Survivalist Wisdom–Voices from the Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

[Prepare for the worst, pray that you never need it.  Pray even harder if you do need it, for protection from those whose only survival plan has been to take what they needed.]

Six Letters Re: Hurricane Sandy After Action Reports

SurvivalBlog.com

James,
I’m located in central New Jersey not far from the Delaware River. In the days prior to the hurricane hitting, everyone packed the supermarkets, warehouse clubs and home improvement stores to stock up.

At the home improvement stores, the people who had best luck getting generators were those who purchased them online and selected in-store pickup. There were lines of people 100+ deep from the front of the store to the back waiting for new shipments of generators to arrive. The only people who were guaranteed anything were those who had already purchased and paid online.

For those lucky enough to get a generator, they’d have a hard time fueling it if they didn’t already have gas cans and gas stored at home. The shelves were cleared of gas cans days before the storm hit.

The warehouse club that we are members of sold out of water the day before the storm hit. They normally have pallets of water on shelves up to the ceiling along the length of an entire aisle. That aisle was completely bare. They also sold out of most fruits/and vegetables that could store for a little without power. The displays that normally hold bananas and apples were bare.

Flashlights and D batteries were gone days before the storm too. The only ones that were left were plug-in rechargeable flashlights that would be of little use after the first discharge in a power outage.

My sister had luck finding a huge display of batteries at a big chain baby store. Most people went straight to the supermarkets and home improvement stores, not thinking that many other types of stores also kept basic supplies.

The winds really started to pick up Monday afternoon. There wasn’t much rain, even at the height of the storm, but the winds were very strong. Our house, which is only 4 years old, shuddered a couple of times in the highest gusts. We didn’t sustain any physical damage to the house, but a couple of small trees tilted over but didn’t uproot or break. Some sections of vinyl fencing in our neighborhood blew out and shattered from the force of the wind.

Sections of our neighborhood started to lose power around 6 PM not long after the hurricane made landfall. Street lights were out and the power to houses across the street were out. From our upstairs windows, we watched the sky glow blue and pink in all directions as transformers blew. Every minute or so another one would blow.

Finally, around 8:30 PM, we watched a transformer light the sky up for about 30 seconds. When it finally darkened, we and the rest of our neighborhood were out of power.

I had filled our spare refrigerator in our garage with cases of water and the spare freezer with bags of ice. I also took every empty plastic jug and bottle out of our recycling bins and filled them 3/4 of the way with water and froze them in our main/spare freezers. Every inch of freezer space that wasn’t packed with food was packed with an ice bottle.

I knew our refrigerator wouldn’t keep food cold long, so we immediately transferred our most critical food (milk for the kids, etc.) into ice filled coolers. The main freezer with most of our frozen food and frozen water bottles was never opened. It stayed perfectly cold until the power came back on, and most of the ice bottles had barely started to thaw. The food in our ice-filled coolers also was fine. We did sacrifice non-critical food that we didn’t have space for in the coolers to the garbage bin.

We lit the house with long-lasting led lanterns that definitely did the trick. We hunkered around an old battery power radio to keep up with storm news, and gave our two-year old son a spare lantern to play with, which kept him happy. With no power and little news expected until morning, we turned in early (for us) at around 10 PM.

Our furnace was out and we don’t have a fireplace, so the temperature dropped to the low 60s in our house overnight. It was a little chilly, but we were comfortable enough. We were definitely lucky it wasn’t colder outside.

By the morning the storm had passed and a family that we are very close friends with down the street had their generator running. We and several of our friends congregated there for the day. They had enough power for their refrigerator, several lights, a tv and cable box, and a power strip for charging phones.

Although the power was out, the cable stayed on until around noon so we were able to see the first images of storm damage. After the cable went out, most of us switched to our web-enabled smartphones and social media to stay informed and reach out to friends.

We grilled outside for lunch and dinner, with everyone pitching in food that would go bad if unused. Everyone with spare gas stored was prepared to pitch in whatever they had until the power came back on to keep the generator running. We brought over 10 gallons that wasn’t needed.

Cell phone service was spotty. People who were subscribers of one the two major cell providers in our area had no problem making/receiving calls and surfing the web. Subscribers of the other major service had a signal, but couldn’t make calls and their data service only worked intermittently.

The day after the storm, most traffic lights remained out. All gas stations and most stores were closed. One home improvement store opened under emergency power. They only let a limited number of people into the front part of the store where they had set up displays with their remaining emergency supplies (flashlights, batteries, power cords, and a new supply of gas cans). They surprisingly even accepted credit cards. Some other stores we checked out only accepted cash if they were open at all.

24 hours after the power went out, it came back on for most of our neighborhood. We’re definitely lucky since of the 2/3 of our state that was without power, only about 15-20% of homes had been restored when we were reconnected.

It was an interesting experience for a day, but something that none of us would have been happy to have continue. We all realized, individually and as a group, what things we were missing that could have made us more comfortable.

Although we were lucky that our part of the state suffered little more than downed trees and power lines, New Jersey is very small so we all have friends in the hardest hit parts of the Jersey Shore and we are very familiar with the popular vacation spots that have been destroyed.

I’ve been in contact with friends who live just blocks from the beach who have raised homes and still have standing water lapping at their front doors. A few other friends live in beach neighborhoods that have essentially become islands with bridges, highways and other access roads out of service and surrounded by water. Others left some of the very hardest hit communities before the storm hit and don’t know if their homes are still standing.

Some neighborhoods devastated by storm surge and flooding are now burning. Along some of the barrier islands, emergency services from the mainland are cut off and fires will likely be left to burn themselves out. Some entire towns are expected to burn.

There are a lot of people who have lost everything and many who are still in harm’s way. Keep them in your prayers. Thanks, – Brad S.

 

James,
I have family from Pennsylvania to Maine.  I tried to encourage my family and cousins who I knew would be affected by Sandy to visit me in the mountains of New England, but they were all so sure that they could survive the storm.

Only one family had a generator.  It wasn’t wired into the house, so plenty of extension cords are in use there.  The others had nothing at all setup.  So I briefed them on filling the tub, freezing extra containers for ice, etc.  And all were briefed on staying put during and after the storm.

Of course, some don’t listen so well.  While all survived in some fashion, here is the latest and worse from my cousin on Long Island:

“Pumping out water all day.
We had absolutely not a drop of [drinking] water. Storm surge at 830 p.m. and we were seeing it force its way in at the rate of a foot a minute!! I have never witnessed anything like that in my life!
Scary stuff!!!

We tried to hold it back just no way hydraulic pressure was just too much.
Total 10 feet of water. We jumped ship when it got to 6 feet. Then couldn’t get to [deleted for OPSEC]‘s house… Every path home and on every road trees were down, we didn’t plan for that. We slept at a friend’s aunt’s house. She welcomed us (dog and all) with open arms and we are total strangers. The walls all cracked assuming will be a total loss.

We are going to call it quits soon will be back at it again tomorrow. No [phone] service so can’t call our insurance company. Friends are coming from all over to help. No big deal–It is just a material asset. Insurance hopefully covers hurricanes. We are fortunate, as it could’ve been much worse.”

He was right.  They were fortunate.  They could have drowned leaving during the night.  They could have been injured trying to leave that location to their ‘safe’ house.

I suspect that the next time they will evacuate in a timely fashion.  I doubt that they will ever disparage a prepared mindset again.

We can’t save folks from themselves.

I will head into New York and New Jersey when possible to reach them with support.  I expect to have to wait until after this coming Tuesday.

Thank you for your SurvivalBlog site! Regards, – Mike A.

 

Good Morning to You!
Our area of the East coast was spared the worst brunt of the storm.  Massive snowfalls to our west, and massive flooding to the east.  We were very fortunate.

We live on top of a hill, and by Monday morning, we had water filling our basement.  I went outside with middle son, and we found a deep hole filled with water next to the foundation of our house.  We dug a ditch from the edge of the hole far, far away from the edge of the hole and down the hill well past the fall line.  I would estimate we dug at least 30 feet of mud.  While I dug, my son took the shovels of dirt that I pulled out of the ground and put it back into the hole by the foundation.  Once we were finished, we moved the drainage pipe from the gutters so that it, too, fed into the ditch we had dug away from the house.  10 more inches of rain fell over the next 24 hours, but no more of it ran into our basement.

I understand now what you mean when you say you need to be physically fit!  I’m a 40 something mother of three, and my 17 year old son and I put in a good two hours worth of physical work in the driving rain, diverting water away from the house.  Maybe insurance would have covered the damage if we hadn’t done the work, but I prefer the effort of digging a ditch in the rain to the effort of clearing a basement of water and carpets and furniture.  Best two hours worth of work I’ve ever done, and our house is still in one piece!

Besides the obvious water and wind damage around here, there is one thing that stuck out more and more:  The number of people killed by falling trees.  Tall trees close to the house really do need to be trimmed back so that damage is lessened if a tree or limb falls on a house.  One gentleman told the story of how he and his father had a conversation on Saturday about how they needed to trim or cut down the tree next to the house.  Then on Monday, his father was killed instantly when the tree fell on the house during high winds.

Peace to you all. – B.L.W.

 

James,
The report from Delaware. With the exception of flood prone and some beach front areas we dodged the bullet.

It was an excellent exercise for our small family. The preparation for with this sort of an event turns on do you stay or leave. Different priorities for equipment supplies and staging following from each of those two choices. However what this storm brought home to us (since we have a shelter in place default ) is that within the shelter in place paradigm is,”suppose that tree falls on your house and you must leave in a hurry anyway’ sub-plan. Since for us in our location Sandy was forecast to be a wind event, this latter sub-plan rose up from the back burner rather forcefully.

Now, we had to pull out and check the go bags (not seen since last year’s windy scare) marshal water, food rations, range bags (did I restock those mags after the last week) , document case, comms and other take-with items by the door while preparing to deal with prolonged electrical outage (potentially weeks) therefore check generator, water reserves, fuel, etc etc..

I found that while our shelter in place preps and SOP were fairly well in hand, the “Yikes, we got-a-go now” end was pretty confused. Part of the reason for this is that we really need to have more duplicate gear stashed in the “Go now” configuration, and it was clear from this go round that we ain’t there yet. I also know as I write this that I have all sorts of essential items stowed carefully labeled clearly that I will want to toss in the vehicle, but it will take me days to think through the inventory. Not something to be doing as water is cascading through a rent in the building.

So I tell you to tell me, “build the list now while it is still fresh.”

One side note: We were “powerless” for only 8 hours, but as a result I am looking to replace my noisy old Generac (such a headache! The thing just roars. I must be getting old) with newer quieter Yamaha or Honda digital. While researching I found this very useful worksheet for calculating loads on the Yamaha web site.

Blessings… Pray for the folks in New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey…. They have a long way to come back. – Dollardog

 

JWR:
As per your request for info out of the New York City area: Having grown up in Florida, I kind of knew what to expect. Needless to say, I was well provisioned and my powder, so to speak, was high and dry and at the ready well in advance of Sandy’s final approach…

My wife and I rode out the storm in our “Brooklyn Bunker,” a fourth-floor apartment in a solid pre-war building. We spent a long night watching for the flashes of transformers exploding in the wind, and darkness encroaching as lights went out in the homes all around us. Luckily, the lights managed to stay on in our neighborhood, and we didn’t lose power once. After the storm passed, we emerged to discover no major damage, some trees down on cars and roofs, limited cell phone service, but that’s about it…

The same can’t be said for lower Manhattan and parts of Staten Island, though. The six-foot security fence around some rental property I own there came down, right into my truck. A violent storm surge turned most of the coastal communities on the island into what looks like a war zone, with the National Guard deployed to keep order. No working street lights, no stores open, no gas. People are attempting to drive into northern New Jersey to find gas stations that have power, with little luck. Con Edison now says power will be out to 60% of the island for more than a week. My tenants are in the dark with no heat…

Looking across the East River into Lower Manhattan at night, I am reminded of my time as a journalist in New Orleans during Katrina, where I witnessed another entire American city abandoned, darkened, and brought to its knees by Mother Nature (combined with a healthy dose of human stupidity). The entire subway system here is paralyzed, and along with it commerce, and most of the city’s inhabitants. There are already some rumblings on blogs and other social media platforms about the “lack of government response,” like this one here, but for the most part, people have remained unusually calm and accommodating to each other, at least for New Yorkers.

As with Katrina, Sandy reminded me of just how fragile the veneer of civilization that most most city-dwellers often take for granted truly is. During the final 24 hours leading up to Sandy’s arrival, lines at every major grocery store in Brooklyn and Manhattan were several blocks long, with hours-long wait times just to enter the stores and clerks taking small groups of people in to shop, just a few at a time.

Given the mentality of the average city-dweller, the run on grocery stores was to be expected. Perhaps more importantly for the SurvivalBlog readership at large, what’s transpired here over the past 48 hours is nothing short of an amazing exercise in the efficacy of state control circa 2012 (much better execution than what I witnessed during Katrina). I am at once somewhat pleasantly surprised yet shockingly dismayed by just how quickly the authorities were able to shut down and subdue the country’s biggest metropolis. Within a few hours, they were able to – successfully – deploy several thousand National Guard troops, shut down the country’s biggest subway system, 15 major bridges and tunnels, three major airports, and cut power to eight square miles of a world-class city…all with nary a whimper nor major objection from the populace.

New Yorkers in three major boroughs were – and in the case of Lower Manhattan, still are – effectively cut off from the outside world. Moving forward, most SurvivalBlog readers like myself who either choose or are forced to reside in cities should perhaps (re)consider their long term plans and preparations given the recent tactics on display here in NYC.

Thanks and best, – KTC in NYC

 

Dear Jim:
Sheeple no more here. Sandy came and went. Our area is Bucks County about an hour north of Philadelphia. We border the Delaware River. Power here went out early and and only came on today.

I think we weathered it well. I was one of the last minute “run to the store” folks. Bought a gallon of milk. Everything else was in place. As soon as the power went out, I fired up our generator and hunkered down for the 70 MPH winds.

We did lose a couple of shingles and some aluminum trim on the house. Those unprepared suffered flooded basements, many areas will not have power for a week or more. Lots of trees down, snapped telephone poles, sink holes in the road. The emergency services were running 24 hours for two days. Constant sirens all over the place.

Where did I come up short? I never got around to getting my ham radio license or programming my Baofeng UV-5R. It would have come in handy to keep in touch with the others in my group. I have some Uniden walkies and they proved worthless.

At the end of the storm my wife she thanked me for being prepared. Up until this happened she kind of went alone with my “hobby”. Always a little smile on her face. It’s different now.

What I need to do:

  • Get my ham license.
  • Run a dedicated electrical line to the crucial items in the house. Pumps, freezer, frig, security lights.
  • Replace my burned out chainsaw.
  • Read “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It” for the 12th time and update my (your) lists of lists.

Take care and God Bless, – M.

Elitists Use Personal Positions of Power To Bring About the “Culling” of the Human Herd

Saving Humanity

Dave Hodges – The Common Sense Show

Dave Hodges

The Common Sense Show

Do you remember when your mother asked you if you would jump off a cliff if everyone else was doing it? It turns out that all of us would have been wise to heed the advice from our mothers as the globalists aren’t just encouraging us to jump off a cliff, they are, in fact, pushing us off of the proverbial cliff in a deliberate attempt to fulfill the their mandate which is to eliminate a substantial portion of humanity. Meanwhile, the globalists will be safely tucked away in some underground structure free from the harm that they are perpetrating upon humanity. Sadly, many of our friends and family members are willingly going to their demise without so much as a whimper.

Heretofore, the topic of intentional depopulation was the perceived product of paranoid delusional conspiracy theorists who had too much time on their hands. The most frequent refrain from the unaware is that “they” would never do that. However, the globalists have left an unmistakable paper trail in which their true agenda is exposed.

I have collected a sample of quotes from the global elite, both past and present. And even people who cannot find the courage to abandon their normalcy bias, will have a difficult time denying the disturbing quotes which follow. .

Officials in the United Nations Want You Dead

Surely, the peace loving United Nations, complete with its expressed desire to save the world from any and all evil would stand in line to thwart any expressed threat to inhabitants of this planet, right?  Well, not exactly. The United Nations is permeated with individuals who are Satanically inspired and have repeatedly, on many fronts, have expressed their intent to reduce the world’s population by dramatic means, if necessary. Please consider the following quotes:

“No one will enter the New World Order unless he or she will make a pledge to worship Lucifer. No one will enter the New Age unless he will take a Luciferian Initiation.”
David Spangler, Director of Planetary Initiative, United Nations

The present vast overpopulation, now far beyond the world carrying capacity, cannot be answered by future reductions in the birth rate due to contraception, sterilization and abortion, but must be met in the present by the reduction of numbers presently existing. This must be done by whatever means necessary.

Initiative for the United Nations ECO-92 EARTH CHARTER

 

“One America burdens the earth much more than twenty Bangladeshes. This is a terrible thing to say in order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. It is a horrible thing to say, but it’s just as bad not to say it.         

 Jacques Cousteau, UNESCO Courier

“A reasonable estimate for an industrialized world society at the present North American material standard of living would be 1 billion. At the more frugal European standard of living, 2 to 3 billion would be possible”.

United Nations, Global Biodiversity Assessment

                     “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline would  be ideal”                                                                                      

Ted Turner, founder of CNN and major United Nations contributor

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that this pack of Eugenicists are overseeing our elections?  Perhaps the officials at the United Nations stand alone among elite leaders on the planet.

 

 What About Our Educated Elite?

Although it is painfully obvious that the United Nations elite have a high level of contempt for the average person, surely those people responsible for educating our children will teach the time honored virtues of the United States Constitution. Surely, they will teach their students to develop a healthy respect for American sovereignty so that the genocidal lunatics running the United Nations are unable to put their genocidal schemes into motion. Upon further review, this is not the case as I bring to you the words of those who educate and mold the minds of our young people.

War and famine would not do. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved. AIDS is not an efficient killer because it is too slow. My favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population is airborne Ebola (Ebola Reston), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. “We’ve got airborne diseases with 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that. “You know, the bird flu’s good, too. For everyone who survives, he will have to bury nine”

Dr. Eric Pianka University of Texas speaking on the topic of reducing the world’s population to an audience on population control.

A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells, the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. We must shift our efforts from the treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions”.                                                                            

  Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb

“We have to take away from humans in the long run their reproductive autonomy as the only way to guarantee the advancement of mankind.”

Francis Crick, The discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA

It strongly appears that the Eugenicists patrolling corridors of educational institutions possess the same disdain for mankind as do the lunatic officials from the United Nations.

 

What About the Environmental Elites?

It is apparent that humanity cannot look to the sociopathic leaders of the United Nations and America’s top academic leaders for salvation.  But certainly the eco-friendly environmentalists, with their penchant for saving the whales and the spotted owl will ride to the rescue of mankind.  Regrettably, this is also not the case. It seems that the humanitarian spirit of the environmentalists does not apply to any species which possess a collapsible thumb, the power of speech and has a well-developed cerebral cortex. Again, the words of the elite exposes their depopulation agenda.

“If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”

 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Leader of the World Wildlife Fund

Malthus has been vindicated; reality is finally catching up with Malthus. The Third World is overpopulated, it’s an economic mess, and there’s no way they could get out of it with this fast-growing population. Our philosophy is: back to the village.”                  

