A celebrity is someone who is known for being known. ~~D. Boorstin
"...The way the camera follows us in slo-mo9, the way we look to us all."~~P.Simon
Train-Spotting, Clevetown, Circa 1960
2 days ago
When it comes to food, it would be in your best interest to realize that you are being lied to on a daily basis.
If a big company grows it, processes it and sells it, then it's probably garbage that you'd be better off not consuming.
In some cases, this problem goes far beyond "garbage" into another realm entirely.
This video is a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of how news is really "made" in America and why corporate and "public" broadcasting - like corporate food - is entirely unreliable.
To learn about REAL food, visit The Real Food Channel
I'M GOING to start with what might seem like an overly cute formulation. I'll try to justify it, and if I don't, then you can throw various objects at me. But the formulation is: The crisis is over, the crisis continues. I say that because most the commentary we get about the crisis--which began in the summer of 2007 and then really erupted big time in the fall of 2008--focuses on a particular phase of the crisis and says, "Oh, that's over, therefore the crisis is over."
My argument to you, hence the title here, is that this is a mutating crisis. This is a crisis whose weak link keeps shifting, and as a result, we need to see it in all its dynamism--the way in which it keeps mutating and generating new kinds of illnesses within the system, so while it looks like the last one has been cured, in fact, all they've done is move the damage somewhere else.
That's really the essence of what I'm going to be developing for you--and hence the term for the book I've got forthcoming on this topic: global slump. I deliberately didn't say a single crisis, because in fact we're talking about a long-term slump within the system, which is a series of crises taking different forms.
I say the crisis is over and the crisis continues because for the moment, the banking and financial crisis of 2008-09 has been averted. The freefall was stopped, and the collapse of investment banks and meltdown of financial institutions around the world has been halted for now. I say for now, because there are a lot of unknowns down the road, starting with Europe's banks, and maybe I'll get a chance to say a bit more about that. But I want to remind you for a moment about the severity of that crisis and then talk about how it has shifted in form.
- - - - - - - - -
YOU KNOW that you've been living through a very profound crisis in the system when a whole series of different cultural markers emerge that indicate this. Some of you may know that about a quarter million jobs were lost in the financial services industry, predominantly on Wall Street, in the course of 2008 as banks collapsed.
A number of gallows-humor jokes started to make the rounds in the investment community in New York City, and I'll share with you my favorite, from fall 2008: How do you start a small business? Buy a big one and wait. When that kind of joke is making the rounds through the investment banking community, you know things are bad. Another example of the gallows humor: How do you define an optimist? An investment banker who irons three shirts on Sunday night.
Those are some of the markers. The more serious ones: In March 2009, the Financial Times, arguably the most important English language financial newspaper in the world, started a series called "The Future of Capitalism"--as if this was now an issue.
Let me just quote you a couple passages from the editors of the Times as they launched this series: "The credit crunch has destroyed faith in the free market ideology that has dominated Western economic thinking for a decade, but what can and should replace it?" The next day, they wrote, "The world of the past three decades is gone." (By the way, I think they're right about that, and I'm going to speak to that as I proceed.) And then they proceeded to quote a Merrill Lynch banker, who said, "Our world is broken, and I honestly don't know what is going to replace it."
That gives you a sense of the fact that within the mainstream, the most serious financial analysts understood the gravity and the profundity of what was happening, and that there was a seismic shift--as if the tectonic plates of global capitalism were shifting, and they didn't know where we were going to be when that shifting stops.
But perhaps the one thing that sums up the ruling class panic best was the spoof front page of the Economist from September 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bank collapse. The Economist had a two-word front page: "Oh Fuck!" This was the largest corporate bankruptcy in world history. You thought Enron was big when it went under, owing about $60 billion. Lehman Brothers went under owing about $635 billion to its creditors around the world.
So that's the context, and what it generated was the most massive coordinated central bank intervention into the so-called free market system in the history of global capitalism. We don't know the exact amounts, but the conservative estimate for the size of the bailout packages that comes from the Bank of England is around $14 trillion. That's around the annual output of the American economy.
Once you then factor in the additional $1 trillion they decided to throw in for good measure a number of weeks ago in Europe, and you start factoring in the stimulus packages and so on, we're probably in the area of a $20 trillion intervention to bail out and stabilize the system. This was the scale of the ruling class panic and, as I say, it produced something unprecedented in the history of the system. Never before had world central banks coordinated an intervention like this and on this scale.
