have been especially instrumental in running up as national debt. What kind of freedom, exactly, does that represent? Assuming (quite ‘conservatively’) that that number rises to $100,000 before it is paid off, and that our young friend earns ten bucks an hour, it is the freedom to work five solid years, bringing home zero dollars after taxes, to do nothing whatsoever but paying off his share of the conservative binge.

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who have taken the very lives of four thousand of our soldiers for a war based completely on lies? This same war has left tens of thousands of Americans gravely wounded, likely more than a million Iraqi civilians dead, and well over four million more Iraqis as refugees from the violence. What kind of freedom is this? The freedom from having to be alive and well? The freedom to serve three and four rotations of extended tours in the hell of Iraq, keeping our military personnel safe from their nagging mothers-in-law at home?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are so anxious to take away our civil liberties, the most important of American freedoms, as enshrined in one of the greatest statements of freedom ever, the Bill of Rights? What happened to habeas corpus – a freedom dating back almost a thousand years – or the right to an attorney, or to have a trial, or to be protected from search and seizure without a judicially-issued warrant based on probable cause, or protection from torture? What happened to all those freedoms? What happened is that conservatives came to town and erased them.

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to have the government jam their religion down our throats, in direct opposition to the intentions of the Founders? The United States Constitution makes precisely the same number of references to the Christian god as it does to the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Zoroastrian. That would be none. What kind of freedom is it for everyone’s tax dollars to support one group’s religion, or for our government to impose a single religion on all of us?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always telling me I should leave the country if I don’t approve the latest war for lies they’ve cooked up? How exactly does ’shut-up or leave’ qualify as freedom of speech?

If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are constantly attempting to turn the executive branch of the federal government into a monarchy? By using signing statements, endless claims of executive privilege, lack of congressional oversight when they controlled Congress, thwarted oversight when they didn’t, and unprecedented levels of secrecy, they have shredded the fundamental doctrine of separated powers checking and balancing against each other. Since those ideas – the most basic concept of the Constitution – are intended to keep us safe from governments that would steal our liberties, just how is it that conservatism is the ideology of freedom?

Any one of these inconvenient truths, let alone the sum of all of them, demonstrate the absurdity of this claim. Not only is it ridiculous to call a conservatism that at every turn seeks to limit you – in what you can say, what you can ingest, who you can sleep with, marry, and even when you can end your own life – the ideology of freedom, but the only real conclusion that one can honestly come to on the basis of this historical record is of course just the opposite: Conservatism is, and has almost always been, the ideology of oppression – the very opposite of freedom.

When Americans wanted liberty from the British crown, conservative Tories not only in Britain but here as well fought to block that freedom. When ‘radicals’ sought to emancipate the slaves, conservatives fought to keep them in chains. When progressives later sought equality for women and blacks, it was conservatives who stood in the doorways blocking entrance. And, today, as we seek justice and fairness for all people regardless of their sexual orientation, it is – wait for it, now – the conservative movement which not only resists that effort at every turn, but in fact shamefully turns their homophobia into a tool used to win elections, just as they have been doing with racism for forty years now.

Indeed, you have to be more or less deaf, dumb and blind – or perhaps simply watching Fox every night for your ‘news’ (which produces the same result) – to buy into this rhetoric from the theater of the absurd. Let me reiterate: If you think these monsters who are depriving you of your liberties at every opportunity represent freedom, then you need to bow, scrape and walk backwards in my presence, as a sign of respect for the British crown. I’ll take a bunch of your money, too. Palaces aren’t cheap to maintain, buddy.

Yeah, sure, it’s true that conservatives will be right there for you if you want the freedom to buy guns and ammo, including ‘cop-killer’ bullets, assault rifles (to nail those most obstinate of pheasants, of course), or a fifty caliber rifle capable of bringing down a jumbo jet, and advertised as such in its sales literature. Of course, along with the freedom to buy these weapons (and how come, if the Second Amendment protects the bearing of “arms”, not ‘guns’, I can’t also legally buy cannons, napalm and tactical nuclear warheads – just in case the neighborhood gets a little rowdy?), also comes the lovely ‘freedom’ to join the 35,000 or so Americans every year who become very stiff corpses as a result of the massive proliferation of weapons in which America uniquely specializes. Perhaps you’d rather live in Europe, eh, enjoying being alive? Well, for the rest of you non-sissies out there, conservatives have made sure that you have the freedom to take your bullet along with you when you’re buried. What cheese-eating Frenchman ever had that freedom?

Conservatives are also busy making sure that there is plenty of freedom for corporations to pollute the land, water and air we depend on for survival. Regulation is bad, you see. Very bad. It’s much better to have freedom – including your freedom to get sick, or to live in a world careering toward global disaster – than it would be to impede on the freedom of the super-rich to make themselves super-duper-rich.

