Archive for November, 2009

In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap

November 30, 2009

. . . . But there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.

College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent. . . .


What’s the Carbon/Health Footprint of Another Senseless War?

November 30, 2009

By Harvey Wasserman

The Afghan War may now doom our ability both to cope with the global climate crisis and to fairly deliver health care in this country.

If Barack Obama announces an escalation, Copenhagen and the Climate Bill will become meaningless. And the prospects for a single-payer health care system or even a token public option will disappear.

At 11pm Tuesday, December 1—after Obama’s speech—we in central Ohio will gather at the Federal Building to either celebrate Obama’s courageous decision against escalation, or to inaugurate what will certainly be hard years of bitter civil struggle against yet another senseless war., and other peace, green and social justice organizations ask others around the world to consider joining us in your own home towns.

If there is no escalation, we can celebrate a small step forward in Copenhagen, where Obama has said he will join with Chinese leadership in a 17% reduction in carbon emissions. Joining with the Chinese in setting ANY target is good global politics.

But this is nowhere near enough. Nor is it anywhere near what’s possible.

The rapid advance of renewable and efficient technologies is forcing nuclear power and fossil fuels out of the marketplace. In one of humankind’s great technological revolutions, a future that is carbon/nuclear free has become tangible and do-able.

Such a Solartopian conversion is the surest route to economic security and a full employment economy…and to peace.

But if Obama escalates, in a nation with at least one foot already deep in bankruptcy, the resources for that conversion will disappear. In a toxic, polarized wartime atmosphere, the Climate Bill could well degenerate to a cynical faux green smokescreen for a relapse to the failed experiment with atomic reactors.

The war would also come with a carbon burst. How will the massive emissions created by 100,000-plus soldiers in wartime be counted in the 17% reduction rubric? Will the HumVees be converted to hybrids? What is the carbon impact of Predator bombs that destroy Afghan families and villages?

Likewise the war will create yet another wave of human casualties to strain a health care system already at the breaking point. The $1million/year estimate for every solider sent to Afghanistan does not begin to cover the additional fortunes spent to try—so often unsuccessfully—to make these good people whole again when they return.

The $2 or $3 trillion an escalated war is likely to cost could more than fund a single-payer system to cover every American citizen. Escalation turns that money into bombs and bullets that kill rather than heal.

It is the business of war, however it’s packaged, to destroy land and people.

We saw what the Vietnam War did to the dream of a Great Society. The poisons spread by an escalated Afghan war would take decades to heal. It would signal a nation firmly in the death grip of corporations and the military.

The certainties are few but staggering:

As with every foreign conqueror since Alexander the Great, the American presence in the Graveyard of Great Powers will fail.

Sending more troops is an escalation, whether packaged with an “exit strategy” or not; intentions to leave nearly always fail to materialize, but entrenched troops rarely leave.

US escalation there will make us more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism.

The money to pay for this war could otherwise fund the transition to a carbon/nuke free economy, and to a truly workable national health care system.

But the United States does not have the human, political or financial resources to wage this war while also solving the climate and health crisis.

We cannot lose track of our goals—peace, a planet to live on, social justice, freedom and the promise of what’s beyond. We will not surrender that vision to hard times.

So we’ll gather Tuesday night. Let’s hope we have something to celebrate. We already know what we have to fight for.

Washington endorses gunpoint election in Honduras

November 27, 2009

The Obama administration has declared its support for elections being held this Sunday in Honduras, under conditions in which the regime that came to power in a coup last June has refused to cede power and is preparing intense repression against those who oppose it.

The action has placed Washington at odds with virtually all of Latin America, whose governments have refused to recognize the elections as legitimate.

The US endorsement of the elections represents the culmination of a policy that has lent political support to the coup regime headed by the Liberal Party leader of the national legislature, Roberto Micheletti, and the Honduran military, even as Washington has given lip service to the principle of restoring the country’s elected president, Manuel Zelaya, to power.

Zelaya was dragged from the presidential palace by hooded and heavily armed soldiers in the early morning hours of June 28, bundled onto an airplane and flown into exile. Since his clandestine return to the country two months ago, he has been forced to remain holed up in the Brazilian embassy. . . .

