Bulletin N° 371
Subject: ON MORAL BLINDNESS IN THE LABYRINTH OF PAIN AND PLEASURE
11 October 2008
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Organized religions are, of course, political, and all sorts of people walk the corridors of these institutions. Antonio Damasio's most recent book, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain(2003), discusses the causes of moral blindness, from a neurobiological viewpoint.
Dr. Damasio observes that most of us survivors of the pitiless forces of evolution over the millennia posses the human brain capacity for moral vision. (That is to say we have the necessary surface area in pertinent regions of our brains to formulate ethical ideas, and most of us have the necessary nerve circuitry to make it happen.) What is required, however, are two additional things, according to Damasio: (1) ECS (Emotionally Competent Stimuli) coming from our environment --both social and natural-- (i.e. events which are capable of activating human emotions) and (2) a cultivated "sense of Self" (i.e. learning to pay attention to emotional states within our bodies which concern our well-being, past, present, and possible future).
"Man is not born blind," the anti-psychiatrist David Cooper once told me as we walked the streets of Paris together in the late 1970s, but he is conditioned into a moral blindness by capitalist society with its mind-numbing social relationships. It was about this time that Sartre had written his famous essay, On a raison de se revolter ("We are right to revolt"). A new law-and-order was coming down on us in the late 1970s, in a variety of slightly different nationalist shades of color of course, but grosso modo we anti-war activists all found ourselves entering the repressive post-war era of Thatcher-Reagan-Mitterrand. Quickly international economic structural imperatives transcended ideological preferences, and systems of social control had to be developed in order to protect in one way or another the environment for Investment Capital.
The moral views of the original capitalist theorist, Adam Smith (1723-1790), could no longer be evoked at the end of the 20th Century as an alternative way of life in Monopoly Capitalist society :
What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt,
and has a clear conscience?
the very first foundation of virtue is the endeavor to preserve the individual self,
and happiness consists in the human capacity to preserve itself.(Proposition 18 in
Part IV of The Ethics, cited by Damasio, p.170)
The flip-side of this notion of "enlightened self-interest" is individual greed and tyranny. The culture of domination/subjugation displaced the emerging democratic culture within late capitalism by the early 1980s.
In his book, Looking for Spinoza, Antonio Damasio comments on contemporary scientific research which would corroborate the views of these early moral philosophers :
For example, Spinoza submitted in his Proposition 26 that :
The human mind does not perceive any external body as actually existing
except through the ideas of the modification (affections) of its own body.
(cited by Damasio, p.212)
Dr. Damasio, a neurobiologist, elaborates on the social significance of this 17th-century philosophical view intuited by Spinoza. He develops its neurobiological implications :
If feelings index the state of life within each living human organism,
they also can index the state of life of any human group, large or small.
Intelligent reflections on the relation between social phenomena and
experience of feelings of joy and sorrow seems indispensable for the
perennial human activity of devising systems of justice and political
organization. Perhaps even more importantly, feelings, especially sorrow
and joy, can inspire the creation of conditions in the physical and cultural
environments that promote the reduction of pain and the enhancement of
well-being for society. In that direction, developments in biology and progress
in medical technologies have bettered the human condition consistently over
the past century. So have the sciences and technologies related to managing
the physical environment. So have the arts, to some extent. So has the growth
of wealth in democratic nations, to some extent.(p.165)
The indispensable role of feelings is based on our ability to "read" our own emotions in specific cultural and social contexts and to transfer this information to the level of feelings. This continual reading (Damasio calls it "neural-mapping") and transfer is our window to the world, and without this capacity we are blind to what is going on around us. In this sense, feelings are "ideas" which are formed by the human brain. The production of feelings, according to Damasio, originate from three kinds of Emotions: background emotions (which include enthusiasm, excitement, malaise, edginess, and tranquility); primary emotions (which include fear, anger, disgust, surprise, sadness, and happiness); and social emotions (which include sympathy, embarrassment, shame, guilt, pride, jealousy, envy, gratitude, admiration, indignation, and contempt). Damasio goes on to describe what he terms "the nesting principle", by which he means that each of these emotions is built into a whole set of "regulatory reactions" which incorporate components, subcomponents, and varied combinations at different levels. For example, the social emotion of "contempt" is linked to the primary emotion of "disgust".