No need to worry too much about the health implications of global warming, arsenic or radioactive waste, though. Chances are you won’t live long enough to get killed this way, or to be shot by somebody whose freedom to own a gun has been well protected by nice right-wing people. That’s because conservatives are also on the front-lines in the lonely battle fighting to make sure that you have the opportunity to join the more than 47 million Americans free from having healthcare coverage, or the many tens of millions more whose policies are insufficient to keep them alive. Don’t you feel good knowing you’re free from the evils of ’socialized’ medicine? Isn’t profit-driven corporate non-care so much better? Forget about “Give me liberty or give me death”. Now you can have both!

One thing you can’t argue about, however, is that it is conservatives who will keep your taxes down. Right? Well, yeah, if you mean this year. And if you mean nickels and dimes. But then, by applying the same logic, making your house payment on a credit card would be defined as keeping your monthly expenses down. (Of course, since you’re about to lose your house anyhow, as a result of conservative economics, that may be a moot point.) But there’s just these two little problems. One is that the nice people who loan you money invariably want to be paid back. And, two, they want interest on the loans as well. I don’t know who middle-class Americans dreamed would be paying for their meager tax cuts, which – along with massively increased government spending by those paragons of fiscal responsibility, you guessed it, conservatives – were funded by charging it all on the federal plastic, but you can bet America’s creditors know all our addresses. They’ll find us when the bill comes due.

Of course, this is only the beginning. What the tax cuts were really about was shifting the burden of funding government from the wealthy to the middle class, and from today’s generation to tomorrow’s. So, not only will middle class Americans, or their kids, have to pay back everything borrowed these last six years to fund their piddly little tax cuts, plus interest accrued, but they will also be paying for the massive tax cuts that were given to the massively wealthy.

Which, of course, is really what the whole elaborate kabuki dance of conservative ‘freedom’ was ever all about, from the beginning. As one of the greatest political marketing ploys of all time, it used pathetic middle class tax cuts plus supremely ironic restrictions on social and personal liberties to sell a bunch of frightened naifs on the notion that conservatism is the ideology of freedom, all so that the ubër-class could realize their dream kleptocracy in place of a government actually devoted to public service. And, remarkably, it worked – at least for a time.

Don’t you feel better now that you’re free after decades of Reagan, Gingrich, Bush, Cheney, DeLay and Scalia? You’re free to shut up with your unpopular ideas. You’re free from having to make difficult decisions when you’re pregnant. You’re free to be arrested for smoking a joint to keep from vomiting while you’re doing chemotherapy. You’re free from having to worry about which sex you’re going to sleep with or marry. You’re free from protection against guns or from long life in a healthy environment. And when you do get shot or sick, you’re free from adequate medical care. Moreover, should you find yourself stuck with a painful and terminal illness, you’re also free from either stem-cell remedies or your own choice to end your suffering and die with dignity.

You’re also free to fall through the tattered safety net of government programs during a recession or a depression, and you’ll likely be free from making those pesky house payments very much further into the future either. You’re free from wondering whether the rest of the world hates you and your country because it’s been undermining democracies, propping up dictators, and invading oil-rich countries on the basis of completely fabricated war rationales. You’re free from having to pay your taxes today. But you’ll also be free from buying those things you wanted tomorrow, as you’ll instead be paying today’s taxes, interest on those taxes, tomorrow’s taxes, plus the share that the wealthy used to pay.

So whattaya think? Ain’t conservative freedom great?

Next time you hear a conservative ranting about the wonder and joys of freedom, tell them: “Yeah, no kidding, freedom is a really good thing. You’d like it even better if you actually tried it out some time”.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (mailto:dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.

h/t: ICH


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Banks Gone Wild By Paul Krugman

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Krugman
ICH
11/24/07 “

“What were they smoking?” asks the cover of the current issue of Fortune magazine. Underneath the headline are photos of recently deposed Wall Street titans, captioned with the staggering sums they managed to lose.

The answer, of course, is that they were high on the usual drug — greed. And they were encouraged to make socially destructive decisions by a system of executive compensation that should have been reformed after the Enron and WorldCom scandals, but wasn’t.

In a direct sense, the carnage on Wall Street is all about the great housing slump.

This slump was both predictable and predicted. “These days,” I wrote in August 2005, “Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a sustainable lifestyle.” It wasn’t.

But even as the danger signs multiplied, Wall Street piled into bonds backed by dubious home mortgages. Most of the bad investments now shaking the financial world seem to have been made in the final frenzy of the housing bubble, or even after the bubble began to deflate.

