vrijdag 19 september 2008
Een recente beschrijving van de rol van de staat in het kapitalistische systeem is van de vooraqanstaande Amerikaanse columnist van de New York Times, Thomas Friedman. 'De verborgen hand van de markt zal nooit werken zonder een verborgen vuist. McDonalds kan niet floreren zonder McDonnell Douglas, de ontwerper van de F-15.' Hij voegde er tevreden aan toe: 'De verborgen vuist die de wereld veilig houdt voor de technologie van Silicon Valley heet het Amerikaanse Leger, Luchtmacht, Marine en het Mariniers Korps.'
donderdag 18 september 2008
Dat komt naturlijk allemaal omdat het neoliberale geloof een deuk heeft opgelopen. Het is ronduit verrukkelijk te zien hoe alle opiniemakers en andere ideologische praatjesmakers zich nu in allerlei bochten wringen. De NRC, de vrije-markt-krant-bij -uitstek durft nu zelfs een Amerikaan aan het woord te laten die stelt dat 'de militaire hegemonie VS op de tocht [staat]' aangezien het financieel failliet is, een gedachtegang die u al enkele jaren op deze weblog kunt lezen. De NRC durft nu ook de vraag te stellen: 'Wat gebeurt er wanneer de wereld zijn vertrouwen in de dollar verliest?' Holy Cow. Welnu collega's. Deze vraag is inmiddels achterhaalt. De financiele wereld heeft allang zijn vertrouwen in de dollar verloren. Daarom moeten Amerikanen anderhalve dollar betalen voor 1 euro. Kortom collega's: WAKKER WORDEN. Het neoliberale spelletje is in moeilijkheden.
Willem Buiter. Dit is het hoofd van een professor: Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions.
En dit schrijft de professor op zijn website:
'The end of American capitalism as we knew it
This is what I read this morning on FT.com: “The US Federal Reserve announced that it will lend AIG up to $85bn in emergency funds in return for a government stake of 79.9 per cent and effective control of the company - an extraordinary step meant to stave off a collapse of the giant insurer that plays a crucial role in the global financial system. Under the plan, the existing management of the company will be replaced and new executives will be appointed. It also gives the US government veto power over major decisions at the company.”
I almost decided to go back to bed, convinced I must be dreaming...'
De Volkskrant plagieert deze analyse en beweert nu in een commentaar vandaag dat 'Amerikaan kapitalisme stuit op zijn grenzen.' Het probleem is alleen dat wat betreft de handel in lucht aan de beurzen er geen 'Amerikaans' kapitalisme bestaat! Het kenmerk van dit 'kapitalisme' is dat het allang geglobaliseerd is. Ik heb de professor het volgende gemeld op zijn site:
you are not dreaming. you just woke up. what happens has been predicted for a long time by people who know how the capitalist economy works. read those people. you can learn from them. noam chomsky defined neoliberalism, our system of socialism for the rich: ‘privitising the profits and socializing the costs.’ so willem, you are not dreaming, but waking up. goodmorning.now tell your students the real story.
stan van houcke
Je moet als onafhankelijke journalist iedere professor elke dag weer bij de les houden.
'European Union drops ICAHD funding: What we can do URGENT: European Union drops ICAHD funding
by shergald "
What we've done shows that people can do what governments should have done. If people stand up against injustice, we can truly be the conscience of the world." --Jeff HalperThis urgent message was received today from the Israel Committee Against House Demolition, the ICAHD. The ICAHD has worked for over two decades on behalf of human rights in the case of the plight of the Palestinian people, in particular, the Palestinian families who have had their homes demolished in the name of Zionist colonialism in the Palestinian territories.The ICAHD-USA wrote this afternoon to CELEBRATE the historic voyage of 44 international activists to Gaza as part of the Free Gaza Movement (seen above), but, at the same time, to inform of DIFFICULT NEWS about the future of ICAHD: the European Union dropped its funding of the ICAHD, apparently because of Jeff Halper's involvement in the Free Gaza Movement. This is incredible news and wonderment as to whether the Israeli-US State Department propaganda is now influencing the European Union.From the USA subsidiary of the ICAHD comes this message:ICAHD Director Jeff Halper, our partner on numerous educational and Palestinian home rebuilding projects, was one of 44 activists from 17 nations who successfully sailed from Cyprus to Gaza aboard two fishing boats in defiance of Israel's blockade. The group was met by 40,000 "joyous Gazans." Jeff and the others brought with them 200 hearing aids; the main aim of the symbolic blockade-busting action was to publicize the plight of the people in this besieged territory. As the only Israeli Jew (an 84 year old Holocaust survivor, Judith Epstein was also present) on this historic challenge to Israel's blockade, Jeff was arrested and spent the night in an Israeli jail upon his return, where he tells us he was protected from threatening Israeli right-wingers by his Palestinian cellmates. He still faces possible indictment.In his latest communication, he describes how "reaching Gaza and leaving has created a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world. It has ... forced the Israeli government to make a clear policy declaration that it is not occupying Gaza and therefore will not prevent the free movement of Palestinians in and out (at least by sea)."Unfortunately, right before this historic boat ride, ICAHD was informed that they had lost their funding from the European Union, funding essential to their operations. Here is an excerpt from Jeff Halper's email regarding this action:We have just heard that our request for re-funding has been rejected, in high probability because of pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.So we now face a real crisis.That said, those who want us "gone" make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn. Our plan is to keep the office open and retain two staff; I will work on a voluntary basis until the financial picture improves.We continue to be very grateful for the support we've received from the ICAHD-USA community; your contributions have been an important supplement to the EU funding, allowing us to launch the Constructing Peace Campaign. Now we are turning to you for help; we must work together to preserve ICAHD's position as a leader in the Israeli peace movement.I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.'