Soaring Unemployment and Double-dip Recession? Blame N.W.O. Larry

November 26, 2009

by Mike Whitney

. . . Summers assignment is to bring the broader economy to its knees; to crush big labor by keeping unemployment high, to force state and local and governments to privatize more public assets and services, and to generate as much human misery as possible. In short, Summers is laying the groundwork for structural adjustment within the US, a policy which reflects his ongoing commitment to multinational corporations and neoliberalism. It’s the shock doctrine redux. These people are monsters.

Today in this nation. . .

November 26, 2009

Today in this nation which has corrupted language so that it has no meaning, and we offer thanksgiving for robbing and murdering its original inhabitants, I am grateful for consciousness. I am grateful for the ability and willingness to read Fidel Castro and his observations on the future of our imperialist efforts, beyond its murderous consequences today. I am grateful for the realization that, in fact, this nation is governed and controlled, with a very very few exceptions, by gangsters, and financial predators, supported by hypocritical pharisees, and physical, mental, and spiritual perverts.

I am grateful for the desire to beg forgiveness to whomever or whatever propagates life, for my participation and allegiance to this nation – the citadel of the corruption of humanity. It is my firm belief that the proponents of the idea that “we should not let perfection be the enemy of the good” in the development of law are neutered acolytes – servants of the mendacity which offers up political slaves like Obama for national adoration.

With such gratitude, I hope find the firm purpose to pray – often – that:

God, let me be aware
Let me not stumble blindly down the ways
Just somehow getting safely through the days
Not even groping for another hand
Not even wondering why it was all planned
Eyes to the ground not seeking for the light
Soul never aching for a wild-winged flight
Please keep me eager just to do my share

God – let me be aware
Stamp my soul fiercely with other’s pain
Let me walk seeing horror and strain
Let my hands groping find other hands
Give me the heart that divines – understands
Give me the courage – wounded – to fight
Flood me with knowledge, drench me in light
Please keep me eater just to do my share
God – please – let me die aware.


America’s House of Lords debates health care

November 26, 2009

by Stephen Hill

The health care debate has been like a tennis match, bouncing from the Senate to the House and back again. Now it’s back in the Senate, as the United States tries to end its status as the only advanced economy without universal health care for its people. One hundred Senators from 50 states will decide what lives and what dies, health-care wise.

With so much at stake, it makes sense to ask: who are these 100 Senators? Might that give us a clue as to what to expect from America’s upper chamber?

For starters, this “representative” body hardly looks or thinks like the rest of the nation. Only seventeen are women, while the United States is majority female. Only five are Hispanic, black, or Asian American, even as the nationwide melting pot has become one-third minority.

A Senator’s average age is an elderly 63 years old, and most are wealthy millionaires. A famous 19th-century aphorism said, “It is harder for a poor man to enter the United States Senate than for a rich man to enter Heaven,” and things are hardly different today. The senescent Senators already have great health care benefits too, even while tens of millions of Americans do not. So this powerful legislative body debating health care for the entire country is a patrician gerontocracy more closely resembling the ancient Roman Senate than a New England town meeting.

But it gets worse, for those who are hoping that majority rule might end this health care nightmare. According to the U.S. Constitution, each state is represented by two senators, regardless of population. This arrangement is the legacy of a deal struck in 1787 at the nation’s founding, partly to keep the slave-owning states from exiting the then-fledgling nation. As a result, California, with more than 36 million people has the same number of senators as Wyoming with only a half million people.

That disproportional allocation has only gotten worse over time. When the Senate was created, the most populous state had 12 times more people than the least populous state; now it has 70 times more people. In the 1960s, the Supreme Court established the groundbreaking principle of majority rule based on “one person, one vote,” meaning that all legislative jurisdictions must be equal in population. Yet the U.S. Senate completely violates this fundamental principle.

As a result, the 40 Republican Senators represent a mere third of the nation, meaning Republican voters have more representation than everyone else. That overrepresentation is bad enough, but it gets even worse. For the US has added an arcane layer of parliamentary procedure known as the “filibuster” that takes us out of the frying pan and into the fryer.

