Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Conversation No. 16: Human Rights, Capitalism At The Crossroads, Historical Lessons We Should Have Learned And That Which We Must Insist...

Human Rights, Capitalism At The Crossroads, Historical Lessons We Should Have Learned And That Which We Must Insist Of The New Administration. (Plus Several Premises That Guide The Content Of This Site)


"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry  take place in broad daylight!"

- Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George SantayanaThe Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905


“Our character...is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be.”

-George Santayana"The German Mind: A Philosophical Diagnosis"-


“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.” 
Albert Camus


“By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy,

but nothing more.” 
-Albert Camus- 


In the speech he gave upon accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Albert Camus said that a writer "cannot serve today those who make history; he must serve those who are subject to it." And in these twenty-three political essays, he demonstrates his commitment to history's victims, from the fallen marquis of the French Resistance to the casualties of the Cold War. 

Resistance, Rebellion, and Death displays Camus's rigorous moral intelligence addressing issues that range from colonial warfare in Algeria to the social cancer of capital punishment. But this stirring book is above all a reflection on the problem of freedom, and, as such, belongs in the same tradition as the works that gave Camus his reputation as the conscience of our century: The StrangerThe Rebel, and The Myth of Sisyphus.



Just Give Me One Good Reason To Impeach and/or Prosecute Bush ...
By Ed. Dickau(Ed. Dickau) 
Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of effecting political re-education. In the 21st century, torture is widely considered to be a violation of human rights, and is declared to be unacceptable by Article 5 of the ...
Cafe Camus Political Coffee House - http://cafecamuspoliticalcoffeehouse.blogspot.com/


The Curse of Global Capitalism 

By Jon Ronnquist 

December 08, 2008 "
Information Clearinghouse"  -- -Many have quite rightly argued that the forces which drive the sink-or-swim free market economy are beyond any conventional means of containment. Like a cancer which fights for its own survival at all costs, including eventually the host itself, so does the free market economy feed without consideration for the clear boundaries of sustainability, tolerance and fairness. 

This is exacerbated by the universal debt based system of finance, which narrows considerations of profit into ever shorter time spans, thus creating antipathy towards long term visions and factors beyond profit, such as negative impact and future repercussions. For those who have understood this all along, the current economic implosion is not only understandable, but inevitable.


Any parasite which draws more from its host than the host can sustain will eventually kill it, and so we have what we have today. In this case the host is the working man, upon whom the burden of debt has been allowed to grow beyond his ability to manage, thus forcing a collapse at the very base of the pyramid. 

Continuing this analogy of disease, we can see something of considerable interest with regard to our current situation. Any disease could be said to be parasitic, in so far as it can only live and grow within the infected host. And all disease is ultimately terminated in one of two ways. Either the host, through its own agents or with the help of medicine or surgery, is expelled or killed. Or when such efforts fail, the host dies and the disease with it. Looking at the economy this way, we can quite easily compare it to a life threatening illness, a cancer of the nation so to speak. And here we are at the end of the cycle. Prudence, oversight, consideration and even public solidarity, could all be said to have failed. And now we find ourselves at a cross roads, which I for one, do not believe is anywhere near as clear cut as our trusted men of office might have us believe. Looking at the current course being taken by governments across the world, we seem to be racing to rebuild the very thing which brought about this disaster. And they are right in a limited sense. If we want to start the process all over again, credit must be made available again at all costs. 

But is that what we really need? Even if a large majority of existing debt were simply wiped out, which it theoretically could be when you consider that the money borrowed never existed in the first place, it would not guarantee against a repetition of the cycle now coming to an end.


If we start borrowing again, we will simply buy ourselves a little more time. Borrowing is as short sighted a solution as the desperate profit frenzy it predisposes us to. The fact that borrowing has been institutionalized among working people in the last few decades, does not mean it is either wise or prudent. Very few of the millions whose lives have been ruined by the burden of debt will insist they are better of for it. And as that number begins to increase dramatically, the true nature, and perhaps even intent, of large scale money lending is revealed. Debt is a trap, and like any trap, it was set in place by those who would profit to see it walked into. It is no coincidence that there isn't anywhere near enough money, or even arbitrary value, in the world to pay all existing debts. And with the collapse of Wall Street and the billions in false value they have created over the years now disappearing like the smoke and mirrors it has always been, there is even less. A vast majority of those who owe, are stuck with their debt as a mathematical fact. And many more must rely on the continued borrowing of their debtors and clientèle to pay their own debts. 

