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Index March 2009

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Goodbye, Homo Economicus

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Published on Countercurrents.org (first on Prospect Magazine), by Anatole Kaletsky, 28 March, 2009.

Was Adam Smith an economist? Was Keynes, Ricardo or Schumpeter? By the standards of today’s academic economists, the answer is no. Smith, Ricardo and Keynes produced no mathematical models. Their work lacked the “analytical rigour” and precise deductive logic demanded by modern economics. And none of them ever produced an econometric forecast (although Keynes and Schumpeter were able mathematicians).

If any of these giants of economics applied for a university job today, they would be rejected. As for their written work, it would not have a chance of acceptance in the Economic Journal or American Economic Review. The editors, if they felt charitable, might advise Smith and Keynes to try a journal of history or sociology …

… The answer lies, ironically, in the fact that economics is so politically important: the second great merit of rational expectations lay in its key ideological conclusion—that deliberate policies of macroeconomic stimulus by governments and central banks could never reduce unemployment and would merely exacerbate inflation. That government activism was doomed to failure was exactly what politicians, central bankers and business leaders of the Thatcher and Reagan periods wanted to hear. Thus it quickly became established as the official doctrine of the political and economic establishments in America—and from this powerful position it was able to conquer the entire academic world. Continue Reading…

THE WEB OF PRECARIOUSNESS – Chi non lavora, non fa l’amore

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Linked with Gaither Stewart – USA.

By Gaither Stewart,

Precariousness looms like a black cloud over the continent of Europe. The fragility of human life and of the life style generations of westerners are accustomed to today rages like a modern plague. Precariousness is a contagious disease. It leaps from worker to worker, from class to class. No wonder that life in our times has never seemed more temporary. Permanence belongs to another age.

(Rome) A popular Italian evergreen from the 1970s depicts a contemporary conundrum for many Europeans: “Chi non lavora, non fa l’amore” go the lyrics.  The woman tells her man, “If you don’t work, there will be no love-making in this house. If you strike and don’t bring home pay, I will strike too. No love-making here!” The worker goes back to his job and strikers beat him up and call him a scab. No sex if he strikes, beatings if he works. He is truly the superfluous and precarious man. His only hope is that the capitalist boss relents and grants the pay increases the union demands and lets love into his house again. But that, he must realize, is highly unlikely.

The word precarious has become one of the most (un) fashionable words in Europe. Precario in Italy. Precaire in France. Prekär in German. For life in the Old World of Europe is precarious in general. Precariousness looms like a black cloud over the continent. The fragility of human life and of the life style many generations of westerners are accustomed to rages like a modern plague. Precariousness is a contagious disease. The pathos of a generation, it leaps from worker to worker, from class to class. Life in our times has never seemed more temporary, more fleeting. Permanence belongs to another age. Continue Reading…

Wright Patman’s Prescription for Healing the Cancerous U.S. Banking System

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Published on Dissident Voice, by Doug Page, March 28, 2009.

I am scared. We all are scared. Our Wall Street obedient leaders who claim they are struggling valiantly to “solve” the banking crisis seem to meander uncertainly and ideologically, while they spend unimaginable Trillions of Dollars of our public money. All of this is using public money that we have borrowed, and we worry how we and our children will ever repay it. We worry that the Bail Out will do nothing for us.

Forty five years ago in 1964, Wright Patman had answers and solutions for our banking problems which he left for us in his Congressional Reports, in transcripts of Congressional Hearings, and in his speeches in the Congressional Record.

Wright Patman was an extremely well qualified expert on our side. He was a lawyer, a former District Attorney, a former Representative in the Texas Legislature, and a long time Congressman. Wright Patman served as a Congressman from the North East corner of Texas for 47 years beginning in 1929 and ending in 1976. He was Chairman of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency until 1975. He was an avid New Dealer. He served in Congress on the banking committee at the time of the 1929 Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression, the New Deal recovery efforts, financing World War II, and the post war boom period. Unlike current Representatives and Senators, he was not taken in by private Wall Street Banks for one second and he fought to expose Wall Street Banking evils and power. Continue Reading…

What is Nato for?

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Linked with Serge Halimi – France.

Published on Le Monde diplo, by Serge Halimi, March 2009.

