Mar 092012



A viral video by a controversial group claims to fix Central African violence with awareness, but such misguided campaigns can do more harm than good.

By Kate Cronin-Furman and Amanda Taub, The Atlantic

Have you heard? Joseph Kony, brutal warlord and International Criminal Court indictee, is going to be famous like George Clooney. The reason is Kony 2012, a 30 minute film by the advocacy organization Invisible Children, which has gone viral in the 72 hours since its release, garnering over 38.6 million views on Youtube and Vimeo. It has been retweeted by everyone from Justin Bieber to Oprah, and shared on Facebook by seemingly everyone under the age of 25.

The video opens with a perplexing sequence of home movies. A happy couple film their baby’s delivery by Caesarean, and he grows into a healthy, smiling toddler. Then the scene cuts to Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony in Central Africa, violently preying upon poor villagers. Now we discover the reason for the five minutes we just spent with this bubbly blond child in Los Angeles. He serves as a contrast for the crying children of northern Uganda, who have been victimized by Kony. (Never mind the fact that the LRA left Uganda years ago.)

The movie swirls us through a quickie history of the LRA, a rebel group that terrorized vulnerable civilian populations in northern Uganda for nearly twenty years before moving into the borderlands of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic. It’s (justifiably) heavy on the vilification of Kony, but light on any account of the complex political dynamics that sparked the conflict or have contributed to the LRA’s longevity. Instead, we are given a facile explanation for Kony’s decades-long reign of terror: Not enough Americans care. […]




By Vincente Navarro, CounterPunch

There are some misconceptions that exist about Spain among large sectors of the progressive community in the United States.  Partially this is a result of the very poor coverage that exists about Europe in general and about Spain in particular in the press in the U.S.  Most economists in the US get the economic news about Spain from the Financial Times and to a lesser degree, from The Economist.

We have seen in the last few days several events that are indicators of that limited knowledge.  There, for example, was President Obama congratulating Chancellor Angela Merkel for the leadership she is providing in Europe, applauding at the same time the policies of the new conservative government, presided over by Mr. Rajoy in Spain, for the reforms that government has introduced in Spain.  Granted that to define Obama as a progressive requires a certain effort, and his ability to disappoint progressives is limitless, but someone should inform him that Chancellor Merkel has been one of the more reactionary leaders Europe has ever had in democratic times and is imposing extreme austerity in the most frontal attack the welfare state has been under in all the countries of the Eurozone.

The devastating effects of those policies are clearly seen in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.  Regarding the government of Rajoy, his party is a successor of the nomenklatura of the fascist dictatorship. Its founder, Manuel Fraga, was a leading figure in that state and defender to the very last day of the repression carried out by the Franco dictatorship (120,000 people are still ‘disappeared’).  And that party has always been the political instrument of the more reactionary forces in Spain, including banking and the large corporations.  His current minister of economy was  the Spanish director of Lehman Brothers at the time of its collapse. The reforms that President Obama celebrated have been the most frontal attack the working class has seen since democracy was born in Spain. These “reforms” are responsible for the dismantling of the already poorly funded Spanish welfare state. […]




Lately, European elites have been congratulating themselves for averting disaster in the eurozone. But who, exactly, is breaking out the champagne?

By Lynn Parramore, AlterNet

The Banks Got Bailed Out

[…] “Spain’s safety net frays as care workers go unpaid,” Reuters reports that nurses, streetcleaners, and caregivers of the mentally ill and others in desperate need of help are being laid off. Sick people can’t get medication. The human costs of austerity measures are cruel and startling.

Even Martin Wolf of the Financial Times (not exactly the paper of record for the 99%) calls this situation “insanity”:The eurozone structure and the austerity madness has exacerbated the gap between the more robust northern economies and shrinking southern ones, which is a recipe for growing social unrest. As regular people and workers get increasingly squeezed, protests are bound to follow. Social critics warn of a whole “lost generation” with no hope and nothing to lose.

“One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Germany’s determination to impose a fiscal hair shirt on its eurozone partners did not work in the “stability and growth pact”. Is it going to work in the “treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance” agreed last week? I doubt it. The treaty reflects the view that the crisis was due to fiscal indiscipline and that the solution is more discipline. This is far from the whole truth. Rigorous application of such a misleading idea is dangerous.”