But what they did in the course of this was simply push the problem out of the private banks and into the public sector. They socialized the debt--they made taxpayers take on the burden of all the toxic waste that the banks had been selling and holding onto. (Sound familiar? Privatize profit, socialize debt -- Woody) But in doing that, they raised huge questions about the long-term viability of government debt. So we're now getting these so-called "sovereign debt crises," which has been particularly profound in Europe, with Greece at the forefront,
In other words, it isn't the case that the crisis disappeared--it simply transmuted. It changed forms, and we're looking at a different front. Every now and again, you get a serious mainstream description of what has happened that's worth holding onto. I say description, because the theory is rubbish. All the mainstream theory is totally useless at making sense of anything that's happening.
But probably the best description in the mainstream comes from a book called This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, which makes fun of the idea that this crisis is different from the others. The coauthors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff write the following:The global financial crisis of the late 2000s, whether measured by the depth, breadth, and (potential) duration of the accompanying recession or by its profound effect on asset markets, stands as the most serious global financial crisis since the Great Depression. The crisis has been a transformative moment in global economic history whose ultimate resolution will likely reshape politics and economics for at least a generation.I think that's exactly right. We are talking about an epochal shift, an absolute redefinition of a whole political period. I want to give you a few markers for the analysis I'm going to develop in the rest of my time, just so you've got some sense of where I'm coming from.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Systemic and Systematic
MY VIEW is that this is the first global and systemic crisis of the neoliberal phase of capitalism. When I say it's systemic, I mean that it's not just a crisis in one sector. It's not just a real estate or housing crisis. It's not just a banking crisis. It is a systemic crisis. Capitalism is struggling to reproduce itself on an expanding scale, which is the essence of the system--it must do that or perish, and it's struggling to do that as a system.
The second underlying premise is that such crises are the result of prolonged periods of growth within the system. I want to emphasize that because there has been a tendency for many commentators on the left to say that this is just the latest phase in a 40-year crisis.
I don't believe this. I think all the evidence shows that the two big recessions--1974-75 and 1980-82, though in some countries, there was actually a third along the way--and the ruling class offensive that they triggered did, in fact, shift the balance of class forces massively in favor of capital, so they were able to increase the rate of exploitation and launch a new wave of global accumulation, which ultimately became centered in east Asia, with China being the most important evidence of this.
This shouldn't be surprising. For those of us who take Marx seriously, the dynamism of capitalism--its very growth--produces profound crises. I don't accept the idea that for 40 or 50 years, the system had just been stagnating. Growth drove us into this crisis.
The first sign of this crisis really emerged in 1997, not surprisingly in East Asia, precisely where growth had been highest. You got the so-called Asian crisis, which was very profound and very deep. After that, there were a series of other crises: Russia, Argentina, Brazil, the collapse of one of the largest hedge funds in the U.S., and so on, after which central banks led by the Federal Reserve in the United States massively stimulated the system, driving down interest rates. That produced a great asset bubble, concentrated first in the dot-com sector, and later in housing and so on. And the bursting of one of these bubbles would be the trigger for the crisis that emerged in 2007.
But triggers aren't the same thing as the whole story. They influence the timing and the sector where a crisis emerges. It didn't have to be real estate. It could have ultimately happened somewhere else. But that's where the big bubble burst, and that's where all of the underlying weaknesses within the system got exposed.
As a result, we are--I agree with the commentators on this--in the second great contraction of modern capitalism.
But overall, these premises go against the grain of so many of the pundits on the business news channels and in mainstream newspapers, who are telling us that the crisis is over. So I just want to move through a few headlines from this moment and--if you'll pardon me using the slightly post-modernist term--deconstruct them for you. I do that because I think we need to map where we are with this crisis, and then I want to talk about how could the system is supposed to be able to get back on its feet right now. In other words if it's true that the crisis is over, where is this resolution coming from?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Just the Facts, Ma'am
SO LET me give you a few headlines. This one appeared a few weeks ago, from Thomson-Reuters: "U.S. corporate profits up 206 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009." True. This is a factually correct statement. But what doesn't it tell us? It doesn't tell us that if we remove financial enterprises--banks, hedge funds and so on--profits are only up 18 percent, not 206 percent. And by the way, when you're a bank hovering on the verge of bankruptcy last year, being up 206 percent is not so astronomical.
The reality is that profits today are still below the peak of the last expansion, by a very considerable margin. There has not been, despite the attacks on the working class--the concessions that the United Auto Workers gave up, the big wage cuts that have come in one sector after another, the leaning of production throughout the course of this crisis and so on--a recovery of profits to their post-crisis level.