Conscious feelings are prominent mental events that call attention to the
emotions that begat them, and to the objects that triggered those emotions.
In individuals who also have an autobiographical self --the sense of personal
past and anticipated future also known as extended consciousness-- the state
of feeling prompts the brain to process emotion-related objects and situations
In fact, Damasio suggests that the Emotions can be understood as the higher branches of a tree chart, the entire structure of which include one level above Emotions and three levels below. The first four levels of this structure (including the forth level of Emotions) represent homeostatic regulation of the human body triggered at each level by external events. The levels located below Emotions on this chart are in, descending order, the branches of human Drives and Motivations (including appetites and desires), below this level is Pain and Pleasure Behaviors, and at the bottom of this tree is the level of Metabolic Regulation, Basic Reflexes, and Immune Responses. At the top of this tree chart, at the fifth level, are Feelings, which are defined as "a mental expression of all other levels of homeostatic regulation." Feelings are recognized as the only events in the human body that are triggered by internal stimulus. He writes that :
feelings are necessary because they are a mental-level expression
of emotions and what lies beneath them. Only at that mental level
of biological processing and in the full light of consciousness is
there sufficient integration of the now, the past, and the anticipated
future. Only at that level is it possible for emotions to create, via
feelings, the concern for the individual self. . . . .
Some feelings optimize learning and recall. Other feelings, extremely
painful feelings in particular, perturb learning and protectively suppress
recall. In general, memory of the self situation promotes, consciously
or not, the avoidance of events associated with negative feelings and
the seeking of situations that may cause positive feelings(p.178)
in an autobiographical setting, feelings generate a concern for the
individual experiencing them. The past, the now, and the anticipated
future are given the appropriate saliencies and a better chance to
influence the reasoning and decision-making process. . . . .
When feelings become known to the self within the organism that
processes them, feelings improve and amplify the process of managing
life. The machinery behind feelings enables the biological corrections
necessary for survival by offering explicit and highlighted information
as to the state of different components of the organism at each given
moment. . . . The effective solution of nonstandard problems requires
the flexibility and high power information gathering that mental
processes can offer, as well as the mental concern that feelings can
One might say that the goals of [Soviet] Marxism, albeit narrow, were
laudable in some respects since the stated intention was to create some
kind of fair world. Yet the ways and means of the societies that promoted
Marxism were disastrous because, among other reasons, they were in frequent
clash with the well-established mechanisms of automated life regulation. The
good of the larger collective often required the pain and suffering of many
individuals. The result was a costly human tragedy. . . . In most respects, then,
the non- automated devices are a work in progress, still hampered by the enormous
difficulty of negotiating goals and finding ways and means that do not violate
other aspects of life regulation. From this perspective, I believe feelings remain
essential to maintaining those goals the cultural group considers inviolable and
worthy of perfecting. Feelings also are a necessary guide to the invention and
negotiation of ways and means that, somehow, will not clash with basic life
regulation and distort the intention behind the goal. Feelings remain as
important today as when humans first discovered that killing other humans
was a questionable action .(168)
The history of our civilization is, to some extent, the history
of a persuasive effort to extend the best of [authentic] "moral
sentiments" to wider and wider circles of humanity, beyond
the restrictions of the inner groups, eventually encompassing
the whole of humanity.(163)
These generous feelings, writes Damasio, are the impetus of scientific progress and works of art before they are appropriated by exclusive political groups. This neural network of the human anatomy explains why health, education, longevity, and the general quality of life has improved for most of us over the millennia, and in the past 100 years, of human history despite recurring pollutions that distort human feelings, those complex ideations derived from physical emotions.
The great reversal today, according to this neurobiologist, is the backward-looking politics of exclusion and privatization drives, that strive to maintain a momentary homeostasis in "restricted environments of tribalism, racism, tyranny and religious fanaticism," where in the long run "false" body mappings will falsify feelings of pleasure and pain and lead to attempts to stabilize "collective well-being" in ways which will eventually provoke great violence and despair on the part of those who have indulged in this collective delusion and for those on whom they have attempted to impose their solution.
The 7 items below are intended as a "reality check" for further intellectual activities. We believe the nature of the problem must be understood radically (root and branch) before solutions are proposed to correct our out-of-balance system that is still careening toward self-destruction.