 Dr. Arne Schiotz, World Wildlife Fund Director of Conservation

 

What About Our Government Leaders?

Historically, many Americans believe that they can look to the government to protect them from the evils of the world.  It is clear that our blind trust in our public officials misplaced. Our leaders are not our friends, and have not been for a very long time as evidenced by the following quotes:

“Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind”
Theodore Roosevelt

“There is a single theme behind all our work–we must reduce population levels. Either governments do it our way, through nice clean methods, or they will get the kinds of mess that we have in El Salvador, or in Iran or in Beirut. Population is a political problem. Once population is out of control, it requires authoritarian government, even fascism, to reduce it….” “Our program in El Salvador didn’t work. The infrastructure was not there to support it. There were just too goddamned many people…. To really reduce population, quickly, you have to pull all the males into the fighting and you have to kill significant numbers of fertile age females….” The quickest way to reduce population is through famine, like in Africa, or through disease like the Black Death….
Thomas Ferguson, State Department Office of Population Affairs

“Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries”.
Dr. Henry Kissinger

“The world’s population needs to be reduced by 50%,” and “The elderly are useless eaters”
Dr. Henry Kissinger

The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.”
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for arbitrating various countries’ shares within their regional limits. Control of population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the Regime would have some power to enforce the agreed limits.”
Obama’s science czar John P. Holdren: From Ecoscience

One percent of the population is sociopathic. Here are two clear markers for Sociopaths, discoverable in their behavior patterns: 1) Sociopaths have no conscience. Hence, 2) Sociopaths cannot feel guilt nor remorse, like  ordinary people can.

These are evil people, very evil people. Superficially charming, they are selfish, greedy, unemphathetic, manipulative, and prone to violence and abuse. They steal, cheat, vandalize others property, swindle, and they are pathological liars. They are unconcerned with the feelings of other humans, who are mere objects to be used, and have little or no conscience

A recent book, authored by Martha Stout, in which the material came from released government documents CEO’s are three times more likely to be a sociopath than the general population. Politicians are four times more likely to be sociopathic than you and I.  These are the people who seek power and once they obtain that power, the see absolute power, much to detriment of the soon-to-be extinct members of human race.

 

What Is Humanity To Do?

If humanity is to preserve itself in its present form, it will be necessary to educate the masses as to the planned perils which lie ahead. The pro-human preservation movement needs bodies, billions and billions of bodies. Yet, the very victims of the coming planned genocide are dumbed down by the schools and propagandized into a false sense of security by the mainstream media which is owned by six global elite corporations who also want you gone.

For humanity to survive, we need to collectively rise from our knees and seize control of the planet’s institutions and permanently banish these dangerous sociopaths from their self-anointed positions of planetary leadership. The first step in gathering the numbers of people which we will need to accomplish this goal, is to educate the human race in as great as numbers as possible. My suggestion would be to forward these quotes to everyone you know and then follow up with one question. Do you think that your status in life is so significant that you and your family will be spared the coming holocaust?  If not, then you better roll up your sleeves and convince as many people as possible that we are in a great deal of danger.

OK Welfare Applicants Surrender To Drug Screening, When Will Social Security and All Fed Aid Follow Suit?

[The Police State begins in small steps, so as not to arouse the ire of the general public.  The seizing of blood or urine samples against our consent can be done under any "emergency" pretext, even when government-created flu vaccines turn normal people into infected zombies (NOT MY SCENARIO, this one originated with the CDC (Center for Disease Control).]

New Drug Screening Law In Oklahoma Takes Effect On Thursday

By Deanne Stein, News 9 – bio | email
File PhotoFile Photo
OKLAHOMA CITY -A new law allowing drug testing for certain welfare applicants goes into effect on Thursday.

Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2388 into law back in May.

5/16/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma Governor Signs Drug Screening Bill Into Law

Under the new law, the Department of Human Services is required to screen adults who apply to the “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” program. Anyone who fails or refuses the drug test will be denied benefits.

Applicants who test positive for illegal drug use and undergo substance abuse treatment can reapply for benefits six months after the date of their denial. Child-only cases and underage parents would be exempt from drug screenings.

5/17/2012 Related Story: DHS Spokesperson Explains New Drug Screening Law

The bill also allows for an alternative payee to be named when a parent has been denied benefits.

A Brilliant Pentagon Plan for Spreading Perpetual “Persistent War” Looks Just Like A “Failed” Terror War

[This is an excellent explanation of the mess that we find ourselves in today, due to the miserable, evil policies of the past two American Administrations, but the author from TomDispatch misses the most important point, as always.  That singular, vital to understand point is this--the American war on terror HAS NOT FAILED, it has succeeded brilliantly in its primary mission--to spread conflict over the entire planet.  The war on terror was NEVER intended to be won, it was just a means to an end, prepositioning military forces in every nation, before unleashing global nuclear war.  All of these little "piss ant" wars that we have been fighting, the various Partnership-for-Peace programs, Special Forces training missions, drug-interdiction and border control operations, along with the overall rubric of "fighting terrorism," have all provided the means to preposition American "Special Operators" and their weapons within other national militaries and police forces.  Their original mission has been to "win the hearts and minds" of foreign military men, before the real war begins, the war against all enemies at once.  

The Pentagon would prefer to be known as a bumbling,"inept giant," rather than as the monstrous, devouring beast that it really is.  The Joint Chiefs have been faithfully carrying-out the desires of their corporate masters and their puppets in the White House, by spreading the Pentagon's tentacles into every corner of the planet, even to the depths of the oceans and the heights of sub-orbital space.  The Pentagon is a monster, that is set upon devouring all of the little peasant villagers who will besiege the fortified fortresses of their dark overlords.  The Pentagon is firmly committed to a policy that is best defined as "Malthusian," the calculated thinning-out of the human herd.  The Pentagon has been setting itself up as the ultimate protectors of a small group of racist elitists, who consider the rest of us as cattle, fit only to be bought and sold, improved in limited numbers through selective crossbreeding and genetic experimentation, with the remainder of the herd to be  eventually slaughtered, probably to be processed into "Soylent Green" for them.  

The day is nearly upon us when open-air thermonuclear detonations will become a regular occurrence.  The day after that day comes and goes, will be the only time when Bush's war could be judged either a resounding success, or a total failure.  Until then, only the spread of death and terminal madness will spread across the face of the Earth.]  

A failed formula for worldwide war

How the empire changed its face, but not its nature.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey has been holding “strategic seminars” over a giant map of the world larger than a basketball court [EPA]
They looked like a gang of geriatric giants. Clad in smart casual attire – dress shirts, sweaters, and jeans – and incongruous blue hospital booties, they strode around “the world”, stopping to stroke their chins and ponder this or that potential crisis. Among them was General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a button-down shirt and jeans, without a medal or a ribbon in sight, his arms crossed, his gaze fixed. He had one foot plantedfirmly in Russia, the other partly in Kazakhstan, and yet the general hadn’t left the friendly confines of Virginia.Several times this year, Dempsey, the other joint chiefs, and regional war-fighting commanders have assembled at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico to conduct a futuristic war-game-meets-academic-seminar about the needs of the military in 2017. There, a giant map of the world, larger than a basketball court, was laid out so the Pentagon’s top brass could shuffle around the planet – provided they wore those scuff-preventing shoe covers – as they thought about “potential US national military vulnerabilities in future conflicts” (so one participant told the New York Times). The sight of those generals with the world underfoot was a fitting image for Washington’s military ambitions, its penchant for foreign interventions, and its contempt for (non-US) borders and national sovereignty.A world so much larger than a basketball court

In recent weeks, some of the possible fruits of Dempsey’s “strategic seminars”, military missions far from the confines of Quantico, have repeatedly popped up in the news. Sometimes buried in a story, sometimes as the headline, the reports attest to the Pentagon’s penchant for globetrotting.

In September, for example, Lieutenant General Robert L Caslen, Jr, revealed that, just months after the US military withdrew from Iraq, a unit of Special Operations Forces had already been redeployed there in an advisory role and that negotiations were underway to arrange for larger numbers of troops to train Iraqi forces in the future. That same month, the Obama administration won congressional approval to divert funds earmarked for counterterrorism aid for Pakistan to a new proxy project in Libya. According to the New York Times, US Special Operations Forces will likely bedeployed to create and train a 500-man Libyan commando unit to battle Islamic militant groups which have become increasingly powerful as a result of the 2011 US-aided revolution there.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the US military had secretly sent a new task force to Jordan to assist local troops in responding to the civil war in neighbouring Syria. Only days later, that paper revealed that recent US efforts to train and assist surrogate forces for Honduras’s drug war were already crumbling amid a spiral of questions about the deaths of innocents, violations of international law, and suspected human rights abuses by Honduran allies.

Shortly after that, the Times reported the bleak, if hardly surprising, news that the proxy army the US has spent more than a decade building in Afghanistan is, according to officials, “so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year”. Rumors now regularly bubble up about a possible US-funded proxy war on the horizon in Northern Mali where al-Qaeda-linked Islamists have taken over vast stretches of territory – yet another direct result of last year’s intervention in Libya.

 Empire – The decline of the American empire

And these were just the offshore efforts that made it into the news. Many other US military actions abroad remain largely below the radar. Several weeks ago, for instance, US personnel were quietly deployed to Burundi to carry out training efforts in that small, landlocked, desperately poor East African nation. Another contingent of US Army and Air Force trainers headed to the similarly landlocked and poor West African nation of Burkina Faso to instruct indigenous forces.

At Camp Arifjan, an American base in Kuwait, US and local troops donned gas masks and protective suits to conduct joint chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear training. In Guatemala, 200 Marines from Detachment Martillo completed a months-long deployment to assist indigenous naval forces and law enforcement agencies in drug interdiction efforts.

Across the globe, in the forbidding tropical forests of the Philippines, Marines joined elite Filipino troops to train for combat operations in jungle environments and to help enhance their skills as snipers. Marines from both nations also leapt from airplanes, 10,000 feet above the island archipelago, in an effort to further the “interoperability” of their forces. Meanwhile, in the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste, Marines trained embassy guards and military police in crippling “compliance techniques” like pain holds and pressure point manipulation, as well as soldiers in jungle warfare as part of Exercise Crocodilo 2012.

The idea behind Dempsey’s “strategic seminars” was to plan for the future, to figure out how to properly respond to developments in far-flung corners of the globe. And in the real world, US forces are regularly putting preemptive pins in that giant map – from Africa to Asia, Latin America to the Middle East. On the surface, global engagement, training missions, and joint operations appear rational enough. And Dempsey’s big picture planning seems like a sensible way to think through solutions to future national security threats.

But when you consider how the Pentagon really operates, such war-gaming undoubtedly has an absurdist quality to it. After all, global threats turn out to come in every size imaginable, from fringe Islamic movements in Africa to Mexican drug gangs. How exactly they truly threaten US “national security” is often unclear – beyond some White House adviser’s or general’s say-so. And whatever alternatives come up in such Quantico seminars, the “sensible” response invariably turns out to be sending in the Marines, or the SEALs, or the drones, or some local proxies. In truth, there is no need to spend a day shuffling around a giant map in blue booties to figure it all out.

In one way or another, the US military is now involvedwith most of the nations on Earth. Its soldiers, commandos, trainers, base builders, drone jockeys, spies, and arms dealers, as well as associated hired guns and corporate contractors, can now be found just about everywhere on the planet. The sun never sets on American troops conducting operations, training allies, arming surrogates, schooling its own personnel, purchasing new weapons and equipment, developing fresh doctrine, implementing novel tactics, and refining their martial arts. The US has submarines trolling the briny deep and aircraft carrier task forces traversing the oceans and seas, robotic drones flying constant missions and manned aircraft patrolling the skies, while above them, spy satellites circle, peering down on friend and foe alike.

“The US military should have the planet on lockdown… yet after more than a decade of war, it has failed to eliminate a rag-tag Afghan insurgency with limited popular support.”

Since 2001, the US military has thrown everything in its arsenal, short of nuclear weapons, including untold billions of dollars in weaponry, technology, bribes, you name it, at a remarkably weak set of enemies – relatively small groups of poorly-armed fighters in impoverished nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen – while decisively defeating none of them. With its deep pockets and long reach, its technology and training acumen, as well as the devastatingly destructive power at its command, the US military should have the planet on lockdown. It should, by all rights, dominate the world just as the neoconservative dreamers of the early Bush years assumed it would.

Yet after more than a decade of war, it has failed to eliminate a rag-tag Afghan insurgency with limited popular support. It trained an indigenous Afghan force that was long known for its poor performance – before it became better known for killing its American trainers. It has spent years and untold tens of millions of tax dollars chasing down assorted firebrand clerics, various terrorist “lieutenants”, and a host of no-name militants belonging to al-Qaeda, mostly in the backlands of the planet. Instead of wiping out that organisation and its wannabes, however, it seems mainly to have facilitated its franchising around the world.

At the same time, it has managed to paint weak regional forces like Somalia’s al-Shabaab as transnational threats, then focus its resources on eradicating them, only to fail at the task. It has thrown millions of dollars in personnel, equipment, aid, and recently even troops into the task of eradicating low-level drug runners (as well as the major drug cartels), without putting a dent in the northward flow of narcotics to America’s cities and suburbs.

It spends billions on intelligence only to routinely find itself in the dark. It destroyed the regime of an Iraqi dictator and occupied his country, only to be fought to a standstill by ill-armed, ill-organised insurgencies there, then out-manoeuvered by the allies it had helped put in power, and unceremoniously bounced from the country (even if it is now beginning to claw its way back in). It spends untold millions of dollars to train and equip elite Navy SEALs to take on poor, untrained, lightly-armed adversaries, like gun-toting Somali pirates.

How not to change in a changing world

And that isn’t the half of it.

The US military devours money and yet delivers little in the way of victories. Its personnel may be among the most talented and well-trained on the planet, its weapons and technology the most sophisticated and advanced around. And when it comes to defence budgets, it far outspends the next nine largest nations combined (most of which are allies in any case), let alone its enemies like the Taliban, al-Shabaab, or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but in the real world of warfare this turns out to add up to remarkably little.

In a government filled with agencies routinely derided for profligacy, inefficiency, and producing poor outcomes, itsrecord may be unmatched in terms of waste and abject failure, though that seems to faze almost no one in Washington. For more than a decade, the US military has bounced from one failed doctrine to the next. There was Donald Rumsfeld’s “military lite”, followed by what could have been called military heavy (though it never got a name), which was superseded by General David Petraeus’s “counterinsurgency operations” (also known by its acronym COIN). This, in turn, has been succeeded by the Obama administration’s bid for future military triumph: a “light footprint” combination of special ops, drones, spies, civilian soldiers, cyberwarfare, and proxy fighters. Yet whatever the method employed, one thing has been constant: Successes have been fleeting, setbacks many, frustrations the name of the game, and victory MIA.

Convinced nonetheless that finding just the right formulafor applying force globally is the key to success, the US military is presently banking on that new six-point plan. Tomorrow, it may turn to a different war-lite mix. Somewhere down the road, it will undoubtedly again experiment with something heavier. And if history is any guide, counterinsurgency, a concept that failed the US in Vietnam and was resuscitated only to fail again in Afghanistan, will one day be back in vogue.

“The more time, effort and treasure the US invests in its military and its military adventures, the weaker the payback.”

In all of this, it should be obvious, a learning curve is lacking. Any solution to America’s war-fighting problems will undoubtedly require the sort of fundamental reevaluation of warfare and military might that no one in Washington is open to at the moment. It’s going to take more than a few days spent shuffling around a big map in plastic shoe covers.

American politicians never tire of extolling the virtues of the US military, which is now commonly hailed as “the finest fighting force in the history of the world”. This claim appears grotesquely at odds with reality. Aside from triumphs over such non-powers as the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada and the small Central American nation of Panama, the US military’s record since World War II has been a litany of disappointments: Stalemate in Korea, outright defeat in Vietnam, failures in Laos and Cambodia, debacles in Lebanon and Somalia, two wars against Iraq (both ending without victory), more than a decade of wheel-spinning in Afghanistan, and so on.

Something akin to the law of diminishing returns may be at work. The more time, effort and treasure the US invests in its military and its military adventures, the weaker the payback. In this context, the impressive destructive power of that military may not matter a bit, if it is tasked with doing things that military might, as it has been traditionally conceived, can perhaps no longer do.

Success may not be possible, whatever the circumstances, in the twenty-first-century world, and victory not even an option. Instead of trying yet again to find exactly the right formula or even reinventing warfare, perhaps the US military needs to reinvent itself and its raison d’être if it’s ever to break out of its long cycle of failure.

But don’t count on it.

Instead, expect the politicians to continue to heap on the praise, Congress to continue insuring funding at levels that stagger the imagination, presidents to continue applying blunt force to complex geopolitical problems (even if in slightly different ways), arms dealers to continue churning out wonder weapons that prove less than wondrous, and the Pentagon continuing to fail to win.

Coming off the latest series of failures, the US military has leapt headlong into yet another transitional period – call it the changing face of empire – but don’t expect a change in weapons, tactics, strategy, or even doctrine to yield a change in results. As the adage goes: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author/editor of several books, including the just published The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare  (Haymarket Books). This piece is the final article in his series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation.

A version of this article first appeared on TomDispatch.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source:
Tomdispatch

The Road to World War 3

The Road to World War 3

Published on Sep 11, 2012 by 

We are on a road that leads straight to the World War 3, but in order to see that and to fully understand what is at stake you have to look at the big picture and connect the dots. This video examines the history of the dollar, its relation to oil, and the real motives behind the wars of the past two decades.

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Credits:
Music is original composition by StormCloudsGathering
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Scenes from Grey State trailer used with permission fromhttp://www.graystatemovie.com

The GRAY STATE Project–the American People Under Seige

The GRAY STATE Project

The world reels with the turmoil of war, geological disaster, and economic collapse, while Americans continue to submerge themselves in illusions of safety and immunity. While rights are sold for security, the federal government, swollen with power, begins a systematic takeover of liberty in order to bring about a New World Order.

Americans, quarantined to militarized districts, become a population ripe for tyrannical control.
Fearmongering, terrorism, police state, martial law, war, arrest, internment, hunger, oppression, violence, resistance – these are the terms by which Americans define their existence. Neighbor is turned against neighbor as the value of the dollar plunges to zero, food supplies are depleted, and everyone becomes a terror suspect. There are arrests. Disappearances. Bio attacks. Public executions of those even suspected of dissent. Even rumors of concentration camps on American soil.

This is the backdrop to an unfolding story of resistance. American militias prepare for guerilla warfare. There are mass defections from the military as true Patriots attempt to rally around the Constitution and defend liberty, preparing a national insurgency against federal forces, knowing full well this will be the last time in history the oppressed will be capable of organized resistance.

It is a time of transition, of shifting alliance, of mass awakening and mass execution. It is an impending storm, an iron-gray morning that puts into effect decades of over-comfort and complacency, and Americans wake up to an occupied homeland. It is a time of lists. Black list, white list, and those still caught in the middle, those who risk physical death for their free will and those who sell their souls to maintain their idle thoughts and easy comforts. It is in this Gray State that the perpetuation of human freedom will be contested, or crushed.

Is it the near future, or is it the present? The Gray State is coming – by consent or conquest. This is battlefield USA.