Nicolas Sarkozy wanted his presidency to mark a break with the “French social model”, recently restored to its former glory by the collapse of American-style financial capitalism. So did he determine to do away with another old French tradition, national independence? Although he had never expressed such an intention in his electoral campaign and even though he later made any French reintegration in Nato’s joint military command structure conditional on strengthening European defence, Sarkozy effectively announced that General de Gaulle’s policy decision had had its day …

… Leaving no stone unturned, the resolution also recalls our “painful history”, referring to Hitler and Munich, quotes a few lines by “Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor”, and adds: “Wouldn’t we want someone to come to our rescue when we are crying?” US officers, however, have never had a great reputation for drying civilian tears. Neither during the war in Kosovo, nor in the Iraq war, both conducted in breach of the UN charter. But, regarding many member states at the UN, the European parliament profoundly regrets that “the doctrine of non-alignment, inherited from the cold war era, undermines the alliance of democracies”.  Continue Reading…

Is the Bailout Plan Breeding a Greater Crisis?

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Linked with Paul Craig Roberts – USA.

Published on OpEdNews, by P.C. Roberts, March 26, 2009.

At his March 24 press conference President Obama demonstrated that he is capable of understanding issues as presented to him by his advisers and able to pass on the explanations to the press. The question is whether Obama’s advisers understand the issues.

Obama’s advisers are focused on rescuing banks and the insurance company, AIG. They perceive the problems as solvency and paralyzing uncertainly or fear. Financial institutions, unsure of their own and other institutions solvency, hoard cash and refuse to lend. Credit is needed to get the economy moving, and the Federal Reserve and Treasury are doing their best to inject liquidity and to remove troubled assets from the banks’ books.

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Rethinking Financial Regulation: Simple Transparency, Open Source and XML

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Published on NextBigFuture, March 14, 2009.

Even if you have open access to current public information, the warehouse with the Lost Ark of Indiana Jones is not simply transparent. We need open public policing of the financial system. Creating an empowered social network where the community of investors can help protect each other from being ripped off. Empowering a global financial neighborhood watch. Wired Magazine publishes a specific open regulation proposal …

… Banks have to issue Free Writing Prospectus (FWP) Every bank that issues mortgage-backed securities—pools of home loans packaged together and sold as a single entity—is required to file a free writing prospectus, which lists every individual mortgage in each pool. An FWP contains endless columns of pure data, most of which don’t even track from page to page. And each FWP is different. It took five professionals three months to take FWP data and standardize it so that it could be comparable. The result of that work is private. It is only for the use of the company who hired thos professionals so that the hiring company has an edge.

2. Today, nearly 50 companies report their information in XBRL to the SEC. XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It is a version of XML.

A few years ago, when banking regulators started requiring filings in XBRL from its member banks, it found that the time it took auditors to review a bank’s quarterly financial information dropped from about 70 days to two. More regulators are catching on: Last December, the SEC announced that by June, every company with a market capitalization over $5 billion will be required to submit all filings using the format. And all publicly traded companies and mutual funds must follow suit by 2011 … (full text, March 14, 2009).

The Roving Cavaliers of Credit

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Linked with Steve Keen – Australia, and with Steve Keen’s Deptwatch – The blog.

Published on Steve Keen’s Deptwatch, by himself, Jan. 31, 2009.

“Talk about centralisation! The credit system, which has its focus in the so-called national banks and the big money-lenders and usurers surrounding them, constitutes enormous centralisation, and gives this class of parasites the fabulous power, not only to periodically despoil industrial capitalists, but also to interfere in actual production in a most dangerous manner— and this gang knows nothing about production and has nothing to do with it.”

Ten years ago, a quote from Marx would have one deemed a socialist, and dismissed from polite debate. Today, such a quote can (and did,  along with Charlie’s photo) appear in a feature in the Sydney Morning Herald – and not a few people would have been nodding their heads at how Marx got it right on bankers … Continue Reading…

The Real AIG Conspiracy

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Linked with Michael Hudson – USA.

Published on Global Research.ca, by Michael Hudson, March 18, 2009.

It may seem odd, but the public outrage against $135 million in AIG bonuses is a godsend to Wall Street, AID scoundrels included. How can the media be so preoccupied with the discovery that there is self-serving greed to be found in the financial sector? Every TV channel and every newspaper in the country, from right to left, have made these bonuses the lead story over the past two days …

… It now looks as if Mr. Paulson had good reason to put in a fatal legal clause blocking any clawback of funds given by the Treasury to AIG’s counterparties. This is where public outrage should be focused.

