Shame! Shame! Come Back Shame. by Joel S. Hirschhorn

by Joel S. Hirschhorn
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
www.foavc.org
October 3, 2008

Shame on them (the politicians) and shame on us (the public).  We live in the United States of Shame.  Why?  Because everywhere we see nothing but disgrace, dishonor and infamy, yet a complete absence of shame.  In a nation where religion supposedly plays such a big role, people seem to have used it to suppress shame and avoid blame.

Republicans should feel nothing but shame over the worst presidency in American history.  Democrats should feel utter shame for a Congress that has sold out ordinary citizens.  Lesser evil voters should feel heart-attack pain for their shameful behavior in maintaining the status quo two-party plutocracy.  All those millionaires and billionaires that made it big in corporate America should have SHAME tattooed on their foreheads.

I have been thinking about shame as I reflect on how our nation has sunk so low and how little confidence I have that any Democrat or Republican – not Barack Obama or John McCain – will truly reform a totally corrupt and dysfunctional political system.  I keep waiting to hear either of these two or any of the so-called leaders in Congress say something as simple as “As an American and an elected public official I feel nothing but shame for being part of this awful political system that has let you down.”

When those with power feel no shame over their incompetence and ineptitude they clearly have no ability to own up to it.  Without the expression of shame there is no genuine apology.

I do not want to keep seeing a grinning John McCain and a smiling Barack Obama.  I want to see them and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and all the other losers in Congress plea publicly for forgiveness from the nation they have shamed.  This is what we all should demand of them.  Say this clearly; say it every freaking day every time you get in front of a microphone and camera: “I am ashamed to be part of this system.  Forgive me.  I will set aside all my ambitions and excuses and try to earn your forgiveness.”  Write it 1,000 times every damn day.  Make it your mantra.  Say it every time you shake the hand of an American.

When you automatically say yet another lie to the public stop yourself, pause and say “Forgive me, bad habits are so hard to break.  What I just said is really a lie.  I am ashamed.  Here is the truth…”

Until all those with power in the public and private sectors totally recognize, accept and proclaim their shame there is no hope for returning our nation to greatness.

Until ordinary people also accept their shame for their cowardly behavior in supporting our shameful two-party plutocracy that has given us nothing but a fake democracy, there is no way that we will vote our way out of this awful mess

Where there is no shame there is no acceptance of blame.  And we know who to blame.

Shame!  Shame!  Come back shame.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn is a co-founder of Friends of the Article V Convention.  Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through www.delusionaldemocracy.com.]

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Previously posted January 7, 2008

The Marabouts: Shame (music video)

shannonmorris

A rock song about what the media feeds us, and how much we love it. “Shame” invites us to ask, “What’s up with the world these days, and who’s fault is it anyway? Featuring: George Bush, OJ Simpson, The Pope, Princess Di, Bill O’Reilly, The Wicked Witch of the West, The Statue of Liberty, Capo (my dog), Oliver North, and the atomic bomb. For more music, please visit: myspace.com/shannonyoucrazydiamond

Added: December 09, 2007

On Myspace:

Shannon

Photo by me:

Shannon Morris (Waylaid)

Mosaic News – 10/2/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad

Warning

.

This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

linktv

Mosaic needs your help! Donate here: http://linktv.org/contribute

“Explosions Return to Iraq,” Dubai TV, UAE
“NATO Calls for Negotiations with the Taliban,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“International Coalition to Fight Piracy in Somalia,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Olmert Questioned by Police About Corruption Charges,” IBA TV, Israel
“China Wishes Happy Eid to the Palestinians,” Palestine TV, Ramallah
“Eid Fails to Unite Divided Tripoli,” NBN TV, Lebanon
“US Senate Clears India’s Nucelar Deal,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

From Empire to Democracy By Howard Zinn

Dandelion Salad

By Howard Zinn
ICH
10/03/08 “The Guardian

Let’s not waste $700bn on a bail-out, but use ‘big government’ for what it’s best at – shaping a society that is fair and peaceable

This current financial crisis is a major way-station on the way to the collapse of the American empire. The first important sign was 9/11, with the most heavily-armed nation in the world shown to be vulnerable to a handful of hijackers.

And now, another sign: both major parties rushing to get an agreement to spend $700bn of taxpayers’ money to pour down the drain of huge financial institutions which are notable for two characteristics: incompetence and greed.

There is a much better solution to the current financial crisis. But it requires discarding what has been conventional “wisdom” for too long: that government intervention in the economy (“big government”) must be avoided like the plague, because the “free market” will guide the economy towards growth and justice.

[…]

via From Empire to Democracy    : Information Clearing House – 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.

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Betrayed by the Bailout: The Death of Democracy by William Cox

Will the Crisis Brings Down the Global Financial System? Go Get Your Dollars Out Now! FAST!!!

Bailout Bedlam: Robbing the Taxpayers to Save the Banks by Dr. Ellen Brown

US congressman: If we don’t pass this bill, we’re going to have martial law in the United States

The New American Century: Cut Short By 92 Years By Mike Whitney

Does the Bailout Bill Mark the End of America as We Know It? by Richard C. Cook

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Goldman Sachs Bribed Senate To Pass Bailout Bill

Dandelion Salad

gr1m1b

Complete CONTRIBUTION LIST:
http://www.washingtonyourefired.com/g…

How much bribe money does it take to transfer $700 Billion taxpayer dollars to Wall Street’s elite?

GOLDMAN SACHS CONTRIBUTIONS:
Obama, Barack (D-IL) $691,930
Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $468,200
Romney, Mitt (R) $229,675
McCain, John (R-AZ) $208,395
Himes, Jim (D-CT) $114,748
Giuliani, Rudolph W (R) $111,750
Dodd, Christopher J (D-CT) $105,400
Edwards, John (D) $66,450
Specter, Arlen (R-PA) $47,600
Emanuel, Rahm (D-IL) $32,950
Reed, Jack (D-RI) $30,100

How much money did your Representative get from Big Bankers to look the other way and pass a bill that the American people clearly do not want?

HELP SPREAD THE WORD…
http://www.WashingtonYoureFired.com

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Goldman Sachs Bribed Senate To Pass B…“, posted with vodpod

h/t: Global Research and maasanova on Current

***

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 681

h/t: CLG

see

Betrayed by the Bailout: The Death of Democracy by William Cox

Will the Crisis Brings Down the Global Financial System? Go Get Your Dollars Out Now! FAST!!!

Bailout Bedlam: Robbing the Taxpayers to Save the Banks by Dr. Ellen Brown

US congressman: If we don’t pass this bill, we’re going to have martial law in the United States

The New American Century: Cut Short By 92 Years By Mike Whitney

Does the Bailout Bill Mark the End of America as We Know It? by Richard C. Cook

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Why Paulson’s Plan is a Fraud – Bail Out the Homeowners! By Paul Craig Roberts

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Craig Roberts
10/03/08 “ICH

Is the Paulson bailout itself as big a fraud as the leveraged subprime mortgages?

Yesterday, here on CounterPunch, I discussed the bailout as proposed and noted that the proposal cannot succeed if it impairs the US Treasury’s credit standing and/or the combination of mark-to-market and short-selling permits short-sellers to prosper by driving more financial institutions into bankruptcy.