Lees vereder: http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=2017
ANALYSE, Door Xander van Uffelen
Luidt de gigantische redding van verzekeraar AIG het einde in van het Amerikaanse kapitalistische systeem? Die vraag werpt hoogleraar Willem Buiter woensdagochtend op zijn weblog op, nadat in de nacht het Amerikaanse stelsel van centrale banken, de Fed, met een geldinjectie van 85 miljard dollar AIG van de ondergang moest redden.
Verbijstering typeert de reacties van Buiter en andere topeconomen. ‘Droom ik’, vroeg Buiter zich af toen hij over de redding las. ‘Wow, dit is ongelofelijk’, schrijft de befaamde economische columnist Paul Krugman tegelijkertijd. En als woensdag ook de Britse hypotheekbank HBOS op omvallen staat, kan hoogleraar Arnoud Boot dat nauwelijks bevatten. ‘Wat? De grootste hypotheekbank van Groot-Brittannië in problemen? Dan komt de crisis heel dichtbij.’"
woensdag 17 september 2008
By MarketWatch. 17 Sep 2008
The event should have been regarded as a sorry state of affairs, yet another glaring sign of greed, stupidity and mismanagement on Wall Street. Why else would Merrill Lynch, Wall Street’s most acclaimed ambassador to Main Street, among other verities, be forced to sell itself in such an inglorious way?
With all the carnage, you might expect to see a pinstripe lynch mob of sorts encounter the two chief executives. But the media were so polite and deferential to the two CEOs, they behaved as if the press conference were a victory lap for the financial services industry.
There was an absence of tough, in-your-face questions. Yes, by all means, the journalists should have shown these fellows the respect that accomplished people deserve.
But where was the skepticism or the sense of outrage by the media? We’re supposed to be the proxies for the public. When I saw television networks interview the (wo)man on the street during the crisis, I saw more emotion in the faces of ordinary citizens than in those of the journalists.
Don’t treat these CEOs like heroes. I have never quite understood why reporters and editors show Wall Street leaders, and business titans in general, so much deference. These are people who are incredibly talented at doing one thing: making money. They make money for themselves and hopefully, eventually, for their employees and shareholders.
Is it because financial journalists really don’t understand the nuances of their beats? Are they hoping to curry the favor of their subjects and sources to cover up a lack of knowledge (there is certainly a lack of institutional knowledge on the reporters’ faces, as if Wall Street doesn’t have periodic collapses every 10 to 15 years. Remember, Sept. 24 marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the end of Long-Term Capital, once the haven of the smartest financial minds on the Street).
Sure, it’s inspiring to see billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gates and celebrities like U2’s singer Bono give back to poor people so lavishly. They deserve a lot of credit for their generosity, but let’s not give them angel’s wings just yet. (Besides, Time magazine already named them as Person(s) of the Year, right?)
The only reporter who impressed me at the Lewis-Thain press conference was a fellow from the Guardian (I believe he said). He asked Thain if he judged himself to be a success or failure in his relatively brief reign at Merrill (Thain gave him some double talk but never adequately answered the question).'
Mr Soros told Newsnight that he expects more banks to collapse.'
De nieuwsvoorlezer van het NOS-Journaal om acht uur vanavond sprak weer eens van 'het vredesproces' tussen Israel en Palestina, maar er is helemaal geen sprake van 'het vredesproces', zelfs niet van een serieus 'vredesproces'. Dus waarom doet het NOS-Journaal het voorkomen alsof er sprake is van 'het vredesproces'? En waarom corrigeert de correspondent ter plaatse, Sander van Hoorn, dit niet? Waarom speelt hij het spel meer? En waarom verzwijgt hij nieuws, dat de BBC Worldservice wel brengt?
A report to the UN Human Rights Council on Israel's shelling of Beit Hanoun in Gaza almost two years ago says it may have been a war crime.
The report compiled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu casts doubt on Israel's explanation that the shelling resulted from a flawed artillery firing system.
It calls on Israel to pay compensation to the victims, 19 of whom were killed.
Archbishop Tutu went to Beit Hanoun in May, after objections by Israel delayed his mission several times.
The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the South African cleric's report contains horrific testimony from survivors of the shelling.
She says it speaks of the dead lying in the streets, of local hospitals overwhelmed, and of the injured having to hand over cash to get through Israeli checkpoints for treatment in Israel itself.
The Israeli military, which was at the time trying to prevent rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, says its own inquiry shows the shelling of Beit Hanoun was caused by technical errors, but Archbishop Tutu's report is sceptical.
Mr Tutu says there is evidence of a disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life, contrary to international humanitarian law, which raises concerns that a war crime may have been committed.
"In the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military - who is in sole possession of the relevant facts - the mission must conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime," his report to the UN Human Rights Council said.
The report calls for an independent investigation into the shelling.
Archbishop Tutu will present his report to the UN human rights council on Thursday - during that debate Israel will have a chance to respond.'