There is a madness stalking Europe. And it’s not the “fiscal irresponsibility” of ordinary citizens. It’s the greed and short-sightedness of elites who don’t seem to mind that innocent children are made to pay for their excesses. That is surely another definition of insanity.




Source: Hellas Frappe

When you distort the truth, you kill democracy. Democracy is a Greek word, together with a 25-30% of Greek words that form the vocabulary of each western European language. According to Guiness or Webster more than 45,000 words of the English vocabulary are of Greek origin. Europeans speak with Greek words.When people pronounce the name “Europe” they are ignorant that this very word is constructed by two Greek words which express the beauty of a legendary Greek maiden’s large shining eyes so …beloved by Zeus! […]




Source: StopCartel

Pension funds funded over the decades with the money of the working people in Greece could use a mix of state property assets, shares, deposits and other sources to recover any losses suffered by their bond portfolios that are citizens property.

Not only with foreign holders of state bonds see their investment slashed, but so too will the country’s pension funds, who own a total of 21bn euros worth of bonds. Like the other bondholders, the nominal value of these bonds will be reduced by 53 percent as part of the wider haircut. The government said pension funds could use a mix of state property assets, shares, deposits and other sources to recover any losses suffered by their bond portfolios.




Source: The Automatic Earth

[…] So where does it all stack up one day before the swap gets underway? That’s considerably less certain than the required levels above. From what I understand so far, the IIF’s “steering committee”, plus other significant bondholders who have recently announced their intention to participate, represents a total of 40% of outstanding Greek debt to be restructured. Obviously, that’s well below what is needed for even a slightly successful swap. For what it’s worth, here is RBS’ estimate on how it will all end up, via The Telegraph’s live blog (note that RBS is one of the banks that has already agreed to participate):

It is relatively easy to imagine that the participation rate amongst ‘regulated’ institutions will be close to 100% given that they have for most of them already written off the bulk of their exposures and because of the negative stigma that would be attached to a financial institution singled out as non cooperative. Banks are believed to own around Eur90bn of bonds (at face value and including Greek banks). Insurances companies are believed to own around Eur15bn and are also very likely to be participating in the deal which would lift the participation rate to 51%. Add the Greek social security funds and the participation rate reaches 63%. Based on IIF communication and press reports we arrive to a slightly lower level of 58% (see table below). The bottom line is that we believe that the participation rate will be at the very minimum around 60% (between 58% and 63%) and most likely close to 70%. [..]




CDS are a form of derivative taken out by investors as insurance against default. According to the Comptroller of the Currency, nearly 95% of the banking industry’s total exposure to derivatives contracts is held by the nation’s five largest banks: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, HSBC, and Goldman Sachs.

Source: StopCartel

In an article titled “Still No End to ‘Too Big to Fail'”, William Greider wrote in The Nation on February 15:

Financial market cynics have assumed all along that Dodd-Frank did not end “too big to fail” but instead created a charmed circle of protected banks labeled “systemically important” that will not be allowed to fail, no matter how badly they behave. [1]

That may be, but there is one bit of bad behavior that Uncle Sam himself does not have the funds to underwrite: the US$32 trillion market in credit default swaps (CDS). Thirty-two trillion dollars is more than twice the US gross domestic product and more than twice the national debt.

CDS are a form of derivative taken out by investors as insurance against default. According to the Comptroller of the Currency, nearly 95% of the banking industry’s total exposure to derivatives contracts is held by the nation’s five largest banks: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, HSBC, and Goldman Sachs. The CDS market is unregulated, and there is no requirement that the “insurer” actually have the funds to pay up. CDS are more like bets, and a massive loss at the casino could bring the house down. […]




By Leon Watson, MailOnline

Greece is trying to sell off a huge slab of land on the holiday island of Corfu to raise cash to tackle its debts, it emerged today.

Government officials revealed a tender has been launched for the exploitation of a large seaside plot on the western resort island.

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund said it is seeking to sell the ‘right of surface’ for the 120-acre, forested property at Kassiopi for up to 100 years. […]




By Benjamin Clement, Economy In Crisis

A country’s source of production is its domestic manufacturing base. Without American-based companies, our country receives no production and creates no real wealth. America has allowed our companies to be sold off to foreign competitors on the open stock market. Over 16,000 of our best wealth producing companies have been auctioned off and the U.S. has no authoritative government agency prohibiting this Great American Sell-Off. A country that produces nothing produces no wealth.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was developed to oversee the national security implications of foreign investments into the U.S. economy.