Encompassing the world of conspiracy theory, economic collapse, global disaster, end-time prophecies, martial law, and growing civil unrest, GRAY STATE is a piercing look into the immediate future in which the withered remains of freedom are traded for an impression of security.

GRAY STATE is the reality that can no longer be ignored. It is coming – by consent or conquest.

Watch the first official Gray State concept trailer here.

What is the Gray State?

The GRAY STATE is here. It always was.

A Leninist critique of Western humanitarian imperialism

A Leninist critique of Western humanitarian imperialism

By Nicolas Bonnal
A Leninist critique of Western humanitarian imperialism. 48364.jpeg

We are living dangerous yet moral times, for a few hundreds of arrogant and powerful men (call them Bilderbergs, Illuminati, Trilateralists) have decided to rule the World together in the name of “the commerce and the imaginative”, as put Cecil Rhodes, the founder of the first version of the NWO which opened first modern concentration camps for the Boers’ families 111 years ago.

We are thus ruled by humanitarian oligarchs, by imaginative and moral rascals who mix oil with principles and raw materials with innumerable moral commandments which oblige us to intervene everywhere. Warmongers adore justifying their wars. It is like in the time of Hitler, when he was compelled to invade Czechoslovakia to protect his fellow Germans, then Poland to protect the citizens of Danzig, then soviet Russia to protect the West against the evils of communism (the Nazis, while massacring anyone, often boasted of protecting western heritage)!

And today when the West attacks and bombs Libya, Syria or Lebanon, waiting for poor Iran, massacring civilians, we are used to understand that it is for the promotion of good and to fight evil. Thanks to their own bad faith and disinformation, western mainstream media, politicians, military and adventurers are auto-convinced that they castigate the bad to celebrate the good, may they be the sinister Mujahedin in Syria or elsewhere. Such limited handling of reality explicates in Europe or in America our debt, our uncontrolled immigration, our social unrest, our unemployment, our weakness. Yet it has to be understood. Why are we so wrong?

I was for that reason reading again Lenin’s masterwork about imperialism (Imperialism highest stage of capitalism). Some things have changed, fortunately for some countries (they are no more starved and whipped by democratic colonial powers), some others have not. The imperial and barbaric movement is still the same, except that it is now uneasy to assail India or China for a new break up, and that Russia is too strong and efficiently protects some of her allies. Of course now the hidden companions who rule the world have decided to ruin western people delocalizing all production and developing immigration… but I won’t complaint since at Lenin’s times these enlightened elites had decided to butcher Europe as a whole to defend some local mines or overseas interests… Anyway Lenin shrewdly denounces in his book decaying capitalism, economic parasitism and the oligarchic conduct of the 300, as put Rathenau, who then ruled their gloomy West.

Yet I must recognize that the most interesting parts of Vladimir Lenin’s book come from his quote of an unknown and remarkable British writer named Hobson (John A. Hobson, Imperialism, a study). Contrarily to Lenin, Hobson is not a Marxist, and that perhaps gives him more intuition and finesse when it comes to understand the motives of our humanitarian elites. A capitalist may be a ruthless businessman full of greed, but he can be a real idealist too, and of the worst kind. Writes Hobson on the matter:

In view of the part which the non-economic factors of patriotism, adventure, military enterprise, political ambition, and philanthropy play in imperial expansion, it may appear that to impute to financiers so much power is to take a too narrowly economic view of history.

Hobson then reproaches the sinister role of adventurers, writers (Kipling, Verne, Haggard, etc.), missionaries, travellers, sportsmen, scientists, who promote the imperialist ideals. He writes and it’s always the case that the western imperialist consider that they must have such a divine right of force that they even can lead “to the point of complete subjugation or extermination the physical struggle between races and types of civilisation.” The lower race must disappear not because it is black or yellow, but because it is less moral! This is what happens nowadays with the Arabs, may they be Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians or Libyans.

Of course in 1900 nobody in the European populations is convinced of the imperialistic benefits. Life is hard in Europe, inequalities fantastic, and many people must emigrate… in free countries, not in our colonies. Also, the expenses for colonial wars are enormous. This is why, for Hobson, the imperialist bankers, traders and their affiliates emphasize humanitarian motives, buy the press, print travel books and celebrate heroism and exotic action. They adore the generous missionaries, travellers (Dr Livingstone, I presume?) and all the Allan Quatermain and Phileas Fogg of the creation… These feelings are fed by a flood of the literature of travel and of imaginative writing… Today we have terrorist novels or books, manipulated reportages, false flag attacks, painted terrorism, faked digital pictures, and so on to justify for instance the “three trillion dollars” (Jo Stieglitz) war of Iraq or of Afghanistan. We all remember famous Randolph Hearst’s expression, pronounced on the verge of infamous American-Spanish war: I’ll produce the war! There was too a false flag attack to unclench war process.

Hobson has got a master point: like every capitalistic operation, imperialism is awfully interested in money yet it is often driven by a foolish agenda based on crossed morality, biased ethics and anarchic interventionism. We have today the human rights agenda, run by non-governmental-organisations, secret services and philanthropist billionaires. Already in 1900, there exists in a considerable though not a large proportion of the British nation a genuine desire to spread Christianity among the heathen, to diminish the cruelty and other sufferings… Hell is often paved with good intentions… western oligarchs want to be good even if, like said Oscar Wilde, “our conscience is always cowardice.”

Since the West is no more Christian, it has become a criminal with a conscience! Western madness, this mix of hubris and nemesis, had of course softened after WW2 and decolonization, but it violently stroke back since the end of USSR; and the American agenda in Balkans and Middle-East was coldly applied by Clinton, Bush or Obama. And the same state of mind has remained: our elites and the so-called public opinion forged by media, polls, and bad consciousness (“we must destroy any new Hitler”, especially if he lives in a small modernist Arab country!) have accustomed themselves to self-deception and fake ideals. Of course we know the strategic role of Afghanistan or Syria, the importance of oilfields, pipelines and minerals. But they’re not alone, and we don’t know how far the limits of Western bad faith can lead. I let humanist and pessimistic Hobson conclude:

The gravest peril of Imperialism lies in the state of mind of a nation which has become habituated to this deception and which has rendered itself incapable of self-criticism.

Nicolas Bonnal

Toward Barbarism: US Imperialism Unleashed

Toward Barbarism: US Imperialism Unleashed

by Ben Schreiner
The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization.
Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet
With signs of a global economic downturn mounting, US aggression across the Middle East and North Africa ratchets up.  And once again, US imperialism stands poised to swing open the gates of Hell.
The choice presently confronting humanity, then, is one between imperialism on the one hand, and the struggle against imperialism on the other.  It’s a choice of socialism or barbarism.
Global Capitalism Imperiled
 
According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report released last week, the “risks for a serious global slowdown are alarmingly high.”  The report projects the world economy to expand just 3.3 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2013—both projections down from the IMF’s July forecast.   As Joseph Davis, chief economist at the Vanguard Group, cautioned to the Wall Street Journal, “The odds of a global recession are not fully appreciated.”
Indeed, for as the Financial Times reports, the Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery, the Brookings Institution-Financial Times index of the world economy, finds severe problems “in both advanced and emerging markets.”
“The global economic recovery,” Brookings’ senior fellow and index creator Eswar Prasad warned, “is on the ropes.”
And though in its latest report the IMF continued to peddle the harsh elixir of austerity for the depressed economies of the euro zone periphery, the Fund also came to tacitly acknowledge the limits of austerity.
“The IMF now says global efforts to slash deficits and debt may have hurt growth because they occurred too quickly and too widely,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
But with the limits of austerity as a means of resolving the present crisis apparent, the last remaining card for the capitalist elite to play in their attempt to regenerate global capitalism appears to be in unleashing the forces of “creative destruction” wrought by military aggression.  As Henryk Grossman warned in his Law of Accumulation, “The destructions and devaluations of war are a means of warding off the immanent collapse [of capitalism], of creating a breathing space for the accumulation of capital.”
It is thus out of the need to renew the impetus for capital accumulation that the iron fist of US imperialism gains free rein once more across the full spectrum of what American neo-conservatives deem the “arc of instability.”
US Imperialism on the March
 
According to the New York Times, the Pentagon is readying military strikes in Libya in retaliation for the September attack on the US compound in Benghazi.  As the paper reports, “The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects.”
“Potential military options could include drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities.”
The Times goes on to report that the Pentagon is also rushing to train and equip a 500 member Libyan commando force to be used to combat “Islamic extremists” within the country.
At the same time, the Pentagon has reportedly dispatched a task force of 150 military “planners” and “specialists” (i.e., special operations troops) to a Jordanian military base along the Jordan-Syria border.  Speaking at a NATO conference in Brussels last week, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed that the task force was sent to help Jordan “monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria.”
The specter of chemical weapons has been increasingly used as a pretext by the Atlantic powers to threaten military intervention into Syria.  As President Obama declared in August, the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces would be a “red line,” which would force him to change his “calculus” on intervention.
“Once again, Western powers are digging deep for excuses to intervene militarily in another conflict-torn Middle East country,” an editorial in the state-run Xinhua news agency of China read in response to Obama’s threat.
Sure enough, as the New York Times reported, discussions have already taken place over using the Jordanian-stationed US task force to help establish a buffer zone within Syrian territory.
(In addition to the deployment of troops along the Jordan-Syria border,  CIA operatives are presently active along the Syria-Turkey border, facilitating the flow of arms to rebel forces.  Meanwhile, a recent report in the Los Angeles Timesnoted that the US military is currently using aerial surveillance drones to monitor Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles.)
Of course, the stepped up targeting of Syria cannot be decoupled from the joint Israel-US campaign against Iran.  After all, as hawks Michael Doran and Max Boot argue in a New York Times op-ed, the first reason American intervention in Syria is now merited is because it “would diminish Iran’s influence in the Arab world.”
The road to Tehran, we see, may very well lead through Damascus; although, the urge to fly non-stop to Tehran may just prove too strong to resist.
Marching Toward Tehran
 
With Iran clearly in mind, the US and Israel are set to begin a massive three-week joint missile and air defense exercise later this month.  The exercise, Business Week reports, will include 3,500 US personnel and 1,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces, making it the largest joint military exercise held between the two nations.  The planned war game also occurs amid mounting speculation of a looming strike against Iran.
According to a report in Foreign Policy by David Rothkopf, the US and Israel are actively planning a joint “surgical strike targeting Iranian enrichment facilities.”  Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and Editor-at-Large ofForeign Policy, cites his source as stating that “the strike might take only ‘a couple of hours’ in the best case and only would involve a ‘day or two’ overall.”
The strike, Rothkopf quotes an “advocate” of an attack as stating, would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”  This, of course, being the essence of the proverbial neo-con wet dream.
Remarkably, Rothkopf even goes as far as to triumph the idea of a “surgical strike” as a potential October Surprise Obama could use to propel himself back to the White House.
It appears now, however, that Rothkopf’s “report” may have been little more than a plant by the Israeli embassy in Washington.  A move, perhaps, intended to further coerce Obama into adopting a more hawkish stance on Iran, while simultaneously serving to downplay the risks of an attack.
Of course, peddling the notion of a so-called “surgical strike” on Iran is nothing particularly new.  In March, Jeffrey Goldberg reported for Bloomberg that Israeli talk of striking Iran had assumed a rather optimistic tenor.
“One conclusion key [Israeli] officials have reached,” Goldberg wrote after a trip to Israel, “is that a strike on six or eight Iranian facilities will not lead, as is generally assumed, to all-out war.”
(One cannot help wonder if the Rothkopf and Goldberg share the same source.)
Such assessments, though, are rather dubious, given that they directly contradict numerous assessments determining that any strike against Iran would quickly spiral into a regional conflict.  A report earlier this year in the New York Times, for instance, noted a war game simulation run by the Pentagon forecast that an Israeli strike “would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead.”
Likewise, a September war game organized by Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, resulted in a dangerous escalation from both sides.  As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported, “The game showed how easy it was for each side to misread the other’s signals.”
“Misjudgment was the essence of this game,” Ignatius continued.  “Each side thought it was choosing limited options, but their moves were interpreted as crossing red lines. Attacks proved more deadly than expected; signals were not understood; attempts to open channels of communication were ignored; the desire to look tough compelled actions that produced results neither side wanted.”
“War,” as Clausewitz wrote, “is the province of danger.”
Toward Barbarism
 
US imperial dreams, however, are hardly confined to setting the Middle East ablaze.  Imperial ambitions—rooted in the capitalist logic of endless expansion—are inherently limitless.  Thus, we see the US today readying to propel the greater Middle East into the abyss, while simultaneously “pivoting” to the Asia-Pacific in order to “contain” a rising China.
US imperialism, however, is destined for defeat (and sooner rather than later).  The US, after all, can only use its immense military power to keep potential competitors in check for so long.  The universal law of change cannot be held at bay by the barrel of a gun in perpetuity.  As Lenin asked and answered in his pamphlet Imperialism: “Is it ‘conceivable’ that in ten or twenty years’ time the relative strength of the imperialist powers will have remained unchanged? Absolutely inconceivable.”
But imperial powers are always dangerously deluded by the strength of their power—impervious to its ultimate limits.  As a George W. Bush administration official once remarked to the journalist Ron Suskind: “’We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
(One would be mistaken to believe that such hubris is not as present in the Obama White House as it was in the Bush administration.)
Such arrogance from the power elite—indicative of imperial rot—is but a byproduct of the imperialist imperative of endless expansion and conquest.  And it is this very imperative that today compels US imperialism towards igniting a military conflagration in the Middle East threatening to ensnare the global powers. “A great cemetery,” as Luxemburg warned nearly a century ago, awaits such a triumph of barbarism.
The only means with which to elude such a miserable fate is found in the revolutionary power of working people to resist. As Luxemburg argued, escape from barbarism is only possible once the working class comes to seize “its own destiny and escape the role of the lackey to the ruling classes.”

The only genuine and enduring hope for humanity, then, lies is in the struggle for socialism.

United Front Against Austerity Public Assembly–October 27, 2012

Update 10/9: Please RSVP if you plan to attend the October 27 Public Assembly. This will be a great help to us in planning for the event.

UFAA Public Assembly

October 27, 2012
12-6pm

INN World Report
56 Walker Street, NYC | Map

About UFAA and the Public Assembly

Austerity – the imminent, existential threat to the American people. No matter the outcome of the November elections in the US, working families will be thrown over the proverbial “fiscal cliff” in the name of debt and deficits. Cutting Social Security, Medicare and other threads in our fragile social fabric is not only grossly unjust – it won’t work! The so-called “Grand Bargain” threatens to unleash a death spiral of unemployment and poverty which our nation is not certain to survive.

Organizing to defend our economic rights. It is for this reason that we must organize now to mobilize effective opposition to the impending austerity offensive; agitate to shift the burden of the economic depression onto Wall Street oligarchs; and to build momentum toward a genuine political revolution of, by and for the people.

Not a conference – an assembly! The UFAA Public Assembly on October 27 will not be “just another conference” that ends when the doors close. Participants will hear proposals from distinguished speakers, engage in floor debate, and vote on vital strategic matters. The UFAA intends to build on Wisconsin and Occupy – with decisions, demands and action.

ASSEMBLY FORMAT

Addresses

(90+ minutes) A series of brief addresses, both live and recorded, from distinguished representatives.

Proposals and Debate

(4+ hours) A moderated presentation of proposals, live debate and votes. For example, “what is the more effective demand – a 1% Wall Street sales tax, or a more progressive income tax?”

All persons representing proposals acceptable to the American public are invited to attend and debate. Disruptive behavior and tactics will not be tolerated.

KEY ISSUES WILL INCLUDE

Program

Concrete demands for political & economic reform.

Organization

An organic coalition with organized centers of leadership.

Strategy

Identifying our immediate strategic needs, and a roadmap for success.

Leadership

Developing and attracting political leaders to our coalition.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

We want to hear from:

  • Labor unions
  • Political organizations
  • Journalists & media
  • Academics and public advocates
  • Groups representing blacks, hispanics and other disadvantaged minorities
  • Professional organizations, especially those in industry, agriculture, science and engineering

General Motors Wants Out of Govt. Bailout That Enabled GM Sell-Out of Workers and Retirees

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) – The Wall Street Journal took a fresh look Monday at General Motors Co.’s efforts to end its awkward relationship with the U.S. Treasury.

The article, citing “people familiar with the government’s thinking,” states the government is reluctant to sell its 26.5% holding in GM because it would mean booking a loss on the bailout. That’s understandable. While it’s great to be able to point to all the jobs saved by the $50 billion bailout, any political currency gained by the White House would be a lot sweeter if it also made a profit on the deal.

That’s not happening. Not yet, anyway. GM GM +1.92%   is currently trading at just under $24 a share, well below its $33 post-bankruptcy public offering in November 2010. The share price needs to reach $53 for the government to extract itself from GM without a loss.


Reuters

General Motors assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich.

What’s the likelihood of that happening? Much hinges on the success of GM’s heavily revamped lineup here at home, its ability to stem losses in Europe, and whether it can continue to grow sales in Asia. But with less than two months to go before the presidential election, investors won’t have enough information by then to judge whether GM’s performance on these three critical fronts has a realistic shot at lifting the share price past $53.

Does Wall Street think it can happen? The charts are not reassuring. Analysts surveyed by FactSet currently have an average $30.19 price target on the stock, slipping from a 2012 high of $34.35 in April. And while no one has a sell rating on GM, 4.3% of analysts following the company now have underweight ratings on it, ending a nine-month run free of underweight ratings, a reflection more of tougher macroeconomic conditions than specific shortcomings at GM.
So, given the political stakes, there’s little reason to bet the Treasury Department will bail out of its GM holdings any time soon. Unless, of course, Mitt Romney wins the election. If he does, and he keeps his word, he’ll end this uncomfortable alliance right away, incurring a loss to taxpayers that he can pin on his predecessor.

That scenario might be good for GM shareholders. If company executives are to be believed, shedding government oversight would free GM to conduct business the way it sees fit, not the Treasury.

But campaign rhetoric rarely delivers what it promises. As with most things, it’s easier to rush in than to get out. (Think Iraq, Afghanistan.) In this case, exiting GM without a loss would be spun into exiting with honor. Achieving anything close to that is going to take a while, especially in this economy.

Does General Motors (GM) Control US Uzbek Policy?

[If not for Obama/Bush policies to ship US manufacturing jobs overseas, GM would be downsizing under federal bankruptcy jurisdiction right now, over its failure to honor contractual commitments made to United Auto Workers and other union workers in exchange for multiple contract concessions.  In other words, if General Motors had been forced to honor the contracts that it had entered into with its workforce, then it would have been bankrupt.  They had gotten too big for their britches when their famed product reputation for excellence could not sell enough Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Buicks to produce a profit over their expenses.  Time and time again, workers gave the corporation huge contract concessions to maintain shareholder profits.  Over and over, GM management refused to produce the clean, small economy cars (like those made today in Uzbekistan) that the cash-strapped, environmentally conscious American people demanded, until it was too late.  Now, there are very few cars really made in the USA.   Because Obama allows GM corporation to continue operating as an American company, even though nearly every component of every car and truck they sell is manufactured outside the US, they can maintain the illusion that GM still makes "American-made" automobiles.  Many of "Chevy's" vehicles are still assembled here, but unlike the miniature Uzbek  Chevrolet "Spark," they are not "made locally."