'(17 september 2008 - Bericht van Vrijbit)
P E R S B E R I C H T
11 oktober: Volksopstand 2008
Utrecht, 17 september 2008 -
Hierbij is de balans tussen veiligheid en burgerrechten zo verstoord dat we afsteven op een samenleving gebaseerd op angst en wantrouwen.
De organisatoren willen door middel van voorlichting en ludieke acties het publieke bewustzijn vergroten. Ze willen aandacht vragen voor het privacyvraagstuk in het algemeen, en dat vanuit zoveel mogelijk hoeken belichten. Diverse politieke en maatschappelijke organisaties zullen hun steun verlenen aan de demonstratie.
Wereldwijd zullen op deze dag onder de noemer 'Freedom Not Fear' in tientallen landen acties plaatsvinden als een roep vanuit de bevolking voor meer democratie, voor vrijheid van meningsuiting, voor mensenrechten en burgerlijke vrijheden, en tegen censuur, massa toezicht en het grootschalig opslaan van alle mogelijke persoonsgegevens.
Directe aanleiding voor het initiatief van de Volksopstand waren de 'vingerafdruk'-plannen van de overheid, de wetsvoorstellen om een database aan te leggen met daarin de vingerafdrukken van alle Nederlanders vanaf zes jaar, de opname van vingerafdrukken in de paspoorten en ID kaarten per
28-6-2009 en de plannen om op straat direct van mensen waarvan men de identiteit graag wil weten ter plaatse vingerafdrukken te kunnen laten afnemen.
Vrijbit wil dat deze demonstratie / manifestatie de aanzet zal geven tot een grote onafhankelijke, structurele burgerrechtenbeweging die zich voor de langere termijn kan inzetten voor het behoud van burgerrechten op privacy in de ruimste zin van het woord. De vereniging Vrijbit heeft de ambitie om hierin een overkoepelende functie te gaan vervullen. Hoe meer mensen deze beweging steunen des te lastiger het wordt voor politici om de burger te negeren.
Vrijbit roept daarom iedereen op om door massaal naar de Volksopstand 2008 te komen, te laten zien dat burgerrechten belangrijk zijn!
De sleutelwoorden van deze dag zijn: Ludiek protest, Voorlichting en Samenwerken. Iedereen die in Nederland actief is op privacygebied, en een boodschap uit wil dragen krijgt daartoe op 11 oktober de kans.
Informatiestands vormen een heuse privacymarkt, waar informatie over privacyschendende en privacybeschermende maatregelen te verkrijgen is, en waar pro-privacy organisaties zich anderszins in de kijker kunnen zetten.
Het programma is volop in voorbereiding een samenvatting daarvan vind u op http://www.volksopstand2008.nl.
Let u vooral ook op de context waarmee de ineenstorting van de financiele markten wordt gepresenteerd door de westerse commerciele massamedia zoals de NRC, die al die jaren het neoliberalisme hebben toegejuicht. Noam Chomsky wees er al jaren geleden op: 'privatizing the profits and socializing the costs.' Met andere woorden: via zogeheten deregulering verdwenen alle winsten ongecontroleerd naar de rijken en moeten de verliezen worden gedragen door de armen. Dat is in feite niets anders dan socialisme voor de rijken, ten koste van de minder draagkrachtigen die op hun uitkeringen zijn gekort om belastinggeld vrij te kunnen maken die als subsidies naar grote concerns gaan en nu belangenloos de verliezen moeten dekken. Maar dat vertelt de NRC er niet bij. Daarvoor is het een kwaliteitskrant:
Gepubliceerd: 17 september 2008 10:30 Gewijzigd: 17 september 2008 16:15
Door onze correspondent
posted by MaryAnn Johanson (editor) on 09 Sep 2008 at 05:47 pm category: New Releases
Cosimo is proud to announce the paperback publication of Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal by Danny Schechter.
Read the book’s introduction here. (Alert: PDF.)
With the takeover by the U.S. government of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over this past weekend (which Schechter discussed on his blog, News Dissector, yesterday), the seriousness of the financial and credit crisis is confirmed… as is the timeliness of Plunder.
How did the American economy go from boom to gloom in less than a year with markets melting down, banks writing off billions with regulators standing by or slashing interest rates and spurring unchecked inflation?
“This didn’t just happen in the course of a usual business cycle,” insists investigative journalist and media analyst Schechter. In Plunder he offers an in-depth investigation into the decline of the economy that’s causing millions to lose jobs and face foreclosures and across-the-board price hikes.
“You wouldn’t know it by relying on our media, but the subprime scandal masks massing looting by Wall Street firms using carefully calculated predatory lending schemes enabled by regulators who don’t regulate and a media that looked the other way. We have lost trillions and dislocated millions with no relief in sight. Every American is paying for the greed of our financiers in the grocery store, gas pump and unemployment line. Bank robberies are not new — but banks doing the robbing is.”
Schechter is uniquely qualified to tell this story. Schechter, a.k.a “The News Dissector” spent decades as a truth teller in the media with leading media companies, and as an independent filmmaker with award-winning independent company Globalvision. A graduate of Cornell and the London School of Economics, Schechter was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard,, and a multiple Emmy Award winner at ABC News , where he was among the first to cover the S&L crisis. He has written on the economic crisis for Nieman Reports, Editor & Publisher, The Nation, The Huffington Post, and other websites including Mediachannel.org, the media issues network he edits.