Instead, the leading Congressional shepherds of the bailout legislation – along with Mr. Obama, who came out in his final, Friday night presidential debate with Sen. McCain strongly in favor of the bailout in Mr. Paulson’s awful “short” version – have been posing as conspicuously as possible for the media to cover a deflected target – the AIG executives receiving bonuses, not the company’s counterparties.

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The Global Financial Crisis

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Dubai goes well …

Linked with G. Edward Griffin’s view on the FED, and with Looking Back: The 2009 World Social Forum.

Published on go wealthy.com, 22-Mar-2009.

According to property experts, Dubai is in a good position to move forward through the global financial crisis due largely to its construction and real estate industries as there are a number of fundamentals in place that would pull the emirate through the worst of the ensuing credit crunch. These included visionary government-led real estate and infrastructure projects such as the Dubai Metro and Burj Dubai. According to Khalid Howlader, Senior Credit Officer, Moody’s, these are seen as vital to the future of the emirate … (full text).

Links:

The Global Financial Crisis of 2008–2009:

The Fed Did Indeed Cause the Housing Bubble

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Published on Solari Real Channel, by Catherine Austin Fitts of Daily Musings (commenting an article by Alan Greenspan in The Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2009).

From: Sub-Prime Mortgage Woes Are No Accident:

… One of the dirty little secrets behind the housing bubble is the long standing partnership of narcotics trafficking and mortgage fraud and the use of the two in combination to target and destroy minority and poor communities with highly profitable economic warfare. This model is global. It is operating in counties throughout the world as well as in US communities.

Of all the actions that the Federal Reserve took to engineer this housing bubble, the one that I would note is Mr. Greenspan’s efforts to pacify Congresswoman Waters regarding allegations of government sponsored narcotics trafficking at a time when open Congressional hearings would have contributed to an important discussion of the operations engaging in mortgage fraud in minority communities. See, “Financial Coup d’Etat,” Chapter 16, Dillon Read & the Aristocracy of Stock Profits which was written in 2005 and published in April 2006, drawing from an article I first published in May 1999.

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Looking Back: The 2009 World Social Forum

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Published on Council on Hemisperic Affairs COHA, research by Michael Ramirez and Orion Cruz, March 20th, 2009.

As hundreds of prominent figures in the global financial and political sectors convened in Davos, Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual gala, beginning on January 27, over 100,000 individuals traveled to Belém, Brazil for the rival eighth annual World Social Forum (WSF) …

… Putting words into Action:

Despite the WSF often being dismissed as a fading leftist’s fantasy, the 2009 convention marks the year that the gathering evolved into a high-minded and highly relevant vehicle. For many of those who attended Belém, the economic crisis was viewed as an enormous opportunity to bring down the current system and replace it with something new, forceful and transformative. There was a general acceptance throughout the forum that change was on the way, but no ascertainable certainty about the kind of change it would be. Instead, there was a focus on discussion about the sort of change that the people wanted to see, which overall was oriented away from the occasional amoralities of a free market system. At the minimum, it was identified that there is a dire need for economic and environmental practices to be restructured, which cannot be predictably achieved by means of the current laissez faire system.
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The Global Financial Crisis: What does it mean for microfinance?

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Picked up on Weitzenegger’s Website for International  Development Cooperation, and its Newsletter

Linked with Karsten Weitzenegger – Germany, with Consultative Group to Assist the Poor CGAP, with South East European Educational Cooperation Network SEE-ECN; , and with Karsten Weitzenegger Consulting.

Published on CGAP, December 15, 2009.

In most past financial crises – like those of the 1990s in Asia, Mexico, and Russia – financial services for poor people have been remarkably resilient. In fact, the quality of the loan portfolios of microfinance institutions (MFIs) during the Asian crisis and in Latin America during various banking crises barely quivered, while corporate portfolios collapsed. Those banking or currency crises had little relevance to subsistence-based economies in closed ecosystem markets.

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G. Edward Griffin’s view on the FED

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Linked with G. Edward Griffin – USA.

