Monthly Archives: October 2011

There Is No Way To Stop Europe’s First Domino From Falling

Simply put, there is no way the EU authorities can stop the first domino — Greek default or equivalent writedown of its impossible debt load — from toppling the over-leveraged banks which will be rendered insolvent when forced to recognize their losses.

That leaves each nation with the politically unsavory option of bailing out its premier banks with taxpayer money, and squeezing the money out of its citizenry via higher taxes and austerity. That assumption of bank debt will in turn trigger downgrades of heavily indebted sovereign nations such as France — moves that will raise rates and make the bailout even more costly to taxpayers, who will also be suffering from reductions of income due to global recession.

Once the banks and bondholders accept a 50%–75% writedown in Greek debt, then the other debtor nations will be justified in demanding the same writedown in their crushing debts. This dynamic leads to estimates that 3 trillion euros will be needed to bail all the players out. Alternatively, total losses will equal 3 trillion euros, wiping out banks and bondholders of sovereign debt.

The German economy is simply not big enough to fund a 3 trillion-euro bailout. Germany has 81 million people and its GDP is $3.3 trillion; the EU GDP is roughly $16 trillion. Compare those with the U.S., with 315 million people and a GDP of around $14.6 trillion.

Read more: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/google/RzFQ/~3/uGsaPER3uYA/european-financial-crisis-in-one.html#ixzz1bdVxUFPG

Bukowski Letter on Censorship

7-22-85

Dear Hans van den Broek:

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”–bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males. Only when you write about “bad” white males they don’t complain about it. And need I say that there are “good” blacks, “good” homosexuals and “good” women?

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of “sadism” it is because it exists, I didn’t invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the “light” and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else’s book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.

I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it’s damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven’t written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that’s enough.

may we all get better together,
yrs,

(Signed)
Charles Bukowski

Matt Taibbi: My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters

No matter what, I’ll be supporting Occupy Wall Street. And I think the movement’s basic strategy – to build numbers and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles – makes a lot of sense early on. But the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. To do that, it will need a short but powerful list of demands. There are thousands one could make, but I’d suggest focusing on five:

1. Break up the monopolies. The so-called “Too Big to Fail” financial companies – now sometimes called by the more accurate term “Systemically Dangerous Institutions” – are a direct threat to national security. They are above the law and above market consequence, making them more dangerous and unaccountable than a thousand mafias combined. There are about 20 such firms in America, and they need to be dismantled; a good start would be to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks.

2. Pay for your own bailouts. A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about. It would also deter the endless chase for instant profits through computerized insider-trading schemes like High Frequency Trading, and force Wall Street to go back to the job it’s supposed to be doing, i.e., making sober investments in job-creating businesses and watching them grow.

3. No public money for private lobbying. A company that receives a public bailout should not be allowed to use the taxpayer’s own money to lobby against him. You can either suck on the public teat or influence the next presidential race, but you can’t do both. Butt out for once and let the people choose the next president and Congress.

4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. For starters, we need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income, while ordinary Americans pay twice that for teaching kids and putting out fires. I defy any politician to stand up and defend that loophole during an election year.

5. Change the way bankers get paid. We need new laws preventing Wall Street executives from getting bonuses upfront for deals that might blow up in all of our faces later. It should be: You make a deal today, you get company stock you can redeem two or three years from now. That forces everyone to be invested in his own company’s long-term health – no more Joe Cassanos pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses for destroying the AIGs of the world.

via My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

Mount Everest Live

This webcam showing Everest’s western face is the highest in the world. Whatever is going on in the world of men, there it is, Chomolungma the ‘Holy Mother’, doing it’s thing, rising above us all. That must be the South Col, on the right, where climbers from the Nepal side camp before summit day.

In other news, there are calls for toilets to be installed up there after “a Nepal-based coalition of environmentalists campaigning to keep the mountain clean, has collected more than 13 tonnes of garbage, 400 kilogrammes of human waste and four bodies since 2008.”

Reasons the Wall Street Protesters are Protesting

They came by the thousands, and then the tens of thousands. As the crowd swelled in Foley Square massing for a march to Wall Street, I was most struck by its diversity. They were young, old and middle-aged; black, white, Hispanic and Asian; college kids, professionals, workers and the unemployed. They had come to march on Wall Street, called by 15 of New York’s largest unions in an act of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in Liberty Park.

They were rimmed by the massive, impersonal edifices of a government they felt no longer cared about them – and they were preparing to confront the banks and speculators further downtown who had hijacked the state for their own private interests. They spoke with a diversity of voices and held signs covering a spectrum of demands. But it could all be summed up in one word: fairness.

I talked with a bus driver, a nurse, a retired teacher, a salesman and an actor. (Check out my slideshow of the event to see photos.) Here is some of what they told me:

Dorothy Ahmahd, an RN sporting a T-shirt of the National Nurses Union, said, “Nurses are supporting this movement because we see a lot of our patients who once had jobs, but are no longer able to pay for health care. We know this country’s deficit is being balanced with cuts from poor people who can’t pay.” What does she want? “Taxation across the board so our patients can get good health care – no more loopholes for rich people or corporate America to slide through…” and Medicare for all.

Jesse Mendoza is a bus driver in the Bronx, who characterizes himself as “the upper poor,” struggling to make it even though he has a job. He wants an end to the fight against workers. He said his union had seen more than 700 station agents laid off recently, as well as bus and train operators, and feared that give-backs extracted from other public sector unions, like the CSEA, were coming next for him.