Item A. is an article by Chalmers Johnson describing the link between the November elections and the economic crisis.
Item B. is a series of videos presented by the editors of The New York Times in which the present historic economic crisis is discussed from the point of view of rescuing capitalist class interests.
Item C. is an article by Gabriel Kolko on the Israel-U.S. connection and its strategy against Iran.
Item D. is an audio interview from George Kenney, who discusses "the future of American Imperialism" with Wayne White, one of the top U.S. intelligence analysts specialized in Iraq.
Item E. a message from Nance Upham correcting a misinterpretation by George Monbiot, who has confused the satirical writings of American economics professor Nouriel Roubini with those of "right-wing nuts".
Item F., sent to us by Truthout, is an article by Ann Wright on the continuing violence against women in the U.S. military.
Item G., sent to us by Dianna Johnstone, contains two articles on U.S. domination in Serbia and the new "artificial order" it helps to maintain.
And finally, we share with CEIMSA readers University of Massachusetts Professor Richard Wolff's economic analysis (with a great deal of humor) :
and the Electric Politics interview with economist, Paul Craig Roberts on :
and Christian Science Monitor congressional correspondent, Gail Chaddock, on the October 3 vote "against the $700 billion bailout" in the House of Representatives :
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Chalmers Johnson :
Date: 7 October 2008
Subject: A "Defining Moment" in American History.
In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama called the forthcoming presidential election a 'defining moment' in this country's history. It is conceivable that he is right. There are precedents in American history for an election inaugurating a period of reform and political realignment.
ISRAEL AND IRAN – AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
by Gabriel Kolko
Special to Defense and the National Interest.
Copyright © 2007 by Gabriel Kolko. Published with permission of the author
There has been a qualitative leap in military technology that makes all inherited conventional wisdom, and war as an instrument of political policy, utterly irrelevant, not just to the United States but also to any other state that embarks upon it. Nations should have realized this a century ago but they did not. But there have been decisive changes in balances of power, and more accurate and destructive weapons – and soon nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them – are becoming more and more available to the poorer countries. Technology is moving much more rapidly than the diplomatic and political resources or will to control its inevitable consequences. Nowhere is the danger of an uncontrolled, technology-driven escalation greater than in the long standing and increasingly complicated alliance between Israel and the United States.
The United States should have learned its lesson in Vietnam, and its public is aware of it to a far greater extent than its politicians. The war in Iraq has reaffirmed the decisive limits of technology when fighting against enemies who are decentralized and determined. It has been extraordinarily expensive but militarily ineffective, and America is ineluctably losing its vast undertaking. Rivals are much more equal, and wars more protracted and expensive for those who persist in fighting them. America's ambitions for hegemony throughout the globe can now be more and more successfully challenged.
The ultra-modern Israel Defense Force finally learned this in Lebanon last July, when Hezbollah rockets destroyed or seriously damaged at least 20 of its best tanks and they were fought to a draw – abandoning the field of battle and losing their precious myth of invincibility. Growing demoralization well before the Lebanon war plagued Israel, and the percentage of Jews with higher academic degrees that migrated grew steadily after 2002. Israel exports brainpower to a extent very high by world standards. The Lebanon war and talk – both from Israeli and Iranian leaders – of "existential" threats to the state's very existence only gravely aggravated this defeatism and the desire to leave. At the end of January, 78 percent of the Israeli public was "unhappy" with their leaders for a variety of reasons.
Israeli politics has always been highly unstable by any standard but the corruption and other scandals that are now plaguing it exceed any in its history, paralleling its loss of confidence in its military power. Alienation from the political class in Israel has never been greater and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cronies hope that spreading fear of the Iranian bomb will help them ride out a political storm that has seen his poll rating plummet to a record low. But fear works both ways, frightening the people who can migrate most easily and keeping out tourists and foreign investors.
Moreover, the Israeli public's anxiety has not been lessened by reports of the efficacy of anti-missile systems that Israel has installed at great expense. The Iranians have mastered all of the technical bases of missile technology, according to Israeli experts, and although the quality and precision of its missiles may leave something to be desired they can inflict immense damage. Israeli specialists also argue that the missile defense shield that Israel possesses – in common with those of all other nations – is not sufficient to protect it. Syria has missiles also – not so effective as the Iranian but much closer and capable of inflicting much damage if used.