Watch these videos/audio in english:

  • G Edward Griffin – Creature From Jekyll Island, a second look at the FED, 42.15 min, 28 août 2007;
  • same title, but as a short version of 4.42 min, 10 May 2007;
  • same title, but as audio,  with many more explanations, 71.11 min, 24 sept. 2007.
  • Added March 20: P.S. Please notice that all these explanations have been given BEFORE the actual bank mess, explaining it better than all tranquilizing speeches you may hear now from our politicians. Now you may wonder WHY we have to pay back interests and bank depts made out of NOTHING … no, not out of our savings, but made out of thin air.

To understand the link with the third world, look again to (added March 20):

Also on our blogs:

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Undefended – Russia’s migrant workers

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Published on openDemocracy, by Jane Buchanan, March 13, 2009.

The fate of millions of migrant workers in Russia is in the lurch as the country reels from the global financial crisis. Even in the best of times, during the recent years of Russia’s major economic boom, migrant workers in Russia have been subject to widespread abuses both in and outside the workplace. Now, economic crisis, coupled with a growing tide of hate-motivated violence in Russia, puts migrant workers at even greater risk …

… The government has also expressed a “love it or leave it” attitude, suggesting that if migrant workers don’t like the conditions they find in Russia, then they can just stay home.

But everyone knows that the expectation that the workers “just stay home” is not realistic, or desirable, neither for the workers themselves, who have few or no opportunities for productive employment at home, nor for Russia’s employers who rely on low-skilled employees from abroad to do the dirty, low-paying, and dangerous jobs that most Russian citizens aren’t willing to do.

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Eastern Europe is about to Blow

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Linked with Mike Whitney – USA (the American writer), and with Haircut time for bondholders.

Published on the truth seeker, by Mike Whitney, Posted 16/02/2009 (and not 2000!).

Eastern Europe is about to blow. If it does, it could take much of the EU with it. It’s an emergency situation but there are no easy solutions. The IMF doesn’t have the resources for a bailout of this size and the recession is spreading faster than relief efforts can be organized. Finance ministers and central bankers are running in circles trying to put out one fire after another. Its only a matter of time before they are overtaken by events. If one country is allowed to default, the dominoes could begin to tumble through the whole region. This could trigger dramatic changes in the political landscape. The rise of fascism is no longer out of the question …

… It’s the same wherever banks merged their commercial and investment branches. Debt has skyrocketed to unsustainable levels destabilizing the entire economy. The banks have been operating like hedge funds, concealing their activities on off-balance sheets operations and maximizing their leverage through opaque debt-instruments. Now the global economy is caught in the downdraft of a collapsing speculative bubble.

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Haircut time for bondholders

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Linked with Mike Whitney- USA (the American writer), and with Eastern Europe is about to Blow.

Published on Online Journal, by Mike Whitney, March 13, 2009.

When George Soros recently said that the financial system had “effectively disintegrated,” it caused quite a flap. But Soros was not exaggerating. The financial system has disintegrated …

take a look at this chart: …

… “Nothing remotely comparable has ever happened before – not even in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“This is a body blow to an already staggering U.S. economy. U.S. exports in the fourth quarter of last year fell by more than 25 percent in constant dollars. California is being hit especially hard: outbound container traffic from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles was down 30 percent in December 2008 from a year earlier.

“It’s not surprising that when global growth slows, trade growth slows. But this trade implosion is unprecedented even for a major recession. (Barry Eichengreen San Francisco Chronicle: “We must keep Trade from falling off a cliff”).

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Part 4 – Wall Street’s Perverse Logic

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Linked with Matthias Chang – Malaysia, with The Real Significance of the Fed’s Zero-Interest-Rate Policy ZIRP, with The Federal Reserve is Bankrupt, and with Bernd Senf – Germany (and with all its english and german links).

Published on FutureFastforwrd, by Matthias Chang, 19 December 2008.

“As more loans are repaid, there is less need for dollars” …

I want readers to read the above quote a few times and really ponder on the implications of the statement made by Robert Sinche, the head of global currency strategy at Bank of America in New York, the third-largest U.S. bank.

Does it make sense to you?

I ask this question because it was only a few months ago, that we were told that banks’ capital base have been depleted to bare bones, that they are all bankrupt, totally bankrupt.

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The Federal Reserve is Bankrupt

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How Did It Happen and What are the Ugly Consequences?

Linked with Matthias Chang – Malaysia, with The Real Significance of the Fed’s Zero-Interest-Rate Policy ZIRP, and with Bernd Senf – Germany (and with all its english and german links).