No one can honestly claim today that the Uzbek workers "took our jobs," but the jobs were handed to them, thanks to our beloved President and Congressmen.]

In Uzbekistan, a Chevy on every corner

ALMATY (Reuters) – When a Tashkent resident flags down a private car for a $2 ride, chances are it will be a Chevrolet. Ninety-four percent of new cars sold in Uzbekistan last year were made by General Motors – the biggest share of any market served by the U.S. auto giant.That General Motors should have a foothold in the reclusive former Soviet republic owes much to the technology and capital it brings to a country which, under veteran President Islam Karimov, has been the graveyard of many foreign ventures.

Landlocked Uzbekistan, a mainly Muslim country of 29 million in the heart of Central Asia, is ranked by rights bodies among the world’s most repressive states. Hundreds died in 2005 during a bloody crackdown on an uprising in the Ferghana valley city of Andizhan.

The same, densely populated valley, where poverty fuels simmering discontent with Karimov’s rule, is home to the GM plant where South Korean-trained workers file through electronic turnstiles to sparkling production lines beyond.

Robots tease metal sheets into shiny new Chevys and workers are trained to calmly respond to musical signals, in contrast to the noisy bustle, embroidered skull caps and brightly colored gowns on display in Asaka, the town outside the factory gates.

A former Communist party apparatchik, Karimov, now 74, has gambled heavily on building high-tech industries to try to cut dependence on the export of cotton, gold and other raw materials that were the backbone of Uzbek production in Soviet times.

“The Uzbek government’s economic development model is essentially one of import substitution,” said Lilit Gevorgyan, analyst at IHS Global Insight. “Uzbekistan lacks the capital and the new technologies. The joint venture with GM is a good example of how they can achieve this goal.”

The compact Matiz and the Nexia sedan so ubiquitous in Tashkent, the country’s capital, are a throwback to the 1990s, when South Korea’s Daewoo Motor Co was Uzbekistan’s joint venture partner at the plant.

Daewoo Motor Co split from its parent, Daewoo Group, in 2001 and later became part of General Motors. In its current incarnation, GM Uzbekistan is owned 25 percent by GM and 75 percent by state company UzAvtosanoat.

“We appreciate the great support of the Uzbek government, which clearly recognizes the fundamental role car manufacturing can make to a nation’s economy,” a GM spokesman wrote in an emailed reply to questions.

GM sold 121,584 vehicles in Uzbekistan last year, making the country the eighth-largest market for its Chevrolet brand. The joint venture produced more than 225,000 cars last year and will raise output to 250,000 units this year.

On Wednesday, the company rolled out a new model, the Chevrolet Cobalt, a family-size sedan aimed both at the local Uzbek market and other former Soviet states.

Reuters text correspondents are not accredited to report in Uzbekistan and permission was not granted to attend the launch. But an accredited TV cameraman was admitted and also visited GM’s Asaka plant and engine plant in Tashkent with a photographer.

Marimjon Jumabayev, manager of the production line at the Asaka plant which rolls out the Chevrolet Spark, described the launch as a “great achievement”.

“I am happy to glorify my nation, Uzbekistan,” he said. A Foreign Ministry official accompanied Reuters on the visit.

‘RISKY ENVIRONMENT’

Not every foreign investor has met with success in Uzbekistan. Russia’s top mobile phone operator, MTS, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, has written off $1.1 billion after its Uzbek license was permanently revoked on August 13.

Uzbekistan’s State Inspectorate for Communications cited “repeated and systematic” violations when it first suspended the MTS license in July.

But the company says it is facing a “classic shakedown” of the type that has forced out London-listed miner Oxus Gold, U.S. company Newmont Mining Corp and Russia’s Wimm-Bill-Dann, now part of PepsiCo.

The dispute prompted the GSMA, an organization uniting nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, to write an open letter on Wednesday asking Karimov to intervene directly in a case that has seen four local MTS managers imprisoned.

“The mobile communications industry is a lucrative source of potential foreign investment to Uzbekistan, and other providers may be hesitant to make investments after seeing what has happened to MTS-Uzbekistan,” GSMA Director-General Anne Bouverot wrote.

A U.S. State Department official raised the matter on a visit to Tashkent last month, while the Helsinki Commission, an independent U.S. government agency that monitors human rights, has also written to Karimov to express its concern.

Ties between the West and Uzbekistan that soured after the Andizhan massacre are warming again, however, in anticipation of the drawdown of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

Neighboring Uzbekistan has been a vital cog in the transit route to supply NATO-led forces fighting the Taliban. U.S. influence also acts as a counter-balance to Russia’s strategic designs on its former Soviet hinterland.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year toured the GM Powertrain-Uzbekistan plant in Tashkent, a separate joint venture between GM and its Uzbek partner to make fuel-efficient engines for its light vehicles.

“The U.S. hopes that having its businesses operating in Uzbekistan will only help to cement their strategic relations,” said Gevorgyan.

And GM is not alone. Case New Holland, for example, has been manufacturing agricultural equipment in Tashkent for 15 years, Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said during a recent visit by a U.S. business delegation.

“I hear a consistent message that Uzbekistan has great potential as an investment destination. However, to reach its full economic potential, it should address persistent challenges in the business and investment climate,” Blake said in a speech in Tashkent on August 17.

“Delays in currency conversion prevent manufacturers from importing the supplies they need to produce their finished goods, and the problem can be compounded by complex and uncertain customs procedures.”

YEAR-LONG QUEUES

For GM, the launch of the Cobalt reinforces its presence in the emerging markets now driving the growth of the world’s top auto makers. The car, which has optional six-speed transmission, will also be built in Brazil for the South American market.

The Chevrolet Spark, the Captiva sport utility vehicle and the glitzy Malibu sedan vastly outnumber the Russian-made Lada, a relic of the Soviet era, on the dusty alleys of the ancient Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.

In a country where the economy is tightly regulated and monthly wages average $300 in Tashkent and less in rural areas, many would-be Chevy owners wait as long as a year to buy their car, after making a deposit of up to 85 percent of its price.

The overwhelming popularity of the Chevrolet in Uzbekistan can also be explained, in part, by prohibitive customs duties and other taxes on imported cars.

A local journalist with knowledge of the car market, who asked not to be identified, said by telephone that the myriad costs incurred when importing a car could add up to 150 percent of the actual purchase price.

Umid, a 21-year-old university graduate who, like many Tashkent residents, makes a living driving his private car as a taxi, said he had once tried to buy a second-hand Mercedes in Dubai to replace his old Nexia.

“I called home and my friends made me drop the idea. The old Mercedes would have cost me nearly as much as a brand new limo in Uzbekistan,” he said.

Humming a melody to himself as he weaved his tiny Matiz through a leafy Tashkent suburb, Bahauddin, a 50-year-old former shop assistant, is happy enough with his Chevy.

After quitting his job to undergo cancer surgery, the income he earns ferrying passengers around the capital is just enough to get by.

“I had no money to buy food,” he said. “Now I have this car. It’s a real life-saver.”

(Reporting by Almaty newsroom; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

Significant recession imminent if Congress doesn’t act on fiscal cliff: CBO report

[If American Congressmen cannot immediately stop themselves from passing simultaneous tax hikes and budget cuts, then the American economy will take a nosedive in the first half of next year.  It is that extreme and that certain, Congress is arriving at a very ugly "moment of truth," which none of us should be ignoring.  The American economy, and by extension, the entire world economy, is about to plunge into another deep dark economic chasm which can only be avoided if all Congressmen and Congresswomen change their own natures overnight.  But that will never happen, Congress will NOT CHANGE until we force it to change.  If we cannot immediately reign-in Congress, then America will enter into an economic downturn far worse than those in the  recent past, which have been described as "worse than the Great Depression."  In the first half of 2013, we will be in the same boat as the European Union.  Mandated tax increases on the Middle Class and the wealthy will only exacerbate a bad conundrum.   We can no longer afford Congress the luxury of following its own customary, contradictory budget policies.  There has to be some sort of citizen enforcement of Constitutional Law, in order to bind the hands of Congress, so that they can no longer simultaneously add to the budget and cut it at the same time.  The American Congress behaves as if all of them were "Lords," or other "aristocrats," who did not have to answer to the people they represent, administering laws arbitrarily, deciding which of their friends and relatives would receive their fortunes from government largess.  Obama's policies and stop-gap measures have only amplified the existing contradictions in American govt. policies and accelerated the conflict.  The closer we get to the American police state, the more our society of alleged "free choice" comes to resemble a classic totalitarian dictatorship, much like that of the former CIS states dictatorships.  Downtown Portsmouth, Ohio will come to look more and more like downtown Khorog, Tajikistan, where the military now rules in a most brutal manner.  As the clock ticks down to zero, notice just how much Obama clings to the pattern of continually making things more painful by constantly avoiding the appearance of pain.  He is a typical consensus-building politician, who will never try to make things a little better by offering a painful cure.

Can the world be saved or won by belt-tightening alone, even in conjunction with incentives to wealthy investors?  Perhaps during less dire times than the era we are entering it might have worked.  More money is now needed to set the world aright than all of the gold that is now hoarded away.  To set the course of humanity upon a path of progress, one which is far different than the destructive track we have been on, will require massive infrastructure investments, especially in those areas where there has been almost no infrastructure to speak of.  We have run out of road and must therefore, build new roads.   We haven't the luxury to wait to make these infrastructure improvements until we have saved enough to finance the work; we need that money now--but we will NOT HAVE that money now.  We will instead, blissfully sail the American ship of state off the edge of the cliff.  It is going to be a very rough ride.]

Significant recession imminent if Congress doesn’t act on fiscal cliff: CBO report

The nation would be plunged into a deep recession during the first half of next year if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit in January, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.

The massive round of New Year’s belt-tightening – variously known as the fiscal cliff or Taxmageddon – would disrupt recent economic progress, push the unemployment rate back up to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013 and cause economic conditions “that will probably be considered a recession,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.

The outlook is considerably darker than the forecast the agency released in January, when CBO predicted that the fiscal cliff would trigger a modest recession in the first half of 2013, followed by a quick recovery.

Since that forecast was issued, Congress has steepened the fiscal cliff by extending a temporary payroll tax break and emergency unemployment benefits, which are now also set to expire in January.

In addition, CBO analysts concluded that the underlying economy is weaker than previously predicted. In its latest budget outlook, the CBO predicts the federal deficit will be $1.1 trillion in the fiscal year that ends in September, marking the fourth straight year of deficits in excess of $1 trillion.

 

US austerity: Genocide of 50 million people

US austerity: Genocide of 50 million people

50 million Americans are in danger of losing their lives due to the government’s austerity measures.

No matter whether the next US president is named Obama or Romney, the Wall Street financier elite that dominates the United States is psychotically planning a series of tax increases for the middle class and working people, cuts in benefits and social services, and a transfer of wealth in favor of the top 1%, all of which will add up to a further cut of about 25% in the depleted US standard of living.

The mythical “fiscal cliff”

This outcome is being prepared right now by a demagogic propaganda campaign around the slogan that the United States faces a “fiscal cliff” at the end of the current calendar year. This alleged fiscal cliff is the result of two factors. First, the tax cuts enacted by George Bush the younger in the months before 9/11 are due to expire. If the Bush tax cuts are ended, the average family would pay a few hundred dollars more. But the tax rate for the richest earners would go from 35% to 39.6%, which, at high levels of income, can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in taxes.

At the same time, stock speculators and hedge fund hyenas like Mitt Romney would no longer pay 15%, but rather 20%, on their profits. In other words, the Bush tax cuts were mainly a gift to the super-rich. The Republicans want to keep the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and if possible make people in the middle – earning between $48,000 and $80,000 per year – pay significantly more.

The other aspect of the fiscal cliff are the automatic cuts in military spending and social services spending which were built in to the budget agreement of August, 2011 (popularly known as the “Satan Sandwich”) which allowed the United States to avoid default on necessary payments. Under these automatic cuts, the Pentagon budget would be cut by about 8% or $500 billion over 10 years. At the same time, doctors and hospitals working for Medicare, the government’s health insurance program for people over 65, will suffer a 2% payment cut across the board. The goal of all this is to reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Obama and the Congress both ignore that austerity cuts of this type have actually increased the budget deficit in Greece and other European countries where they have been tried.

The lame duck session and the grand bargain

The goal of reactionary Republicans and of Obama’s Wall Street Democrats is to negotiate a “Grand Bargain” of austerity and cuts sometime in the next few months. One possible time for this dirty deal to be made will come in December, after the US general election at the beginning of November. In December, significant numbers of defeated or retiring congressmen and senators will be leaving, and many will be looking for jobs on Wall Street. They will be eager to betray the economic interests of the American people to curry favor with the bankers they hope will hire them. Otherwise, pressure will build for a Grand Bargain during the early months of 2013.

Such a Grand Bargain of austerity will target in particular Social Security (government old-age pensions), Medicare (health care for seniors), and Medicaid (health care for the poor); only token sacrifices will be asked from the rich 1%. If this scenario actually occurs, the lives of up to 50 million Americans will be in grave danger.

This is first of all the case because of the long decline in the American standard of living, which has, according to some reckonings, been reduced by about two thirds since August 15, 1971, when Nixon and Kissinger abandoned the Bretton Woods international monetary system. There is no more margin for cuts without tragic consequences. During this same period, the social mobility in the United States – understood as the ability to go from being poor to being well-off – has declined markedly, and is now inferior to every country in Western Europe except for ossified Great Britain.

50 million Americans officially in dire poverty

Every 10 years, the United States government conducts a census of the population, and in the process collects important data about demographics and income. It is now expected that the official US poverty rate, which underestimates the real problem of poverty, will rise to almost 16% of the population. Poverty means an individual living on less than $11,170, or a family of three living on less than $19,090. This is truly dire poverty. By this estimate, about 50 million Americans will be poor, the highest rate since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965.

According to official statistics, the US unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.3% in July 2012. Once again, this figure understates the problem. The US Department of Labor publishes a data series called the U6 unemployment rate, which tries to reflect underemployment — as in cases where a worker who wants to work full-time is forced to work part-time – and workers who have given up their job searches in despair.

By this measure, the US unemployment rate has been as high as 17.1% at the end of 2009, and is currently at 15%. These are depression levels. Assuming that the US workforce is about 155 million, this means that over 23 million Americans are actually out of work. If we add in elderly dependents and children, we will once again get close to the 50 million whose lives are now in danger.

Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original Social Security Act of 1935, the federal government could have provided benefits to one important category – impoverished mothers with dependent children. This was called welfare, but it no longer exists, having been abolished by Bill Clinton in 1995-96 as part of his reelection campaign. Currently it is estimated that about 15 million children – about 21% of all children in the United States – live below the official poverty line. Since an adequate standard of living requires about twice the federal poverty level income, it follows that 44% of US children are in reality stuck in low income families. They can thank Bill Clinton for their current situation.

That same Social Security Act of 1935 established a system of unemployment insurance, which is now being sorely tested. When the depression began in 2008-9, the Obama stimulus bill extended jobless payments to unemployed workers for 99 weeks in many states. Now, with the depression grinding on, more than 5 million people have been unemployed for more than six months, and most of these have joined the ranks of the 99ers – those who have been jobless for almost 2 years. Some 23 states, especially those governed by Republicans, have now cut eligibility by as much as five months, impacting a half million unemployed. Only three states still offer 99 weeks of benefits, and that will end in September 2012.

Food stamps for 46.5 million under attack

The one federal program that still contributes to keeping the endangered 50 million alive is the Food Stamp program of the US Department of Agriculture, which currently feeds 46.5 million Americans. In some cities, the food stamp allowance is about $130 per month, which translates into about $1.55 per person per meal. This is already too little to permit good nutrition.

Right now the debate in the Congress is whether this program should be cut by $16 billion as the Republicans demand, or by “only” $5 billion, the Democratic Party proposal. Once again, any cuts in the food stamp budget under the current conditions will inevitably lead to vitamin deficiencies, cognitive impairment, and large increases in morbidity and mortality.

As for health insurance, most sources estimate that about 46 million Americans have no way of paying for the services of a doctor, hospital, or pharmacy. This figure largely overlaps with the 50 million who are in dire poverty, and the 50 million who are living on food stamps. Any reduction in Medicaid, which is intended for low income people, will take a toll of lives. Republicans are demanding massive cuts to Medicaid, while Democrats argue that moderate cuts will be sufficient. In reality, any cuts at all will represent thinly disguised murder.

Neither Obama nor Romney has anything to offer the endangered 50 million. Indeed, Romney has already announced that he is “not worried about the poor.” This issue highlights the inhuman cruelty of the political process in the United States today. How long before a social explosion forces the ruling elite to confront these issues?

WT/MA

Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1946, Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley is a philosopher of history who seeks to provide the programs and strategies needed to overcome the current world crisis. As an activist historian he first became widely known for his book George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (1992), a masterpiece of research which is still a must read. AB Princeton 1966, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa; Fulbright Scholar at University of Turin, Italy; MA in humanities from Skidmore College; and Ph.D. in early modern history from the Catholic University of America with emphasis on the role of Venice in the origins of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). During 2008, he warned of the dangers of an Obama presidency controlled by Wall Street with Obama: The Postmodern Coup, The Making of a Manchurian Candidate and Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography. His interest in economics is reflected in Surviving the Cataclysm: Your Guide Through the Worst Financial Crisis in Human History Against Oligarchy. His books have appeared in Japanese, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. More articles by Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley

Exclusive: U.S. Banks Told To Prepare for the Big One

Exclusive: U.S. banks told to make plans for preventing collapse

An ATM machine at a Bank of America office is pictured in Burbank, California August 19, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

By Rick Rothacker

 

(Reuters) – U.S. regulators directed five of the country’s biggest banks, including Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, to develop plans for staving off collapse if they faced serious problems, emphasizing that the banks could not count on government help.

The two-year-old program, which has been largely secret until now, is in addition to the “living wills” the banks crafted to help regulators dismantle them if they actually do fail. It shows how hard regulators are working to ensure that banks have plans for worst-case scenarios and can act rationally in times of distress.

Officials like Lehman Brothers former Chief Executive Dick Fuld have been criticized for having been too hesitant to take bold steps to solve their banks’ problems during the financial crisis.

According to documents obtained by Reuters, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency first directed five banks – which also include Citigroup Inc,, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co – to come up with these “recovery plans” in May 2010.

They told banks to consider drastic efforts to prevent failure in times of distress, including selling off businesses, finding other funding sources if regular borrowing markets shut them out, and reducing risk. The plans must be feasible to execute within three to six months, and banks were to “make no assumption of extraordinary support from the public sector,” according to the documents.

Spokespeople for the five banks declined to comment. The Federal Reserve also declined to comment.

Recovery plans differ from living wills, also known as “resolution plans,” which are required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Living wills aim to end bailouts of too-big-to-fail banks by showing how they would liquidate themselves without imperiling the financial system.

“Recovery plans are about protecting the crown jewels,” said Paul Cantwell, a managing director at consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal. “It’s about, ‘How do I sell off non-core assets?’ The priority is to the shareholders. A resolution plan is about protecting the system, taxpayers and creditors.”

The recovery plans are being used as part of regulators’ ongoing supervisory process. In Britain, recovery and resolution plans have both been part of the living will requirements for large banks.

Mike Brosnan, senior deputy comptroller for large banks at the OCC, said the regulator continuously evaluates contingency planning at the banks and savings associations it supervises.