A reader’s comment and an article by Yale professors Jonathan Kopell and William Goetzmann raise precisely this question of the fraudulence of the Paulson package.

As one reader put it,“We have debt at three different levels: personal household debt, financial sector debt and public debt.  The first has swamped the second and now the second is being made to swamp the third.  The attitude of our leaders is to do nothing about the first level of debt and to pretend that the third level of debt doesn’t matter at all.”

The argument for the bailout is that the banks will be free of the troubled instruments and can resume lending and that the US Treasury will recover most of the bailout costs, because only a small percentage of the underlying mortgages are bad.  Let’s examine this argument.

In actual fact, the Paulson bailout does not address the core problem.  It only addresses the problem for the financial institutions that hold the troubled assets. Under the bailout plan, the troubled assets move from the banks’ books to the Treasury’s.  But the underlying problem–the continuing diminishment of mortgage and home values–remains and continues to worsen.

The origin of the crisis is at the homeowner level.  Homeowners are defaulting on mortgages.  Moving the financial instruments onto the Treasury’s books does not stop the rising default rate.

The bailout is focused on the wrong end of the problem.  The bailout should be focused on the origin of the problem, the defaulting homeowners.  The bailout should indemnify defaulting homeowners and pay off the delinquent mortgages.  As Koppell and Goetzmann point out,  the financial instruments are troubled because of mortgage defaults.  Stopping the problem at its origin would restore the value of the mortgage-based derivatives and put an end to the crisis.

This approach has the further advantage of stopping the slide in housing prices and ending the erosion of local tax bases that result from foreclosures and houses being dumped on the market. What about the moral hazard of bailing out homeowners who over-leveraged themselves?  Ask yourself: How does it differ from the moral hazard of bailing out the financial institutions that securitized questionable loans, insured them, and sold them as investment grade securities? Congress should focus the bailout on refinancing the troubled mortgages as the Home Owners’ Loan Corp. did in the 1930s, not on the troubled institutions holding the troubled instruments linked to the mortgages. Congress needs to back off, hold hearings, and talk with Koppell and Goetzmann.Congress must know the facts prior to taking action.  The last thing Congress needs to do is to be panicked again into agreeing to a disastrous course.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

see

Will the Crisis Brings Down the Global Financial System? Go Get Your Dollars Out Now! FAST!!!

Bailout Bedlam: Robbing the Taxpayers to Save the Banks by Dr. Ellen Brown

US congressman: If we don’t pass this bill, we’re going to have martial law in the United States

Does the Bailout Bill Mark the End of America as We Know It? by Richard C. Cook

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Betrayed by the Bailout: The Death of Democracy by William Cox

by William Cox
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
www.thevoters.org
October 3, 2008

On this date, October 3, 2008, the American people were betrayed by those whom they had elected to represent them. The members of Congress who voted for the Wall Street “bailout” violated their oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution” … “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same” … “and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: …”

Without holding any meaningful hearings or public discussions and listening only to those most responsible for the economic disaster, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Congress abdicated its responsibility to the American people.

Locking out most members from all discussions, the congressional “leadership” emerged from their backrooms with legislation that grants Secretary Paulson the ability to spend at least $700 billion to “take such actions as [he] deems necessary” … ” to promote financial market stability.”

Entrusting tremendous political and financial power (and a ton of borrowed money that taxpayers will have to repay with interest) into Paulson’s sole discretion, members of Congress must have been aware that, prior to his cabinet appointment in 2006, Paulson worked for 32 years at Goldman Sacks, one of the Wall Street firms that stands to benefit greatly from his “actions.”

Paulson, who cashed out his Goldman stock valued at $575 million to become the Secretary of Treasury (without having to pay any taxes on the sale), earned more than $53 million in pocket change during just his last two years at Goldman Sacks for innovations such as a new line of “Mortgage Backed Securities.” Gambling more than a trillion dollars on risky subprime second mortgages, Paulson cleverly converted them into AAA-rated “secure” investments by purchasing guarantees from the American International Group.

AIG, coincidentally, was just “bailed out” two weeks ago by Secretary Paulson for $85 billion (of borrowed money that taxpayers will have to repay with interest), averting a devastating loss by Goldman Sacks, who was holding more than $20 billion in otherwise worthless second mortgages.

Is it surprising that Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s current CEO, was present with Paulson when the decision was made to bailout AIG?

The bailout’s $700 billion price tag is only an arbitrary guess by Paulson and is most likely just the first installment of many more to come. Other economists, with more successful track records, believe the total will be much greater, perhaps $5 trillion, as concealed losses are uncovered and foreign companies dump their toxic investment waste into their American offices.

In passing the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,” Congress ignored the “great concern” expressed by almost two hundred of the nation’s leading economists who pleaded with Congress “not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action,…” In addition to its ambiguity and long-term effects, the economists believed the bailout plan to be “a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense” and to be “desperately short-sighted.” Ultimately, more than 400 top economists, including two Nobel Prize winners, voiced opposition to the bailout.

The economists were not alone in being ignored by the politicians. It is widely reported that calls and emails to Congress from constituents were running as high as 300 to one against the bailout. Mike Whitney reports one analyst saying that “the calls to Congress are 50 percent ‘No’ and 50 percent ‘Hell, No’.” The percentages adjusted as the stock market tumbled, but public opposition to the bailout remains strong.

An AP poll only identified 30 percent of the public in favor of the bailout, and a CNN Money opinion poll found 77 percent of the people believing the bailout would benefit those most responsible for the economic downturn.

Who Benefits?

The Latin adage, Cui bono, asks “to whose death are you going?” Law enforcement investigators quickly learn that the guilty party can usually be found among those who stand to gain from a murder or other crime.

There is no doubt the bailout will most benefit some of the richest and highest paid individuals in the American economy. But, why did the politicians betray the wishes of those who elected them in favor of the criminals who committed the fraud? Perhaps the answer can be found in another Latin phrase, quid pro quo, meaning “what for what; something for something.”

Individuals working for Wall Street finance, insurance and real estate companies and the companies’ political action committees have contributed more than $47 million to the campaigns of Senator Obama (three of top five sources) and Senator McCain (top five sources), both of whom voted for the bailout.

More to the point, Wall Street has contributed more than $1.1 billion dollars to congressional candidates since 2002. Nine of the top ten House recipients of Wall Street largesse, who each received an average of $1.5 million, are on the financial oversight and taxation committees.

Even more telling, the bipartisan Congressional “leaders” most responsible for pushing the bailout through Congress, Senators Dodd and Gregg and Representatives Frank and Blunt have taken almost $20 million from Wall Street sources during the last 20 years. Dodd recently received $6 million in contributions during his presidential primary campaign, and Frank has collected $720,000 this year.

Other key players also have been well compensated this year: Congressman Kanjorski received $755,000 and Congressman Bachus banked $704,000.

Who Loses?

The ordinary, hard-working voters, who were opposed to the bailout, and their children and grandchildren, will be the ones who will ultimately have to repay, with compound interest, the money that will have to be borrowed to give away to Wall Street bankers.