Plunder is available at Amazon.com and from other online booksellers.'
'Israeli police probing ''pogrom'
Settlers caused damage to property and wounded Palestinian residents
Israeli police are investigating a rampage by settlers in a Palestinian village in the West Bank on Saturday which PM Ehud Olmert called a "pogrom".
It was filmed by human rights groups and came after an intruder stabbed and wounded a child at Yitzhar settlement.
But police have not arrested any of the settlers who were filmed. Four people suffered gunshot wounds in the attack.
Police have reportedly approached human rights group B'Tselem asking for the home video footage capturing Yitzhar settlers attacking the village with live bullets and stones.
In the footage, Israeli soldiers are present at the scene but do not take any action to prevent the violence and destruction of Palestinian property.
Mr Olmert said at what could be his last cabinet meeting: "This phenomenon of taking the law into their own hands and of brutal and violent attacks is intolerable... There will be no pogroms against non-Jewish residents."
A committee of pro-settlement rabbis praised the "courage and heroism" of the Yitzhar settlers, saying their reaction was in accordance with Jewish law, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
The once-hawkish Mr Olmert also spoke of Israel giving up parts of the West Bank to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Mr Olmert's premiership has been brought down by corruption allegations"The idea of a 'Greater Israel' is over. There is no such thing. Whoever says so is just misleading himself," Mr Olmert said, according to officials at the meeting.
The meeting discussed a plan to pay Israelis to leave settlements in the West Bank that are on the east side of the barrier Israel is building in and around the territory.'
'For Those Who Want To Know
Did you know that:
Twenty leading journalists, including winners of several Emmys and a Pulitzer, have described being prevented by corporate media ownership from reporting riveting stories on major cover-ups.
BBC News has exposed plans of the U.S. military to "provide maximum control" of the Internet, as detailed in a declassified secret Pentagon document signed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense in 2003.
A CBS News report quotes former U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, "According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." That's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America.
Government documents released through the Freedom of Information Act show that the top Pentagon generals once approved plans to foment terrorism in major U.S. cities and even kill innocent civilians.
Multiple, reliable sources show that you may be eating genetically modified food every day which scientific experiments have repeatedly demonstrated can cause sickness and even death in lab animals.
Detroit's leading newspaper reported that the 1908 Ford Model T boasted a fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon. Yet 100 years later, the EPA average mileage for all cars is under 21 mpg.
A highly decorated US General wrote a book titled War is a Racket, which clearly depicts how he was manipulated and how most wars are waged largely to keep the coffers of the big corporations filled.
The former chief of a prestigious medical journal has revealed that the total profits of the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 were more than the profits of the other 490 businesses combined.
London Times reported that several 9/11 hijackers listed in the 9/11 Commission Report are alive. "Five of the alleged hijackers have emerged, alive, innocent and astonished to see their names and photographs appearing on satellite television. The hijackers were using stolen identities." See also BBC report on this.
More than 50 senior government officials and 100 professors have publicly expressed significant criticism of the 9/11 Commission Report. Many even allege government complicity in the 9/11 attacks.
For more highly revealing media articles hidden in plain sight with links for verification, click here.
Note: If you are already aware of these cover-ups, please visit our page which will take you even deeper.
If the facts presented above were reported in headline news where they belong, concerned citizens would be astounded and demand to know more. This has not happened, which is why we felt compelled to create this website. The verifiable information presented here may at first disturb you. It may even change the way you look at the world. Yet we invite you to see this as a powerful opportunity for building a brighter future. By sharing this vital information with your friends and colleagues, you can play a key role in restoring a true democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We encourage you to be skeptical in exploring this information. Some of what you read may at first seem quite unbelievable. Yet we also encourage you to keep an open mind and do a little research using the links to the reliable sources provided and determine for yourself whether there is truth to the information provided. And as some of the material can be difficult to digest, we invite you to explore this website at a pace that is appropriate for you. If you find yourself feeling upset or overwhelmed, consider taking a break and possibly enjoying some of the excellent inspirational articles and resources provided at the top and in the left column of every page to keep things in perspective. We also encourage you to open to divine guidance as you explore this material.
Many people don't want to know about the major cover-ups going on in our world. Feeling relatively secure and content in their personal lives, they choose to avoid matters which might disturb their contentment. Yet as long as we choose complacency over awareness, these major cover-ups will continue. In fact, they will likely grow in magnitude until people are finally forced to open their eyes and deal with the consequences. The sooner each of us decides that we do want to know, and that we are willing to invite others to open their eyes, the more easily we will be able to build a world that supports the good of all of us.
If you find yourself slipping into fear or anger with this material, remember that we now have an opportunity to do something about it. The Internet and email are remarkable tools for use both in our personal lives and in the world. The fact that you are reading this now is an excellent example of that. Simply by sending this information to your friends and colleagues, you can make a difference. Using this link, you can also easily contact your political and media representatives. By emailing this vital information and posting it widely on the Internet, we can quickly and easily spread this important news around the globe. We have already reached over two million readers, but we need your help to reach many millions more.