The Senate’s use of the “filibuster” means you need, not a majority of 51 votes, but 60 votes to stop unlimited debate on a bill and move to a vote. So a mere 41 senators can kill any legislation. The 40 Republican Senators representing only a third of the nation need to peel away only a single conservative Democratic or independent representing a low population state like Montana, Nebraska or Connecticut to torpedo what the Senators representing the other two-thirds of the nation want.

Given such a vastly malapportioned and unrepresentative Senate wielding its anti-majoritarian filibuster, it is hardly surprising that minority rule in the Senate consistently undermines majoritarian policy. Besides health care, Senators representing a small segment of the nation have thwarted renewable energy policy, sensible automobile mileage standards, cuts in subsidies for oil companies, tougher campaign finance reform, Congressional oversight of national security and war, and more.

Minority rule in the Senate has been with the nation for a long time; in fact, it is widely blamed for perpetuating slavery for decades (between 1800 and 1860, eight antislavery measures passed the House, only to be killed in the Senate). For all these reasons, two of America’s most revered founders, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, opposed the creation of the Senate, with Hamilton warning in Federalist Paper no. 22 that equal representation in the Senate “contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.”

Even though Democrats have a solid majority in the Senate, a majority is not good enough. While Republicans warn against the Democrats using “reconciliation,” the 51-vote tactic the GOP frames as a “nuclear option,” Democrats should remind the public: There’s nothing wrong with invoking simple majority rule in a body that is, in some ways, deeply unrepresentative and undemocratic by design.

So it’s not just the Senators’ credibility on the line if they fail to provide to all Americans a similar level of health care benefits that they themselves enjoy as senators. It’s the very democratic legitimacy of the body in which they serve. How long are Americans going to ignore this constitutional defect?

[Steven Hill is Director of the Political Reform Program for the New America Foundation and author of “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age” ( to be published in January 2010].

Courting Convulsion

November 23, 2009

By James Howard Kunstler

How infantile is American society? Last night’s CBS “Business Update” (in the midst of its “60 Minutes” program) featured three items: 1.) The New Moon teen vampire movie led the weekend box-office receipts; 2.) Cadbury shares hit an all-time high; 3.) Michael Jackson’s rhinestone-studded white glove sold at auction for $350,000. Some in-house CBS-News producer is responsible for this fucking nonsense. How does he or she keep her job? Is there no adult supervision at the network?

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times this morning, Paul “Nobel Prize” Krugman writes:

“Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts; the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence.”

Disclosure: I’m not one of the economists that Mr. Krugman talks to (nor am I an economist). But it’s sure interesting to know that the ones palavering with Mr. Krugman imagine that that the US can possibly return to an economy based on the fraudulent securitization of reckless debt. Does Mr. Krugman think that the production housing industry can resume paving over the nether exurbs with half-million-dollar houses (to be bought with no money down loans by the sheet-rockers working inside them)? Does he think all those people receiving cancellation notices from their credit card issuers are in a position to flash their plastic at the Gallerias this Friday? Or ever will be again? Is he perhaps misusing the term “recovery?” After all, that is generally taken to mean resuming a prior state, which is, in turn, presumed to be a healthy prior state. Is that what the economy of the past decade was? And, incidentally, what exactly is a “consumer?” And why, at the highest levels of journalism in this land, do we refer to citizens that way? As if the American people have no other purpose except to buy things? Or is that the only way an “economist” can imagine them?

I’m sorry to burden the reader with so many questions, but the idiots running the mainstream news media in this land are not doing it and somebody has to.

If a “recovery” is not in the cards, then what exactly is going on out there?

What’s going on in the US economy is a slow-motion convulsion from which we will emerge as a very different nation with a different economy. The wild irresponsibility of the media in pretending otherwise is only going to make the convulsion worse, more painful, more socially and politically destructive. The convulsion can be described with precision as one of compressive contraction. Historic circumstances are requiring us to change our behavior, to make new arrangements for everyday life in all the major particulars: capital accumulation and deployment; food production; commerce; habitation; transport; education; and health care. These new arrangements must be organized at a smaller and finer scale, and on a much more local basis.

The main “historic circumstance” mandating these changes goes under the heading of “peak oil.” We’ve come to the end of our ability in this world to increase energy inputs to the global economy. The routine “growth” in industrial activity and production that has been the basis of our financial arrangements for 200-odd years is no longer possible. Offsetting this decline in oil energy “input” with “” is a dangerous fantasy because it distracts us from the urgent task of making new arrangements for trade, food production, et cetera – the very things that would provide jobs and social roles for our citizens in the future.

