Friday, November 28, 2008

Why is India being attacked?

If you watched or read the mainstream media's coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India then, like me, you may be confused. I had a ton of questions and no answers. Why these targets in Mumbai? Who could be behind the attacks? Who benefits from the attacks and what would the motivation be? After all, many of the spots targeted were luxurious Indian hotels, but also a Jewish center and a train station.

The first analysis we hear is based on religion. Islamic extremists were probably behind the attacks in Mumbai we're told. This may well be true. But is it ever only about religion? I instantly thought about the extreme poverty in India despite the country's booming economy and how that could lead to unrest.

I know virtually nothing about the situation there so I started to do some research and talked to a friend who lived in India for a number of years. I found out that in many ways the Muslim population has been left behind despite the economic boom India has been experiencing. This doesn't give motive for the attacks, but could help more extreme elements of the society with recruitment efforts. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and Mumbai native, spoke with and shed some light on what is happening in India.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Five Thanksgiving facts

Holed away in my office in Sweden, feeling far away from home - turkey, cranberry sauce and beer - I started to think about turkey.

The list:

1. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in the middle of the Civil War. The year - 1863.
2. It's unlikely turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but supposedly there was lots of venison. It was given to the Pilgrims as a gift from the Wampanoang king.
3. They also didn't eat pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving.
4. 78% of business and government workers were given paid holidays in 2007 both on Thanksgiving and the day after.
5. Remember Squanto? Did you ever wonder how he spoke English? Well, he had learned English as a slave in Europe.

Sources: CNN and Wikipedia

Monday, November 24, 2008

Government bailouts are all the rage

Here we are again. I'm afraid it won't be the last time. The U.S. government has guaranteed $306 billion worth of Citgroup's troubled mortgages and toxic assets and injected another $20 billion into the fast falling bank. That's in addition to the $25 billion it threw in last month, all of which consequently, has disappeared.

Once again we are told that the bank is "too big to fail" and that it "had to be done" and that it will "restore market confidence". So far this philosophy hasn't worked.

I'm no banker but if you gave the money directly to homeowners and helped them pay their mortgages wouldn't the "toxic asset" then become healthy? Wouldn't the banks then in turn also become healthier? Tell me if I'm wrong. Like I said, I'm no banker.

Behind each troubled mortgage or toxic asset there are thousands of families with no homes or in danger of losing their homes. Yes, they shouldn't have taken loans they couldn't afford and the banks and mortgage lenders shouldn't have lent them the money. Both parties are to blame, but only one party - the banks- are being forgiven, and bailed out. It's backwards.

Both Democrats and Republicans, with the support of corporate America, are drowning us with the "banks can't fail" mantra. We are continuously warned of the dire consequences we would face if this was allowed to happen. Meanwhile people and families are being allowed to fail all over the country. The truth we are aware of but don’t want to talk about and very rarely see shoved so blatantly in our face is that the government prefers corporations over people. And remember corporations aren't actually living, sentient beings. They are a creation.

I think if polled, the American people would say that people are more important than corporations. Am I even allowed to write that? Our government has it all screwed up. Corporations should be allowed to fail, especially when they have made horrible decisions, but people should be saved.

Maybe the global behemoth banks have enjoyed their heyday. It's time to get back to the basics. People over profit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Class issues never went away

Renowned historian Howard Zinn, writing about the growth of the labor movement and the rise of class consciousness in America before, during and after the Civil War, argues that the two main political parties leveraged the issues of war and reconstruction - national issues - to quell the class conflict expoding during that period.

He writes: “On these issues the political parties took positions, offered choices, obscured the fact that the political system itself and wealthy classes it represented were responsible for the problems they now offered to solve.”

We can apply this quote to the current crisis America is facing - the credit crisis or financial turmoil or deep recession or worst recession since the Great Depression (call it what you will).

The Democrats and the Republicans took positions and offered choices on how best to deal with the economic crisis facing America and then acted as if they, and the wealthy classes they represent, were not the ones who caused it.

Everyone knows both parties are in the pockets of big money and that lobbyists with the most bling bling are the ones with the most bills bills. Democrats are trying to claim the high ground, like they have nothing to do with the way America looks today. Sure George W. Bush ran the country into the ground for eight years, but we also had major problems under Clinton.

A country with such wealth and such incredible poverty, and both are completely out of control. Ford Motor Co. recorded a $12.7 billion net loss in 2006 and gave its new CEO at the time $28 million for four months on the job. This is a guy who, together with the other "big three" CEOs from the auto industry, flew into Washington D.C. this week on a private jet to ask congress for a $25 billion bailout. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York said at the hearing, "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."

While we're on the issues of soup kitchens, new government figures showed that nearly 700,000 people went hungry last year in America.

As much as the political parties, the wealthy they represent and the mainstream media want to avoid it, this has everything to do with issues of class. We need to call the problem what it is if we really hope to solve it.

So what do you do when the two political parties offer solutions and choices on how best to fix the problem while obscuring the fact that they, and the wealthy they represent, are responsible for it? Let me know what you think.

How is Obama's AG pick linked to death squads?

Man, the Obama bubble has been bursting and bursting. Sad. The center and right are happy that he's bringing up the same old names while the left is broken hearted. Now news comes out that Obama's pick for Attorney General, Eric Holder, represented Chiquita Brands, which recently settled with the US government for paying right wing terrorists and death squads in Columbia, among other human rights violations. Sad, sad, sad.