Here is a headline that I loved, only because I reside in Canada: "U.S. auto sales outpace Canada's." Now this was considered big news because Canadian capitalism was not hit as hard by this crisis as capitalism has been in other parts of the world. But now, U.S. auto sales were going more quickly than Canada's. This really was boom time stuff.
Okay, let's deconstruct. It was a true statement about April this year. But what they didn't tell us is that this great burst in U.S. auto sales took them to an annual level of about 11.5 million. Pre-crisis? 16-17 million was the annual average. In other words, automobile sales in the U.S. economy are about 5 million below their pre-crisis level. It's true that the corporations have wrung out sufficient concession from the unions that they're profitable again, but there's not auto-induced boom coming in the U.S. or anywhere else.
Here's another one of my favorites: "U.S. new home sales make huge jump." True, by the way. They did in April. But they were still 70 percent lower than July 2005. Seven million households in the U.S. are behind on their mortgage payments. Freddie Mac had to ask for an additional $10.5 billion in March to cover further real estate losses.
The number of people behind on their payments is rising at the moment--it's around 10 percent. And by the way, nearly 40 percent of the people who are delinquent are so-called prime borrowers, not sub-prime. These are people who qualified for high-end mortgages. That's what massive job loss does. Mortgage applications for new homes plunged 40 percent this spring in the U.S., and new home and apartment construction fell by 10 percent in May. In other words, the housing and real estate sector has not touched bottom yet.
And then, of course, the one that I think you'll know and appreciate the irony of: "U.S. economy adds 290,000 jobs in April." Again true. Of course, the unemployment rate rose with that announcement because 800,000 people who hadn't looked for jobs the previous month said, "There's jobs out there," and reentered the job market. And then new job losses claims jumped again.
To give you some perspective of what this means for the U.S. economy: Simply to restore the jobs lost in this recession would require 8.5 million or more, and those that would be required by ordinary population growth is another 2.5 million. To get those 11 million or so jobs would require job creation of 400,000 new jobs per month for three years in the U.S.--just to get back to where they were. Never mind all the people underemployed and so on. Don't hold your breath on those 400,000 a month for three years.
Here are a couple of facts that aren't being widely reported.
The U.S. money supply is contracting at the moment. This is terribly bad news for capitalism because what it tells you is that the amount of business borrowing is falling, which means that investment is falling. It tells you the amount of consumer borrowing is going down. The money supply ultimately reflects the growth, or lack thereof, of overall transactions happening in the economy--business spending, consumer spending and so on. When the money supply is going down, that's a recessionary indicator--even possibly a deflationary one, and I might get a chance to say a few words about that in a moment.
Another fact, this one about world shipping. Some of you will have heard about an obscure thing called the Baltic Dry Index. What it does is track the amount of stuff being shipped around the world--shipping on huge vessels is still the principle means of moving commodities around the world, whether it's steel or coffee. The Baltic Dry Index has fallen every day for the last three weeks--not good for the system. But this isn't making front page headlines.
Finally, a report came out from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)--essentially the 30 largest Western economies. The OECD released a report last month warning of a "lost generation," with youth unemployment in those 30 countries officially at 19 percent. That's the official rate, and of course, as we know, it's much, much higher in many countries. For example, the official unemployment rate in Spain is 20 percent right now, with youth unemployment in the high 30s in Spain right now.
I'll just leave it at that.Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle has moderated a host of policy positions in her transition from a primary candidate to general election contender battling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. One thing she has not backed away from has been her insistence that abortion should be outlawed universally, even in cases of rape and incest. In a radio interview Angle did in late June, the Tea Party favorite re-affirmed her pro-life sensibilities (rigid, as they are, even within Republican circles), when she insisted that a young girl raped by her father should know that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Much good can come from a horrific situation like that, Angle added. Lemons can be made into lemonade.And here’s today’s communique from the Miserable Excuse For A Human Being Dept.:
There’s clueless. There’s mean-spirited. There’s completely devoid of compassion and humanity. Then there’s Sharron Angle, who takes all of these qualities to disturbing, rarely-plumbed depths…even for your average Republican. Let’s face it, y’all; Angle IS a miserable excuse for a human being, a woman who was born on third base and thinks she hit a triple (apologies to the late Ann Richards). In her world, the bad things that happen to others are merely lemons with one should make lemonade…because that’s What Jesus Would Do. It’s easy to play the heartless Pollyanna when suffering is merely an abstract concept because it’s happening to someone else. Jeebus, if Obtuse Angle (apologies to Keith Olbermann) were any farther to the right and lacking in compassion, she be advocating that female adulterers be stoned in the village square and that women pregnant out of wedlock be shamed and sent to convents, there to toil at hard labor until the little bastard is born.