We are convinced that once a critical mass of people are aware of this powerful information, the media will be forced to report these major cover-ups in news headlines where they belong. Once these verifiable facts reach the headlines, concerned citizens around the world will stand up and demand that we all work together to find a better way. If each of us makes a commitment to spread this information and to present it as a powerful opportunity to strengthen democracy, we can and will build a brighter future for all of us.
The WantToKnow.info team is a group of dedicated researchers from around the globe. We compile and summarize important, verifiable facts and information being hidden from the public. We are deeply committed to building a brighter future for us, for our children, and for our world.
Join our free, popular WantToKnow.info email list by visiting http://www.WantToKnow.info/subscribe. We send out one information-packed email every few days. And if you feel like you one of the main reasons you are here is to help transform our world, click here. Your tax-deductible donations help us to inspire ever more people to join in building a brighter future for us all.'
Deze analyse verneemt u niet snel via de Nederlandse commerciele massamedia:
"They just haven't done a particularly good job," said James Barth, a senior finance fellow at the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Los Angeles.
Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer-oriented research group, explained the regulatory lapses more
starkly: "The job of regulators is that when the party's in full swing, make sure the partygoers drink responsibly," she said. "Instead, they let everyone drink as much as they wanted and then handed them the car keys."
Analysts and politicians are raising serious questions about the nation's financial regulatory system, which dates to the New Deal era.
On Monday, one Wall Street bank, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection and another, Merrill Lynch, sought comfort by selling itself to Bank of America for $50 billion. Earlier this year, the government helped enable the sale of faltering investment bank Bear Stearns to J.P. Morgan Chase, and more recently took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Such troubles were supposed to have been prevented, or at least mitigated, by regulatory systems that the nation began to put in place after the banking system collapsed at the start of the Great Depression.
Many banks at the time were badly wounded by their personal and financial ties to securities trading. The 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, and later the 1956 Bank Holding Company Act, mandated the separation of banks, insurance companies and securities firms.
Those and many other federal laws stabilized the banking and securities markets, but by the 1970s, a stumbling U.S. economy led to a change in America's political-economic values. Ronald Reagan led a movement that came to power in 1980 proclaiming faith in free markets and mistrust of government. That conservative philosophy has dominated America for the past
Even after taxpayers had to rescue deregulated savings and loans, or S&Ls, with a $200 billion bailout in the late 1980s, the push to loosen regulation paused only briefly.
In 1999, President Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act, which tore down Glass-Steagall's reforms by removing the walls separating banks, securities firms and insurers.
Under President Clinton and his successor, the government became eager to promote home ownership. Interest rates were low, the market grew for loans to borrowers with weak credit and private-sector mortgage bonds boomed.
About 38 percent of those bonds were backed by subprime loans. They are at the root of today's financial crisis.
A generation ago, banks, credit unions and S&Ls issued home mortgages that they retained on their books as an asset. The lenders had a stake in receiving full repayment of the loans from creditworthy borrowers.
But in recent years, mortgages began to be sold to firms that cobbled the loans together to create mortgage-backed securities, or mortgage bonds.
Loans to the least creditworthy borrowers carried the highest risk but gave the highest returns, so banks and other institutional investors bought loads of them. Except no one was policing the creditworthiness of the borrowers.
The process helped more people buy homes, and a booming mortgage-bond market, led by investment banks, was in full swing by 2005.'
dinsdag 16 september 2008
Financial disaster to dwarf Lehman looms as AIG takes a pounding
Shares in American International Group (AIG) today fell 43.28 per cent amid fears that a £42 billion rescue package might fail to materialise. The shares had fallen 60.8 per cent on Monday.
David Paterson, the New York Governor who is coordinating efforts to bolster the insurer, gave warning that the insurance giant had just one day left to resolve its financial problems before triggering "catastrophe".
AIG, once the world's largest insurance company, has 116,000 staff — four times more than Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank that filed for bankruptcy yesterday — and its collapse could have a cataclysmic effect on global markets.
AIG provides insurance against complex financial instruments going bust, including mortgage-backed securities.
As investment banks, such as Lehman, have written down billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed assets, AIG's insurance payouts have soared, leaving the company scrambling for new capital.
Over the past nine months, AIG has reported $18 billion worth of losses on guarantees that it wrote on mortgage-backed securities.
Shares in AIG plummeted as the Dow Jones industrial average opened today, when Standard & Poor's joined Moody's in cutting AIG's credit rating. This means it will now be even more expensive for AIG to raise new funding.
Last night, the Federal Reserve asked JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs to organise loans of up to $75 billion (£42 billion) for AIG, while New York State officials struck a deal allowing the insurer to borrow $20 billion of capital from its own subsidiaries.
Mr Paterson said yesterday that the New York authorities would allow AIG to loan itself $20 billion by shifting liquid investments from some of its regulated subsidiaries to the group.
However, Governor Paterson said that AIG has "a day" to solve its problems and a failure would result in a "catastrophic problem" for the market.
Despite the decline, the Dow Jones industrial average was trading down just
20.5 points at 10,897.7 as traders waited to see whether the US Federal Reserve would cut interest rates today. A decision is expected later today.'
Monday 15 September 2008
by: Dean Baker,
As a result of their incompetence, irresponsibility and greed, the housing bubble was allowed to grow to dangerous proportions. Its collapse threw the economy into recession, putting millions of people out of work and lowering the wages of those who still have their jobs. The plunge in house prices has destroyed much of the life savings for tens of millions of people nearing retirement.