In fact, according to Fortune, Merrill Lynch made its biggest purchases of bad debt in the first half of this year — after the subprime crisis had already become public knowledge.

Now the bill is coming due, and almost everyone — that is, almost everyone except the people responsible — is having to pay.

The losses suffered by shareholders in Merrill, Citigroup, Bear Stearns and so on are the least of it. Far more important in human terms are the hundreds of thousands if not millions of American families lured into mortgage deals they didn’t understand, who now face sharp increases in their payments — and, in many cases, the loss of their houses — as their interest rates reset.

And then there’s the collateral damage to the economy.

You still hear occasional claims that the subprime fiasco is no big deal. Even though the numbers keep getting bigger — some observers are now talking about $400 billion in losses — these losses are small compared with the total value of financial assets.

But bad housing investments are crippling financial institutions that play a crucial role in providing credit, by wiping out much of their capital. In a recent report, Goldman Sachs suggested that housing-related losses could force banks and other players to cut lending by as much as $2 trillion — enough to trigger a nasty recession, if it happens quickly.

Beyond that, there’s a pervasive loss of trust, which is like sand thrown in the gears of the financial system. The crisis of confidence is plainly visible in the market data: there’s an almost unprecedented spread between the very low interest rates investors are willing to accept on U.S. government debt — which is still considered safe — and the much higher interest rates at which banks are willing to lend to each other.

How did things go so wrong?

Part of the answer is that people who should have been alert to the dangers, and taken precautionary measures, instead blithely assured Americans that everything was fine, and even encouraged them to take out risky mortgages. Yes, Alan Greenspan, that means you.

But another part of the answer lies in what hasn’t happened to the men on that Fortune cover — namely, they haven’t been forced to give back any of the huge paychecks they received before the folly of their decisions became apparent.

Around 25 years ago, American business — and the American political system — bought into the idea that greed is good. Executives are lavishly rewarded if the companies they run seem successful: last year the chief executives of Merrill and Citigroup were paid $48 million and $25.6 million, respectively.

But if the success turns out to have been an illusion — well, they still get to keep the money. Heads they win, tails we lose.

Not only is this grossly unfair, it encourages bad risk-taking, and sometimes fraud. If an executive can create the appearance of success, even for a couple of years, he will walk away immensely wealthy. Meanwhile, the subsequent revelation that appearances were deceiving is someone else’s problem.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. The huge rewards executives receive if they can fake success are what led to the great corporate scandals of a few years back. There’s no indication that any laws were broken this time — but the public’s trust was nonetheless betrayed, once again.

The point is that the subprime crisis and the credit crunch are, in an important sense, the result of our failure to effectively reform corporate governance after the last set of scandals.

John Edwards recently came out with a corporate reform plan, but it didn’t receive a lot of attention. Corporate governance still isn’t regarded as a major political issue. But it should be.

Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics at Princeton University and a regular New York Times columnist. His most recent book is The Conscience of a Liberal.

© 2007 The New York Times

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

“A Generalized Meltdown of Financial Institutions” By Mike Whitney

Enough, Already! by The Other Katherine Harris

“A Generalized Meltdown of Financial Institutions” By Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
11/24/07 “ICH

Take a Look at Professor Roubini’s Crystal Ball

Reality has finally caught up to the stock market. The American consumer is underwater, the banks are buried in dept, and the housing market is in terminal distress. The Dow is now below its 200-Day Moving Average — the first big “sell” signal. Anything below 12,500 could trigger program-trading and crash the market. The increased volatility suggests that we are watching a “real time” meltdown.

International Business editor for the UK Telegraph, Ambrose Evans Pritchard, summed up yesterday’s action in the Asian markets:

“The global credit crisis has hit Asia with a vengeance for the first time, triggering a massive flight to safety as investors across the region pull out of risky assets. Yields on three-month deposits in China and Korea have plummeted to near 1pc in a spectacular fall over recent days, caused by panic withdrawals from money market funds and credit derivatives.

“‘This’ is a severe warning sign,’ said Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas. ‘Asia ignored the credit crunch in August but now we’re seeing the poison beginning to paralyze the whole global economy.'” (Credit ‘Heart attack’ engulfs China and Korea” Ambrose Evans Pritchard,UK Telegraph,)

The credit storm that began in the United States with subprime mortgages has spread to markets across the globe. In fact, the train has already crashed. What we’re seeing now is the boxcars piling up on top of each other.