The bailout was “sweetened” in the Senate by another $110 billion in tax relief and renewable energy incentives to get enough House votes for passage; however, only the temporary one-year slowdown of the Alternative Minimum Tax offered any succor to the middle-class workers affected by it.

The bailout raises the debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion, or about $37,524 for each man, woman and child in the United States. How is this burden ever going to be repaid? Workers already know their wages are falling, their jobs are at risk, their health care, food and fuel costs are skyrocketing, and they are being kicked out of their apartments and homes because they can’t pay the rents and mortgages.

Didn’t each member of Congress have a sworn duty to rescue the millions of Americans suffering from the reckless gambling of Wall Street moguls, rather than to reward an obscene excess of greed?

Foreclosure Rescue. At least six million homeowners will probably default on their mortgages this year and next, and millions more will have their equity wiped out by declining property values. More than 770,000 homes have been seized by lenders since 2007, and 91,000 families were just kicked out of their homes in August.

These American homeowners were betrayed by their elected representatives!

The only provision in the bailout legislation to remotely “benefit” homeowners whose homes are being foreclosed upon only “encourages” mortgage service companies to modify mortgages. Paulson is required to “maximize assistance for homeowners … and minimize foreclosures”; however, he also has to ensure that the government doesn’t incur any additional costs. Thus, there’s little or no hope of any meaningful benefit to distressed homeowners resulting from the bailout.

The legislation could have required the government to directly purchase the defaulting mortgages and to adjust them to the reduced value of the property, as was done in the Great Depression. Instead, Paulson is authorized to purchase the complex derivatives (Wall Street’s gambling debts) piled on top of the original mortgages. The difference is whether homeowners or Wall Street receives the benefit of the bailout.

Bankruptcy Rescue. More than 4,476 Americans filed for bankruptcy every day during August, the highest number since changes in the law in 2005 made it much more difficult, and even impossible in many cases, to obtain debt relief. More than a million, increasingly elderly, people will petition for bankruptcy this year.

These destitute Americans were betrayed by their elected representatives!

Under the current law, bankruptcy judges do not have the power to modify mortgages of a petitioner’s primary residence, irrespective of how the mortgages have been sliced, diced and repackaged. The bailout could have provided judges with the authority, in appropriate cases, to adjust the amount secured by the mortgage to the value of the property and to adjust the interest rate to a reasonable percentage.

Unemployment Rescue. New claims for unemployment benefits rose to 493,000 last week, the highest level in seven years. The economy has already lost 605,000 jobs thus far this year, and it dumped 159,000 payroll jobs just during September, the greatest drop in five years.

These unemployed Americans were betrayed by their elected representatives!

Although the House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus bill that would fund job creation and extent jobless benefits for long-term unemployed workers on September 26th, the Senate failed to pass its own stimulus bill on the same day. President Bush has promised to veto the legislation if passed.

The bailout legislation could have provided for an extension of jobless benefits, but it didn’t.

Homeless Rescue. More than 750,000 and as many as a million Americans are homeless today, and the numbers are increasing dramatically. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that homelessness is growing because of foreclosures, loss of jobs, and the rising price of fuel and food.

These homeless Americans were betrayed by their elected representatives!

Homeless sites are appearing all across the country as people with no place to stay are pitching tents and huddling together for support and protection. Their plight did not receive any consideration by the Congressional leadership that rammed the bailout through Congress.

Hunger Rescue. The most recent report by the Department of Agriculture found that in 2006, 35.5 million Americans lived in households with insecure food supplies and the numbers were increasing. At risk children numbered more than 12.6 million, and African Americans and Hispanic Americans suffered at higher rates than the national average.

In 2006, 9.6 million Americans had to frequently skip meals or eat too little, and often had to go without food for a whole day. Today, as members of Congress voted to reward the richest and most greedy members of our society, they ignored those without the most basic necessity for survival. This morning, they rewarded the most powerful and best-fed members of our society, and gave no thought to the helpless children who will go to bed hungry tonight.

Food banks who serve as the last resort for the hungry are running out of food. They are having to reduce rations and to dip into emergency supplies of staple items. There are reports of a 40 percent increase in requests for food assistance and a 30 percent drop in supplies.

These hungry Americans were betrayed by their elected representatives!

The bailout could have increased the amount of federal assistance for food banks in the Emergency Food Assistance Program, but it didn’t.

The Consequences

The real estate bubble that has been driving the United States economy has now popped, and there is no replacement engine to transport America’s consumer society down the highway to happiness. Americans are facing the mother of all depressions; it will be hard and it will last a long time. What are all of these homeless, hopeless, and hungry people going to do?

Many have already exercised their First Amendment right to petition their government for the redress of grievances. A majority of the members of Congress, the two presidential candidates, and the President paid no attention to the economic experts and the thousands and thousands of voters who protested the bailout and who begged them to rescue the people rather than the rich and powerful.

The people can always take to the streets in protest, and they probably will do so in growing numbers as the economic circumstances become more harsh.

The U.S. government is already planning for the eventuality – not with the helping hand of supplemental legislation to help with mortgages, jobs, shelter or food, but with the mailed fist of military suppression. The Army Times reports the current deployment within the United States “homeland” of an “on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies or disasters, including terrorist attacks.” The Army acknowledges that the Northern Command may call upon the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to help with “civil unrest and crowd control.”

With almost a trillion dollars picked from their pockets to reimburse reckless Wall Street gamblers, many Americans righteously feel betrayed tonight. A majority will elect a new president one month from tomorrow, and most will wait to see who it will be, and what if anything he can or will do to alleviate their suffering.

There are others, undoubtedly, who agree with the Supreme Court’s recent decision that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is individually held, and who believe that the use of their personal weapons is justified to overthrow a government that betrays them and which destroys their very means of existence. The right of legitimate self defense is recognized by every criminal law in America.

Perhaps democracy in the United States is not dead; if not, it’s on its deathbed. Resuscitation in the form of responsible representation is possible, but time is growing short.

Copyright © 2008 William John Cox

William John Cox is a retired supervising prosecutor for the State Bar of California. As a police officer he wrote the Policy Manual of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Role of the Police in America for a national advisory commission. Acting as a public interest, pro bono, attorney, he filed a class action lawsuit in 1979 on behalf of every citizen of the United States petitioning the Supreme Court to order the other two branches of the federal government to conduct a National Policy Referendum; he investigated and successfully sued a group of radical right-wing organizations in 1981 that denied the Holocaust; and he arranged in 1991 for publication of the suppressed Dead Sea Scrolls. His book, You’re Not Stupid! Get the Truth: A Brief on the Bush Presidency is reviewed at http://www.yourenotstupid.com, and he is currently working on a fact-based fictional political philosophy. His articles are collected at http://www.thevoters.org, and he can be contacted at u2cox@msn.com.

see

Will the Crisis Brings Down the Global Financial System? Go Get Your Dollars Out Now! FAST!!!

Bailout Bedlam: Robbing the Taxpayers to Save the Banks by Dr. Ellen Brown

US congressman: If we don’t pass this bill, we’re going to have martial law in the United States

The New American Century: Cut Short By 92 Years By Mike Whitney

Does the Bailout Bill Mark the End of America as We Know It? by Richard C. Cook

Exercise readies first units for NORTHCOM assignment

Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1

Pre-election Militarization of the North American Homeland. US Combat Troops in Iraq repatriated to “help with civil unrest”

Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

Will the Crisis Brings Down the Global Financial System? Go Get Your Dollars Out Now! FAST!!!