Meanwhile, the bankers who messed up and destroyed the companies who hired them are still multimillionaires. Most of them are still in their old jobs getting multimillion-dollar pay packages. This is a sector that badly cries out for reform, and there is no better time than now to put it into place.
The first target for reform should be the outrageous salaries drawn by the top executives at financial firms. The crew that lost tens of billions at Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and the rest have received tens of millions, possibly even hundreds of millions, in compensation for their "work" over the last few years.
There is a general problem in corporate America of stockholders being unable to effectively organize to rein in top management. This problem is most serious in the financial industry.
Thankfully, the credit crisis gives us the tools we need to rein in executive pay. Currently, the major surviving investment banks (e.g. Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs) are operating on life support. They are drawing money at below-market interest rates from the Federal Reserve Board's discount window. This privilege (for which they pay nothing) can easily be worth billions of dollars a year.
These banks are also operating with an explicit guarantee from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to their creditors that he will honor their loans in the event that an investment bank, like Bear Stearns, goes belly up. This guarantee is enormously valuable. Investors who make loans to Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley don't have to worry about the health of these companies because Bernanke has said that, if necessary, he will use public money to pay them back.
While we don't want a chain reaction of banking collapses on Wall Street, the public should get something in exchange for Bernanke's generosity. Specifically, he can demand a cap on executive compensation (all compensation) of $2 million a year, in exchange for getting bailed out. For any bank that is not on board, Bernanke could make an explicit promise to their creditors - if the bank goes under, you will get zero from the Fed.
This can be an effective way to restore sanity to the salaries paid on Wall Street. And, this can be a good example for setting executive pay more generally. Any time a company comes to the public for a handout, like tax breaks for oil companies or low-interest loans for auto companies, the $2 million cap on all compensation goes into effect.
This is important directly because much of the country's wealth has been steered into these folks' pockets, but also because the outrageous compensation packages on Wall Street distorted pay structures throughout the economy. Presidents of universities often get over $1 million a year, and even top executives at private charities can often earn near $1 million a year. These salaries seem low when compared to their counterparts in the corporate world, but they are outrageous when compared to the paychecks of typical workers.
Of course, we must go further in fixing the financial sector - most importantly by downsizing it. The financial sector accounted for more than 30 percent of corporate profits in 2004. Back in the 1950's and 1960's, the country's period of most rapid growth, the financial sector accounted for less than 10 percent of corporate profit.
The financial sector performs an incredibly important function in allocating savings to those who want to invest in businesses, buy homes or borrow money for other purposes. But shuffling money is not an end in itself. The explosion of the financial sector over the last three decades has led to a proliferation of complex financial instruments, many of which are not even understood by the companies who sell them, as we have painfully discovered.'
Tuesday 16 September 2008
by: Michael M. Grynbaum, The New York Times
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 500 points - its worst session since the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The blue-chip index spent the entire day in negative territory, but the losses did not begin approaching dramatic levels until late in the afternoon. In the last 30 minutes of trading, investors seemed to give in to their fears about the health of the financial system, igniting a wave of selling that sent the Dow, already about 300 points lower, to a 504.48 point decline for the day.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fared even worse, losing 4.7 percent, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 3.2 percent.
In Europe, benchmark stock indexes were off nearly 4 percent in London and Paris and almost 3 percent in Frankfurt.
In a briefing in Washington, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., said the financial markets were going through a tough time "as we work off some of the past excesses," but that Americans could "remain confident in the soundness and the resilience of our financial system."
"Let me step back a bit and provide a little perspective," Mr. Paulson said. "As I've long said, the housing correction is at the root of the challenges facing our markets and our financial institutions. I believe that we've taken very important steps with respect to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and they're amongst the most important actions we can take to work through this turmoil."
The secretary said he was committed "to working with regulators here and abroad, as well as policy makers in Congress to take additional necessary steps" to stabilize the markets. But while emphasizing that the government was prepared to play an important role "because, as you've heard me say, nothing is more important right now than the stability of our capital markets," he declined to be very specific on what that role should be.
On Wall Street, Lehman shares fell 95 percent on Monday, to just over
21 cents a share. Another company at the center of the concerns, American International Group, saw its stock fall 61 percent, down to $4.76 a share, even as state officials in New York stepped in to provide financial assistance in the face of a potential downgrade from credit ratings agencies and the Federal Reserve asked two banks to develop a $70 billion loan package.
Gov. David A. Paterson said the state would allow A.I.G. to borrow $20 billion from its subsidiaries to bolster its capital as it faces potentially disastrous credit downgrades. Investors remain concerned that the company does have not have enough capital to withstand cuts to its debt rating.
A.I.G. approached the state for help, Mr. Paterson said, and state officials worked closely with the firm throughout the weekend. A.I.G. has sought a $40 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve as a lifeline, as the three-part rescue plan it had devised appeared to crumble, a person briefed on the matter said.
On Wall Street, as Lehman employees fretted about their fate and wondered how their firm will be broken apart, the chiefs of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch put on a positive face about their unexpected $50 billion deal.
In New York, Kenneth D. Lewis, chief executive of Bank of America, said that he did not want to risk losing the opportunity to buy Merrill, a name-brand wealth management giant. "Merrill had the liquidity and capacity to see this through," Mr. Lewis said.