Bill Buster is an actor and union member (AFTRA). He lives in the neighborhood of Liberty Park where the Occupy Wall Street protesters are encamped and started getting involved by bringing food to them. Then he was shocked into action when he witnessed the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge last Saturday. Dressed in a suit and tie, he was outraged at the media’s portrayal of the protesters: “It’s just been insulting and patronizing the way the mainstream media has singled out only the young who they can portray as hippies; they do not portray the senior citizens that are involved with us; they do not portray the professionals; they’re taking all the cheap shots they can.” Declaring the movement welcomes “Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, who are all impacted because they live in this country,” he added that he knew bankers and Wall Street lawyers who were active in the protests after having lost their jobs.

But perhaps the retired teacher summed it up best. Telling me, “the system is broken and we are no longer providing the promise America always has,” she held up a hand-made sign saying, “Economic Justice 4 All.”

Images from here
Text from here

Slavoj Zizek at Liberty Plaza

Extracts of Slavoj Zizek’s speech 9 October at Occupy Wall Street:

They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cart reaches a precipice but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, “Hey, look down!”

Here we don’t think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even suppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from communist times.

A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends, “Let’s establish a code. If the letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I said. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get a first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter, “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the West. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.”

This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want, but what we are missing is red ink. The language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom war and terrorism and so on falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here: You are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember: Carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like, “Oh, we were young, it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is: We are allowed to think about alternatives. The rule is broken. We do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember: The problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system that pushes you to give up. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process.

We are not communists. If communism means the system which collapsed in 1990, remember that today those communists are the most efficient, ruthless capitalists. In China today we have capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American capitalism but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize capitalism, don’t allow yourselves to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over.

The change is possible. … We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire.

Climate Change and the End of Australia

In the past year – one of the hottest on record – extreme weather has battered almost every corner of the planet. There have been devastating droughts in China and India, unprecedented floods and wildfires in the United States, and near-record ice melts in the Arctic. Yet the prosperous nations of the world have failed to take action to reduce the risk of climate change, in part because people in prosperous nations think they’re invulnerable. They’re under the misapprehension that, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Tom Schelling puts it, “Global warming is a problem that is going to primarily affect future generations of poor people.” To see how foolish this reasoning is, one need only look at Australia, a prosperous nation that also happens to be right in the cross hairs of global warming. “Sadly, it’s probably too late to save much of it,” says Joe Romm, a leading climate advocate who served as assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration.

This is not to say that the entire continent will sink beneath the waves anytime soon. What is likely to vanish – or be transformed beyond recognition – are many of the things we think of when we think of Australia: the barrier reef, the koalas, the sense of the country as a land of almost limitless natural resources. Instead, Australia is likely to become hotter, drier and poorer, fractured by increasing tensions over access to water, food and energy as its major cities are engulfed by the rising seas.

To climate scientists, it’s no surprise that Australia would feel the effects of climate change so strongly, in part because it has one of the world’s most variable climates. “One effect of increasing greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere is to amplify existing climate signals,” says Karoly. “Regions that are dry get drier, and regions that are wet get wetter. If you have a place like Australia that is already extreme, those extremes just get more pronounced.” Adding to Australia’s vulnerability is its close connection with the sea. Australia is the only island continent on the planet, which means that changes caused by planet-warming pollution – warmer seas, which can drive stronger storms, and more acidic oceans, which wreak havoc on the food chain – are even more deadly here.

via Climate Change and the End of Australia | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

Who’s bankrolling the climate-change deniers?

Not too long ago, belief in climate science wasn’t a political issue. Honestly! As recently as the 2008 U.S. presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican candidates professed belief in the threat of global warming, and each advanced policies designed to curb U.S. carbon emissions. Senator John McCain had even co-sponsored one of the first congressional bills to create a carbon cap-and-trade system. And it wasn’t just McCain; Mitt Romney, runner-up for the GOP nomination last time around, supported a regional cap-and-trade program while he was governor of Massachusetts. There was still a wide gap between Democrats and Republicans on the severity of the climate-change threat and on how ambitious carbon-cutting policy should be, but at least there was a general agreement that global warming was a real thing.

Not anymore. With the exception of Jon Huntsman — who barely registers in polls — you can’t find a Republican presidential candidate who unequivocally believes in climate science, let alone one who wants to do anything about it. Instead of McCain — who has walked back his own climate-policy realism since the 2008 elections — we have Texas Governor Rick Perry, who told voters in New Hampshire over the weekend that “I don’t believe manmade global warming is settled in science enough.” And many Republicans agree with him: the percentage of self-identified Republicans or conservatives answering yes to the question of whether the effects of global warming were already being felt fell to 30% or less in 2010, down from 50% in 2007-08. Meanwhile, liberals and Democrats remained around 70% or more.(See pictures of the effects of global warming.)

That’s deeply troubling. It’s one thing when people disagree on the effectiveness of different approaches to fix a problem; it’s worse when they refuse even to believe that a problem exists — despite an overwhelming scientific consensus that says it does. One of America’s major political parties has, in effect, adopted denial as policy. How did we get here?

via Why Climate-Change Denial Is So Powerful – TIME.

Nerdcore Rap by Dan Bull re #occupywallstreet

Featuring Radiohead sample.

‘Coincidentally’ JP Morgan have just made the largest (multi-million) donation in history direct to the NYPD. It’s not about Protesters vs Police but for sure the movement can’t pay off the police. This is now the third week of the little-reported anti-greed/corporate interest in politics protests/anti-corruption movement now spreading across the USA and beyond. Unions, teachers, veterans, and the general public are joining in. I am sure some of the police, who are also having their pensions stripped from them, would also prefer to join in than protect the wealthy.