It’s difficult to even know where to begin with someone as miserably black-hearted, mean-spirited, and judgmentally intolerant as Angle. With each progressively more brain-dead and inhuman pronouncement, Angle sits in judgment of others with a beatific smile on her face, secure in the knowledge that she isn’t perfect, just forgiven by a God who is. Angle is, of course, free to believe as she sees fit. Nonetheless, in running for a Senate seat in Nevada, she wants to represent all Nevadans, most of whom (thankfully) aren’t as mercilessly intolerant as she is. Of course, now that she’s the GOP nominee, she’s scrubbed her website of all the really loony stuff (making abortion illegal under any and all circumstances, scrapping Social Security, etc.). Just as a zebra isn’t going to change their stripes, neither is Angle about to renounce or even rehabilitate her prior views. Oh, she’ll talk about “softening” her stances…which is code for saying that she’ll do or say whatever she needs to in order to get elected. Sounds like someone’s been hanging around John McCain, eh?
I can only hope that Nevadans will see Sharron Angle for the evil, heartless harpie she is. And I also hope that there will be a very special place reserved for her in Hell. To paraphrase Keith Olbermann, that woman’s an idiot.
WASHINGTON - Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle is calling BP's $20 billion victims' compensation program "a slush fund."She's "on message." They're all on message.
Angle told a Las Vegas radio station on Wednesday that President Barack Obama strong-armed BP executives to set up the fund after the rig explosion in April that sent gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. Angle also said Democrats were taking political advantage of the environmental disaster to raise taxes and fines.
The Plum Line's Greg Sargent first reported Angle's BP comments.
Obama met with BP executives at the White House last month and emerged from the meeting with a $20 billion commitment from the company to pay fishermen whose businesses were affected and to clean up the Gulf.
Angle, a former state lawmaker, is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the GOP's top target.
Journalists who come too close to oil spill clean-up efforts without permission could find themselves facing a $40,000 fine and even one to five years in prison under a new rule instituted by the Coast Guard late last week. It's a move that outraged observers have decried as an attack on First Amendment rights.Every effort is being expended to ensure that the real damage of this incredible clusterfuck is concealed: oil dispersant, to sink the oil, and make it look less severe than it is; and informational dispersant, to keep the press at bay.
And CNN's Anderson Cooper describes the new rules as making it "very easy to hide incompetence or failure."
The Coast Guard order states that "vessels must not come within 20 meters [65 feet] of booming operations, boom, or oil spill response operations under penalty of law." But since "oil spill response operations" apparently covers much of the clean-up effort on the beaches, CNN's Anderson Cooper describes the rule as banning reporters from "anywhere we need to be."
A "willful" violation of the new rule could result in Class D felony charges, which carry a penalty of one to five years in prison under federal law.
The new rule appears to contradict the promises made by Adm. Thad Allen, the official leading the Coast Guard's response to the oil spill. (Ya fucking THINK?--W)
"Media will have uninhibited access anywhere we're doing operations, except for two things, if it's a security or safety problem," Allen told ABC News in June. (Allen has since retired from the CG, and is now a paid "consultant" for the Obamanauts.--W)
In defending the new rule, Allen told reporters that he got "complaints from local officials" about the safety of people near cleanup efforts.
"We're (the Press) not the enemy here," Cooper responded in a report broadcast Thursday night. "Those of us down here trying to accurately show what is happening -- we are not the enemy. I've not heard about any journalist who's disrupted relief efforts; no journalist wants to be seen as having slowed down the cleanup or made things worse. If a Coast Guard official asked me to move, I'd move. But to create a blanket rule that everyone has to stay 65 feet away from boom and boats, that doesn't sound like transparency." (You're the enemy if anything you do threatens to show up either BP or BO, bro, believe me!--W)
The rule has come under severe criticism not only from journalists but from observers and activists involved in the Gulf Coast clean-up.
"With this, the Gulf Coast cleanup operation has now entered a weird Orwellian reality where the news is shaped, censored and controlled by the government in order to prevent the public from learning the truth about what's really happening," writes Mike Adams at NaturalNews.
"We might expect something like this from Chavez, or Castro or even the communist leaders of China, but here in the United States, we've all been promised we lived in 'the land of the free,'" Adams continues. "Obama apparently does not subscribe to that philosophy anymore (if he ever did)."
Under the rule, reporters or anyone else wishing to get within 65 feet of a cleanup operation need to get permission from the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans.
"The fact is we're not attempting to keep anyone from seeing anything," Edward Stanton, the current Coast Guard Captain in New Orleans, told WKRG News in Mobile.