Notwithstanding the apocalyptic proclamations on Iran's imminent nuclear power by Olmert's major rival, Binyamin Netanyahu, or by the prime minister himself and some of his cabinet on occasion, this hysteria is politically motivated and intended to garner public support.
Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, told the Israeli Knesset last December that diplomatic efforts were "far from being over" – and that an Iranian nuclear bomb was at least two years or more off. Many Israeli strategists, including Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, now regard Bush's war in Iraq as a highly destabilizing disaster for the entire region and a major boon to Iran's power, and they regret having endorsed it. A war would Iran would be far more dangerous. Worse yet, efforts to demonize Iran have failed. Only 36 percent of the Jewish population of Israel polled last month thought an Iranian nuclear attack the "biggest threat" to Israel.
Serious Israeli strategists overwhelmingly believe, to cite Reuven Pedatzur in Ha'aretz last November, that "mutual assured deterrence, can be forged, with high degree of success, between Israel and Iran." Israeli strategic thinking is highly realistic. Early this February a study released at a conference by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University predicted that Iran would behave rationally with nuclear weapons and "that the elimination of Israel is not considered to be an essential national interest" for it. Iran "will act logically, evaluating the price and risks involved." A preemptive attack on Iran nuclear research sites would "be a strategic mistake," Pedatzur warned the conference, and the use of tactical nuclear weapons against them sheer folly. "Our best option is open nuclear deterrence."
Israeli experts have come to the realization that American policy in the Middle East is not merely an immense failure but also a decisive inhibition to Israel reorienting its foreign policy to confront the realities of the region that the Jews have chosen to live in. It has ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein from Iraq and created an overwhelming Iranian presence. In Palestine its campaign for democracy has brought Hamas to power. Troop escalation in Iraq is deemed futile. "It's a total misreading of reality," one Israeli expert is quoted when discussing America's role in the region. Israeli interests were no longer being served. American policies have failed and Israel has given a carte blanche to a strategy that leaves it more isolated than ever.
Peace – or War
The only security Israel can have will be a result of its signing peace accords with the Palestinians and the neighboring countries. It is no more likely than the U. S. to defeat its enemies on the field of battle and its arms have been neutralized. The war in Lebanon was only an augury of the decisive limits of its military power. It is this context that secret Israeli talks with Syria have enormous significance. They began in January 2004 in Turkey with the approval of Sharon, moving on to Switzerland, where the Swiss Foreign Office played the role of intermediary. By August 2005 they had reached a very advanced form and covered territorial, water, border and political questions. Details remained to be ironed out but they were a quantum leap in solving one of the region's crucial problems. When the Baker-Hamilton Study Group filed its recommendations last December, negotiations with Syria were especially stressed – a point he reiterated when he testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last January 30th. Baker undoubtedly knew about the secret talks and Syria's explicit statements it wished to break with radical Islamic movements and was ready to discuss its ties with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
These nominally secret talks were made public on January 8, 2007 when Egypt president Hosni Mubarak accused the United States in an interview with an Israeli paper of obstructing peace between Israel and Syria.
Ha'aretz' Akiva Eldar then published a series of extremely detailed accounts, including the draft accord, confirming that Syria 'offered a far reaching and equitable peace treaty that would provide for Israel's security and is comprehensive – and divorce Syria from Iran and even create a crucial distance between it and Hezbollah and Hamas. The Bush Administration's role in scuttling any peace accord was decisive. C. David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, sat in at the final meeting, and two former senior CIA officials were present in all of these meetings and sent regular reports to Vice President Dick Cheney's office. The press has been full of details on how the American role was decisive because it has war, not peace, at the top of its agenda.
Most of the Israeli Establishment favors it. On January 28 important Israelis met publicly in Jaffa and called the Israeli response "an irresponsible gamble with the State of Israel" since it made Cheney arbiter of Israeli national interests. They included former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin Shahak, former Shin Bet chief Ya'akov Perry, former directors of the Foreign Ministry David Kimche and Alon Liel (who negotiated the deal and believes it is very serious), and the like. Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Foreign Minister, has since supported their position and argued that it is "too important" for Israel to endorse yet "another failure in the U.S. strategy."