The idea that an object or institution can sky rocket in value without fundamentally changing, is a fallacy, albeit one which has made many people rich in the years of false optimism leading up to the current crisis. And the proof of that fallacy is the equally illogical way in which that value has now disappeared. How can the worth of a single stake in GM go from over $90 in 2000, to just under $4 in 2008, while the quantity, quality, usefulness, dependability and economy of its product remains effectively the same? The answer is that it can't. At least not in reality. But as has been proven, cut throat capitalism and reality have very little in common. I myself have never bought stock for this simple reason, I find the gloating optimism of those who see their shares increase in value just as annoying as their mind numbing whimpering when it crashes. People who bought their house in the eighties love to brag about the difference between what it cost them and what it's now worth, and seem oblivious to the fact that the house is no better or worse than it was and people who were unlucky enough to be born in the twenty first century have to sell their souls to get a home of their own. What we do see is home owners gambling with their new magically created “wealth” by borrowing against it while their incomes remain the same. 

And what is the real effect of all this on the ground? Well, from where I'm standing, it looks like the number of people who aren't too busy to stand up and do something about it is growing smaller everyday. If hypocrisy means blaming others for problems to which you yourself are a party, even if indirectly, then the list of hypocrites will soon dwarf those who are left standing at the picket lines or marching on the capital. And is all this just the luck of the draw? I think not. Bankrupt people are primarily useful in that they tend to introvert and feel voiceless and powerless. When it comes to gaining control, the thing to bankrupt is governments. And what do we see now? Just about every country in the developed world is being plunged into a whole new level of debt, as they borrow to save the very institutions that have colluded in the systemic strangulation of our economies, an act of propitiation and cowardice that should leave even the skeptics asking questions about who is really calling the shots. More… 

You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains" 

Even though the Federal Reserve is now the biggest single participant in the financial system, the myth of a "free market" still lingers on. Go figure? The Fed has expanded its balance sheet by $2 trillion, guaranteed $8.3 trillion of dodgy mortgage-backed paper, provided a backstop for bank deposits, money markets, commercial paper, and created 8 separate lending facilities to ensure that underwater financial institutions can still appear to be solvent. The whole system is a state subsidized operation buoyed on a taxpayer-provided flotation device which bears no resemblance to an invisible hand. More astonishing, is the massive power grab engineered by the Fed which has taken place without the slightest protest from 535 shell-shocked congressmen and senators. Elected officials have either kept their finger in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing or timidly caved in to Treasury's every multi-billion dollar demand. It's flagrant blackmail and everyone knows it. Congressional oversight is an oxymoron. 

Anyone who has followed the financial crisis knows that the Fed's bloody fingerprints are all over the crime scene. Still, that hasn't stopped well-meaning liberal economists (Krugman, Stiglitz, Reich) from supporting Bernanke's increasingly unorthodox attempts to flood the financial system with liquidity ("quantitative easing") and invoke whatever radical strategy pops into his head. In fact, many of the experts believe that Bernanke should do even more given the sheer size of the meltdown. There's growing support for a gigantic stimulus package ($700 billion) which will focus on road construction, infrastructure, state aid, extensions to unemployment benefits and green technologies. The Obama camp hopes that government programs and deficit spending will make up for the huge losses in aggregate demand which threaten to drag prices down even further in a self-reinforcing deflationary cycle. Even so, its natural to wonder at the wisdom of giving even more power to the very people who created the mess and who seem more interested in proving their depression-fighting theories than throwing a lifeline to struggling homeowners, consumers or auto workers. Maybe its time to try something different. 