On Tuesday Chinese government officials ordered a complete halt to bank lending to slow the speculative frenzy that has created an enormous equity bubble in the stock market. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Chinese authorities are slamming the brakes on bank lending, in their latest attempt to curb the runaway investment threatening to overheat what is soon to be the world’s third-largest economy. In recent weeks, regulators have quietly ordered China’s commercial banks to freeze lending through the end of the year, according to bankers in several cities. The bankers say that to comply, they are canceling loans and credit lines with businesses and individuals.” (“China freezes lending to Curb Investing Frenzy” Wall Street Journal)

The move illustrates how concerned the Chinese are that a slowdown in US consumer spending will trigger a crash on the Shanghai stock market. It also shows that the Chinese are having difficulty dealing with the inflation generated by the hundreds of billions of US dollars absorbed via the trade imbalance with the US. China is awash in USDs and that surplus is causing a steady rise in food and energy costs. This could be mitigated by allowing their currency to “float” freely. But a sudden, steep increase in the Chinese yuan’s value could also send the world headlong into a global recession. For now, the lending freeze and price fixing appear to be the way out.

Another sign that the markets have reached a “tipping point” appeared in a Reuters article on Wednesday; “Interbank Covered Bond Trading Halted on Volatility”:

“Renewed credit turmoil and volatility led the European Covered Bond Council (ECBC) on Wednesday to suspend inter-bank market-making in covered bonds until Monday, Nov. 26.

The move is a sign of the stress in the covered bond market, which is dominated by German institutions that have almost a trillion euros of covered bonds outstanding.

Covered bonds — backed by pools of assets that remain on the borrower’s balance sheet — are usually highly liquid and typically rated triple-A by ratings agencies. The ECBC’s recommendation is aimed at relieving the pressure on market makers who are forced to quote prices at a fixed bid-offer spread.

“In light of the current market situation and in order to avoid undue over-acceleration in the widening of spreads, the 8-to-8 Market-Makers & Issuers Committee recommends that inter-bank market-making be suspended,” the ECBC said in a release.”

Note: This isn’t mortgage-backed junk that’s being sold, but highly liquid bonds that are usually easy to cash in. The ECBC’s action is a sign of pure desperation and indicates that credit paralysis has infected the entire euro banking system.

Reuters: “Due to general market conditions and the specific mechanics of the inter-dealer market making it even seems possible that inter-dealer market making will not be resumed this year.”

That’s bad. The mechanism for converting covered bonds into cash has broken down.

The dollar took another pasting on Wednesday, sliding to $1.49 on the euro; another new record. Gold shot up to $814 per ounce. Oil continues to flirt with the $100 per barrel mark, and the yen rose to 107 per dollar forcing a sell-off of hedge fund assets levered through the carry trade.

Jon Basile, economist at Credit Suisse, summed it up like this: “There’s a heck of a lot of bad news out there.” Indeed.

In California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined with four mortgage lenders to freeze adjustable interest rates (ARMs) for some of the state’s highest-risk borrowers; another unprecedented move. The Governor hopes to avoid a collapse of the California real estate market which has gone into a tailspin. Home sales have plummeted more than 40 per cent for the last two months. Prices have dropped sharply—roughly 12 per cent statewide. New construction has slowed to a crawl. Layoffs are steadily rising. Jumbo loans (mortgages over $417,000) have been put on the “Endangered Species” list. Even qualified borrowers can’t get mortgages. Nothing is selling. California housing is “off the cliff”.

Schwarzenegger’s plan to keep over-extended subprime mortgage-holders in their homes faces an uncertain future. What incentive is there for homeowners to continue paying exorbitant monthly rates when their payments are not applied to the principle? The homeowners would be better off bailing out, accepting foreclosure, and starting over with a clean slate.

It’s unrealistic to thinks that Schwarzenegger can stop the tidal wave of foreclosures that are sweeping across the state. An estimated 3 million homeowners will lose their homes nationwide.

If you want to blame someone; blame Alan Greenspan. He’s the one who created this mess. According to the economist Mike Shedlock:

“The Fed caused the credit crunch by slashing interest rates to 1 per cent to bail out its banking buddies in the wake of a dotcom bubble collapse. All the Fed did was create a bigger bubble. This bubble is so big in fact that it cannot even be bailed out. It’s the end of the line for a serially bubble blowing Fed.

“So not only was this the biggest credit bubble in history, this was also the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the already enormously wealthy. That is the real travesty of justice regardless of whether or not the price tag is $1 trillion, $2 trillion, or $10 trillion.” (Mike Shedlock, “Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis”)

The problem has gotten so serious that even Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, is putting up red flags. Last week, Paulson ignited a sell-off on Wall Street when he made this statement:

“The nature of the problem will be significantly bigger next year because 2006 [mortgages] had lower underwriting standards, no amortization, and no down payments….We’re never going to be able to process the number of workouts and modifications (to mortgages) that are going to be necessary doing it just sort of one-off. I’ve talked to enough people now to know that there’s no way that’s going to work.”