Dandelion Salad

by Adrian Salbuchi
Global Research, October 3, 2008

The events of the last two weeks have clearly revealed that the global financial, monetary and banking system imposed on the world by the power structures promoting “globalization” is fundamentally flawed, unviable and immoral in its effects upon the most all of Mankind. After allowing a small cabal of shady characters to illegitimately accumulate vast amounts of wealth and power over markets, corporations, industries, media, armed forces and entire nations, like the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, this entire System is now in free-fall, collapsing into itself in one massive implosion.

This loathsome and unjust Global Power System was designed and implemented over the past seven decades by the geopolitical and geoeconomic strategic planners serving the New World Order power structures, most notably its network of discrete, low-profile but highly powerful private think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR, founded in New York in 1919), The Trilateral Commission (founded in 1973), The Bilderberg Conference (formed in Holland in 1954), and others like the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the notorious Neo-con Project for a New American Century (PNAC) (1).

Considering the enormous complexity of the process that is taking place right now; the vast amounts of information we are bombarded with every minute of the day, and the apparent difficulty in foreseeing just how this global crisis will finally be resolved, we would summarize certain important aspects and key data which we believe will help us put together this veritable jig-saw puzzle, so that we may begin to fathom what the true face of this horrendous creature euphemistically called “globalization”, is really like. As Argentine citizens, we have a huge advantage over other peoples including US citizens when it comes to understanding and coping with this kind of crisis. I say this because in our own lifetimes we have suffered in Argentina all of what is now happening globally – albeit on a much smaller scale in our case. We’ve seen this movie… We’ve been there, and done that… We’ve been pushed and dragged through the entire hysterical hocus-pocus of inflation, hyperinflation, systemic banking collapses, currency changes, Debt Bond Swaps, Mega-Debt Bond Swaps, financial “armouring”, banking holidays, freezing of bank accounts, etc., etc… And we have also suffered the end-results: bank bail-outs paid for by taxpayers (or through inflation, or through the confiscation of savings), disappearance of pension funds, destruction of job posts and overall impoverishment of the population.

So, take a clue from our thirty years’ experience in “financial meltdowns”: GO GET YOUR DOLLARS OUT FROM YOUR BANK NOW, AND DO IT FAST!!!!

Continue reading

Bailout Bedlam: Robbing the Taxpayers to Save the Banks by Dr. Ellen Brown

by Dr. Ellen Hodgson Brown
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Ellen’s post
Oct 2, 2008
webofdebt.com

“Doesn’t this seem like lunacy to you? The consequences of it are unbelievably bad in terms of public intrusion into the private sector. Is anybody thinking there? It’s too late, it’s not going to make any difference, and it’s aggravating as hell when there’s a better idea and you can’t even get it in play.” – Former Treasury Secretary John O’Neill in an October 1 interview with Bloomberg on the bank bailout plan

The bank bailout bill that just passed the Senate and is being deliberated in the House would turn the banks’ worst assets into good U.S. dollars. How many dollars? The figure was $700 billion a few days ago and has already climbed to $800 billion after the pork was added in. That’s nearly the cost of two Iraq wars, but it still won’t be enough, because the covered instruments eligible for conversion include the black hole of derivatives. Derivatives held by U.S. banks are now estimated at $180 trillion. How will the Treasury acquire the dollars to buy all these disastrously bad bank assets? The taxpayers are all taxed up and don’t have $800 billion to spare. The money will no doubt come from an issue of U.S. securities, or debt; but who will lend to a nation that already has the highest federal debt in the world, one that is growing exponentially? The likely answer is the Federal Reserve, the bankers’ bank that acts as “lender of last resort” when there are no other takers. The Federal Reserve is a private banking corporation owned by its member banks. The Fed returns the interest on the bonds it “monetizes” to the government, but only after deducting its operating costs and a 6% guaranteed return for each of its many bank shareholders.1 The upshot is that we the people will be paying interest to the banks to bail out the banks from their own follies!

Why the Rush?

There must be a better way to unfreeze the credit system; but as former Treasury Secretary O’Neill observes, no other alternatives are on the table. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s plan has been rushed through in a matter of days. Why the rush to push through a plan that could bankrupt the nation, without formal deliberations on the alternatives? Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson wanted a deal by last weekend. It didn’t happen, but the pressure has been on ever since.

Evidently the date the banks were trying to beat was Tuesday, September 30, the reporting day when they were required to reveal their “Tier 1” capital adequacy. To be adequately capitalized under federal bank regulations, a bank must have Tier 1 capital equal to at least 4% of its “risk-weighted assets.” “Assets” are things that produce cash flow, including loans and derivatives that actually represent liabilities of the bank – money the bank would have to come up with if the borrower did not pay, or the derivative bet were lost, or the other party to the derivative bet did not pay. Capital requirements vary depending on the “risk” of these assets. Tier 1 or “core” capital consists of shareholders’ equity (the amount originally paid to purchase the bank’s stock), plus retained profits, less accumulated losses. Since losses to the banks of late have been substantial, many banks could have trouble meeting the Tier 1 capital adequacy requirement. That means they would not be able to make new loans, which explains all the talk of a “credit freeze.” Indeed, on September 30, available credit was reduced to a trickle, with the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR (the interest rate banks charge to lend to each other) rising sharply.

The collapse of the financial system has been blamed on the subprime crisis, but mortgage defaults are just the domino that triggered the fall. The real problem is the “d” word – something you don’t hear much mention of in the major media, the derivative Ponzi scheme. Derivatives got a bad name with the Long Term Capital Management fiasco. Derivatives are basically just bets, which vacuum up value without producing anything. The imploding derivatives bubble is a giant black hole that could suck all the productive assets of the nation into banking coffers.

Borrowing from the Banks to Bail Out the Banks?

Paulson’s solution is to fill the derivative black hole with federal money; but as just noted, the funds aren’t likely to come from taxes or from loans from foreign central banks. The likely source is the Federal Reserve; and normally, the Fed gets its money just by printing it (or by creating it with accounting entries). In this case, however, something else may be in the works. The Fed’s new “Term Securities Lending Facility” (TSLF) does not involve the usual “open market operations”, in which the Fed prints green pieces of paper called Federal Reserve notes and swaps them for pink pieces of paper called bonds (government I.O.U.s). Rather, the TSLF works like this: the Treasury prints bonds and delivers them to the Federal Reserve, which then trades them with distressed banks for their unmarketable derivative paper. According to Wikipedia, which translates Fedspeak into somewhat clearer terms than the Fed’s own website:

“The Term Securities Lending Facility is a 28-day facility that will offer Treasury general collateral to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s primary dealers in exchange for other program-eligible collateral. It is intended to promote liquidity in the financing markets for Treasury and other collateral and thus to foster the functioning of financial markets more generally. . . . The resource allows dealers to switch debt that is less liquid for U.S. government securities that are easily tradable.”