“Recovery plans required of the largest banks are helpful in ensuring banks and regulators are prepared to manage periods of severe financial distress or instability affecting the banking sector,” he said.

This summer, nine global banks submitted living wills to the Fed and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, and regulators released the public portion of the documents.

The recovery plans requested in 2010, meanwhile, have received little publicity. The names of the banks required to submit them have not been previously disclosed, and Reuters obtained them only through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Fed supplied Reuters with the letters requesting plans from banks, but not the banks’ actual plans because they were deemed confidential supervisory information. The regulator said it was withholding 5,100 pages of information.

MOVING FURTHER FROM DISASTER

Five years after the financial crisis, concerns remain about whether blow-ups at big banks could lead to another round of taxpayer bailouts. Trading losses have cost JPMorgan nearly $6 billion so far, and scandals such as the alleged rigging of an international interest rate benchmark have only highlighted the risks lurking inside big banks.

These disasters have damaged banks’ reputations, but not their balance sheets. Most are still profitable, and in recent years the five banks have improved their capital bases and liquidity. They also have been subjected to annual Federal Reserve stress tests that measure whether the banks have sufficient capital to weather severe economic scenarios.

Bank of America and Citigroup, in a sense, have already been executing the kind of moves called for in the recovery plans. Both have been selling off non-core operations and assets to streamline their sprawling businesses, after receiving multiple bailouts during the financial crisis.

Bank of America in June 2011 told Fed officials that it could shed branches in some parts of the country if it needed to raise capital in an emergency, a person familiar with the matter said in January. The proposal was part of a series of options provided to the Fed, including issuing a tracking stock for Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch operations.

But just because the bank proposed selling branches does not mean it’s a desirable move or highly probable, the person said. In the past year, Bank of America has shown progress in building capital without such actions. Its Tier 1 common capital ratio increased to 11.24 percent of risk-weighted assets as of June 30 from 8.23 percent a year earlier.

Tier 1 refers to a bank’s core capital and has been the main focus of regulators in assessing a bank’s capital adequacy.

MENTIONED IN PASSING

The banks’ chief risk officers, and in the case of Citigroup, Chief Executive Vikram Pandit, received letters in May 2010 instructing them on what to include in the recovery plans. The requests stemmed from January 2010 crisis management meetings held by regulators. The letters sent to the five banks were nearly identical.

Each plan was to address severe financial stress at the firm, as well as “general financial instability.” The plans should be capable of being executed ideally within three months, but no longer than six months, the documents said.

The plans should “make appropriate assumptions as to the valuations of assets and off-balance sheet positions,” the documents said.

Recovery plans have been mentioned in public before, but only in passing. In testimony to Congress in July 2010, Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo said the “largest internationally active U.S. banking organizations” were working on recovery plans. The initiative stemmed from work led by the Financial Stability Board, a body that coordinates the work of international financial regulators, he said.

In a presentation in March, JPMorgan Chase said it had a recovery plan in place and said it was ordered by regulators. The presentation was organized by Harvard Law School and was closed to the media at the time, but is available online. (here)

(Reporting By Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, North Carolina; Additional reporting by David Henry in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Former CIA Army General–Martial Law Expected and “Warranted”

Former CIA Army General: Martial Law Expected and “Warranted”

Dominique de Kevelioc de Bailleul:  Lt. General William Boykin (retired) told TruNews Radio Tuesday that the U.S. economy of the United States “is just about the break” and collapse.  And when the dam gives way, severe food shortages and pervasive violence throughout America will warrant, in his opinion, an executive declaration of martial law.

“I’ll be very honest with you; the situation in America could be such that martial law is actually warranted, and that situation in my view could occur if we had an economic collapse,” said Boykin, a former CIA Deputy Director of Special Activities. Get my next ALERT 100% FREE

“The dam is just about to break on our economy, and I think when it does, there’s going to be a major disruption of the distribution of food,” he added. “And I think what you’ll see particularly in the inner cities is you will see riots, civil unrest that ultimately might justify martial law.”

Though the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of agriculture, in the case of a currency collapse, producers will withhold shipments to retailers and consumers unable to pay in a currency other than U.S. dollars.  For a time, barter will take the place of currency for those living in rural areas, but for the majority of Americans living in cities and adjacent suburbs, food shortages can emerge within 24 hours.

“I think those people that are not in the major cities are going to be far better off, but it could actually justify martial law,” Boykin continued.  “And I’m praying that we will not see that kind of collapse, we won’t see a disruption of the distribution of food in America.  That’s probably the single biggest problem.”

Recommendations by “prepper” organizations and a handful of governments (as in the case of Utah and some municipalities) to include storing enough nonperishable food to last a month to 90 days have become commonplace during the four-year-long economic recession, as the history of currency collapses throughout the world demonstrate that for a meaningful period of time food will not be available at grocery stores, food pantries and other collective emergency food supplies.

Recent examples of food shortages due to rapid currency devaluations include Argentina in 2002; Cuba, following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989; and in Zimbabwe during its currency collapse of the late 2000s.

Although, the U.S. is not expected to match Zimbabwe in intensity and duration of inflation (89 sextillion percent in 2008), all nations undergo a period of profound dislocation of commerce during a currency devaluation, which may range from as little as several weeks to several months.  At that time, food becomes the king of all commodities while government reestablishes a new workable currency to reestablish normal commerce once again.

“If people can eat, they can survive for some period of time while we get through the economic crisis and reestablish currency, and systems, and all that,” said Boykin.  “But if they can’t eat, you know, they’re going to fight.  And that’s my big concern.”

From his intelligence, as well as from numerous publicly-available anecdotal testimonies and leaked government documents, the U.S. military has been preparing with local law enforcement for a coming crisis.  Boykin strongly advises the public to make preparations for the most likely scenario of a coming breakdown of the food distribution channels in America during a dollar collapse.

“For me, I have three months of food stored.  I have a bunch of other essentials that I have stored in my home,” he said.  “And my wife and I are preparing for this.

“Now a lot of people call us, you know, foolish, for that kind of attitude,” he added.  “But I would tell you that I’m not going to be unprepared, and I think people should be prepared now for some disruption. You know this economic collapse is a very strong possibility.  We need to get ready for it, and we need to be thinking through and developing plans for how we’re going to react to it.”

Zionist Parasite Looking for New Host Tastes Putin for Compatibility

When Opportunity Knocks…

Israel Disses US While Seeking ‘Bi-Lateral Alliance’ with Russia

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Beirut

Two interpretations by the participants themselves, of what significant international meetings achieved, the first on 6/25/12 and the second five days later, remind us about subjectivity in the eyes of the beholders.

Post-event statements, whether following last weekend’s Geneva meeting on Syria which produced markedly different interpretations of the final communiqué language by the Russian and American Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (that Syria’s President Bashar Assad need not necessarily depart-depending on what the Syrian people decide) and Hillary Clinton, (Assad’s departure is absolutely required) may have sent French, Russian and English language interpreters looking for their thesaurus.

Similarly, vastly divergent Russian-Israeli interpretations about what was agreed to during the 24 hour “ just passing through” visit by  Vladimir Putin to Palestine and  the Zionist lobby’s touting of “ a new Israel-Russia bi-lateral alliance”  suggests serious wishful thinking by one side according to an official at the Russian Embassy in Beirut with whom this observer discussed last week’s Putin visit.

At a joint news conference after their meeting, Mr. Netanyahu said he and Mr. Putin had agreed that the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran “presents a grave danger first of all to Israel, and to the region and the world as a whole.” Israel, Netanyahu announced on 6/25/12, to raised eyebrows from some among the 400 member visiting Russian delegation, expects the once and likely future superpower to support expanded sanctions against Tehran, demand a halt to all uranium enrichment by Iran, insist on the removal of all enriched uranium from Iran and the dismantling of an underground nuclear facility near the city of Qum.

For Putin’s part, he only proffered that he and Netanyahu had discussed Syria and the Iranian nuclear program and that the talks had been “useful”.  During his short visit Putin inaugurated a memorial in Netanya for Soviet troops killed in World War II and presumably had others motives given Russia’s interest in Israel’s defense industry.  In the last two years Russia has purchased 12 drones from different Israeli companies.

The newly inaugurated Russian president, who has said he regarded the breakup of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical catastrophe, defended the Iranian people’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but pointed out at the same time that Iran should guarantee non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but in any case, the problem should be solved peacefully, by way of talks.

Israel’s Prime Minister repeatedly expressed reservations about Russia’s role in the long-stagnant Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”. He complained to Putin that Russia, a member of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers has consistently sided with the Palestinians during disputes. Netanyahu called on Putin to urge the Palestinians to return to negotiations but received a puzzled look from his guest as if Putin might have been wondering why Israel has not suspended illegal settlements expansion and land confiscations, as the Palestinians and the international community have  demanded for over four decades.  Undaunted, Netanyahu appeared not to notice Putin’s quizzical expression while insisting that he was sure that the Russian visit would improve ties in agriculture, science, technology and space, “among other fields’.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s staff explained that the Soviet Union had been hostile to Israel and now relations should improve while Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at an Independence Party meeting that “Russia is a very important world power, a country that played a very important role in Syria’s history in the past few years and that is why it will play a key role in the shaping of post-Assad Syria.” Barak also stressed Russia’s importance in “the international effort vis-à-vis Iran in terms of sanctions and diplomacy and his belief that Putin understood that in dealing with Iran, Israel faces a decision between “bombing or the bomb” and if Israel doesn’t attack, Iran will eventually obtain nuclear weapons.

Yet, according to Russian Embassy discussions in Beirut, Putin repeatedly warned Israeli officials that the very existence of Israel was at risk if it attacked Iran and that Israel should not delude itself that Russia will ever sanction an attack on Iran or that Russia will get involved with Israel’s attack in anyway.  Putin emphasized that Israel should think twice before taking any action on Iran and should learn lessons from the United States’ experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Look what happened to America in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Putin said. “I told Obama also. You don’t need to jump to things too early; you don’t need to act before thinking. In Iraq there is a pro-Iranian government after everything that happened there. You need to think well before doing something you’ll be sorry about.” Putin also told Netanyahu that Russia will recognize a Palestinian state.

Several high ranking Bush administration officials, drawing salaries from US taxpayers while serving Israel, and who pushed the US to invade Afghanistan and Iraq are currently attempting the same fate for Iran. Backed by the Zionist lobby, they and the Russians are in agreement that only US incompetence gave both countries to Iran with more quite likely in the pipeline from the Persian Gulf area.

Arab and Islamophobe, Ruthie Blum, former senior editor at the Jerusalem Post, and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring’, claims that President Obama and the American taxpayers have betrayed Israel.

Blum, writing in the current issue of Israel Hayom explains that “Since the minute that Barack Obama became president of the United States nearly four years ago, it was clear that the Jewish state was being tossed aside like an unappreciated, loyal, long-time wife for a far more alluring, utterly inappropriate, and dangerous lover. Indeed, Obama has not hidden the hots he has always had for the Islamic world; nor has he been the least bit discreet about his attraction to its more anti-Western elements. It is the height of tragic irony that, in the absence of its previous protection by its adulterous spouse, America, the Israeli government has nowhere to turn but to Russia.

Netanyahu’s staff, which sent her piece to US Zionist lobby outfits, reportedly sees, as their boss does, Israel’s very existence at stake, and he’s prepared for Israel to go it alone or link with Russia because he’s “unwilling to entrust the survival of the Jewish state to America.”

Meanwhile, during a talk-show when Ruthie finally gave him a chance to get a word in edgewise, Israeli journalist and TV show host, Dan Margalit, announced that: “In a time when the Arab-Left-anti-Semitic axis is doing its utmost to delegitimize and marginalize Israel, Putin’s visit has the power to counter dozens of evil-hearted artists and musicians who boycott Israel. If such visits were the norm, Israel would have laid the red carpet at Ben-Gurion International Airport and welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama by now, but he is understandably not trusted here while Romney is plus if Mitt is elected President he promised his first trip will be to Israel. Obama has never come once since he became President.”

The Obama administration, but not apparently the Congress, was taken aback and issued a statement from Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman: “Governor Romney has said he would do the opposite of what President Obama has done in our relations with Israel. Now he must specify how — does that mean he would reverse President Obama’s policies of sending Israel the largest security assistance packages in history? Does it mean he would let Israel stand alone at the United Nations, or that he would stop funding the Iron Dome system? Does it mean he would abandon the coalition working together to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions?”

Netanyahu advisor Benny Goldberg explained Israel’s seemingly awkward overtures to Russia as realpolitik. “Look, it’s like the coming Mitt Romney visit.  We will welcome him as we well as Obama if he decides to visit.  After all, in the US Congress we seek support from both sides of the aisle so it’s logical that we want the same relationship with Moscow as we have with Washington.”

So much for the Obama administration’s fantasy of the US-Israel special, one of a kind devoted, legendary, eternal, rock solid, unbreakable, forever and ever iron-clad bond and indivisible alliance which gives America a reliable, democratic strategic Gemini-twins like partnership with America and her very generous, if uninformed, taxpayers.

Some cynical Congressional staffers have commented that Israel already has the US government in its back pocket and that Congress will guarantee that it remains so; therefore Israel has nothing to lose by intimating to the Russians that will discard the US at least to the extent of promoting Russian interests in the region.  After all, as is well known in the White House, Israel sold to the USSR, through a third party, stolen top secret specialized code-word compartmented (TS/SCI) intelligence via Jonathan Pollard, which from his KGB tenure Putin presumably  has direct knowledge of.”

Goldberg also explained recently that in the past it was only logic that dictated switching Israeli acceptance of the “keeping the Golan Heights quiet Alawi Shia regime in Syria” which at the time made sense given the concomitant danger from Sunni Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. But now Israel has switched its support for a Sunni regime in Syria that it hopes will confront Iran and Hezbollah.  Realpolitik also dictates that if the Sunnis fail to topple Assad Israel can live with that also because it believes that Israel’s annexation of the Golan will not be challenged with more than words.

There is little conflict between Russia’s and Israel’s interests because neither country is as powerful as it would like to be in the region. Russia has few of the options it had during the Cold War and Israel has little influence in the outcome in Syria or in Egypt.

On the other hand, Russia and Israel do have some complementary interests. One example is Azerbaijan where Russian is a major weapons provider for the regime and the Israelis are also selling it large amounts of weapons.  The CIA suspects it has set up a base from which to spy on, and, according to rumors, prepare to attack Iran. Apparently Russia does not feel threatened by Israeli involvement in Azerbaijan or that both are there, and each operate in ways that would appear to be in conflict but don’t, according to Stratford’s George Freeman.

There are also some bilateral interests on an economic and a strategic level, because Russia is looking for new partners in the area.

In addition, both Russia and Israel have benefited enormously from U.S. “terrorism wars” in the Islamic world. It is not just that these wars alienate Muslims, which is beneficial to Israel, but they also help the Russians due to the debilitating human and economic cost for America.

As the US staggers, and with Russia and China practicing shrewd Middle East politics, one imagines that Israeli leaders might be recalling the days and reasons that the Zionist colonial enterprise dumped England for America following World War II.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Beirut and is reachable c/ofplamb@gmail.com

Greek Reporter Documenting the Slide from First World To Third World Status

“We Are Moving from Being a Western Country to a Third-World Country”

Greece.GreekReporter.com Latest News from Greece

Extreme political uncertainty, rampant corruption, queues forming at soup kitchens, and aid from non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—all these are more commonly associated with countries still developing Western-style economies.

“We are moving from being a Western country to a poor country,” George Protopapas, national director of international charity SOS Children’s Villages, told CNBC.
“I’m worried that it’s going to be like Ceausescu’s Romania or Bulgaria in the early 1990s.”

Of course, the concept of the Third World, which dates from the Cold War, is dismissed by many as outdated. There is no universal concept for how to label developing and developed countries as development is not always a linear process.

What really differentiates Greece from struggling developing countries is its large, well-educated middle class and cultural identification with the West.

It’s difficult to sit in Syntagma Square—the central Athens square that is home to the Greek parliament, with its exclusive hotels and shops—and see Greece regressing. Yet many of the people in suits chatting on their iPhones have had their pay slashed in the past year, and there are few shops that are busy.

Greece itself, with its strange mixture of capitalism and socialism, was always one of the least developed of the European Union countries. There are many now who argue that it should never have been allowed to join the euro at all. It is often mentioned as the country where the foundations of modern democracy were laid millennia ago, yet ironically, its current democracy is less than four decades old.

Greece’s 20th-century development was notoriously hampered by political upheaval, including a fascist dictatorship, an army-led coup, and a period of occupation by Nazi Germany.  It is the memory of this too-recent occupation that is sparking opposition to the external forces such as the ones the Troika have been trying to implement into Greek policy.

After recent stringent cuts as part of the bailout, non-governmental organizations are providing some of the services like health, normally provided by the government. This kind of aid is much more often associated with the developing world. Diseases such as HIV and malaria are on the rise.

The medical charity Medecins du Monde — Doctors of the World — known for its work in the Third World, saw the number of Greeks coming to its clinics double in 2011.

“Many patients are retired elderly citizens whose pensions have been substantially reduced because of the austerity measures implemented by the government in recent years,” the charity noted in recent research. And such charities are paying taxes on donations for the first time, as well as facing rising costs across the board.

Immigrants from developing countries are starting to see more opportunities for prosperity in their home countries than in Greece.

Ade, who emigrated from Nigeria in 2005, is planning to go back home as soon as she can afford to.  “There’s nothing here for me anymore, and I can’t contribute to society if I can’t work,” she told CNBC as she waited for free medical treatment (she is four months pregnant) at a center funded by the Orthodox Church.

There are also concerns that the escalating cost of heat and electricity, the result of tax increases brought in by the government following the bailout, coupled with a rising number of unpaid invoices, could lead to power cuts.

Energy companies in Greece are already struggling. State-run PPC needs to pay $657.2 million (which it does not have in its coffers after recent falls in revenue) by June 22 or persuade its banks to roll over its debts. And people increasingly cannot pay their bills.

Close to a third of the Greek population — the highest level in Europe — was considered at risk for poverty or social exclusion by Eurostat in 2010, when the economic and political situation was not as dire as it now appears. And nearly 20 percent of Greek children live in homes unable to afford at least 3 out of 9 basic items.
“We are the band that’s still playing on the Titanic. We have to play on and keep working even though the ship is sinking,” Protopapas told CNBC about his charity, which helps struggling families and has seen a dramatic increase in calls for its help.
(source: CNBC, Capital)

European Central Bank Prepared for Emergency EU Bailout, After Sunday’s Greek Elections

ECB on standby for Greek election fallout

By Ralph Atkins in Frankfurt, Mure Dickie in Tokyo and Kerin Hope in Athens

The European Central Bank is on standby to keep banks flush with liquidity if Greece creates fresh financial market turmoil, its president has indicated, joining a global chorus of central bankers pledging support ahead of Sunday’s elections.

Mario Draghi’s comments on Friday followed the announcement by the UK’s central bank of plans to pump £100bn into the ailing British economy, hinting at a co-ordinated strategy by the world’s top central bankers.

“The ECB has the crucial role of providing liquidity to sound bank counterparties in return for adequate collateral. This is what we have done throughout the crisis … and this is what we will continue to do,” Mr Draghi said.

Eurozone central banks “will continue to supply liquidity to solvent banks where needed,” he added, without giving details.