So far, Bernanke's monetarist approach has amounted to nothing. The stock indexes are off 45 percent and housing prices continue to plunge. The Fed's low interest rates and lending facilities have helped to keep the banking system from collapsing, but they've failed to get consumers or businesses spending again. The economy is tanking fast. Paul L. Kasriel, the Director of Economic Research at The Northern Trust Company summed up Bernanke's dilemma like this: 

"In a sustained housing bust that causes banks to take a big hit to their capital (low interest rates) simply will not matter. This is essentially what happened recently in Japan and also in the US during the Great Depression. Most people are not aware of actions the Fed took during the Great Depression. Bernanke claims that the Fed did not act strong enough during the great depression. This is simply not true. The Fed slashed interest rates and injected huge sums of base money but it did no good. More recently, Japan did the same thing. It also did no good. If default rates get high enough, banks will simply be unwilling to lend which will severely limit money and credit creation." (Interview with Paul Kasriel; Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis) 

In fact, the banks are just one part of the problem. Another part is the shortage of creditworthy borrowers now that home equity is drying up and the standards for loans have gotten tougher. Most people have seen their personal wealth vanish and their 401-Ks shrivel to the size of a chickpea. The Fed chairman faces huge obstacles in trying to restart the credit engine and get maxed out consumers spending again. 

Bernanke has expanded the money supply at record pace, but to little effect. The money is stagnating in pools because the financial plumbing is still gunked up from troubles in the banking system. The credit-transmission system has broken down causing a generalized contraction throughout the economy. Business activity has dropped off a cliff. Former Treasury Department economist, Bruce Bartlett, explains the phenomenon like this in his article "What Would Keynes Do?" in Forbes: 

"Another problem that policymakers back then didn't grasp is that the money supply's effectiveness depends on how quickly people spend it; something economists call velocity. If velocity falls because people are hoarding cash, it may require a great deal more money to keep the economy operating.

Think of it this way: Velocity is the ratio of the money supply to the gross domestic product. If GDP is $10 trillion and money turns over 10 times per year, then $1 trillion in money supply will be sufficient. But if velocity falls to 9, a $1 trillion money supply will only support a $9 trillion GDP. If the Fed doesn't want GDP to shrink by 10%, it will have to increase the money supply by 10%.

This is essentially the problem we have today. Unlike in the 1930s, the Fed is not allowing the money supply to diminish. Also, we have programs like federal deposit insurance to prevent bank deposits from shrinking. But velocity is collapsing. Banks, businesses and households are all hoarding cash, not spending except for essentials. This is bringing on the deflation that is crippling the economy." More…

The Significance of Nixon's 'Treason'

The Richard Nixon campaign's successful "treason" in sabotaging Vietnam peace talks in 1968 to win an election explains a lot about Republican dominance of the era, writes Robert Parry. December 9, 2008


Mukasey's 'Nixon Defense' of Bush
Richard Nixon famously said that "when the President does it ... it is not illegal." Now, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is reviving that argument to defend George W. Bush, writes Jason Leopold. December 6, 2008


Nixon's 'Treason' and Historical Gaps
In a newly released tape, President Lyndon Johnson accuses Richard Nixon's team of "treason" over the Vietnam peace talks. But the U.S. news media still misses the big picture, writes Robert Parry. December 5, 2008


The GOP Judge Who Bolted on Gitmo
The Bush administration was stunned by a federal court order to free five Algerians from Guantanamo -- shocked in part because the judge was counted as a reliable Republican, says Robert Parry. November 22, 2008


Holder Must Balance Security, Rights
Attorney General-designate Eric Holder must readjust the balance between security and rights -- and restore confidence in the Justice Department, says Jason Leopold. December 2, 2008


Seeking Integrity at the CIA
Underlying many of the national security crises facing the United States has been the loss of integrity in the intelligence community, where politics has trumped sound analysis, writes Ray McGovern. November 26, 2008


'Continuity of Government' Dangers
George W. Bush's legacy includes plans for U.S. troops to quell domestic unrest. Watch TheRealNews.com's 
video. December 1, 2008

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