Published on Global Research.ca, by Matthias Chang, March 10, 2009.

… The Fed is no different from banks in that confidence in the quality of its assets is critical and that if and when the market recovers, there is in fact a market for the junk assets that it took on to unravel the gridlock in the financial markets.

By way of analogy, if your high street bank’s balance sheet is made up of junk, what would you do? There are just not enough assets to meet its liabilities.

But of course, one can argue that the Fed is not your high street bank. It is the central bank of the mighty USA. It will always be able to “print money” or “digitalise” money and keep the markets going.

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Sudan: Oxfam GB pulls back international staff to Khartoum

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… while it appeals decision to revoke registration

Published on Oxfam UK, March 5th, 2009.

Oxfam GB has begun to temporarily relocate international staff to Khartoum and some national staff to state capitals in Darfur while it appeals the government’s decision to revoke its registration to work in Sudan.

The agency has had to hand over its laptops and communications equipment to the government. This will adversely affect its ability to carry out its work, which was reaching some 600,000 people across Darfur, in Khartoum state and the east of the country.

Oxfam GB estimates that its supply of clean water and other programmes can continue to be run by local communities and Oxfam-trained volunteers for a number of weeks but if its appeal to the government fails then its programme will have to close … (full text).

Global recovery rests on a fresh US approach to China

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Linked with Martin Jacques – England, and with The New Depression.

Published on The Guardian, by Martin Jacques, 13 February 2009.

The key relationship for any global recovery is between the US and China. By the same token, any serious deterioration in their relationship would propel the world towards a second Great Depression. The Chinese citizen has funded the credit-driven American consumer boom: or, to put it another way, China’s government has enabled the US to run an enormous current account deficit by buying huge quantities of US treasury bills. If China stops this, the value of the US dollar would plunge, and a bitter trade war, engulfing the rest of the world, would ensue …

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The New Depression

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Linked with Martin Jacques – England (will appear on March 13), and with Global recovery rests on a fresh US approach to China.

Published on Countercurrents (first on The New Statesman), by Martin Jacques, 10 March, 2009.

The financial crisis undermines all the ideological assumptions that have supported political discourse over the past 30 years. Now, with politicians standing ‘naked’, the crisis could result in profound and diverse changes to our way of structuring the economy, argues Martin Jacques.

We are living through a crisis which, from the collapse of Northern Rock and the first intimations of the credit crunch, nobody has been able to understand, let alone grasp its potential ramifications. Each attempt to deal with the crisis has rapidly been consumed by an irresistible and ever-worsening reality. So it was with Northern Rock. So it was with the attempt to recapitalise the banks. And so it will be with the latest gamut of measures. The British government – like every other government – is perpetually on the back foot, constantly running to catch up.

There are two reasons. First, the underlying scale of the crisis is so great and so unfamiliar – and, furthermore, often concealed within the balance sheets of the banks and other financial institutions. Second, the crisis has undermined all the ideological assumptions that have underpinned government policy and political discourse over the past 30 years. As a result, the political and business elite are flying blind. This is the mother of all postwar crises, which has barely started and remains out of control. Its end – the timing and the complexion – is unknown …

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The Sub-Continental Terrorism

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Published on Commonality, By Mustafa Khan, 06 March, 2009.

The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team is yet another reminder of how this corner of the world is wasting its energy in futility. If anything, terror will balkanize the people further. A fourth of the world population is concentrated into four countries of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka with inadequate resources. Yet the highest priority of the governments is defence expenditure rather than human development index. That hardly makes anyone safe and secure, least of all from their perceived or real enemies …

… The Asian subcontinent is a mosaic of different cultures but it has humanity and fair sense of sharing in the values of what different religions have taught over the years. In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks there was a popular ground swell for sharing the suffering the victims have gone through and how to reach out to them. There was also resentment against the government and politicians who failed to respond as they were more preoccupied with corruption and mismanagement. In what way does a Zardari or Sharif cut a different figure?

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4th quarter 2009 – Phase 5 of the global systemic crisis

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the phase of global geopolitical dislocation

Published on Europe 2020.org, by GEAB newsletter no. 32, Feb 16, 2009.