The ECB provided unlimited three-year loans to eurozone banks in December and February – and ended up pumping more than €1tn into the financial system. A repeat of such offers would be one option if the Greek elections led to market financing drying up.

Shares rallied in Asia and Europe on hopes that central banks would act to stem any negative impact from Sunday’s election in Greece. The euro was stable and the yields on Spanish and Italian government bonds, which had been approaching dangerous levels, fell.

Mr Draghi said: “In times of increased financial instability, ‘adequate liquidity’ indicates a volume of central bank money that also counteracts a temporary inability of banks to refinance in the market, which could lead to systemic consequences for the banking sector as a whole.”

If Greece goes …

FT ebook

The FT’s first ebook examines the potential consequences for Greece and the world of a Greek exit from the eurozone

Masaaki Shirakawa on Friday said Japan’s central bank was ready to take any necessary steps to maintain financial sector stability.

Meeting journalists after a regular bank policy board meeting, Mr Shirakawa did not comment on whether central banks might take co-ordinated action to deal with possible market jitters after the Greek election. But he said central banks had a common understanding of the importance of stability.

“There are no cunning steps to achieve financial system stability,” Reuters news agency quoted Mr Shirakawa as saying. “An orthodox step would be to provide liquidity. We have the means to provide own currency and foreign currencies. It would be important to supply abundant liquidity to calm worries.”

The frontrunners in Greece’s general election traded recriminations as they wrapped up a hard-fought campaign.

Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza leader, accused rivals New Democracy and the PanHellenic Socialist Movement, which have held power alternately for almost 40 years, of “plundering” Greece.

“You tried to poison Greece with fear and insecurity,” he told a cheering crowd in central Athens on Thursday night. “You pulled down the Greek flag and handed it to [German chancellor] Angela Merkel as a trophy.”

Meanwhile European officials were preparing a package of incentives, including further reductions in interest rates and extended repayment periods for bailout loans, for a new Greek government but only if it was led by Antonis Samaras, head of the pro-bailout centre-right New Democracy party.

In depth

Greece debt crisis

Greece

Fear’s mount over Greece’s potential exit from the eurozone and the implications for the wider bloc

“In the scenario where Samaras wins the elections, they would like to see him committing very clearly to his adherence to the memorandum,” said one EU official briefed on the discussions. “They would then get together with the new Greek government and say: here is what we can now do to make life a bit sweeter, a bit less harsh.”

Eurozone officials have not ruled out making the same offer to Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza leader, should he win Sunday’s Greek election and form a new government instead of Mr Samaras.

Mr Samaras was due to make a last campaign speech in Syntagma square in Athens on Friday evening. Opinion polls are banned in Greece in the two weeks before an election but both the leading parties say unpublished polls give New Democracy a very narrow lead over Syriza. Two pollsters noted on Friday that 10-12 per cent of voters were still undecided.

CNBC Predicting Bank Runs In Spain and Italy, Financial Anarchy Throughout Europe

US CNBC Predicting Bank Runs In Spain & Italy & Financial Anarchy Throughout Europe

During an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, Jim Cramer of CNBC boldly predicted that “financial anarchy” is coming to Europe and that there will be “bank runs” in Spain and Italy in the next few weeks.

This is very strong language for the most famous personality on the most watched financial news channel in the United States to be using.  In fact, if Cramer is not careful, people will start accusing him of sounding just like The Economic Collapse Blog.

It may not happen in “the next few weeks”, but the truth is that the European banking system is in a massive amount of trouble and if Greece does leave the euro it is going to cause a tremendous loss of confidence in banks in countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal.

There are already rumors that the “smart money” is pulling out of Spanish and Italian banks.  So could we see some of these banks collapse?

Would they get bailed out if they do collapse?  It is so hard to predict exactly how “financial anarchy” will play out, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the European financial system is heading for a massive amount of pain.

Posted below is a clip of Jim Cramer making his bold predictions during his appearance on Meet The Press.  He is obviously very, very disturbed about the direction that Europe is heading in….

But what is Europe supposed to do?  Even though “austerity measures” have been implemented in many eurozone nations, the truth is that they are all still running up more debt.  Are European nations just supposed to run up massive amounts of debt indefinitely and pretend that there will never been any consequences?

That is apparently what Barack Obama wants.  During the G-8 summit that just concluded, Obama urged European leaders to pursue a “pro-growth” path.

Of course to Obama a “pro-growth” economic plan includes spending trillions of dollars that you do not have without any regard for what you are doing to future generations.

Germany has been trying to get the rest of the eurozone to move much closer to living within their means, but as the recent elections in France and Greece demonstrated, much of the rest of the eurozone is not too thrilled with the end of debt-fueled prosperity.

In Greece, the recent elections failed to produce a new government, so new elections will be held on June 17th.

Many EU politicians are trying to turn these upcoming elections into a referendum on whether Greece stays in the eurozone or not.  If the next Greek government is willing to honor the austerity agreements that have been previously agreed to, then Greece will probably stay in the eurozone for a while longer.  If the next Greek government is not willing to honor the austerity agreements that have been previously agreed to, then Greece will probably be forced out of the eurozone.

The following is what John Praveen, the chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers, had to say about the political situation in Greece recently….

“If the pro-euro major parties fail to muster enough support to form a coalition and the radical left Syriza party and other anti-euro, anti-austerity parties secure a majority, the risk of a disorderly Greek exit from the Euro increases and could roil markets”

Right now, polls show the leading anti-austerity party, Syriza, doing very well.  The leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, has declared that he plans “to stop the experiment” with austerity and that what the rest of the eurozone has tried to do in Greece is a “crime against the Greek people“.

But the Germans do not see it that way.  The Germans just want the Greeks to stop spending far more money than they bring in.

The Germans do not want to endlessly bail out the Greeks if the Greeks are not willing to show some financial discipline.

As we approach the June 17th elections, the financial markets are likely to be quite nervous.  According to Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Partners, many investors are deeply concerned about how “sloppy” a great exit from the euro could be….

“Next week is only one of the four weeks we have to wait until the Greek election. Every utterance out of Greece makes us think about their [possible] exit and how sloppy that could be”

Most Greek citizens want to remain in the eurozone and most European politicians want Greece to remain in the eurozone, but it is looking increasingly likely as if that may not happen.

In fact, there are reports that preparations are rapidly being made for a Greek exit.  According to Reuters, “contingency plans” for the printing of Greek drachmas have already been drawn up….

De La Rue (DLAR.L) has drawn up contingency plans to print drachma banknotes should Greece exit the euro and approach the British money printer, an industry source told Reuters on Friday.

And even EU officials are now acknowledging that plans for a Greek exit from the euro are being developed.  The following is what EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht saidduring one recent interview….

“A year and a half ago, there may have been the danger of a domino effect,” he said, “but today there are, both within the European Central Bank and the European Commission, services that are working on emergency scenarios in case Greece doesn’t make it.”

When these kinds of things start to become public, that is a sign that officials really do not expect Greece to remain a part of the euro.

And Greece is rapidly beginning to run out of money.  According to a recent Ekathimerini article, the Greek government is likely to run out of money at the end of June….

The public coffers are seen running dry at the end of June, but this will depend on two key factors. First, revenue collection: In the first 10 days of May, inflows were about 15 percent lower than projected but there are fears that the slide may reach 50 percent. The GAO will have a picture for the first 20 days on May 23, while the last three days of the month are considered crucial, when 1.5 billion euros of the month’s budgeted total of 3.6 billion are expected to flow in.

Second, whether the IMF and EFSF installments are disbursed: This is not certain, as the decision will be purely political for both providers and evidently partly linked to political developments. Earlier this month the eurozone approved a disbursement 1 billion short of the 5 billion euros that were expected.

If Greece runs out of money and if the rest of Europe cuts off the flow of euros, Greece would essentially be forced to leave the euro.

So the last half of June looks like it could potentially be a key moment for Greece.

Meanwhile, the Greek banking system is struggling to survive as hundreds of millions of euros get pulled out of it.  The following is from a recent CNN article….

The Greek financial system is straining hard for cash.

Consumers and businesses are making massive withdrawals from Greece’s banks — leading to concern the beleaguered nation could be forced out of the eurozone by a banking crisis even before its government runs out of cash.

Deposits are the lifeblood of any bank, and Greeks pulled 800 million euros out of the banking system on Tuesday alone, the most recent day for which figures are available.

If Greece does leave the euro and the Greek banking system does collapse, that is going to be a clear signal that a similar scenario will be allowed to play out in other eurozone nations.

That is why Jim Cramer, myself and many others are warning that there could soon be bank runs all over the eurozone.

Sadly, the banking crisis in Europe just seems to get worse with each passing day.

For example, the Telegraph has reported that wealthy individuals are starting to pull money out of Spanish banking giant Santander….

Customers with large deposits have started withdrawing cash from Santander, the bank has admitted, as it tried to reassure concerned members of the public that their money is safe.

Round and round we go.  Where all this will stop nobody knows.

If Greece does end up leaving the euro, that could set off a chain of cascading events that could potentially be absolutely catastrophic.

Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently stated that the “whole house of cards will come down” if Greece leaves the euro.

And if the “house of cards” does come down in Europe, that is going to greatly destabilize the global derivatives market.

You see, the truth is that the global derivatives market is very delicately balanced.  The assumption most firms make is that things are not going to deviate too much from what is considered “normal”.

If we do end up seeing “financial anarchy” in Europe, that is going to greatly destabilize the system and we could rapidly have a huge derivatives crisis on our hands.

And as we saw with JP Morgan recently, losses from derivatives can add up really fast.

Originally, we were told that the derivatives losses that JP Morgan experienced recently came to a total of only about 2 billion dollars.

Now, we are told that it could be a whole lot more than that.  According to the Wall Street Journal, JP Morgan could end up losing about 5 billion dollars (or more) before it is all said and done….

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is struggling to extricate itself from disastrous wagers by traders such as the “London whale,” in a sign that the size of its bets could bog down the bank’s unwinding of the trades and deepen its losses by billions of dollars.

The nation’s largest bank has said publicly that its losses on the trades have surpassed $2 billion, and people familiar with the matter have said they could over time reach $5 billion.

And if Europe experiences a financial collapse, the losses experienced by U.S. firms could make that 5 billion dollars look like pocket change.  The following is from a recent articleby Graham Summers….

According to Reuters once you include Spain and Italy as well as Credit Default Swaps and indirect exposure to Europe, US banks have roughly $4 TRILLION in potential exposure to the EU.

To put that number in perspective, the entire US banking system is $12 trillion in size.

Interesting days are ahead my friends.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Economic Collapse: The End of the World As We Know It

Economic Collapse: The End of the World As We Know It

By Dr. Mark Sircus
theintelhub.com
martin-mike-larry.jpg

As everyone is well aware, Europe is an absolute mess. The gravity of the global debt crisis is getting worse and for sure it’s the end of the world as we have known it.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht recently said, “The endgame has begun, and how it will finish I do not know.”

There is an implosion happening in Greece, and Spain is not far behind with Portugal and Ireland running neck and neck into the full embrace of depression and life-shattering bank runs.

Greece is a big deal and Spain is even bigger. Right now the European Central Bank (ECB) is starting to cut off funds from several Greek banks and there is a run going on at the same time.

Those banks are going down the toilet into a black hole and there will be a loud sucking sound as these banks pull hard on other banks. The Titanic is going down at the bow and just because you are at the stern (in the United States), not in Spain or Greece, it does not mean the cold waters of economic calamity are not going to come to the shores of your life.

Martin Weiss has a logical sequence that forecasts the ruin of our current way of life.

Forecast #4
The European Central Bank (ECB)
will kick its money printing presses
into overdrive and very, very soon.

“That’s the only way they know how to react to the riots on the streets, how to finance their budgets, how to rescue their banks and save their own necks politically. And if you think Europe is too far away from your hometown to matter very much—too far away from Main Street USA—think again,” says Weiss.

Chris Martenson said:

“Well, my hat is off to the global central planners for averting the next stage of the unfolding financial crisis for as long as they have. I guess there’s some solace in having had a nice break between the events of 2008/09 and today, which afforded us all the opportunity to attend to our various preparations and enjoy our lives. Alas, all good things come to an end, and a crisis rooted in ‘too much debt’ with a nice undercurrent of ‘persistently high and rising energy costs’ was never going to be solved by providing cheap liquidity to the largest and most reckless financial institutions. And it has not.”

Graham Summers, of Phoenix Capital Research, just back from Europe says:

“The situation in Europe is bad… How BAD? Well, France, Spain, and Germany have ALL implemented border controls. Spain, France, and Germany can each close their borders for up to 30 days at any point if they so choose. Why are they doing this? Because they know that when the stuff hits the fan and the EU collapses (which it will in the next few months) people are going to attempt to flee with their money… so they have made it so that no one can get it… and no one can get out,”

“A €1 billion run [$1.28 billion] on a recently nationalized Spanish bank has sparked further fears that the 17-nation eurozone is about to implode. “The U.S. media has completely ignored this story because the implications are truly horrifying: that the EU and its banking system could very easily collapse in the coming months. After all, there are already bank runs taking place in Spain and Greece. Once things pick up steam NO ONE will be immune. No less than Ben Bernanke has publicly admitted that if the EU goes down, it will potentially take the U.S. with it. Make no mistake, what’s coming will be bigger and worse than 2008. We’re talking about bank holidays, civil unrest, and the worse,” said Summers.

You think this is all to be taken lightly? The Italian government does not think so and has deployed 20,000 law enforcement officers to protect individuals and sensitive sites.

The government increased security last Thursday at 14,000 sites, and assigned bodyguards to protect 550 individuals after a nuclear energy company official was shot and letter bombs directed to the tax collection agency.

It really is the end of the world we know, or the beginning of that end. Christians believe in the end of the world as a matter of course and the world is giving them every reason to think that their beliefs are correct. Our modern civilization is vulnerable from a number of different angles and the insanity of the elite and centuries of financial manipulation and control are smashing against the wealth of the masses and the very structure of society.

I read that Homeland Security is preparing forcivil war, preparing to fight the heavily armed American people and internal security agencies have bought enough ammunition to kill everyone. Never has a public been so heavily armed so obviously the military and the police know it will take a lot to suppress Americans.

But they are not the only ones itching for war. Forty-nine headless bodies were dumped in Mexico and the idiots in Washington are still proud of their war against drugs. Modern civilization has been at war with its own people for a long while and now national governments are ready and set for war on a broader scale.

In the China Sea it’s the Philippines facing off against the Chinese and now we hear of a new unholy alliance in Israel that seems to have established a war cabinet to go full out to war with Iran.

Russia and Putin are talking rough and I don’t think they are kidding about defending their interests from the mentally deranged Europeans and Americans. Syria has joined the list of countries being torn apart by civil war.

Financial Armageddon is inching closer and closer. The future for the first world is already being written in Spain and Greece and even California, places where the money is running out big time. And the volcanoes and earthquakes just don’t stop. They just don’t stop and the reports keep coming in.

John Rubino said, “Europe’s leaders—that is to say German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the bureaucrats running the various eurozone agencies from Brussels—have looked into the abyss and don’t like what they see.

Specifically, a default and departure by even a relatively insignificant country like Greece might start a contagion that cripples or destroys the whole eurozone.

Paul Brodsky says, “The only way to deleverage is either to let credit deteriorate or to print money. Clearly the politically expedient way of deleveraging is to print money. Central banks can chatter all they want about not wanting to print money or wanting to keep the integrity of their currencies, but, at the end of the day, they don’t really have a choice.

They either have to manufacture more electronic credits and put them in the banking system or they have to let their banking system fail. That is just the reality. There is one interconnected banking system and they all have claims with each other. If German banks end up in difficulty, it presents problems for U.S. banks.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has some bad news: His cash-strapped state isn’t $9.2 billion in the hole, as projected in January; the Golden State is actually facing a yawning$15.7 billion shortfall.

The business and financial community is not paying attention to what is happening inFukushima and how that alone will ruin the plans of mice and men.

Rich or poor, it makes little difference when we are challenged beyond our capacity to respond. Assuming that life will go on as it has these past decades is perhaps one of the greatest and most dangerous assumptions most people are making today.

The mainstream news media feeds this almost universally-shared assumption, so when this greatest-of-all bubbles bursts, there will be hell to pay—that is for sure.

We are all going to have to turn our bows into more spiritual winds to manage the major upheavals headed our way. Depending on who and where you are, these major upheavals have already occurred leaving increasing millions desperate and without hope.

The illusion of growth is fast fading and what will take its place is an ugly depression with a threatened currency collapse as trillions are printed to save the world from its own stupidity.

This article originally appeared on blog.IMVA.com

100 Million Americans Without Jobs

image

(Note: The chart above is the Civilian Over-16 Non-Institutional Population minus the seasonally adjusted Civilian Workforce.)

100 Million Americans Without Jobs

The national unemployment rates gets lots of attention, and lately more attention has been paid to the workforce participation rate since more Americans have given up looking for a job, but we can also see that an astounding 100 million Americans don’t have jobs.

Specifically, these are people who are part of the civilian over-16 non-institutional population who are either unemployed or not part of the workforce. According to the April jobs report, the number of jobless American stood at 100.9 million.

That’s an all-time record and it’s an increase of 26.2 million over the last 12 years. It’s as if we absorbed the entire adult population of Canada and not a single person had a job.

The numbers are staggering. The jobs-to-population ratio peaked 12 years ago. If we were to have the same ratio today, we would need 15.3 million more jobs, or 23.7 million fewer people.

 

Bank of England Sounds Alarm On Coming Storm

Bank governor warns of eurozone crisis ‘storm’

The Bank of England has cut its growth forecast for this year to 0.8% from 1.2%, saying the eurozone “storm” is still the main threat to UK recovery.

The eurozone was “tearing itself apart” and the UK would not be “unscathed”, said its governor Sir Mervyn King.

He also confirmed that the Bank has been making contingency plans for the break-up of the euro.

The rate of inflation will remain above the government’s 2% target “for the next year or so”, the Bank said.

Sir Mervyn was presenting the Bank’s quarterly inflation report.

He told a news conference that the euro area posed the greatest threat to the UK recovery, and there was a “risk of a storm heading our way from the continent”.

“We have been through a big global financial crisis, the biggest downturn in world output since the 1930s, the biggest banking crisis in this country’s history, the biggest fiscal deficit in our peacetime history, and our biggest trading partner, the euro area, is tearing itself apart without any obvious solution.

“The idea that we could reasonably hope to sail serenely through this with growth close to the long-run average and inflation at 2% strikes me as wholly unrealistic,” Sir Mervyn said.

A ‘mess’

Andrew Balls, the managing director in London of global investment firm Pimco, said it was reasonable for Sir Mervyn and other policymakers to plan for a Greek exit.

“Yes, maybe they should plan for an exit, but the thing is, speculating about it can make the event more likely, so the Europeans really do have a mess there,” he told the BBC.

“If Greece is to slide out of the euro and collapse, how are they going to protect Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy?”

Separately, Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke of the financial storm clouds across Europe, warning that eurozone leaders must act swiftly to solve its debt crisis or face the consequences of a potential break up.

He said during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons: “The eurozone has to make a choice. If the eurozone wants to continue as it is, then it has got to build a proper firewall, it has got to take steps to secure the weakest members of the eurozone, or it’s going to have to work out it has to go in a different direction,

“It either has to make up or it is looking at a potential break up. That is the choice they have to make, and it is a choice they cannot long put off.”