The desperation is palpable. Like Schwarzenegger, Paulson is trying to get mortgage-lenders to provide a safety net for struggling borrowers who are defaulting on their loans.

Paulson is calling for emergency legislation that will allow the Federal Housing Administration to play a greater role in the relief effort. The FHA has already expanded its traditional role by taking on hundreds of billions in extra debt just to keep a few “private” mortgage lenders and banks from going bankrupt. Of course, when Paulson’s plan goes kaput and the debts pile up; it’ll be the taxpayer that foots the bill.

“Paulson also called the Senate’s failure to pass legislation overhauling mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac frustrating,” saying that the two government-sponsored entities need to be playing a bigger role in the housing market.

“If we ever need them it’s during times like today, and they’re most valuable when there is distress in the mortgage market,” he said. “I’d like to see them playing an even bigger role.”(Wall Street Journal)

Fannie and Freddie, have already posted enormous quarterly losses and don’t have the capital reserves to put millions of subprime mortgage-holders under their “government-sponsored” umbrella. Paulson is just grabbing at straws.

Similar troubles are brewing in the broader market where late-payments and defaults have spread to credit card debt and new car loans. Every area of “securitized” debt has suddenly veered off the road and into the ditch. Last week the Fed injected more credit into the teetering banking system than anytime since 9-11.

No one has predicted the downward-spiral in the market more accurately than Nouriel Roubini. Roubini is a Professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University. His analysis appears regularly on his blogsite, Global EconoMonitor. Last week’s prediction was particularly dire and is worth reprinting here:

“It is increasingly clear by now that a severe U.S. recession is inevitable in next few months…I now see the risk of a severe and worsening liquidity and credit crunch leading to a generalized meltdown of the financial system of a severity and magnitude like we have never observed before. In this extreme scenario whose likelihood is increasing we could see a generalized run on some banks; and runs on a couple of weaker (non-bank) broker dealers that may go bankrupt with severe and systemic ripple effects on a mass of highly leveraged derivative instruments that will lead to a seizure of the derivatives markets… massive losses on money market funds with a run on both those sponsored by banks and those not sponsored by banks; ..ever growing defaults and losses ($500 billion plus) in subprime, near prime and prime mortgages with severe knock-on effect on the RMBS and CDOs market; massive losses in consumer credit (auto loans, credit cards); severe problems and losses in commercial real estate…; the drying up of liquidity and credit in a variety of asset backed securities putting the entire model of securitization at risk; runs on hedge funds and other financial institutions that do not have access to the Fed’s lender of last resort support; a sharp increase in corporate defaults and credit spreads; and a massive process of re-intermediation into the banking system of activities that were until now altogether securitized.” (Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitor)

“A generalized meltdown of the financial system”.

Looks like Chicken Little might have gotten it right this time; “The sky IS falling.”

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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The Financial Tsunami: Sub-Prime Mortgage Debt is but the Tip of the Iceberg by F. William Engdahl

Forecast: U.S. dollar could plunge 90 pct

Banks Gone Wild By Paul Krugman

Enough, Already! by The Other Katherine Harris

by The Other Katherine Harris
Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

Nov. 24, 2007

Nov. 24, 2007 – Yesterday, on what should be observed as a national day of sateity after Thanksgiving’s excess, a woman mere weeks away from certain unemployment went, with her holiday dinner still not fully digested, out to shop in the wee hours of the morning. As an AP writer reported:
Continue reading

The Myth Of Free Markets – And The Corporate Lie Behind It (video)

Dandelion Salad

Video no longer available.

erkd1

We currently have a coordinated misinformation campaign to convince people that free market laissez-faire economic policies are the direction we need to take in our trade policies. We need to educate ourselves in going back to proven pragmatic trade philosophies that work and debunk common free market myths and “debates”. I hope this video helps with that goal.

Continue reading

Sen. Mike Gravel: A Conversation with Gareth Porter Part II (video)

Dandelion Salad

gravel2008

Join Sen. Gravel in a discussion with campaign advisor and Southeast Asia policy expert Gareth Porter about Iran.