To “switch debt that is less liquid for U.S. government securities that are easily tradable” means that the government gets the banks’ toxic derivative debt, and the banks get the government’s triple-A securities. This improves the banks’ capital position because U.S. securities are considered “risk-free” for purposes of calculating the banks’ “risk-weighted assets.” Risk-laden derivatives are traded for risk-free U.S. securities, reducing the capital the banks must have in reserve in order to make new loans.2

The beauty of this scheme is that no lender has to be found to underwrite the newly-issued U.S. securities. Federal I.O.U.s are just issued by the Treasury and traded with the banks for their unmarketable derivative debt. The “lenders” holding the government’s I.O.U.s are the distressed banks themselves! But the taxpayers have to pay interest on these securities. The taxpayers are in the anomalous position of paying interest to the banks for the privilege of providing the funds to bail out the banks.

Here are some more references throwing light on what is going on. On September 18, the Associated Press reported:

“The Treasury Department, for the first time in its history, said it would begin selling bonds for the Federal Reserve in an effort to help the central bank deal with its unprecedented borrowing needs. Treasury officials said the action did not mean that the Fed was running short of cash, but simply was a way for the government to better manage its financing needs.”3

For the first time in history, instead of the government borrowing from the Fed, the Fed is borrowing from the government! Yahoo Finance reported on September 17:

“The Treasury is setting up a temporary financing program at the Fed’s request. The program will auction Treasury bills to raise cash for the Fed’s use. The initiative aims to help the Fed manage its balance sheet following its efforts to enhance its liquidity facilities over the previous few quarters.”

Treasury bills are the I.O.U.s of the federal government, and they obviously add to the federal debt. The federal debt hasn’t been paid off since the days of Andrew Jackson, but the interest is always paid; and today the interest comes to nearly half a trillion dollars annually. The taxpayers are now on the hook for the Fed’s “enhanced liquidity facilities” as well, meaning the billions in loans that the Fed has been and will be making to an unprecedented range of financial institutions, exercising obscure provisions in the Federal Reserve Act. We the taxpayers are paying interest to the Fed so that the Fed can use taxpayer money to bail out its banking cronies from their gambling ventures. At the very least, doesn’t it seem that the Fed and the banks should be paying interest to us for the privilege of drawing on the national credit card?

A Better Way

Not only does Paulson’s bailout plan reward the guilty at the expense of the taxpayers, but it is not an efficient way to recapitalize the banking system. As William Engdahl observes in a September 30 article, citing economist Nouriel Roubini for authority:

“[I]n almost every case of recent banking crises in which emergency action was needed to save the financial system, the most economical (to taxpayers) method was to have the Government, as in Sweden or Finland in the early 1990’s, nationalize the troubled banks, take over their management and assets, and inject public capital to recapitalize the banks to allow them to continue doing business, lending to normal clients. In the Swedish case, the Government held the assets, mostly real estate, for several years until the economy again improved at which point they could sell them onto the market and the banks could gradually buy the state ownership shares back into private hands. In the Swedish case the end cost to taxpayers was estimated to have been almost nil. The state never did as Paulson proposed, to buy the toxic waste of the banks, leaving them to get off free from their follies of securitization and speculation abuses.”

To “inject public capital” means to issue the currency and credit of the nation itself. A sovereign government does not need to borrow from private banks that create the money as it is lent (the “fractional reserve” lending scheme prevalent today). Bankrupt banks can and should be left to those same free market forces they have been so eager to defend until now. Let them go bankrupt, impose a receiver and nationalize them. If a series of banks was to be nationalized, these truly “national” banks could issue the “full faith and credit of the United States” directly, without having to borrow the money first. That idea is not new. It was the solution extolled by Benjamin Franklin, advocated by Thomas Jefferson, and implemented by Abraham Lincoln. Jefferson wrote in an 1802 letter:

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”


1 “Frequently Asked Questions: Federal Reserve System,” FederalReserve.gov.

2 William Hummel, “Bank Capital Requirements,” http://wfhummel.cnchost.com/capitalrequirements.html (December 11, 2002).

3 Ellen Simon, “Fed, Central Banks Move to Boost Global Confidence,” Associated Press (September 18, 2008).

Ellen Brown, J.D., developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles.  In Web of Debt, the latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.”  She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves and how we the people can get it back.  Her websites are www.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com.

© Copyright Ellen Hodgson Brown, webofdebt.com, 2008

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US congressman: If we don’t pass this bill, we’re going to have martial law in the United States

The New American Century: Cut Short By 92 Years By Mike Whitney

Does the Bailout Bill Mark the End of America as We Know It? by Richard C. Cook

One Nation under Capitalism: It’s Time for a Crucifixion By Jason Miller

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

Let’s see – what’s the prevailing master narrative for these shows? By John Steppling

Dandelion Salad

Sent to me by Jason Miller from Thomas Paine’s Corner. Thanks, Jason.

By John Steppling
http://www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/?p=1037
10/2/08

The theatrical circus of electoral politics has reached the home stretch — meaning the TV phase of the candidate popularity contest.

In an age when people more or less watch TV 24 hours a day, although often (if not almost always) in a highly passive manner, the corporate media has reacted to this fact by adjusting its product to become a constant stream of advertising, with sound bite dramatic or comedy narratives interspersed.

The excellence of a show like The Wire notwithstanding, the basic network and cable format is to just run this stream of PR, non-news and seriously dumbed-down infomercials on a 24/7 basis. Given this, the current Presidential race is approached with more cogency from the meta-narrative level.

Since the debates require zero information actually be communicated regarding the alleged topics of interest, the actual horse race is won in the realm of surface perceptions and *feelings*. This brings me to Sarah Palin, way before I get to Barry and John. Sarah Palin’s three interviews have been so mind numbingly disastrous, that one almost feels sorry for the fundamentalist beauty pageant runner up. This is a woman better suited to ok your checks at Tesco, or greet you as you enter a four star hotel on some resort island and hand you a comp ticket to the evening’s buffet dinner. She is painfully and visibly stupid. She is also an unpleasant person. Reagan always struck me as senile, as far back as 20 Mule Team Borax ads and certainly as governor of California. But he was affable. To most people, anyway. This was always a surprise to me, for such affability has always, in my experience, cloaked a mean-spirited pettiness. Beware the affable! Anyway, by the time we get to Clinton we see a deeply disingenuous narcissist, but with Bush Sr. we enter the realm of east coast mandarins………those nasty pinched WASP souls that inhabit the rich enclaves of places like Kennebunkport. I always tried to imagine the dinner table scenes of the Bush family, half drunk, nasty, and without any warmth from the turkey-necked monster of a mother for dumb George Jr.

But Clinton seemed affable, and Bush Sr. seemed, well, not Dukakis I guess. Perceptions are curious in an age of media marketed reality. The PR firms go out and create a persona. The point is that such personas bear little connection to reality. It’s what is projected through the medium of television. People have been trained now for several decades to interpret television via a marketed perspective — and the constant stream of talking head commentary is there to reinforce an established national narrative. When one looks at who talks the most on major media outlets, one sees very conservative people, if not outright reactionary and racist nut cases. One does not ever see the left. When an Al Franken or that goof who sits opposite Hannity are marketed as *the left,* there is an obvious distortion. But provide enough chatter from Bill Kristol or David Broder or whomever, and keep airing the far right in the person of Ann Coulter or Krauthammer or whomever, and you provide legitimacy for racism and crypto fascism. Meet the Press, or the McLaughlin group. Let’s see— what’s the prevailing master narrative for these shows?