The Bank’s report said, however, that the eurozone crisis was not the only issue weighing on the UK economy, with volatile energy and commodity costs, and the squeeze on household earnings also having an impact.

It all meant that the UK economy would not return to pre-financial crisis levels before 2014, Sir Mervyn said.

Nevertheless, he remained optimistic about the longer term. “We don’t know when the storm clouds will move away. But there are good reasons to believe that growth will recover and inflation will fall back,” he said.

On quantitative easing, he said that no decisions had been made whether or not to continue pumping money into the economy. The last stimulus programme was still “working its way through the system”.

‘Outlook is probably better’

Sir Mervyn’s comments came on the day that official unemployment figures showed a fall in the jobless rate, underlining recent surveys that the private sector had become more confident about hiring labour.

He said the fall in joblessness was consistent with the expected gradual recovery in the UK economy.

But Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said of the Bank’s report: “Talk about kicking an economy when it’s down.

“On top of the euro crisis and a double-dip recession, the Bank of England is now saying inflation may not fall fast enough to permit more quantitative easing.

“Actually we think the inflation outlook is probably better than the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) thinks, with the impact of the euro crisis, declining real incomes and weak money supply growth suggesting inflationary pressures may recede later this year and into 2013.

“After many years of underestimating inflationary pressure let’s hope the MPC is now making the opposite mistake by overestimating it”.

Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said: “The Bank of England has once again slashed its growth forecast for Britain, but despite this the government says it will just plough on regardless with policies that are hurting but not working.

“The governor is right to warn of a coming storm from Europe. That is why we warned George Osborne not to rip up the foundations of the house and choke off Britain’s recovery with spending cuts and tax rises that go too far and too fast.

“What happens in the eurozone in the coming weeks and months will have an impact on our weakened economy,” Mr Balls added.

EU’s Iran Sanctions–stroke of genius from the so-called elite of Europe, or an irreversible miscalculation?

Sam’s Exchange: Who is bluffing who?

Sam Barden

The European Union (EU) has decided to ban the import of Iranian oil, but not for another six months. Iran however, looks like they are about to call the EU’s bluff and ban exports to Europe with immediate effect. The self-appointed rulers of a united Europe may be doing much more than disrupting the flow of oil to EU members who most need it; they may actually have moved the world financial system to the tipping point of change, something a democracy could never have done. Is this a stroke of genius from the so-called elite of Europe, or an irreversible miscalculation of historical proportions?

© Photo Source: Sam Barden

Sam Barden

The financial and physical sanctions on Iran, imposed largely by the U.S., EU, Israel and the UK, for Iran’s alleged ambitions to build a nuclear bomb, are in fact about economics. It is a test of the current financial system. On the one hand there is the U.S.-European banking cabal, or as we know it the Western banks, and on the other hand everyone else. When countries trade with each other, they need a financial mechanism for clearing their trades. This is what we know as the current banking system. When sanctions are applied, like with Iran, which are designed to exclude a country (Iran) from the global system of settlement, it means in theory they can no longer be part of world trade. The problem here of course is that major trading nations such as China, Russia, India and South Korea, have thumbed their noses at the sanctions and will continue to trade with Iran. So when Iran goes looking for an alternative way to settle its international trade, to find new mechanisms of clearing, they have found they are knocking on an open door.

Rather than use western banks, and settle trades in USD or EUR, Iran is being forced to set up an alternative network.  Far from having difficulty, it seems Iran and their trading partners are actively touting new methods. In fact India and Iran, and possibly China and Iran, have said they will soon start settling oil trades with gold. Neither India nor Iran nor China have said exactly how this will occur, but given gold is priced primarily against the USD, the trade will occur using the USD as a price base initially. As the USD begins to debase, presumably the gold and oil will begin to become price reference points in their own right. The gold bugs out there will be calling for a sharp increase in the price of gold, but the point is that a gold pool will be used to underwrite trade rather than letters of credit issued by western banks. The alternative network emerges.

Rather than the USD as the world reserve currency (with a move towards a global currency) what we are likely to see as a result of the emergence of an alternative to the existing banking network is a move towards a global standard. As a new network emerges, one which is multi-lateral, it is likely that national currencies will be priced against hard assets such as gold, or in my view energy. In order for this to happen as part of the new network, the way in which we price oil and gas will also change. A more likely market structure will be one which is decentralized, unlike today’s centralized market, but networked. Like a series of networked exchanges, the new system will have several pricing points for hydrocarbons, which will exist in dynamic equilibrium, similar to an eco-system, which will be the basis of an Energy standard. This system will remove the extreme price volatility we are seeing in today’s dysfunctional markets.

As we move towards this system, there will be fallout. We are already seeing it now in the form of independent oil refineries going bankrupt. Petroplus, one of the UK’s biggest oil refineries, which accounts for 10% of the UK’s fuel supply, has filed for bankruptcy. As the refinery ran out of cash, and was unable to extend its credit facilities with banks, it was forced to close and file for bankruptcy. The knock-on effect of course is panic buying of fuel in the UK adding pressure to the problem. This only serves to highlight the fact that there is no real cash in the current financial system, only credit and as the banks close the credit tap, the urgency for a new system becomes more pressing. Greece faces the same situation, the only difference is that counties cannot go bankrupt, they can only default.

The winds of change are blowing strongly in the world financial markets and fundamental change is in process. So is it genius or lunacy from which the European elite are acting in pushing oil sanctions on Iran, creating this change? It all depends on the outcome.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Current markets are anything but global or integrated.  What if we had a paradigm shift in the way we think and transact when doing business with each other?  Balanced global trade can only occur if we have transparent, accessible and efficient markets.  We are on the cusp of achieving this, although most people cannot see it.  Sam’s Exchange aims to give its readers a clearer view and a platform for discussion.  Markets, trade and economics are in fact nothing more than the result of our thoughts and actions expressed in numbers, not the reverse.

Sam Barden is founding Partner of SBI Markets DMCC, a Dubai-registered commodities trading and advisory company.  Barden has worked in the global financial markets for more than 17 years in Europe, Russia and the Middle East.  He has advised and executed strategic transactions for both the government and private sector, in particular in energy and commodity markets, advising various energy producing nations on their strategic market developments and interaction.  He holds a degree in economics and finance from Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.

Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income

[Half of the American population lives in poverty and our government spends nearly  two-thirds of a trillion dollars to expand our wars.]

Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income

WASHINGTON (AP) – Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans, almost 1 in 2, have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that is shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

“Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too ‘rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michiganpublic policy professor who specializes in poverty.

“The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” he said. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax cut, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that also could trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending. That is money set aside for payment to individual Americans under such programs as the Social Security retirement scheme or the Medicare health plan.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

“There’s no doubt the recession has thrown a lot of people out of work and incomes have fallen,” Rector said. “As we come out of recession, it will be important that these programs promote self-sufficiency rather than dependence and encourage people to look for work.”

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 a year for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half a family’s income.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million.

The struggling Americans include Zenobia Bechtol, 18, in Austin, Texas, who earns minimum wage as a part-time pizza delivery driver. Bechtol and her 7-month-old baby were recently evicted from their bedbug-infested apartment after her boyfriend, an electrician, lost his job in the sluggish economy.

After an 18-month job search, Bechtol’s boyfriend now works as a waiter and the family of three is temporarily living with her mother.

“We’re paying my mom $200 a month for rent, and after diapers and formula and gas for work, we barely have enough money to spend,” said Bechtol, a high school graduate who wants to go to college. “If it weren’t for food stamps and other government money for families who need help, we wouldn’t have been able to survive.”

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That is up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

The new measure of poverty takes into account medical, commuting and other living costs. Doing that helped push the number of people below 200 percent of the poverty level up from 104 million, or 1 in 3 Americans, that was officially reported in September.

Broken down by age, children were most likely to be poor or low-income, about 57 percent, followed by older people, those over 65. By race and ethnicity, Hispanics topped the list at 73 percent, followed by blacks, Asians and non-Hispanic whites.

Even by traditional measures, many working families are hurting.

Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low income has risen for three consecutive years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million. That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group based in Washington.

Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder, 6.9 million, earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.

The majority of low-income families, 62 percent, spent more than one-third of their earnings on housing, surpassing a common guideline for what is considered affordable. By some census surveys, child-care costs consume close to another one-fifth.

Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.

A survey of 29 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors being released Thursday points to a gloomy outlook for those on the lower end of the income scale.

Many mayors cited the challenges of meeting increased demands for food assistance, expressing particular concern about possible cuts to federal programs such as food stamps and WIC, which assists low-income pregnant women and mothers. Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger in cities, followed by poverty, low wages and high housing costs.

Across the 29 cities, about 27 percent of people needing emergency food aid did not receive it. Kansas City, Missouri, Nashville, Tennessee, Sacramento, California, and Trenton, New Jersey, were among the cities that pointed to increases in the cost of food and declining food donations, while Mayor Michael McGinn in Seattle, Washington, cited an unexpected spike in food requests from immigrants and refugees, particularly from Somalia, Myanmar and Bhutan.

Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 51 percent were in families, 26 percent were employed, 19 percent were elderly and 11 percent were homeless.

“People who never thought they would need food are in need of help,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who co-chairs a mayors’ task force on hunger and homelessness.

———

Online:

Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov

U.S. Conference of Mayors: http://www.usmayors.org/

Democracy, Capitalism Have Failed the World

Africa: Democracy, Capitalism Have Failed the World

Yusuf Serunkuma

Since the outbreak of riots in the Middle East early this year, there has been much commentary arguing that this marks the only opportunity for the Arab world to democratise.

After the October election in Tunisia, the “Islamist” party Ennahda won 41.5% of the vote. And also in October, Libya’s National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared that religion would serve their country better than anything else.

As well, there’s believable speculation that were Egypt to have an election, as is slated for November, the Muslim Brotherhood, a party that espouses Sharia as a source of legislation, is poised to sweep the elections.

What is interesting for Tunisia is that Ennahda is being asked to clarify that it will establish a secular and democratic state. And they have budged! But even then, they have not survived the wrath of the Western media, one that has taken on to speaking for their foreign offices.

Patronising comments like it is hoped Ennahda will rule “intelligently” and that “it is not necessarily a darker force,” have been doing the rounds.

Of course, this does not only despise the political ambitions of the Tunisians, but also treats them as little children who could have made a mistake voting for Ennahda.

I do not know if all this commentary is aware that there were secular parties that contested and were defeated. The democratic West is keen on exporting democracy to the Muslim world, for it gives life to capitalism.

In view of this much maligned religion, with the war on terror still raging and with Muslims bearing the brunt, why are these rioters-cum-liberators opting for Islamic states as opposed to full secular democracies, even in places where the West’s assistance exceeded legal boundaries?

It starts with the economy. The economic crisis in the West has exposed the foundations of democracy, not only as weak but also as dangerous to the public spirit. This has made the system very unlikable and hard to export.

The ‘Occupy the World’ (OW) movements make this point very clear. The OWs have made a strong case against capitalism, democracy’s longtime partner. Economists have often euphemized capitalism to mean free markets, i.e., the free interaction of forces of demand and supply.

However, this has been at only a rhetorical level. Indeed the present shape of capitalism amounts to “survival for the fittest”– it has made the world look like a jungle. After reading Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, the brain behind capitalism, it is clear that capitalism has been grossly abused, and largely because of its weaknesses at ensuring checks.

Holding placards reading, “Capitalism is over”, “Pepper Spray Goldman Sachs”, “We are the 99%,” the OWs are showing the world a major weakness with a system that has shouldered capitalism — democracy.

In a travel piece, “Inside the American Dream,” journalist Andrew Mwenda notes that “the top 20% take 80% of the total income and the 80% of the Americans share the 20%.”

Also, democracy espouses one big lie: power belongs to the people in which people realise that their power only stops at elections. How does the American public contain a democracy from crime both at home and abroad, considering the fact that all other arms of government, including the media, can be manipulated?

The shift to religion perhaps comes to address two major elements of the community that are absent in secular democracies; the morality of the leader and the indispensability of the public.

It is sad that many western intellectuals often confuse human rights and democracy. Human rights can be ensured under any dispensation, for they are just a reflection of the conscience of the people, for any leader to guard, but they are not a product of a system.

Yet, a good public service sector is a key human right. Perhaps this might partly explain why Gaddafi lasted over four decades. Religious based republics seek to establish a consultable group of a few, often the intelligent and the rich, not the crowd as with democracy.

This does not mean people do not hold them accountable; they do, and there will often be more than one way of doing this. But this also means, to do a good thing for the public, leaders do not have to look through a contract, neither do they have to exploit a loose end of the contract to plot mischief.

It is unfortunate that the world has not had the opportunity to appreciate a movement of this nature.

The author is an editor at Fountain Publishers.

The Dominoes Are Falling In Europe

[Italy is taking France down with it.]

France draws fire after “alarm bells” warning

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives to deliver a speech on benefits fraud during his visit in Bordeaux, southwestern France, November 15, 2011. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

By Daniel Flynn and James Mackenzie

PARIS/ROME | Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:06am EST

PARIS/ROME (Reuters) – France came under heavy fire on global markets on Tuesday reflecting fears that the euro zone’s second biggest economy is being sucked into a spiraling debt crisis after a warning that Paris’s failure to adapt should be “ringing alarm bells”.

Nervous markets also showed concern about whether Italy’s Mario Monti and new Greek leader Lucas Papademos, unelected European technocrats without a domestic political base, can impose tough austerity measures and economic reform.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has predicted the 17-nation currency bloc will be in a mild recession by the end of the year, a view underlined by data showing the economy barely grew in the third quarter and faces a sharp downturn.

“The risks of a technical recession have increased and we expect the economy in Germany to shrink at least in one quarter, most likely in the first quarter of next year,” said economist Michael Schroeder of German economic research institute ZEW.

On the markets, Italy’s 10-year bond yield rocketed back above 7 percent, pushing its borrowing costs to a level widely seen as unsustainable in the long term and which helped trigger the fall of Silvio Berlusconi’s government last week.

Spain’s Treasury paid yields not seen since 1997 to sell 12- and 18-month treasury bills.

French 10-year bond yields have risen around 50 basis points in the last week, pushing the spread over safe haven German bonds to a euro-era high of 173 basis points.

French banks are among the biggest holders of Italy’s 1.8 trillion euro public debt pile.

The urgency of resolving the debt crisis was underscored by a think-tank report saying triple-A rated France should also be “ringing euro zone alarm bells” as it could not make rapid adjustments to its economy.

In New York, U.S. stock index futures fell sharply on Tuesday morning after the rise in European bond yields, the drop caused by fears in the United States that Europe’s debt crisis was mushrooming into a wider systemic problem.

“THREAT TO THE WORLD”

President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser said the European debt crisis was the leading risk to the U.S. recovery.

“Clearly, Europe is a tremendous concern,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said.

“It is important they act quickly, because it is a threat not only to Europe and the U.S., but the world as a whole.”

But Greek conservatives set themselves on a collision course with the European Commission, refusing its demand to sign a pledge to meet the terms of a bailout designed to save the country from bankruptcy and safeguard the euro zone.

Members of the New Democracy party, a key player in Papademos’s new crisis coalition government, said they would not bow to “dictates from Brussels” to give a written guarantee to honor the bailout.

With the survival of the 17-state currency zone in its current form now at risk, EU governments have until a summit on December 9 to come up with a bolder and more convincing strategy, involving some form of massive, visible financial backing.

The debt crisis is likely to make matters worse in the next months with nations such as Italy, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain forced to adopt politically unpopular cuts to stop the bond market driving them toward default.

Economists say there is no visible growth strategy in place to counter those austerity measures.

After last week’s disastrous week for the euro zone’s third biggest economy, Italy’s Monti appeared to win a key breakthrough on Tuesday when Angelino Alfano, secretary of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party, emerged from the talks saying moves to form a government would succeed.

With the zone under intense scrutiny, Germany and France posted solid growth in the third quarter, statistics released on Tuesday showed, but euro zone nations on the front line of the debt crisis fared much worse and analysts expect bleaker times ahead in the core economies.

“THIS IS ALL HISTORY”

“The key point is that this is all history,” said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics.

“Forward-looking indicators suggest that the euro-zone economy is likely to drop back into recession in the fourth quarter and beyond,” he said.

The entire euro zone economy grew just 0.2 percent in the third quarter from the second, lifted by France and Germany, but economists were resigned to the fact the bloc was almost certainly heading for a recession.

Stagnation in Spain, Belgium and a contraction in the Netherlands and Portugal appeared to signal that the worse was yet to come and a summer growth spurt was temporary.

Monti is racing to secure support from feuding politicians to allow his cabinet of experts to speed up reform of pensions, labor markets and business regulation needed to put Italy’s finances on a sustainable footing.

Italy has to refinance some 200 billion euros ($273 billion) of bonds by the end of April, a daunting prospect

Expected to seek a confidence vote by Friday, Monti has said that he aimed to serve until scheduled elections in 2013, not just until reforms had been pushed through.

Far-reaching reforms are seen as crucial if Italy is to end years of stagnant growth, trim a debt mountain equal to 120 percent of gross domestic product and avoid the sort of crisis that forced bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

In Athens, Papademos said late on Monday that Greece had no choice but to stay in the euro zone, telling lawmakers reforms were the only solution.

But conservatives on whom Papademos must rely for support demanded pro-growth policies and rejected any more cuts, fueling fears of a Greek default that may force Athens out of the currency group triggering a euro zone debt meltdown.

GREECE MUST SIGN

Austerity measures had deepened Greece’s recession but reforms — including widening the tax base and fighting rampant tax evasion — could mitigate the problem, said Papademos, who oversaw Greece’s entry to the euro zone in 2002.

But New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said he would not vote for new austerity measures and he would not sign any pledge about new belt-tightening.

The European Commission issued a stark warning to Greece on Tuesday that it must provide written confirmation to its European partners of its commitment to reforms to bring down its debt, no matter who wins the next elections.

“The Eurogroup as a whole expects Greece, the Greek political forces, to provide a clear and unequivocal commitment to the agreement … and we expect this in writing. It has to be a letter and signed,” Commission spokesman on economic and monetary affairs Amadeu Altafaj told reporters.

Most Greeks hailed Papademos’s appointment, but thousands of people angry at more than a year of austerity are expected to rally on Thursday, the anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that helped to bring down the colonels’ junta of 1967-74.

(Additional reporting by Luke Baker in Brussels; Writing by Peter Millership; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Life Beyond Capitalism

Quantum Note: Beyond Capitalism

By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

The demise of the USSR did not alter the contours of the world; it merely made a small dent in the global distribution of power. To be sure, it ended the cold war, consolidated the gains of World War II for the Western world, liberated a small part of Europe from the iron clutches of communism, and led us into the nightmare of a unipolar world. While communism was wedded to dictatorship, capitalism has always been branded as eternally married to liberal democracy. A closer examination, however, reveals capitalism is, in many ways, the alter ego of communism and it is ethically as bankrupt as communism.