Merrill's stock closed nearly flat, one of the only major financial firms that did not suffer steep losses. Shares of Bank of America were down
21 percent; Morgan Stanley lost 13.5 percent, and Goldman Sachs was off 12 percent.
Although Mr. Lewis said Monday that no decisions had been made about layoffs, thousands of people were expected to lose their jobs. One group that seemed relatively safe was Merrill's 17,000 financial advisers, which Mr. Lewis called "the crown jewel of the company." Bank of America may offer Merrill's brokers a bonus to stay after the merger, he said.But a white knight did not appear at Lehman Brothers over the weekend, and the investment bank began the task of trying to reorganize and sell assets under court protection.'
'The Pentagon Strangles Our Economy: Why the U.S. Has Gone Broke
by Chalmers Johnson
Global Research, April 26, 2008
They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.
As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay or repudiate. This fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.
There are three broad aspects to the U.S. debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relation to the national security of the U.S. We are also keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segment of the population at strikingly low levels.
Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures -- "military Keynesianism" (which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic). By that, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.
Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of the U.S. These are what economists call opportunity costs, things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs, an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.
It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense's planned expenditures for the fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nations'
military budgets combined. The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not part of the official defense budget, is itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China.
Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The U.S. has become the largest single seller of arms and munitions to other nations on Earth. Leaving out President Bush's two on-going wars, defense spending has doubled since the mid-1990s. The defense budget for fiscal 2008 is the largest since the second world war.
Before we try to break down and analyze this gargantuan sum, there is one important caveat. Figures on defense spending are notoriously unreliable.
The numbers released by the Congressional Reference Service and the Congressional Budget Office do not agree with each other. Robert Higgs, senior fellow for political economy at the Independent Institute, says: "A well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon's (always well
publicized) basic budget total and double it." Even a cursory reading of newspaper articles about the Department of Defense will turn up major differences in statistics about its expenses. Some 30-40% of the defense budget is 'black,'" meaning that these sections contain hidden expenditures for classified projects. There is no possible way to know what they include or whether their total amounts are accurate.'
maandag 15 september 2008
Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent
The move has plunged relations between Islamabad and Washington into deep crisis over how to deal with al-Qa'ida and the Taliban
What amounts to a dramatic order to "kill the invaders", as one senior officer put it last night, was disclosed after the commanders
- who control the army's deployments at divisional level - met at their headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi under the chairmanship of army chief and former ISI spy agency boss Ashfaq Kayani.
Leading English-language newspaper The News warned in an editorial that the US determination to attack targets inside Pakistan was likely to be "the best recruiting sergeant that the extremists ever had", with even "moderates" outraged by it.
The "retaliate and kill" order came amid reports of unprecedentedly fierce fighting in the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan's tribal areas, an al-Qa'ida stronghold frequently mentioned as the most likely lair of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
At the same time, a series of brutal killings by the militants were reported.
The beheaded bodies of two of nearly 40 police recruits abducted a week ago were found near the town of Hangu. Their discovery follows warnings that the recruits would be put to death, one by one, unless Pakistan stopped its big offensive in Bajaur.
The bodies of three local Bajaur men who had been shot in the neck were also found yesterday. Notes were attached declaring the men to have been spies.
In a day of what appears to have been unrelenting combat in Bajaur, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and tanks were used to strike al- Qa'ida targets.
Officials said at least 100 militants had been killed, bringing the number who have died in the six weeks since the offensive was launched to well over 700. The figure is regarded as remarkable, given that NATO forces in Afghanistan seldom achieve a "kill" rate of more than about 30 in any single operation. Many of those killed are reported to have been "foreign fighters" - mostly Arabs and Central Asians, who have been flooding into Pakistan's tribal areas to join al-Qa'ida and the Taliban.
Ground troops are said to have moved into key areas formerly controlled by the militants, despite a promised ceasefire marking the holy month of Ramadan.
"We launched strikes against militant hideouts in Bajaur and destroyed several compounds they were using," an official was quoted as saying.
The order to retaliate against incursions by "foreign troops", directed specifically at the 120,000 Pakistani soldiers deployed along the border with Afghanistan, follows US President George W.
Bush's authorisation of US attacks in Pakistan.'
'NEW KISSINGER ‘TELCONS’ REVEAL CHILE PLOTTING AT HIGHEST LEVELS OF U.S.
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 255
Posted - September 10, 2008
Peter Kornbluh- (202) 994-7116, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington D.C., September 10, 2008 - On the eve of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the military coup in Chile, the National Security Archive today published for the first time formerly secret transcripts of Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations that set in motion a massive U.S. effort to overthrow the newly-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. "We will not let Chile go down the drain," Kissinger told CIA director Richard Helms in one phone call.
"I am with you," the September 12, 1970 transcript records Helms responding.
The telephone call transcripts—known as ‘telcons’—include
unreported conversations between Kissinger and President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State William Rogers. Just eight days after Allende's election, Kissinger informed the president that the State Department had recommended an approach to "see what we can work out
[with Allende]." Nixon responded by instructing Kissinger: "Don’t
let them do it."
After Nixon spoke directly to Rogers, Kissinger recorded a conversation in which the Secretary of State agreed that "we ought, as you say, to cold-bloodedly decide what to do and then do it," but warned it should be done "discreetly so that it doesn’t backfire."