(My first comment: such previsions act mostly as self fulfilling prophecies, but as our world leaders obviously do not get it – burrying the actual system and build a new one – I guess the story below could finish as real fact. Let’s add: there are groups WANTING such a result).

Back in February 2006, LEAP/E2020 estimated that the global systemic crisis would unfold in 4 main structural phases: trigger, acceleration, impact and decanting phases. This process enabled us to properly anticipate events until now. However our team has now come to the conclusion that, due to the global leaders’ incapacity to fully realise the scope of the ongoing crisis (made obvious by their determination to cure the consequences rather than the causes of this crisis), the global systemic crisis will enter a fifth phase in the fourth quarter of 2009, a phase of global geopolitical dislocation.

According to LEAP/E2020, this new stage of the crisis will be shaped by two major processes happening in two parallel sequences:

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Cultural genocide?

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Published on India Seminar.com, by KRISHEN KAK, not dated.

An short excerpt of a long text:

… The West scientifically searches for truth, exteriorly, through exploring the worlds outside us. Its confidence is unbounded, even presumptuous. Its rockets soar into the skies, conquering new frontiers; yet their afterblast burns away the spiritual core of that civilisation, leaving a hollow that no amount of luxurious living fills. The West increasingly turns to the East for the spirit – and we too are sending rockets up and away! In the afterblast burn our artisans, farmers, traditional technologists and all those whose lives are tuned into the rhythms of Mother Nature and Mother Earth.

Is this good or bad, right or wrong – who is to say?

We acknowledge the breakdown of the traditional jajmani system. The new customers for handskills are increasingly those whose worldly wants are readily met by industrially-produced goods. The ennui of satiable desire then is sought to be overcome not by advertising the mundanity of an object, but by imbuing it with supra-physical symbolism.

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ROME DIARY: MARCH 2009

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UPDATE – FASCIST TIMES IN THE LAND WHERE LEMON TREES BLOOM

“TOTTERING STEPS ALONG THE RIM OF FASCISM AND REVOLUTION”

By Gaither Stewart

(Rome) ISTAT, Italy’s Statistical Office, has announced that for the first time the nation’s population has passed 60,000,000. The disconcerting reality behind the statistic is that while Italy ages and Italians produce less children, immigration is providing the growth of the nation that until a few decades ago was an emigration country and Italian workers spread over north Europe. Today, as usual, immigrants do what Italians don’t. Over 1,000,000 Romanians are in Italy today, followed closely by Albanians and Moroccans. immigrants make front page news. Usually negative news. Not a day passes that foreigners (until the crisis immigrants were the manpower necessary for Italian industry), are not accused of nefarious crimes.

After any crime the rule is cherchez l’étranger. Police immediately accused an Albanian gang for a series of nocturnal burglaries in houses and apartments near me. Statistics showing that propotionately Romanians commit more crimes—robbery, rape and prostitution—are regularly headlined. Moreover, the Romanian government itself is accused of sending its criminals abroad. Ditto for Albanians, who were the crime leaders until not long ago. In general, illegal immigrants prefer the chaos of Italy where they can easily evade the law.

SECURITY AND POPULISM

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Obama Should Worry About the Bush Family Tentacles Undermining His Plans

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Linked with Russ Baker – USA.

Published on AlterNet, by Russ Baker, January 22, 2009.

Bush may be gone, but his influence – and the forces that put him in office – aren’t.

… A more profound explanation for the rise of George W. Bush came as I studied the concerted effort  to convince the public that he was  independent of, and often in disagreement with, his father. The reason for this, it turned out, was that exactly the opposite was true. W. may have been bumptious where his father was discreet, but in fact the son hewed closely to a playbook that guided his father and even his grandfather.

Over much of the last century, the Bushes have been serving the aims of a very narrow segment from within America’s wealthiest interests and families — typically through involvement in the most anti-New Deal investment banking circles, in the creation of a civilian intelligence service after World War II, and in some of that service’s most secretive and still-unacknowledged operations …

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The great political gamble

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Published on openDemocracy, by Vladimir Gelman, March 2, 2009.

… The main difference between the way democratic and authoritarian regimes react to a crisis seems to be in the political sphere, rather than the economic. Democracies change more quickly than usual during crises. New governments and prime ministers come to power (sometimes very suddenly, as in Iceland).  Those who disagree with the government’s policies take to the streets of Paris, Riga and Vilnius. There are heated discussions in the press and an increasing number of scandalous revelations and subsequent resignations.