This is the second of three parts.

http://www.gravel2008.us

Music and Editing by Dan Connor:
http://www.danconnor.com

Added: November 22, 2007

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Sen. Mike Gravel: A Conversation with Gareth Porter (video)

Chomsky: Do the Democrats have a different answer on Iran? (video)

Dandelion Salad

TheRealNews

Noam Chomsky on the Democratic presidential race and Iran

Added: November 22, 2007

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Noam Chomsky on U.S. policy towards Iran (video) + transcript (updated)

Darkness falls on the Middle East By Robert Fisk + Calm but no consensus in Lebanon (video)

Dandelion Salad

By Robert Fisk
ICH
11/24/07 “The Independent

In Beirut, people are moving out of their homes, just as they have in Baghdad

So where do we go from here? I am talking into blackness because there is no electricity in Beirut. And everyone, of course, is frightened. A president was supposed to be elected today. He was not elected. The corniche outside my home is empty. No one wants to walk beside the sea.

When I went to get my usual breakfast cheese manouche there were no other guests in the café. We are all afraid. My driver, Abed, who has loyally travelled with me across all the war zones of Lebanon, is frightened to drive by night. I was supposed to go to Rome yesterday. I spared him the journey to the airport.

It’s difficult to describe what it’s like to be in a country that sits on plate glass. It is impossible to be certain if the glass will break. When a constitution breaks – as it is beginning to break in Lebanon – you never know when the glass will give way.

People are moving out of their homes, just as they have moved out of their homes in Baghdad. I may not be frightened, because I’m a foreigner. But the Lebanese are frightened. I was not in Lebanon in 1975 when the civil war began, but I was in Lebanon in 1976 when it was under way. I see many young Lebanese who want to invest their lives in this country, who are frightened, and they are right to frightened. What can we do?

Last week, I had lunch at Giovanni’s, one of the best restaurants in Beirut, and took out as my companion Sherif Samaha, who is the owner of the Mayflower Hotel. Many of the guests I’ve had over the past 31 years I have sent to the Mayflower. But Sherif was worried because I suggested that his guests had included militia working for Saad Hariri, who is the son of the former prime minister, murdered – if you believe most Lebanese – by the Syrians on 14 February 2005.

Poor Sherif. He never had the militia men in his hotel. They were in a neighbouring building. But so Lebanese is Sherif that he even offered to pick me up in his car to have lunch. He is right to be worried.

A woman friend of mine, married to a doctor at the American University Hospital, called me two days before. “Robert, come and see the building they are making next to us,” she said. And I took Abed and we went to see this awful building. It has almost no windows. All its installations are plumbing. It is virtually a militia prison. And I’m sure that’s what it is meant to be. This evening I sit on my balcony, in a power cut, as I dictate this column. And there is no one in the street. Because they are all frightened.

So what can a Middle East correspondent write on a Saturday morning except that the world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. “Palestine”. Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we – we Westerners that is – are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colourless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon.

And what hell disasters are we creating? Let me quote a letter from a reader in Bristol. She asks me to quote a professor at Baghdad University, a respected man in his community who tells a story of real hell; you should read it. Here are his own words:

“‘A’adhamiya Knights’ is a new force that has started its task with the Americans to lead them to al-Qa’ida and Tawheed and Jihad militants. This 300-fighter force started their raids very early at dawn wearing their black uniform and black masks to hide their faces. Their tours started three days ago, arresting about 150 citizens from A’adhamiya. The ‘Knight’ leads the Americans to a citizen who might be one of his colleagues who used to fight the Americans with him. These acts resulted in violent reactions of al-Qa’ida. Its militants and the militants of Tawheed and Jihad distributed banners on mosques’ walls, especially on Imam Abu Hanifa mosque, threatening the Islamic Party, al-Ishreen revolution groups and Sunni endowment Diwan with death because these three groups took part in establishing ‘A’adhamiya Knights’. Some crimes happened accordingly, targeting two from Sunni Diwan staff and one from the Islamic Party.

“Al-Qa’ida militants are distributed through the streets, stopping the people and asking about their IDs … they carry lists of names. Anyone whose name is on these lists is kidnapped and taken to an unknown place. Eleven persons have been kidnapped up to now from Omar Bin Abdul Aziz Street.”

The writer describes how her professor friend was kidnapped and taken to a prison. “They helped me sit on a chair (I was blindfolded) and someone came and held my hand saying, ‘We are Muhajeen, we know you but we don’t know where you are from.’ They did not take my wallet nor did they search me. They only asked me if I have a gun. An hour or so later, one of them came and asked me to come with them. They drove me towards where my car was in the street and they said no more.” So who are the A’adhamiya Knights? Who is paying them? What are we doing in the Middle East?

And how can we even conceive of a moral stand in the Middle East when we still we refuse to accept the fact – reiterated by Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, and all the details of US diplomats in the First World War – that the Armenian genocide occurred in 1915? Here is the official British government position on the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. “Officially, the Government acknowledges the strength of feeling [note, reader, the ‘strength of feeling’] about what it describes as a terrible episode of history and recognises the massacres of 1915-16 as a tragedy. However, neither the current Government nor previous British governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to be persuaded that these events should be categorised as genocide as it is defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.” When we can’t get the First World War right, how in God’s name can we get World War III right?