"Nine times out of 10, probably 10 times out of 10” access will be granted, Stanton said.
He said the rule was put into place because of complaints about "boaters interfering with the oil spill operations."
(To most sane, honest people NOT in the thrall of either BO or BP--W) the rule seems on its face to be just the latest attempt to reduce media coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which has now attained the status of worst accidental oil spill in history.
Reporters have been complaining for weeks about BP, the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard working to keep reporters away from wrenching images of oil-covered birds and oil-soaked beaches. On Friday, a photographer from ProPublica was detained by police and BP officials after taking photos of a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas.
Cooper compared the latest effort to prevent access to the oil spill to similar efforts during Hurricane Katrina.
"Frankly it's a lot like in Katrina, where they tried to make it impossible to see recovery efforts of people who died in their homes. If we can't show what is happening, warts and all ... that makes it very easy to hide failure, and hide incompetence."
The preceding video was broadcast on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, July 1, 2010, and uploaded to YouTube by user djohnsto77.
No Shit! Here's a more graphic representation of that possibility:
One good measure of the intensity with which phone and cable companies dislike the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to extend its regulatory oversight over access to broadband Internet is the amount of money they are spending on political contributions.
Last month, 74 House (fucking) Democrats sent a letter to the F.C.C.’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, warning him “not to move forward with a proposal that undermines critically important investment in broadband and the jobs that come with it.” Rather than extend its authority over telecommunications networks to broadband under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, they demanded that the F.C.C. wait for Congress to pass specific legislation.
The message parroted views held by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon (Oh, yeah, they wanna fuck us!--W) — the biggest broadband service providers in the country. Comcast warned (Can you say "threatened?"--W) that the F.C.C.’s efforts could “chill investment and innovation.” Their executives and political action committees have been among the top 20 campaign contributors to 58 of the 74 lawmakers in the past two election cycles. (Apparently the other 16 signed on, on spec as it were--W)
As the F.C.C. proceeds with its plan to regulate broadband access, it seems likely we can expect more of this resistance from members of Congress.
Political contributions from AT&T in the current election cycle reached $2.6 million by May 16, on the way to exceeding the total in each of the last three elections. The company has contributed to the campaigns of every Republican and all but three Democrats on the subcommittee that deals with the Internet in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It has given money to more than half the members of the equivalent Senate panel.
Comcast has spent more than $2 million on campaign donations; Verizon has given $1.2 million. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association — the industry’s collective lobbying group — has spent about $1 million more. And just in case that isn’t persuasive enough of the ills of government regulation, telephone and cable companies spent $20.6 million lobbying the government in the first quarter of the year.
The Sunlight Foundation, which tracks industry lobbying, reported that cable and phone companies had 276 former government officials lobbying for them in the first quarter, including 18 former members of Congress and 48 former staffers of current members of Congress on committees with jurisdiction over the Internet. The list includes former staffers of at least six of the House Democrats who signed the letter to the F.C.C.
To us, it seems obvious that the Federal Communications Commission should extend its oversight to broadband, the most important telecommunications network of our time, to guarantee open, nondiscriminatory and competitive access and to protect consumers’ rights.
But reason is not always a match for money in Washington. The F.C.C. has a rough road ahead.
As with all this stuff, there is no legal means to stop them or to revbers the path once the start.
Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr issued the following statement:
“In Washington, money equals power, and with this tool, we can see how AT&T, Comcast and Verizon’s money is being used to kill public interest policies like Net Neutrality. Ultimately, their goal is to turn Washington against the common sense idea that the FCC should have a role in preserving the open Internet, protecting consumers’ rights and fostering universal access to broadband. If their misinformation campaign succeeds, the open and affordable Internet will be in serious danger.
“Industries spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on armies of lobbyists to defeat affordable health care, environmental protections, banking reform and countless other essential public interest protections. They secretly fund dozens of ‘astroturf’ front groups to parrot their talking points and create fake opposition to good public policy. Now they are strong-arming members of Congress to call sound communications policies a ‘government takeover of the Internet.’ It’s the same pattern with nearly every important issue, and it must stop.
“We can’t stand by while the big phone and cable companies try to kill the policies that we need to protect the Internet.”
A newly released study from students at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government provides the latest evidence of how thoroughly devoted the American establishment media is to amplifying and serving (rather than checking) government officials. This new study examines how waterboarding has been discussed by America's four largest newspapers over the past 100 years, and finds that the technique, almost invariably, was unequivocally referred to as "torture" -- until the U.S. Government began openly using it and insisting that it was not torture, at which time these newspapers obediently ceased describing it that way:
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.