Now most people don’t even watch news, or if they do they grab ten minutes while eating dinner or while seated at the sports bar. “Someone turn the god damn channel! We want ESPN not CNN!”

So the short hand is really hyper short hand. This is why the attack dog campaigns work so well. Swift Boating Kerry and now Obama is a Muslim or a Marxist. These distortions gain traction because they are very easy to digest. McCain is a war hero…….easy. Palin is a hockey mom, spunky and kinda hot too…..easy.

The fact is that this debate was about exactly nothing. Or rather, it was about telegenic perceptions and impressions. Mostly impressions that are carried below the individual’s conscious radar. And on that note, McCain is not doing well. What most people took away, even supporters I suspect, was an old grumpy man with a nasty yellow toothed smirk and a strangely wandering left eye. Obama coasts along on a pleasant baritone voice. And Obama seems sane, one has to say, and that can’t be said for John and Sarah.

This brings me back to a television culture in general. The corporate media is distinctly right wing. When the best news is Jon Stewart, a comedy show, you know things have become quite strange. A debate that did NOT include any questions about Africa and nothing about the sheer violence of American Imperialism (the occupation of Iraq is assumed as a given–something that will not be and cannot be questioned) is indeed a totally managed reality. Imperialists will usually move to a neighboring country when the occupied one resists too much. Hence, Pakistan seems next, and likely Iran. But nothing of real substance was asked about any of this. The Wall Street debacle wasn’t examined — the Service Employees International Union has suggested a plan that would invest massively in public services and health care and include reforms preventing foreclosures that would demand banks deal a bit with their bad loans. Or you could just give the $700 billion to those homeowners….or better, use the $700 billion on health services.

But by virtue of the fact that the media controls most people’s thought processes these sorts of questions are never asked, and if they were floated out there most people would react to them as if they were insane scenarios. Now, it is true that a majority of Americans think the bailout plan is bad, but these very rational feelings are quickly neutralized by the media onslaught. Same with troop withdrawal. I mean this is easy; central command issues an order and everyone comes home. To try and obscure the absolute clarity and simplicity of this with hand wringing (the Euston manifesto liberals come to mind) about a blood bath, etc, is another conditioned reflex created by the media. People may instinctively think the occupation is wrong, but again such feelings are *officially* discounted by the mainstream media narrative.

Does the average US citizen ever hear a reasoned discussion of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez? Or of Lukashenko and Belarus, let alone Putin? Do they hear about Rwanda and Kagame, or about Musaveni? Do talking heads reflect back on Pinochet or the death squads in Central America– trained by the CIA? Does the Capital Gang talk about CIA covert ops that put the loathsome Shah in power in Iran? Do American TV viewers ever hear about Iranian history? For that matter, do they hear about the Stern gang and King David Hotel bombing? Do they hear about Suharto and the coup in Indonesia? The answer is of course, *no*. The prevailing discourse is about American exceptionalism, and even the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are deemed acts of patriotism that ***saved*** lives. There are plenty of people who distrust these official media storylines, but this distrust is usually couched in a simple cynicism, and such cynicism is an easily co-opted idea. As Adorno said, cynicism is just another mode of conformity. The mainstream corporate media allow token opposition, so long as it does not stray outside the bourgeois parameters of this prevailing narrative. So millions tune into these debates expecting nothing more than a chance to get a look at Barry and John and see how *Presidential* they seem. Nothing more, because there is nothing more on display.

Do TV pundits ever talk of US deals with Hitler? Never a word, or of Stalin and the USSR’s courageous fight against fascism in WW2…..nothing. So we have this season’s debates and the talking head pundits blathering away. The most cogent analysis of Sarah Palin is that performed by Tiny Fey. The best news coverage is Stewarts.

Obama is human, but he is also a Democrat and saddled with that machine. One certainly hopes he wins, because there is a glimmer of promise in his humanity and in the symbolism of his race, but the real change cannot occur until a populace awakes from the bad dream of corporate newspeak. The frames within frames have established a fixed set of coordinates about our existence. From the myths of 9/11 to bullshit about spreading democracy and the demonizing of Muslims, the media machine chews up opposition as it chews up history and reality. Token leftists like Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann will still, in knee jerk stupidity, refer to Chavez as a thug and Venezuela as a rogue state. I forgive Obama a bit, because he is simply being a realistic Presidential candidate in this era of mass delusion. But can a population survive when it is so deeply brainwashed and so incapable of independent thought? I don’t know.

But hell, the vice presidential debates this week should provide, at the very least, the same strange and perverse pleasure one gets from watching a train wreck or a building being blown apart.

Senior Editor of Arts and Culture with Cyrano’s Journal Online, playwright, director, screenwriter and teacher, John Steppling was an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival and has had his plays produced in London, LA, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Poland. Steppling lives in Lodz with Norwegian director Gunnhild Skrodal, and teaches at the Polish National Film School. He co-edits with Guy Zimmerman Cyrano’s celebrated VOXPOP blog on theater, cinema & politics.

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Dr. J.’s Commentary: Bill Kristol’s McCain Rx (but is it covered by Medicare?)

Joe Biden & Sarah Palin Vice Presidential Debate

No Debate: Secret Control of Presidential Debates + The Ifill Truth: ALL the Debates are Biased!

Barack Obama and John McCain Presidential Debate 09.26.08

McCain-John

Palin-Sarah

Obama-Barack

Is Venezuela taking the Cuban road? by Simon Butler

Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission from Green Left Weekly

Simon Butler
http://www.greenleft.org.au/2008/769/39647
26 September 2008

I was a participant in the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade to Venezuela in December 2006. I was lucky enough to squeeze into the packed presidential palace compound when the official national elections results confirmed an overwhelming victory for socialist President Hugo Chavez.

The late hour, the crush of red t-shirted bodies and the constant pouring rain couldn’t dampen the excitement and enthusiasm of the assembled crowd waiting to hear their president deliver his victory speech.

Within minutes Chavez appeared on a balcony above us. The cheering, whistling, and shouting rose to a crescendo. After waiting a few moments for the noise to slightly subside Chavez began to address the crowd. With his fist raised in the air Chavez said that the victory must be first of all dedicated to the revolutionary people of Cuba and their (then) president, Fidel Castro. And we all went wild.

Internationalism and international solidarity are central concerns of the Venezuelan revolution. In recent years Venezuela has massively expanded its economic, health and education assistance programs throughout Latin America and has championed the cause of Latin American integration.

Venezuela now provides more economic aid to the region than the vastly wealthier United States. And unlike US “aid”, Venezuela’s programs do not pressure recipient countries to open their economies to exploitation by multinational corporations under the guise of “free trade”.

Venezuelan aid has even reached into the US itself through the provision of subsidised heating oil to poor families in a number of US cities.