Secretary Rogers predicted that "after all we have said about elections, if the first time a Communist wins the U.S. tries to prevent the constitutional process from coming into play we will look very bad."
The telcons also reveal that just nine weeks before the Chilean military, led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet and supported by the CIA, overthrew the Allende government on September 11, 1973, Nixon called Kissinger on July 4 to say "I think that Chilean guy might have some problems." "Yes, I think he’s definitely in difficulties,"
responded. Nixon then blamed CIA director Helms and former U.S.
Ambassador Edward Korry for failing to block Allende’s inauguration three years earlier. "They screwed it up," the President declared.
Although Kissinger never intended the public to know about these conversations, observed Peter Kornbluh, who directs the National Security Archive’s Chile Documentation Project, he "bestowed on history a gift that keeps on giving by secretly taping and transcribing his phone calls." The transcripts, Kornbluh noted, provide historians with the ability to "eavesdrop on the most candid conversations of the highest and most powerful U.S. officials as they plotted covert intervention against a democratically-elected government."
Kissinger began secretly taping all his incoming and outgoing phone conversations when he became national security advisor in 1969; his secretaries transcribed the calls from audio tapes that were later destroyed. When Kissinger left office in January 1977, he took more than 30,000 pages of the transcripts, claiming they were "personal papers," and used them, selectively, to write his memoirs. In 1999, the National Security Archive initiated legal proceedings to force Kissinger to return these records to the U.S. government so they could be subject to the freedom of information act and declassification. At the request of Archive senior analyst William Burr, telcons on foreign policy crises from the early 1970s, including these four previously-unknown conversations on Chile, were recently declassified by the Nixon Presidential library.'
Howard Zinn is the author of, most notably, A People's History of the United States, a National-Book-Award-nominated text that investigates US history from the standpoint of the oppressed. Other books by Zinn include Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology and his 1995 autobiography, You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train.HZ: America has been heading - for some time, and is heading right now - toward less and less world power, less and less influence.
Obviously, since the war in Iraq, the rest of the world has fallen away from the United States, and if American foreign policy continues in the way it has been - that is aggressive and violent and uncaring about the feelings and thoughts of other people - then the influence of the United States is going to decline more and more.
This is an empire which is on the one hand the most powerful empire that ever existed; on the other hand an empire that is crumbling - an empire that has no future ... because the rest of the world is alienated and simply because this empire is top-heavy with military commitments, with bases around the world, with the exhaustion of its own resources at home.
[This is] leading to more and more discontent and home, so I think the American empire will go the way of other empires and I think it is on its way now.
Q: Is there any hope the US will change its approach to the rest of the world?
HZ: If there is any hope, the hope lies in the American people.[It] lies in American people becoming resentful enough and indignant enough over what has happened to their country, over the loss of dignity in the world, over the starving of human resources in the United States, the starving of education and health, the takeover of the political mechanism by corporate power and the result this has on the everyday lives of the American people.
[There is also] the higher and higher food prices, the more and more insecurity, the sending of the young people to war.
I think all of this may very well build up into a movement of rebellion.
We have seen movements of rebellion in the past: The labour movement, the civil rights movement, the movement against the war in Vietnam.
I think we may well see, if the United States keeps heading in the same direction, a new popular movement. That is the only hope for the United States.
Q: How did the US get to this point?
HZ: Well, we got to this point because ... I suppose the American people have allowed it to get it to this point because there were enough Americans who were satisfied with their lives, just enough.
Of course, many Americans were not, that is why half of the population doesn't vote, they're alienated.
But there are just enough Americans who have been satisfied, you might say getting some of the "goodies" of the empire, just some of them, just enough people satisfied to support the system, so we got this way because of the ability of the system to maintain itself by satisfying just enough of the population to keep its legitimacy.
And I think that era is coming to an end.
Q: What should the world know about the United States?
HZ: What I find many people in the rest of the world don't know is that there is an opposition in the United States.Very often, people in the rest of the world think that Bush is popular, they think 'oh, he was elected twice', they don't understand the corruption of the American political system which enabled Bush to win twice.
They don't understand the basic undemocratic nature of the American political system in which all power is concentrated within two parties which are not very far from one another and people cannot easily tell the difference.
So I think we are in a situation where we are going to need some very fundamental changes in American society if the American people are going to be finally satisfied with the kind of society we have.
Q: Do you think the US can recover from its current position?
HZ: Well, I am hoping for a recovery process. I mean, so far we haven't seen it.
You asked about what the people of the rest of the world don't know about the United States, and as I said, they don't know that there is an opposition.
There always has been an opposition, but the opposition has always been either crushed or quieted, kept in the shadows, marginalised so their voices are not heard.
People in the rest of the world hear the voices of the American leaders.
They do not hear the voices of the people all over this country who do not like the American leaders who want different policies.
I think also, people in the rest of the world should know that what they see in Iraq now is really a continuation of a long, long term of American imperial expansion in the world.
I think ... a lot of people in the world think that this war in Iraq is an aberration, that before this the United States was a benign power.
It has never been a benign power, from the very first, from the American Revolution, from the taking-over of Indian land, from the Mexican war, the Spanish-American war.
It is embarrassing to say, but we have a long history in this country of violent expansion and I think not only do most people in other countries [not] know this, most Americans don't know this.
Q: Is there a way for this to improve?'
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