But Olmert has explicitly said that the Bush Administration opposes a negotiated peace with Syria. Therefore he is opposed to it also. Olmert's contradiction is that he wants to remain closely allied to the U.S., whatever its policies, yet he is now one of the most unpopular prime ministers in Israel's history and in power only because of Sharon's stroke. Israel is a crucial pillar of American policy in the entire region but this policy is failing. An alliance with America is Olmert's recipe for political defeat when the inevitable election is called. That is his problem.
Israel's power after 1947 was based on its military supremacy over its weaker neighbors. It is in the process of losing it – if it has not already. Lesser problems, mainly demographic, will only be aggravated if tension persists. It simply cannot survive allied with the United States, because the Americans will either leave the region or embark on a war that risks Israel's very existence. It is time for it to become "normal" and make peace with its neighbors, and that will require it to make major concessions. It can do that if it embarks upon an independent foreign policy, and it can start immediately to do so with Syria.
Gabriel Kolko is one of the leading historians of modern warfare. He is the author of the classic Century of War: Politics, Conflicts and Society Since 1914 and Another Century of War?. He has also written a well regarded history of the Vietnam War, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the US and the Modern Historical Experience. His latest book, After Socialism: Reconstructing Social & Political Thought, was published in September 2006.
He can be reached at: email@example.com.
from George Kenney:
Date: 3 October 2008
Subject: Democracy as a pretext for imperialist war.
Surge, Splurge, Gurge
By this time, only someone of extreme naïveté and inexperience could believe that the U.S., through force of arms, might bring democracy and stability to Afghanistan and Iraq. The reality is that ultimately the U.S. military will be must be utterly swallowed up. I have long maintained that our "leaders" who put us in those places surely understood that. Why exactly we are there, then, I don't know. History will judge. Specifically regarding Iraq, despite John McCain's dishonest touting of the surge, victory is nowhere in sight; indeed, there's a heap of trouble coming down the road. To get a well-informed and balanced sense of what's happening I turned again to Wayne White, one of the top U.S. intelligence analysts specialized in Iraq, recently retired. It's always a privilege to talk with Wayne, who exercises a refined discretion in his judgment, which I reckon to be far more accurate than the conventional wisdom. Total runtime an hour and sixteen minutes. Think smart.
from Nance Upham :
Date: 3 October 2008
Subject: Correcting a misinterpretation.
In your last newsletter (please see CEIMSA Bulletin #370), which I always read with great interest, I see that George Monbiot is reported as saying: /According to Senator Jim Bunning, the proposal to purchase $700bn of dodgy debt by the US government was "financial socialism, it is un-American". The economics professor Nouriel Roubini called George Bush, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke "a troika of Bolsheviks who turned the USA into the United Socialist State Republic of America". Bill Perkins, the venture capitalist who took out an ad in the New York Times attacking the plan, called it "trickle-down communism"/
George Monbiot is mixing up ultra right nuts with witty comments and he is totally off in his portrayal of Roubini, the later was mocking the ultra rich for wanting 'Coommunism' in the form of common- State bailout of their bad assets
In fact, while a socialist economist myself, I like to read Roubini because he is extremely critical of the circus going on in Washington DC- See below one of his recent analysis.
Do you have any news from my favorite economist, Douglas Dowd, the only one who predicted this predicament : the financial blowout???
" Is Purchasing $700 billion of Toxic Assets the Best Way to Recapitalize the Financial System? No! It is Rather a Disgrace and
Rip-Off Benefitting only the Shareholders and Unsecured Creditors of Banks"
Nouriel Roubini <http://www.rgemonitor.com/roubini-monitor/bio/2/nouriel_roubini> | Sep 28, 2008
Whenever there is a systemic banking crisis there is a need to recapitalize the banking/financial system to avoid an excessive and destructive credit contraction. But purchasing toxic/illiquid assets of the financial system is not the most effective and efficient way to recapitalize the banking system. Such recapitalization via the use of public resources can occur in a number of alternative ways: purchase of bad assets/loans; government injection of preferred shares; government injection of common shares; government purchase of subordinated debt; government issuance of government bonds to be placed on the banks' balance sheet; government injection of cash; government credit lines extended to the banks; government assumption of government liabilities.