Authoritarian states, by contrast, react to crises by trying to preserve the status quo at any cost and to prevent changes which threaten not just to replace the people in power, but to undermine the regime itself. Willingness to change is no guarantee of a more successful solution of economic problems than rejecting any changes whatsoever. But preserving the political system unchanged does sow the seeds of instability.  Analyses of the economic aspects of the crisis tend to underestimate this.

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No Nation Can Long Endure Half Bankrupt

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Published on OpEdNews, by David Glenn Cox, March 3, 2009.

I take no joy in saying the things I say; I wish I could write about happy puppies loping through the warm grass in the summer sunshine. Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly? …

… It’s the financial system that we are trying to prop up, when it is the financial system that brought us here. We are trying to save the cancer while we ignore the body. America’s largest banks quickly lined up for TARP money, and a host of other financial service companies quickly changed their charters to become eligible and then stuck their hands out. The banks then used the money to refinance their own debts and to make purchases of other banks. Do you know why they did that?

“The two billion dollar fund which President Hoover and the Congress have put at the disposal of the big banks, the railroads and the corporations of the Nation, is not for him.” It’s not for you, it’s more trickle down; if we fix the banks then the banks will fix you.

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STWR’s Newsletter February 2009

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(Subscription for their newsletter)

Linked with Share The World’s Resources STWR, and with Why Share World’s Resources.

Received by mail:
From: STWR Newsletter
Date: 26/02/2009

Contents:

  • 1. Update on Activities
  • 2. Latin America Section now Online
  • 3. Editorials and Articles by STWR
  • 4. Featured Articles
  • 5. Featured Reports
  • 6. Videos – Latin America

Excerpt: … 2. Latin America Section Now Online:

STWR has recently launched a fully updated Latin America & Caribbean section on the website which can be accessed through the main menu or via this webpage:
The section presents over 100 articles, including recommended reports and videos relating to the region.

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So long … is it game over for Swiss banks ?

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… farewell, auf wiedersehen …

Published on The Guardian, by Nick Mathiason, Sunday 1 March 2009.

Once it was a place where the world’s wealthy safely hid their trillions, but now international pressure, including a US lawsuit against troubled industry giant UBS, may force Switzerland’s bankers to give up their long-cherished secrecy …

… The secret history:

The secrecy of Swiss banks dates back to the middle ages and was used to hide wealth by many of Europe’s dynasties and the Vatican, even though Switzerland had embraced Protestantism.

Secrecy became official Swiss government policy during the First World war and was made law in 1934.

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La Cuba cambiante

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Published on Axis of Logic, by Paul Richard Harris, Feb 26, 2009.

So, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend the United States is a just and fair society. You might have to stretch your imagination, but that’ll be good mental exercise for you. Now suppose that nearby the United States there is another country, one so inherently evil as to be off-limits to people from the US. Naturally, the United States also feels obligated to encourage the rest of the world to have nothing to do with this nation – because it is such a bad place. You’d have to assume, given the might of the United States and its considerable powers of persuasion both subtle and gross, that the bad country would soon enough be forced to straighten up and fly right. You would be wrong.

About 90 miles south of the peninsula of Florida, lies the largest of all the islands in the Caribbean. Cuba has just about 12 million people, and somehow those people have managed to incur the wrath of the United States more than almost any other nation. Despite that the United States has a long history of supporting some of the most brutal regimes and hideous dictators, Cuba seems to have a special place of loathing in Washington’s eyes …

… The future:

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Kashmir: Conflict in a Peaceful Valley

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Published on Worldpress.org, by Ershad Mahmud from Common Ground News, February 27, 2009.

… Kashmir is comprised of three distinct religions and regions — In Kashmir Valley, 98 percent of the population is Muslim; in Jammu, 60 percent of the population is Hindu; and in Ladakh, 49 percent is Buddhist. Kashmiris have always been proud of their diverse cultures, traditions and religions, with Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims living together in communal harmony. Even Gandhi lauded the Kashmiris for their peace-loving nature and called Kashmir “a ray of hope in the darkness.”

While the roots of the present conflict trace back to the time of partition, the more recent violent struggle began when Kashmiri Muslims, emboldened by the Afghan success in the fight against the Soviets, launched a similar movement against India in the late 1980’s.

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