Michael Moore nails auto industry

Larry King had Michael Moore on his show last night. He tore up the auto industry and brought it home like only he can do. He said president-elect Obama should give the "big three" the money they need so they can use it to save jobs. Then he said we should completely replace the management and take control of the companies like Roosevelt did in WWII.

Moore said the government should use the big three to build mass transit and cars which use little or no gasoline. The justification for the takeover, he says, poor management, the fact that they made horrible cars for years and that we are facing an economic crisis.

Watch it.

Bailout illegal

According to the Washington Post, it seems while all eyes were on the bailout late September, the Treasury Department sneaked through a significant change to two decades of corporate tax policy that corporate tax lawyers now say will give American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion. The banks had been lobbying for this change for years.

Also analyzing the equity deals the Treasury negotiated with the banks, Naomi Klein is calling this "a trillion-dollar crime scene". Her article is a must read. And her book, The Shock Doctrine, outlines this disaster capitalism model. I think this book is a breakthrough in the analysis of how the neo-liberal, "free trade rules all" ideology has developed and how we can break it.

This is insane, the administration is robbing the federal treasury on its way out of the capital and the Democrats are afraid to anger the market. The free marketeers are holding us hostage.

I think when the Republicans realized that they couldn't privatize social security they figured out another ingenious plan - privatize the Treasury, and who better to do that than former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clinton to accept Obama's offer

The Guardian is reporting that Hillary Clinton will accept President-elect Barack Obama's offer to be secretary of state. It's pretty obvious to me that some sort of deal was made before the election, but that doesn't matter anymore. If this is true, and Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, I think it says more about Obama than it does about her.

Again and again, he surrounds himself with talent, people with whom he may disagree, rather than those who will yes him to death. He also doesn't seem to hold grudges, as he showed this week when he met with McCain. His approach so far is a breath of fresh air and it may be the sign of a remarkable leader.

I think she'll do a pretty decent job, but I don't feel too strongly about it either way. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Child Hunger in US rose 50 percent in 2007

Now I'm really insisting that the top execs at Goldman Sachs, and all the rest of the banks, give back their bonuses. The same year bonuses all over Wall Street ballooned to unprecedented levels, 36.2 million adults and children struggled with hunger in the United States. And you're telling me we shouldn't be spreading the wealth?

I'd take what some would call socialism....(I call it fairness)....any day of the week over the current "free market rules all" version of democracy.

Read the whole article

Monday, November 17, 2008

No bonuses for Goldman Sachs?

At the end of 2006 Goldman Sachs awarded employees with over $16 billion in bonuses - an average of over $600,000 buckaroos per employee. 2007 was even better. That year Goldman employees shared nearly $19 billion in bonuses. Many of the bonuses were performance-based.

This year however, according to the New York Times, the top seven executives at Goldman won't receive bonuses. Goldman's spokesman reportedly said "they believe it's the right thing to do." Oh, how generous, how compassionate. How will they be able to put any food on the table this Christmas?

CEO Lloyd C. Blankefein raked in a salary and bonus worth over $68 million in 2007. The two co-presidents each earned around $67 million. The right thing to do is to give your bonuses back for the past three years. Use it to save your company and your job, instead of allowing the Bush administration to threaten disaster if taxpayers don't step in and save you.

Goldman Sachs recently received a $10 billion gift as part of the federal government's $700 bailout package.

So, let's see. Some simple math, hmm... take only 2006 and 2007, Goldman employees received over $35 billion in bonuses. I wonder if it's possible to use that much money in less than two years. There must be some money still lying around in safes, off-shore accounts and duffle bags hidden in storage. Surely, if Goldman's top executives scraped their cash together they could come up with some spare change. $10 billion sounds reasonable.

Hey, wait, I can't believe it. I just figured it out. They should bail themselves out. If you're homeless, on welfare, poor, unemployed, well, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." What if you're a millionaire?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary Clinton secretary of state?

During the campaign Bill said that Obama's campaign was a fairy tale. Hillary basically said white people wouldn't vote for him. But when the Clintons backed Obama and hit the campaign trail hard for him, you knew something had to be in the works. Maybe Hillary was promised something. What do you think? Will Hillary Clinton be Obama's secretary of state?

My call is, yes. Absolutely. It makes perfect sense. Please, please, please leave John Kerry in the senate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Biden to meet Cheney

If you watched the Obama clan meet the Bush clan then I'm sure your jaw tightened up a bit and you began to feel nauseous. The body language was classic. W. fidgeting. Barack strutting. Laura extending her hand, the perfect southern Bell. Michele going in for the hug. What a clash of worlds! I would have paid a million dollars to be a fly on the oval office carpet that day.

Now it's Joe Biden's turn to meet with the most powerful man in the free world - Mr. Cheney, the shadow president, the hunter. On the campaign trail Biden called Cheney "the most dangerous vice president we've had." I hear Obama's inauguration tickets are being scalped for thousands of dollars. I'd rather watch this spectacle.

Foreclosures jump in October

Supreme Court, Navy go sonar on whales

The U.S. Navy is hunting for submarines with sonar in the seas off of southern California. The threat - the United States is under attack from new Al Qaeda submarines powered by nothing but hate for America and our way of life.

As in all wars, the US military does what it can to minimize "collateral damage", but in this case the threat is too imminent. So the Supreme Court has sided with the navy despite the fact that sonar has been linked to mass strandings and hemorrhaging of innocent marine animals, whales and dolphins.

I wish the animals could fight back.