A recent IMF study of 42 systemic banking crises across the world provides evidence on how different crises were resolved <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2008/wp08224.pdf>. First of all only in 32 of the 42 cases there was government financial intervention of any sort; in 10 cases systemic banking crises were resolved without any government financial intervention. Of the 32 cases where the government recapitalized the banking system only seven included a program of purchase of bad assets/loans (like the one proposed by the US Treasury). In 25 other cases there was no government purchase of such toxic assets. In 6 cases the government purchased preferred shares; in 4 cases the government purchased common shares; in 11 cases the government purchased subordinated debt; in 12 cases the government injected cash in the banks; in 2 cases credit was extended to the banks; and in 3 cases the government assumed bank liabilities. Even in cases where bad assets were purchased as in Chile dividends were suspended and all profits and recoveries had to be used to repurchase the bad assets. Of course in most cases multiple forms of government recapitalization of banks were used.
But government purchase of bad assets was the exception rather than the rule. It was used only in Mexico, Japan, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Jamaica, Malaysia, and Paraguay. Even in six of these seven cases where the recapitalization of banks occurred via the government purchase of bad assets such recapitalization was a combination of purchase of bad assets together with other forms of recapitalization (such as government purchase of preferred shares or subordinated debt).
In the Scandinavian banking crises (Sweden, Norway, Finland) that are a model of how a banking crisis should be resolved there was not government purchase of bad assets; most of the recapitalization occurred through various injections of public capital in the banking system. Purchase of toxic assets instead in most cases in which it was used made the fiscal cost of the crisis much higher and expensive (as in Japan and Mexico).
Thus the claim by the Fed and Treasury that spending $700 billion of public money is the best way to recapitalize banks has absolutely no factual basis or justification. This way of recapitalizing financial institutions is a total rip-off that will mostly benefit at a huge expense for the US taxpayer - the common and preferred shareholders and even unsecured creditors of the banks. Even the late addition of some warrants that the government will get in exchange of this massive injection of public money is only a cosmetic fig leaf of dubious value as the form and size of such warrants is totally vague and fuzzy.
So this rescue plan is a huge and massive bailout of the shareholders and the unsecured creditors of the financial firms (not just banks but also other non bank financial institutions); with $700 billion of taxpayer money the pockets of reckless bankers and investors have been made fatter under the fake argument that bailing out Wall Street was necessary to rescue Main Street from a severe recession. Instead, the restoration of the financial health of distressed financial firms could have been achieved with a cheaper and better use of public money.
Indeed, the plan also does not address the need to recapitalize those financial institutions that are badly undercapitalized: this could have been achieved by using some of the $700 billion to inject public funds in ways other and more effective than a purchase of toxic assets: via public injections of preferred shares into these firms; via required matching injections of Tier 1 capital by current shareholders to make sure that such shareholders take first tier loss in the presence of public recapitalization; via suspension of dividends payments; via a conversion of some of the unsecured debt into equity (a debt for equity swap). All these actions would have implied a much lower fiscal costs for the government as they would have forced the shareholders and creditors of the banks to contribute to the recapitalization of the banks. So less than $700 billion of public money could have been spent if the private shareholders and creditors had been forced to contribute to the recapitalization; and whatever the size of the public contribution were to be its distribution between purchases of bad assets and more efficient and fair forms of recapitalization (preferred shares, common shares, sub debt) should have been different. For example if the private sector had done its fair matching share only $350 billion of public money could have been used; and of this $350 billion half could have taken the form of purchase of bad assets and the other half should have taken the form of injection of public capital in these financial institutions. So instead of purchasing most likely at an excessive price - $700 billion of toxic assets the government could have achieved the same result or a better result of recapitalizing the banks by spending only $175 billion in the direct purchase of toxic assets. And even after the government will waste $700 billion buying toxic assets many banks that have not yet provisioned for such losses/writedowns will be even more undercapitalized than before. So this plan does not even achieve the basic objective of recapitalizing undercapitalized banks.
The Treasury plan also does not explicitly include an HOLC-style program <http://www.rgemonitor.com/roubini-monitor/253739/home_home_owners_mortgage_enterprise_a_10_step_plan_to_resolve_the_financial_crisis> to reduce across the board the debt burden of the distressed household sector; without such a component the debt overhang of the household sector will continue to depress consumption spending and will exacerbate the current economic recession.