Of all the nations in the world it is with Cuba that Venezuela has forged the strongest bonds of mutual assistance and solidarity. Support and admiration for Cuba’s 50 year challenge to US imperialism is widespread among the working people and poor in Venezuela.

This is especially remarkable given that an unrelenting propaganda campaign against Cuba has been a feature of the US-backed opposition’s attempts to regain power in Venezuela.

From Chavez’s first electoral victory in 1998 onwards, the Venezuelan opposition — largely composed of the wealthy elites fearful of losing their power and privileges — has accused Chavez of seeking to “Cubanise” Venezuela. Accordingly Cuba has been presented as a kind of living hell, where the people are said to be starving, scared and desperate to re-establish a capitalist economy.

German Sanchez’s Cuba and Venezuela: An Insight into Two Revolutions, explains why this hysterical campaign has failed so miserably. The book provides a comparison of Venezuelan and Cuban revolutionary experiences which stresses their respective distinctiveness while underlining their fundamental political compatibility.

Sanchez, the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela since 1994, indicates that one of the reasons he wrote his book was that he had identified some hesitancy among the Venezuelan “new left” to re-examine Cuba in light of the ongoing revolution in Venezuela.

If this is true it must be even more the case for some sections of the English-speaking left internationally, who still uncritically accept the Cold War spin of Cuba as an undemocratic police state. This leads many — even among those who view Venezuela positively — to underestimate both the symbolic influence of Cuba and the practical relationship of solidarity between the two revolutions. The publication of this book in English invites a serious reappraisal of Cuba in light of its significant role in the growing rebellion in Latin America.

The first section of the book outlines the development of the Cuban Revolution and provides a useful summary of its advances and victories, its errors and subsequent reorientations. In the face of US aggression, including an illegal blockade of the island nation, Third World Cuba has achieved First World health and education services (provided free of charge to all Cubans) while making inroads against the racism and sexism rampant in pre-revolutionary Cuba.

Sanchez stresses the uniqueness of the Cuban Revolution. The form of Cuba’s revolutionary development in the 1960s cannot be simply repeated elsewhere in Latin America today. Furthermore, Sanchez rules out any idea that Cuba’s revolution can be recreated, copied or exported to other nations, including Venezuela.

“The Cuban revolution does not aspire to be a model for other countries: its history cannot be repeated. It is not feasible to export or import revolutions as if they were merchandise”, he writes. Rather “with its own ideas and imagination, and indispensable leadership, each national community will create the forms of its own liberation and well-being”.

But Sanchez also emphasises that the Cuban experience, which compares favourably to the dire poverty and inequality existing across Latin America, still has significance for revolutionaries today and should be studied. “The Cuban example, even amid the blockade, and with all its transitory errors and defects yet to be overcome, has tremendous validity in the 21st century”, he argues.

He points to Cuba’s success against the odds in creating a fertile, flexible socialism supported by the great majority of Cubans and contrasts it to the undemocratic model of the Soviet Union, which collapsed. “Our detractors refer to the ‘Cuban dictatorship’ echoing that ‘Made in the USA’ slogan to confuse the unsuspecting”, Sanchez writes.

“The laws and decisions of the Cuban state are based on a popular consensus, without which it would have been impossible to maintain our social system under the ferocious attack of the United States. One may disagree with our political system, but nobody can deny that Cuban society is governed by constitutional norms and legitimate laws and institutions — adopted in a sovereign and democratic manner by Cubans.”

Cuba and Venezuela also includes a thorough synopsis of the crucial role Cuba has played in the success of the Venezuelan social missions. After the inspiring people’s victory over the opposition coup attempt of April 2002 and the failure of the oil industry lockout that December, the revolutionary forces led by Hugo Chavez recognised that they needed to go on the political offensive.

It was essential to provide a concrete improvement in the social and economic status of Venezuela’s poor majority who had so staunchly defended the Bolivarian revolution. Chavez turned to Cuba for help.

The social missions, first launched in 2003 and coordinated on a community basis by Venezuelans themselves, have provided the means to broaden support for the revolution by sharply reducing poverty. The health-focused Mission Barrio Adentro would not have been possible without the solidarity and assistance of Cuba.

Through Barrio Adentro more than 14,000 Cuban doctors, 8000 sports instructors and 3000 dentists were working in 2007 to provide free health care to 17 million poor Venezuelans. Their wages are paid by the Cuban government while the Venezuelan government meets other costs.

Cuba has also committed to train 40,000 Venezuelan doctors over the next 10 years. It is this kind of concrete solidarity that has led to the failure of the Venezuela opposition’s scare campaign against Cuba.

So does this mean Venezuela is taking the Cuban road? This question itself tends to pose the whole situation incorrectly.

Chavez himself has denied this and stated many times that the Cuban Revolution is Cuban while the Venezuelan revolution is distinctly Venezuelan.

Sanchez predicts that in the joint pursuit of constructing societies where meeting human and environmental needs is the priority, “Cuba will be become steadily more Venezuelan and Venezuelans will have Cuba much closer”.

This goal is clearly shared by Chavez, who in a meeting with Cuban leader Raul Castro in Havana in October, 2007, anticipated a future joining of the two countries into a confederation.

Ultimately, genuine socialism is impossible unless it transcends national borders and becomes an unstoppable international movement of solidarity. It’s far more appropriate to describe Cuba and Venezuela as taking the same road together towards a new socialism of the 21st century and helping each other get there step by step.

We can be sure there is a standing invitation to the working people of other nations to join them on this difficult, but essential, journey.

Pakistan: USA’s next war zone by Farooq Sulehria

Dandelion Salad

Farooq Sulehria
http://www.greenleft.org.au/2008/769/39655
26 September 2008

Washington’s next war is already on the go. “Classified orders”, according to the September 11 New York Times, were passed by US President George Bush in July. And the target is not “axis of evil”-famed Iran. It is Washington’s close ally in the “war on terror”, Pakistan.

On September 17, a US attack on the Waziristan (tribal areas) region of Pakistan left another five “Taliban” dead. Only a week earlier, 20 were killed in another US attack. Between August 13 and September 12, at least 79 people were killed in nine US attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas. Since January 29, more than 150 people have been killed.

Besides the rising death toll, a large-scale displacement is taking place. From Bajour district alone, more than 30,000 people have migrated to the relative safety of the neighbouring North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The massive military operation launched against the Taliban by the Pakistani army under US pressure since 2003 has driven many people out of their homes. The Taliban’s successful attempt to capture and turn Pakistan’s tribal areas into “Talibanistan” has inflicted misery — including beheadings, amputations and harsh dress codes — on the residents, also leading to displacement.

However it was the US invasion of Afghanistan that reduced the tribal areas to a battlefield for multi-pronged war, with Shias fighting Sunnis, the Taliban pitched against the Pakistan military and US missiles and air drones pounding Pakistan.

The Taliban’s strategy is to Talibanise at gunpoint — politically and administratively — the tribal areas. Talibanised Sharia (Islamic law) has been instituted and Taliban militias have replaced the state apparatus (the police, civil administration and courts) with their own courts. They have established tolls to levy road taxes on transport, which is a major source of income. Maliks (tribal elders) who might pose a challenge to Taliban authority have been eliminated or silenced.