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Calm but no consensus in Lebanon 25 Nov 07
AlJazeeraEnglish

Lebanese were disappointed that their leaders failed to reach a consensus on a president.

But they are at least relieved that they have a consensus on maintaining peace.

Tensions, however, are escalating.

Added: November 24, 2007

Greening the Corporation by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
Monday, November 19. 2007

The “Business of Green” and “Green is Gold” are among the phrases finding their way onto the nation’s business pages and into the advertisements of major corporations.

After years of corporate greenwashing, is this wave of corporate greenmania for real? Is it more than hype when the New York Times marks a recent article with the sidebar “The market tells producers: It’s go green or goodbye.”?

Well, not if the impetus has to come from stronger regulation or environmentally driven government purchases. Those two pressure points have largely been kept dormant or are de minimis.

When business sees environmental management as saving it money, increasing productivity, becoming more competitive and attracting young talent, the prospect of sustainable policies taking root becomes more likely.

Obviously, it was not always viewed this way by corporate bosses who, not long ago, saw our air, water and soil as their toxic sewers.

There is still a long way to go to “green” the entire supply chain from the mines to the markets.

No corporation illustrates this broad continuum better than the Atlanta-based Interface Corporation—the country’s largest commercial carpet tile manufacturer. In 1994, founder Ray Anderson started his company on its goal as a “restorative enterprise,” which he described as zero net pollution and 100% recycling by 2020. The company is 45 percent there, he estimates. (http://www.interfaceinc.com/)

Anderson speaks figures in his 100 plus lectures around the nation and world. His company’s use of fossil fuel is down 45 percent, net greenhouse gas production is down 60%, while company sales are up 49 percent. Water use is down by a third in its manufacturing and the filling of landfill with waste is down 80%.

“Sustainability,” Anderson told the New York Times, “pays in customer loyalty, employee spent-hard cash,” plus 336 million dollars in savings since 1995.

Anderson is unique in that what he and his team have done is not anecdotal, but system wide in scope. The news is replete with one large company achieving this with lighting or that with their transportation. With Interface, ecological efficiency is across the board.

Since even a stodgy company like General Electric is moving quickly into selling “green” technology as the next profit center, why are the aggregate figures on hydro-carbon use, greenhouse gases still increasing? Because there are no national missions to take these successful examples—these best practices—and make them a mandatory floor for all companies.

I refer to mandatory performance standards by the federal government—not specific design standards—backed up by specifications set by Uncle Sam, who is the buyer of so many products we all use, for its departments and agencies. These include vehicles, building construction, paper and many other goods and services that could be purchased only from solid “green companies.” (See: Forty Ways to Make Government Purchasing Green by Eleanor J. Lewis and Eric Weltman. Available from the Center for the Study of Responsive Law for $10. Mail orders to PO Box 19367 Washington, D.C. 20036.)

Mandatory federal standards and government purchasing specifications brought the people safer cars, higher recycled paper content and greater fuel efficiency for their vehicles and appliances. The deregulation craze of the past twenty-five years ended most of this forward progress.

Moreover, the retarding corporate powers are still going anti-green. They oppose a carbon tax and long overdue upgrades of fuel efficiency and pollution control standards. They want to build dozens of costly, unnecessary, unsafe atomic power plants with no less than 100% federal government loan guarantees.

This overall persistence of corporate intransigence needs to be kept in mind as the blizzard of green announcements by companies continues.

To keep our demands on industry and commerce to become more efficient, productive and environmentally benign, it is worthwhile to quote a passage drawn from Natural Capitalism, a book co-authored by a physicist, a lawyer and a successful businessman:

“Whether through better design or through new technologies, reducing waste represents a vast business opportunity. The U.S. economy is not even 10% as efficient as the laws of physics allow. Just the energy thrown off as waste heat by U.S. power stations equals the total energy use of Japan. Materials efficiency is even worse.”

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Institutionalized Glorification of our Greed and Gluttony: Thanksgiving Reflections of an Anti-Capitalist By Jason Miller

Dandelion Salad

By Jason Miller
Thomas Paine’s Corner
11/23/07

Gluttony and greed kill more than the sword.

—Italian proverb

Gluttony and surfeiting are no proper occasions for thanksgiving.