Thus, the Treasury plan is a disgrace: a bailout of reckless bankers, lenders and investors that provides little direct debt relief to borrowers and financially stressed households and that will come at a very high cost to the US taxpayer. And the plan does nothing to resolve the severe stress in money markets and interbank markets that are now close to a systemic meltdown. It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented - many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum <http://www.rgemonitor.com/financemarkets-monitor> - alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis. This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street. And it is a scandal that even Congressional Democrats have fallen for this Treasury scam that does little to resolve the debt burden of millions of distressed home owners.
from Truth Out :
Date: 7 October 2008
Ann Wright, for Truthout, writes about the continuing violence against women in the US military.
The Murder of Military Women Continues
from Diana Johnstone :
Date: 9 October 2008
Subject: UN versus US-backed NGOs.
An "Independent Kosovo" is itself a US-backed, governmental "non-government" organization.
"Perhaps 48 countries did recognize Kosovo independence, but it may be worth mentioning that the other 144 did not."
--Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's Ambassador to the UN,
in response to American ambassador
during General Assembly's debate about Serbian initiative
IN FAVOR of the Serbian resolution requesting ICJ to rule on [il]legality of unilateral secession of its southern Kosovo and Metohija province (77 UN member states):
Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Timor-Leste, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
AGAINST Serbian initiative (6 countries):
Albania, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and United States of America.
Serbia Wins Majority Support in United Nations
by De-Construct.net | In Current, Kosovo-Metohija Crisis
Faculty of Law professors have been stunned by the Helsinki Board black lists. They have formed a special work group which published the official statement regarding the Stalinist attacks against them.
Dean Mirko Vasiljevic noted the publishing of Helsinki report at the same time Belgrade University's Faculty of Law celebrates two centuries since it was founded.
"That is a shameful book with even more shameful accusations against our faculty. Their 'report' uses the list of professors who signed the Petition against the Law on the Cooperation with the Hague tribunal six years ago. Some of those professors have passed away in the meantime and a number of them have been retired", Dean Vasiljevic said.
"The special paradox is the fact that Faculty of Law on Saturday marks the 60 year anniversary of its Universal Declaration on Human Rights, while at the same time it is being hissed at by something since yesterday, like 'Helsinki Committee for Human Rights'," Vasiljevic said.
"When Sonja Biserko, a self-styled defender of human rights shows up, you really need to start worrying about your rights", Zoran Djindjic's DS statement about Mme Helsinki Committee from January 2000
Political analyst and Professor at Faculty of Philosophy on Belgrade University Slobodan Antonic, who is one of the main of the politically incorrect professors listed by the anonymous Helsinki Committee denunciators said that Serbian media is already full of the self-loathing anti-Serbian propaganda of "the other Serbia" and that this book/report is characteristic in a number of ways.
"It has integrated all the negative stereotypes about the Serbs, all the worst anti-Serb accusations and all the maximal anti-Serbian demands. It is written in some kind of a new, half-Croat language, which apparently should become a new literary standard of a 'denazified' Serbia," Antonic said.
According to him, the request to censor the university lectures and textbooks is an "ominous announcement of the full-blown totalitarianism".
"This kind of assault against the basic academic freedoms could be carried out only by an occupational force or the puppet regime. It seems that someone from 'the other Serbia' believes at least one of the two is on its best way of being fulfilled. I think the authors are encouraged by the events and changes which took place lately. This will be the litmus test for their future behavior if it goes through, they can keep on making such lists and demands. That is why I think it is extremely important to resist," Antonic said.
Asked who can and should show resistance, Antonic said:
"First and foremost, the professional associations of the listed professions, but I think that the political leadership should at least evaluate the cover of the Helsinki Committee book, on which Serbia is shown without Kosovo and Metohija province, like a block of ice floating on water, melting and crumbling away. Which piece, according to the plans of the Helsinki Committee and its sponsors, is next in line to 'fall off'? Vojvodina? Sandzak (Raska region)? Presevo Valley? Vlach Krajina? And how much longer will it take for that lonely ice block to be reduced to the size that would satisfy Sonja Biserko and her 'Europa-ian' friends?"