The Shia tribes are alarmed at the Taliban occupation of the tribal areas, remembering the reported massacre in Afghanistan of some 5000 Shias by the Taliban when in power in the late 1990s. They have decided to resist tooth and nail.

The Taliban have encountered many acts of resistance. A brave woman refused to quit her job as a school teacher and stay home. Villagers formed militias and resisted, though unsuccessfully. The local tribes at first were no match for the Taliban and al Qaeda cadre, trained in the 1980s with CIA-provided manuals.

However, the Shia resistance became an impetus for others. The tribes have now formed their own militia and have begun liberating their villages from the Taliban.

While tribes have been left on their own to defend themselves against the Taliban, the NYT on September 11 quoted a senior US official as saying that the Pakistan government had “privately assented to the general concept of limited ground assaults by [US] Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission”.

Though the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government has denied such assertions, there is a general feeling in Pakistan that this is the case. During the rule of Pervez Musharraf, every time the US attacked inside Pakistan, the regime would claim responsibility. Now every US attack is followed by a protest statement by Pakistan’s government and every protest statement is followed by another US attack.

The US has not always considered the Taliban enemies. In the wake of the radical 1978 “Saur [April] revolution” in Afghanistan, the CIA turned the tribal areas and parts of the NWFP bordering Afghanistan into a safe haven for the “Mujahideen”, the Taliban’s forerunners.

The tribal areas were brutalised, criminalised and militarised as the weapon and drug trades became a major source of funding for the anti-Soviet “jihad”.

When the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, Afghan leader Mohammed Najibullah was able to hold the Mujahideen out for another three years. The Mujahideen then reduced Afghanistan to rubble as they turned against each other in the battle to capture Kabul.

The chaos ended when the Taliban took power in 1996 with imperial help. Assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto once claimed: “Weapons were supplied to the Taliban by the USA and Britain with money from Saudi Arabia … Pakistan’s territory was used to train solely the Afghan refugees — Pushtoons, who made up the backbone of Taliban movement.”

The Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s notorious military intelligence service, was the architect of the Taliban victory.

Then in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, Washington launched its invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistan GHQ (military headquarters) reluctantly obeyed US orders to give the Taliban up. However a section of the military refused.

US pressure to target the Taliban as they regrouped in Pakistan pitched the sections of the Pakistani military following US dictates against those patronising the Taliban in the tribal areas.

The Taliban, being blocked westward, will most likely spread eastward. Already, districts neighbouring the tribal areas, particularly the scenic valleys of Swat, have become a venue for pitched battles between the Taliban and the Pakistani military.

However, neither successful Talibanisation nor the presence of Taliban hide-outs should serve as an excuse for an imperialist invasion of Pakistan. It will further plunge this region into chaos. The stability of the region cannot be guaranteed until the US occupation of Afghanistan is ended.

Talibanisation can be best fought against by the masses. The US presence in the region will only delay the Taliban’s defeat.

[This article is abridged from a September 17 article by Farooq Sulehria, a member of the Labour Party Pakistan residing in Sweden. For an extended version, visit http://www.links.org.au.]

No Debate: Secret Control of Presidential Debates + The Ifill Truth: ALL the Debates are Biased!

Dandelion Salad

Democracy Now!
Oct. 2, 2008

No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates

The Obama and McCain campaigns jointly negotiated a detailed secret contract dictating the terms of all the 2008 debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates. We speak to Open Debates founder and executive director George Farah. [includes rush transcript]

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http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/2/no_debate_how_the_republican_and

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The Ifill Truth: ALL the Debates are Biased!

Posted by Loralynne Krobetzky
www.votenader.org/
Oct. 2, 2008

The charade of the so-called Presidential Debates continues.  Already a carefully orchestrated question and answer session controlled by the Democrat and Republican parties to the exclusion of other candidates, it now emerges that even the moderators may hold partisan bias. Headlines shot up around the country, raising the question of whether the debates can be considered legitimate if the moderator holds a bias. The question that Americans should really be asking, however, is not merely who’s moderating, but rather, who is controlling the debates?

Gwen Ifill, of PBS, slated to moderate tonight’s Vice-Presidential Debate, has penned a book titled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.  One must instantly wonder how Ifill can call this the “Age” of Obama without having a serious predilection towards the outcome of these debates. Moreover, the book is set to be released around the time of the Inauguration, January, 2009, seemingly to usher in the “age of Obama.”  Columnist Michelle Malkin worries about Ifill’s ability to objectively moderate, but her criticism reveals deeper inadequacies within the system.  “My dictionary, Malkin writes, “defines ‘moderator’ as ‘the nonpartisan presiding officer of a town meeting.’ On Thursday, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill will serve as moderator for the first and only vice presidential debate. The stakes are high. The Commission on Presidential Debates, with the assent of the two campaigns, decided not to impose any guidelines on her duties or questions. “

While it is unfortunate that Ms. Ifill may indeed have a pro-Obama bias while moderating, the bias exhibited against third party or independent candidates by the Commission on Presidential Debates is far greater. The 15 percent polling guideline set by the CPD is arbitrary and restrictive. Compare it to the 5 percent threshold set by the League of Women Voters, which ran the debates until 1988, when it declared, “The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates … because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.  (Full statement found here.)

Fox News Correspondent Greta Van Susteren went so far as to claim that Ifill’s authorship on Obama makes the debates “unfair” and that it should “create a mistrial.” If that were so, then the CPD’s closed sponsorship of the debates should qualify them as a farce. The CPD likes to portray itself as non-profit and non-partisan, while in effect it serves as a mouthpiece for the two parties, screening questions, excluding other candidates, and ensuring that power will continue to be passed between the few. As Nancy M. Neuman, president of the League of Women Voters in 1988 warned, “under partisan sponsorship debates will become just another risk-free stop along the campaign trail.”

And risk-free it is. By excluding candidates who don’t agree to couch their answers, who will tackle the hard questions, the “debates” become nothing more than a mutual interview. Ms. Neuman again warned of this outcome in 1988, stating: “it became clear that the idea of debates sponsored by the political parties had appeal with people who routinely squeeze all risk out of their candidates’ appearances. They prefer instead to leave the American public at risk … Throughout the negotiation, I asked that the campaigns open the door to the League. I was certain that the voters’ interests would be better served if there were a third party in the room keeping campaign manipulations in check.” Imagine what the debates would be like with not only a third party overseeing, but also participating.

Regarding tonight’s Vice-Presidential debates, Mr. Nader offers a tantalizing picture: “If you wanted to see an exciting debate, something that got beyond personalities to real issues, then they should include Matt Gonzalez,” I guarantee you that he would bring more to the discussion than Sarah Palin, and he would keep Joe Biden on his toes.” As John Nichols of The Nation points out: “the independent candidate for vice president has credible experience helping to run a unit of government that is significantly larger than anyplace Palin has run … if Palin and the Republicans want to suggest that the former mayor’s municipal service is part of what gives her stature, Gonzalez might merit some attention — including a place at the table in the vice-presidential debate. “ Certainly Mr. Gonzalez has the experience and qualifications to be included the debates. That he will not be present tonight is only another way that the American people emerge the loser — regardless of the winner of tonight’s charade.

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