According to Wikipedia, CFIUS was directed to:

  1. arrange for the preparation of analyses of trends and significant developments in foreign investments in the United States
  2. provide guidance on arrangements with foreign governments for advance consultations on prospective major foreign governmental investments in the United States
  3. review investments in the United States which, in the judgment of the Committee, might have major implications for United States national interests
  4. consider proposals for new legislation or regulations relating to foreign investment as may appear necessary.

If the foreign acquisition of a U.S. company goes against U.S. interests, CFIUS has been directed to stop the takeover and order divestment. Since enacted in 1975, CFIUS has only done this once.[…]




By Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism

[…] The talking point that the Troubled Asset Relief Program made money for the taxpayer is an important structural argument for the Treasury Department and the political elements in the Obama White House.  Yves Smith quoted an earlier GAO report on this phenomenon a few months ago.

Although Treasury regularly reports on the cost of TARP programs and has enhanced such reporting over time, GAO’s analysis of Treasury press releases about specific programs indicate that information about estimated lifetime costs and income are included only when programs are expected to result in lifetime income.

Our banking system is still reliant on the government for support.  Officials can claim that TARP made money, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a way of avoiding a description of the actual policy framework. […]




Source: The American Dream

#1 Median household income in the United States is down 7.8 percent since December 2007 after adjusting for inflation.

#2 There are 5.6 million less jobs than there were when the last recession began back in late 2007.

#3 The U.S. government says that the number of Americans “not in the labor force” rose by 17.9 million between 2000 and 2011.  During the entire decade of the 1980s, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” rose by only 1.7 million.

#4 In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

#5 In 2007, 73.2 percent of all young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 that were not enrolled in school had jobs.  Today, that number has declined to 65 percent.

#6 Back in the year 2000, more than 50 percent of all Americans teens had a job.  This past summer, only 29.6% of all American teens had a job.

#7 When Barack Obama entered the White House, the number of “long-term unemployed workers” in the United States was approximately 2.6 million.  Today, that number is sitting at 5.6 million.

#8 The average duration of unemployment in the United States is nearly three times as long as it was back in the year 2000.

#9 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

#10 According to the Obama administration, about 20 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs back in the year 2000.  Today, about 5 percent of all jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs. […]




How does an America with no middle class look like? Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects top two jobs for the next decade will pay roughly $20,000 a year. Approval rating of Congress at 10 percent. In comparison, Americans approved of BP’s handling of the Gulf oil crisis at a 16 percent rate.

Source: MyBudget360

A strong middle class has been at the core of what has been promoted as the American Dream.  How would America look like if the middle class simply vanished?  We may not need to wait too long at the current rate since we are quickly siphoning people off the middle class and throwing them into lower income brackets.  The vast majority of Americans do not buy into the propaganda promoted on the tightly controlled media outlets.  In fact, the latest Congressional job approval numbers are at a record low of 10 percent according to Gallup.  To put this low figure in perspective 16 percent of Americans approved of how BP handled the catastrophic Gulf oil spill at the peak of the blowout.  This low Congressional approval is all coming during a supposed economic recovery where 46,000,000 Americans receive a monthly charge to their debit card for food assistance.  Even government figures show the big job growth sectors of the next decade to be in low paying fields.  What would America look like without a middle class?

The era of the poor young worker

The recession has hit all groups hard but the deepest impact has been on young Americans.  Take a look at wages for young high school graduates: […]




By Ian Millhiser, Think Progress

[…] Rather than accept that these mass recalls are a sign that they should abandon their current policies and pursue effort that won’t incur such ire from the electorate, however, the Wisconsin GOP has decided to pursue a very different tactic — changing the rules of the game:

 In the face of an expected recall election targeting Gov. Scott Walker and four Republican state senators, the Wisconsin state Assembly voted Tuesday to amend the state constitution to make it more difficult to toss an official from office.

The measure, which still faces major hurdles before taking effect, would allow officeholders to be recalled only if they have been charged with a serious crime or if there is a finding of probable cause that they violated the state code of ethics. […]

 Republican supporters, including the amendment’s sponsor Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, argued changes are needed to limit recalls given the flurry of such efforts over the past year. Republicans have said Walker and the others are being unfairly targeted simply for doing their job. […]


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