~Charles Lamb, 1821

Another propaganda-driven greed-fest has nearly passed in the land of the corporatized and the home of the subservient. Obedient little wage slaves and consumers that most of us are (to varying degrees of course), we have once again dutifully greased the wheels of the monstrous capitalist machine and made our proper sacrifices at the altar of Mammon. Continue reading

Huckabee vs. Paul analysis (video) + Don’t Be Scared by Jonah Goldberg

Dandelion Salad

unconsious767

from Washington Journal, CSPAN on Nov. 23, 2007

Added: November 24, 2007

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Don’t Be Scared

Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee

By Jonah Goldberg
National Review Online (NRO)

As the hopeless but energetic presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R., Tex.) builds momentum in name recognition, fundraising and cross-ideology appeal, some conservatives are beginning to attack him in earnest. A GOP consultant condemns Paul’s “increasingly leftish” positions. Syndicated columnist Mona Charen calls Paul “too cozy with kooks and conspiracy theorists.” Film critic and talk-radio host Michael Medved looks over Paul’s supporters and finds “an imposing collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, 9/11 ‘truthers’ and other paranoid and discredited conspiracists.”

For the most part, these allegations strike me as overblown and unfair. But, for argument’s sake, let’s say they’re not. Let’s even say that Paul has the passionate support of the Legion of Doom, that his campaign lunchroom looks like the Star Wars cantina, and that his top advisers have hooves instead of feet.

Well, I would still find him less scary than Mike Huckabee.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Ron Paul asked about Dennis Kucinich as a running mate (video)

Cheering for Ron Paul By Robert Scheer

That Which Must Be Done by Mescalito

Mescalito

by Mescalito

featured writer
Dandelion Salad

Mescalito’s blog
Nov. 24, 2007

That Which Must Be Done

Ed Stanton wanted to say he was after some kind of singularity of purpose as he walked out of a roadside diner off that old 66 bypass. But it would take too much effort to explain that to Mabel, who was only looking to sell another slice of pie. And how do you clarify what’s coming to somebody like that when all she’ll be able to see come of it is the loss of his horses, his wife’s exodus from the county and the lonely deaths of his long separated mother and father on opposite sides of the town?

‘Well what kind of purpose are you being singular about?’ she would say. ‘Ain’t been drug-running through this part of Arizona in thirty years.’ Or so might she go on, Ed thought.

And he didn’t want to think about that anyway, he knew. Not one whiff of cocaine in thirty years. Nothing to make the occasional dusted roadside encounter anything more than just a pleasant distraction.

“Ain’t no cowboy ever made an honest friend past the age of thirty anyhow,” he said to himself, absently eying his cargo. “Nothing to look for but what I got to do.” He passed a mother in a mini-van broken down on the shoulder with two young children and drove on without a second glance. After that there was nothing but coyotes and fences for another eighty-eight miles of worn Arizona road, and he knew so.

The truck sputtered down to its last slurp of gas as he pulled into that field across from Tuco’s tin shack where everything had gone so goddamn wrong months ago last Fall. Ed didn’t even know whether or not the contents of the package he carried was still any good. He’d taken a taste off the top back in May, just for curiosity. But now he meant to return it to its rightful owner, come what may.

He wasn’t surprised that a pair of guard dogs trotted toward him to rip his trespassing throat out. The double-crack of his pistol was just like a knock on the door and the slow lope of Tuco’s shadow against the wood-panel inside assured Ed of the regularity of this situation.

“I hope you brought your dog money,” Tuco shouted over a stretch of dead widow weed. “Not everybody understands that is part of the toll for all my visitors.” Tuco could see the package put a strain on Ed’s shoulder. “Let me help you with that,” he said and jogged across the field, moonlit dust puffing up around his boots. “That old wound, it just gets stiffer with age.”

“Yes it does, my friend.”

Now they stood face to face. Ed could see a wasteland of abandoned trucks reaching out away from Tuco’s shack over a nearby hill. Coyotes played near the blood or rust stained wheel well of a burned out Chevy duster.

“Not a gas pump in a hundred miles,” Tuco said and lit up a stale cigarillo. “And we are not friends, senor.” Then he offered the cigarillo to Ed, who took it despite the shine of saliva on the butt. “My friends do not wake me at this time of night.”

“Well, I do apologize for that, Tuco. It’s just that-”

“Come inside. I will pour you a drink.”

Ed took on a shaky understanding of the function of Tuco’s home on entry as he noticed that only the wall across from the front window had been decorated in any way.

“Have a seat,” Tuco said, left the room for a moment and returned with a revolver tucked into his pants and two drinks, one small and thin, one tall and stiff.

Ed put himself into the smaller of two ragged lawn chairs, removed his hat and tried to imagine his wife, Imogene, driving east at sunrise to Louisiana where she could find a new life. One that made sense to her.

Then he re-lit the cigarillo, let himself settle back and took a long accepting look down the barrel of Tuco’s revolver.