This was not apparent until recently, but now there are early signs of disappearance of the façade. People around the world are discovering the new face of capitalism as they march on the streets of financial capitals of the world amidst fears of a global economic collapse. Indeed, the global economy is under strain of an order it has never witnessed before. Movements as “Occupy Wall Street” are not only insisting that this is the case, they are, in fact, the desperate calls of humanity for release from the iron clutches of a morally bankrupt system. They are not only signs of discontent against an economic system, they are simultaneously indicative of a lack of confidence in the political system; people have finally realized that there is no choice left for them politically except to vote for one of the two parties, both of which sell the same goods.

These early signs may not be the start of the demise of capitalism, but there is no doubt that all brands of capitalism—the anglo-saxon, the neoliberalism, the Chinese-Singaporean capitalism with Asian values—all are fracturing from within. The most apparent indicators are emerging from USA where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data released on September 13th, 2011, the nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. The economic situation of other countries in the Western world is not rosy either. In fact, millions of people are now living under the looming shadow of economic collapse which may trigger mass social unrest.

After putting bandages on the Greek economy, the leaders of the Western world—the so-called G20 countries—are now preparing for emergency talks on averting a return to worldwide recession. While they move to the next emergency, the Greek bandages are already falling apart because of the popular discontent at the terms of the deal which has forced George Papandrou, the Greek Prime Minister, to seek a referendum on the deal which took months to finalize. While Europe deals with defaulting countries, the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned of the social effects of the continuing economic crisis, which could take until 2016 for global employment to return to the levels of three years ago.

No one from within the Western political leadership seems ready to acknowledge that there is something seriously wrong with the system; they are all looking for minor tune-ups and they are all living in the self-created utopia of a happy marriage between capitalism and the political system which has beget them. The magic cure they have found is creation of jobs through state-sponsored projects. Mega projects were first announced by President Obama, then by the Canadian Prime Minister and the latest came from David Cameron, who announced a fresh drive to create jobs through major infrastructure projects last week. This includes the construction of power plants at Ferrybridge, West Yorkshire, and Thorpe Marsh, South Yorkshire, creating 1,000 construction jobs.

The economic strains are translating into political strains: many citizens of Western democracy are realizing that though they live in so-called free societies, with elections every five years, authoritarianism is creeping at such a rate that its breath is upon their necks. Security threats have been blown out of proportion to institutionalize repression in the name of security: callous anti-terrorism laws passed by Bush-Blair and Co. now routinely insult passengers at airports, the camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral can’t be allowed, those who have finally come together to seek justice will be overcome, defeated by any means necessary, the right to peaceful protest notwithstanding.

This is not to say that there is no one in the Western world who is ready to acknowledge the inherent bankruptcy of capitalism; it is just that such voices are considered “interesting” and cast aside. The nameless millions living below poverty level are told that they are still better than millions out there, in the so-called developing world and there is no alternative to capitalism so they had better be silent. This breeds hopelessness, disempowerment, doom and gloom, which then translates into individual tragedies.

A recent work by Ha-joon Chang, a South Korean economist, currently a Reader in the Political Economy of Development, University of Cambridge23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism lays bare certain long-standing myths about capitalism. These are not shocking disclosures; merely common sense truths supported by fact and logic. Chang is not anti-capitalist, he simply recognizes the failings of centrally planned economies, describes capitalism as “the worst economic system except for all the others”. His book shows capitalism as it actually operates, but does not look deeper than that: he is not interested in looking at the links between capitalism and “democratic authoritarianism”; nor at the fundamental flaws of the system, yet it is instructive to see these insights from within the system.

What remains to be seen is how Capitalism will eventually come to its logical end and what will emerge from the rubble. There are no alternatives available for the Western world. The new and emerging economies in Asia, likewise, have no alternative; they will simply emulate the Western model with a sprinkle of Asian values. The slick veneer that has camouflaged the inherent ills of capitalism is now tearing and the world is finally able to make connections between events: the disgraceful Victorian work practices, the terror unleashed by Thatcher’s special police forces on black and Asian people and miners in the 1980s, and the current union of the high churchmen with the City of London are not isolated instances of failure of the system; they are veritable signs of its inherent moral bankruptcy.

Here are eleven facts that you need to know about the nation’s biggest banks:

Here are eleven facts that you need to know about the nation’s biggest banks:

– Bank profits are highest since before the recession…: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., bank profits in the first quarter of this year were “the best for the industry since the $36.8 billion earned in the second quarter of 2007.” JP Morgan Chase is currently pulling in record profits.

– …even as the banks plan thousands of layoffs: Banks, including Bank of AmericaBarclaysGoldman Sachsand Credit Suisse, are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers.

– Banks make nearly one-third of total corporate profits: The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually downfrom before the financial crisis, when they made closer to 40 percent.

– Since 2008, the biggest banks have gotten bigger: Due to the failure of small competitors and mergers facilitated during the 2008 crisis, the nation’s biggest banks — including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — are now bigger than they were pre-recession. Pre-crisis, the four biggest banks held 32 percent of total deposits; now they hold nearly 40 percent.

– The four biggest banks issue 50 percent of mortgages and 66 percent of credit cards: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup issue one out of every two mortgages and nearly two out of every three credit cards in America.

– The 10 biggest banks hold 60 percent of bank assets: In the 1980s, the 10 biggest banks controlled 22 percent of total bank assets. Today, they control 60 percent.

– The six biggest banks hold assets equal to 63 percent of the country’s GDP: In 1995, the six biggest banks in the country held assets equal to about 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Now their assets equal 63 percent of GDP.

– The five biggest banks hold 95 percent of derivatives: Nearly the entire market in derivatives — the credit instruments that helped blow up some of the nation’s biggest banks as well as mega-insurer AIG — is dominated by just five firms: JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

– Banks cost households nearly $20 trillion in wealth: Almost $20 trillion in wealth was destroyed by the Great Recession, and total family wealth is still down “$12.8 trillion (in 2011 dollars) from June 2007 — its last peak.”

– Big banks don’t lend to small businesses: The New Rules Project notes that the country’s 20 biggest banks “devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business.”

– Big banks paid 5,000 bonuses of at least $1 million in 2008: According to the New York Attorney General’s office, “nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008.”

In the last few decades, regulations on the biggest banks have been systematically eliminated, while those banks engineered more and more ways to both rip off customers and turn ever-more complex trading instruments into ever-higher profits. It makes perfect sense, then, that a movement calling for an economy that works for everyone would center its efforts on an industry that exemplifies the opposite.

The World’s Underclasses Turning On Their Masters

[If this is all for real, then it is exactly the change that the world has been looking for.]

Clashes, defiance in U.S. anti-corruption protests

AP

A man affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protests tackles a police officer during a march towards Wall Street in New York, on Friday.
AP  A man affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protests tackles a police officer during a march towards Wall Street in New York, on Friday.

Americans protesting corporate greed and inequality faced down authorities in parks and plazas across the country ahead of what organisers describe as 24 hours of public action planned Saturday in cities around the world.

Groups spanning the globe from Asia to Europe and in every U.S. state announced demonstrations and other actions. The rapidly growing movement could link a protest that started in New York’s financial district together with longer-standing anti-austerity demonstrations that have raged across Europe amid a roiling economic crisis.

Demonstrators from San Francisco to New York resisted police, with some forming human chains and heckling corporate leaders. Hundreds have been arrested on minor charges in cities across the U.S. since the protests started about a month ago.

Protesters at the heart of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in New York exulted Friday after beating back a plan they said was intended to clear them from the privately owned park where they have slept, eaten and protested for the past month. They said their victory will embolden the movement across the U.S. and beyond.

“We are going to piggy-back off the success of today, and it’s going to be bigger than we ever imagined,” said protester Daniel Zetah.

The owners of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan had announced plans to temporarily evict the hundreds of protesters before dawn Friday so that the grounds could be power-washed and inspected. But protesters feared it was a pretext to break up the demonstration and swelled their ranks by several thousand, recruiting through Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth.

Minutes before the appointed hour, the word came down that the park’s owners, Brookfield Office Properties, had postponed the cleanup. Brookfield said in a statement that it had decided to delay the cleaning “for a short period of time” at the request of “a number of local political leaders.”

As protesters celebrated, about 15 people in a breakaway group were arrested nearby in a clash with police. A legal observer marching with the group refused to move off the street for police and was run over by an officer’s scooter. He fell to the ground screaming and writhing and kicked over the scooter to free his foot before police flipped him over and arrested him.

And a video posted online showed a police officer punching a protester in the side of the head on a crowded street.

NYPD Cop Punching Wall St. Protester In The Face, posted with vodpod

Police said the altercation occurred after the man tried to elbow the officer in the face and other people in the crowd jumped on the officer, who was sprayed with a liquid coming from the man’s direction. Police said the man, who escaped and is wanted for attempted assault on an officer, later said in an online interview he’s HIV positive and the officer should be tested medically.

A man who identified himself as the protester, Felix Rivera-Pitre, said in a statement posted online that he didn’t provoke the officer. “I was just doing what everyone else was doing in the march,” he said. “It felt like he was taking his frustrations out on me.”

Rupert Murdoch heckled

In San Francisco, protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement heckled News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch during a speech at an education forum, accusing the media mogul of trying to profit from public education.

“Corporations own all the media in the world. Why should they not own all the education as well?” an activist who identified himself as Joe Hill yelled sarcastically.

Mr. Murdoch appeared unfazed. “It’s OK, a little controversy makes everything more interesting,” he said to audience applause before continuing his speech.

In Denver, dozens of police in riot gear herded protesters away from the Colorado state Capitol grounds, dragging some and arresting about two dozen as they dismantled the encampment the protesters have held for three weeks.

In Trenton, the New Jersey state capital, protesters were ordered to remove tents near a war memorial. Organizers in Des Moines, Iowa, warned of a possible “big conflict” Friday night after the state denied their permit to continue overnight protests at the state Capitol.

San Diego police used pepper spray to break up a human chain formed by anti-Wall Street demonstrators at a downtown plaza where they have camped for a week.

In Philadelphia, protester Matt Monk, a freelance writer, was elated by the news out of New York. “That means at the very least, the powers-that-be, wherever they are, know that they have to contend with us in a less heavy-handed way,” he said.

A call for mass protests on Saturday originated a month ago from a meeting in Spain, where mostly young and unemployed people angry at the country’s handling of the economic crisis have been demonstrating for months. It was reposted on the Occupy Wall Street website and has been further amplified through social media.

South Korean activists have pledged to bring 1,000 people into the capital’s Yoeuido financial district and in front of Seoul City Hall to protest inequality.

Protests in Italy, Canada, U.K.

Rome is girding for major protests Saturday by demonstrators known as the “indignati.” As Premier Silvio Berlusconi survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament, protesters outside shouted “Shame!” and hurled eggs toward the legislative building.

Italian TV reports from Milan showed about 20 young people trying unsuccessfully to enter a building where Goldman Sachs has an office, and spraying red paint on the entrance.

Protesters in London vowed to occupy the London Stock Exchange on Saturday. Nights of rioting rocked the British capital in August after the fatal police shooting of a 29-year-old man.

In Canada, protests were planned for Saturday in cities including Montreal and Vancouver. In Toronto, demonstrators plan to gather at Canada’s main stock exchange. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he doubted Canadians would be as angry as their neighbours to the south as Canadian banks have not received a U.S.-type bailout. He declined to comment when asked if he was concerned about a possible repeat of street violence that Toronto experienced at the G-20 summit last year.

In the United States, politicians in both President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party and the opposition Republican Party struggled to come up with a response to the growing nationwide movement. Democrats have been largely supportive but also wary of endorsing criticism of Mr. Obama’s rescue of big banks in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The bank bailout was launched in the last months of President George W. Bush’s administration.

Republicans at first criticised the demonstrations but have shifted their tone in recent days. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned of “growing mobs” but later said the protesters were “justifiably frustrated.” In Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich referred to the protesters as “left-wing agitators.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a reference to the New York protest in a speech at The Economic Club of New York. “The protests happening just a few miles from here ought to be a reminder to all of us that we have a great deal of work to do to live up to the expectations of the American people,” she said Friday.

And a group of 100 authors including Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Jennifer Egan and Michael Cunningham signed an online petition declaring their support for “Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world.”

Fighting For The Soul Of The American Dream

Fighting For The Soul Of The American Dream

By Stephen Lendman

Republics are nations where heads of state aren’t monarchs or despots in which citizens elect officials to represent them.

Merriam Webster calls them “government(s) in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.”

Thomas Paine once said:

“a republic is supposed to be directed by certain fundamental principles of right and justice, from which there cannot, because there ought not to, be any deviation.”

“(It) is executed by a select number of persons, who act as representatives, and in behalf of the whole, and who are supposed to (govern) as the people would do were they all assembled together….”

“When a people agree to form themselves into a republic (they) mutually resolve and pledge themselves to each other, rich and poor alike, to support this rule of equal justice among them….A republic, properly understood, is a sovereignty of justice, in contradistinction to a sovereignty of will.”

America never followed Paine’s principles. Since the 1980s, Democrats and Republicans adopted neoliberal harshness. Bush I continued Reagan’s policies. Clinton hardened them. Bush II much more, and Obama matched Star Trek by going where no administration went before.

For decades, working Americans were sacrificed on the alter of unprecedented wealth transfers to Wall Street, other corporate favorites, and super-rich elites grabbing all they can and wanting more.

Industrial America was hollowed out. Monopoly finance capital replaced it. Casino capitalism thrived. So did unbridled government-sanctioned fraud on an incalculable scale.

Keynes once warned about “enterprise becom(ing) the bubble on a whirlpool of (destructive) speculation,” causing Depression level hard times.

Wall Street insiders profit all the way to the bank. Privatized money power lets them own politicians and America. As a result, they strip-mine it for profit, rip off investors and homeowners with impunity, grab everything that smells money, and come back for more.

For decades, they engineered housing and debt bubbles built on fraud. They illegally shifted trillions of dollars to tax havens and other foreign locations. Through privatization piracy, they transfered public assets to private hands at below market prices and offloaded liabilities back to government.

They engineered an incalculable multi-trillion dollar heist, and bribed political Washington to facilitate it. They hollowed out America and other Western countries in the process on the way to destroying middle class societies.

Allied with politicians they buy like toothpaste, they established a government-business cabal for enormous profits through legislation, contracts, deregulation, handouts, and free-wheeling ability to do what they please.

In the process, America’s dream was destroyed. Money power in private hands to make more of it made it possible. Privatizing profits and socializing losses sacrificed Main Street for Wall Street.

Monopoly finance capitalism created a surplus of misery. Political Washington let it happen. Corrupted politicians and banksters created an economic system based on unbridled fraud and greed.

America runs by Goldman Sachs rules, pyramiding Ponzi scams to defraud investors and working households with the full faith and blessing of Washington.

Business models are based on highly leveraged fraud for maximum gains, knowing if speed bumps produce trouble, bailout rescues follow. In fact, Wall Street’s culture encourages fraud. Nearly risk-free rewards are assured.

Milton Friedman and his acolytes practically encouraged it by saying government’s sole function is “to protect our freedom both from (outside) enemies….and from our fellow-citizens.”

It’s to preserve law and order, enforce contracts, protect private property, and “foster competitive (unregulated) markets.” Everything else in public hands is “socialism….blasphemy.”

He said “free markets” work best unfettered by rules, regulations, onerous taxes or any at all, trade barriers, entrenched interests, and human interference. In other words, anything government does, business does better so let it, free from public interference.

He believed profit accumulation should be unrestrained. He said government interference restricts freedom. He called “economic freedom….an end to itself….and an indispensable means toward (achieving) political freedom.”

He wanted government out of the way to give unfettered capitalism free reign. In other words, Goldman Sachs rules are fine even when economies and working households are looted for private gain.

Free market fundamentalists turn a blind eye to imperial wars, frenetic speculation, super-sized fraud, out-of-control corruption and cronyism, as well as massive wealth transfers to America’s top 1%, creating growing poverty, unemployment, and human misery.

Spreading Social Justice Street Protests

Millions of angry Americans had enough. Inspired by Middle East and European uprisings, they organized nationwide protests in over 1,100 large and small cities and towns.

Heading everywhere with a spirit not seen in decades, they want social inequality ended, growing poverty and unemployment addressed, and lost worker rights restored. They also want fraudulent corporate profits returned to public hands and culpable officials prosecuted.

Whether sustainable energy continues remains to be seen. Influential behind the scenes power brokers aim to co-opt and subvert it. Media scoundrels no longer ignore it, but inadequately explain root causes, let alone solutions.

Even occasional good commentaries omit what should be said. On October 8, a New York Times editorial headlined, “Protesters Against Wall Street,” saying:

….(I)ncome inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people. On one level, the protesters, most of them young, are giving voice to a generation of lost opportunity.”

Fact check

True enough, but omitted was explaining the root cause – money power in private hands to make more of it at the public’s expense.

Saying “the economy is not working for most Americans,” and that “the financial sector (colluding with regulators and elected officials) inflated and profited from a credit bubble that burst, costing millions of American their jobs, incomes, savings and home equity” is accurate but not enough. Nor is ticking off other festering problems harming millions.

Even saying America “needs a shift in the emphasis of public policy from protecting the banks to fostering full employment, including public spending for job creation and development of a strong, long-term strategy to increase domestic manufacturing” omits HOW!

It starts with returning money power to public hands, making banking a highly regulated public utility, stressing economic growth and prohibiting speculation.

It includes:

returning fraudulent profits to public hands;

prosecuting culpable officials;

fining and jailing those convicted;

eliminating money in politics;

ending duopoly power by creating a level playing for independent parties given equal cost free time on public airwaves and invited to participate in open debates; and

prohibiting cartel power through tough anti-trust laws with teeth.

It’s not enough to say protesters can’t draft legislation, lawmakers have to do it. Laws and regulations needed must be explained. Addressing what kind of country needs to replace what’s too corrupted and broken to fix is key, and how it can be gotten spelled out in detail.

It’s stressing what’s gone on for decades no longer is tolerable and itemizing real solutions. It’s spending less time citing problems and more on specific fixes. It’s turning America’s money run system on its head, saying this no longer will stand and how to achieve it.

It’s not rocket science. Whenever it’s been done it works, including successfully in colonial America, under Lincoln, and today in North Dakota – the only state with a publicly owned bank that let it prosper throughout today’s crisis.

Why not everywhere across America so all states can flourish like North Dakota? Why not in Washington under a nationalized Federal Reserve, not a private one run by and for Wall Street.

A better world is possible but major media scoundrels won’t say how, let alone endorse the idea.

Notably, The New York Times has been America’s lead voice for corporate interests and political Washington. It supports wealth and power, not public needs and concerns. It endorses imperial wars, ducks major issues like corporate and political fraud, calls money run elections real ones, and fake democracy legitimate.

It’s turns a blind eye to eroding civil and human rights, endorses harsh austerity when stimulus is needed, and barely notices politicians on the take. Initially it ignored Wall Street protests, then treated them dismissively until paying more attention but not enough.

One editorial, whatever its merits, doesn’t undue longstanding policy supporting wealth and power. Nor will it change proliferating managed news throughout America’s media instead of real information and analysis everyone needs to know.

Above all, people need to understand that today’s system is too rotten to fix. Change depends on leveling it and starting over, beginning with putting money power back in public hands where it belongs.

If that’s not done, no constructive change can follow except for cosmetic crumbs to meager to matter.

On the other hand, fix problem one and all else is possible.

Going for it must be protesters’ top goal. Then address a laundry list of grievances needing to be addressed and ways to fix them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.