We are seeing a comprehensive failure of leadership in every sector and every level of American life – in politics, business, banking, education, news media, medicine, and the clergy. All are determined to pretend that we can somehow continue the habits and behaviors of the pre peak oil era. They are all unwilling to face reality, and are all engaged in mutually supporting each other’s dangerous fantasies.

If we don’t attend to the transformation of American life by downscaling our activities and changing the way they are carried out, and re-localizing them, we will see our society disintegrate – and I use the word “dis-integrate” with purposeful precision. Everything will come apart – our political arrangements, our households, our health and well-being.

At the moment, banking is disintegrating. It’s happening because the end of regular, predictable, cyclical, industrial growth means the end of our ability to generate credit without limits, and in fact we passed this point by stealth some time ago leaving the banks in “Wile E. Coyote” suspension above an abyss, where they have lately been joined by government at all levels and the indebted citizens of the land. The profound nausea spreading through the offices of America is the somatic recognition of exactly where we are in all this: off the cliff.

It’s important to remind readers that so-called “capitalism” is not to blame. Capitalism is not an ideology. It refers to a set of laws governing the disposition of surplus wealth. There is going to be surplus wealth somewhere in the years ahead, even if our living standards fall substantially, even under the strictures of peak oil. All the communist experiments of the 20th century produced some kind of surplus wealth. All of them were subject to the phenomenon of compound interest. What matters in the disposition of capital are the rules created for accumulating and deploying it. In the USA the past two decades, we ignored the rules, repealed some of the critical laws, and failed to enforce the existing ones so that, when faced by the historic circumstances of peak oil, we allowed fraud and swindling to run wild – just at the moment when we should have taken the most care. That is why our money system ran off the rails.

We’re now seeing worldwide a kind of race between the assertion of peak oil and the failures of capital management as to which will provoke a widespread convulsion first. They are obviously related and whichever gets us in the most trouble fastest, our destination is the same: the absolute necessity to reorganize how we live. Among the many elements of this is the fact that “globalism,” in the Thomas Friedman sense of the word, is over. The urgent need to re-localize economies makes this self-evident. As a practical matter for us, this means committing to import replacement – making things we need in the US, probably much more regionally. “Globalism” now joins the many other fantasies that we can no longer indulge in.

At the moment, going into Thanksgiving 2009, America’s leadership has dedicated itself to the worst action it could take under the circumstances: a campaign to sustain the unsustainable. This is what’s embodied in the foolish term “recovery.” The way we try to explain things to ourselves matters, if we don’t want to be crushed by history. Go back to the top of this blog and look at the things we pay attention to. Aren’t you ashamed?

Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe

November 19, 2009

Would that you put it all together! After reading that protection of the Spirit of Boston party cruise ship from terrorists will be provided from stimulus funds, while babes of the Marshall School are treated to protection of countless motorcycle police in Roxbury, due to multiple shootings, it would not surprise me in the least if a Castle Island Brigade were not funded in anticipation of the arrival of the Taliban soon. As Kevin Cullen points out, “when there is violence, the official response is dictated by zip codes, the zeroes in the bank account, etc,” or, indeed, the ability of politicians to place family members in remunerative management positions at community organizations, while staff who might have been able to put together plans to apply for stimulus funds are cut to the bone. One also has to wonder if our already overburdened police are there to protect the children, or the lining up of political hypocrites mewling platitudes about “All Gawd’s Children.” Indeed, where is the anger? Where is the rage?

Analysts: US capitalism on verge of collapse

November 17, 2009

The declining state of the US economy has convinced a growing number of American analysts that the US capitalist financial system is doomed to disintegrate.

Citing the works of other leading economists such as Jack Bogle and Marc Faber, Market Watch commentator Paul B. Farrell gives 20 reasons, in a recent article, why the “American capitalism has lost its soul” and will.

Farrell points to Faber’s Doom, Boom and Gloom Report and asserts that the economist is warning of the fall of “the entire system of capitalism.”

“The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today,” Farrell adds, quoting the report. “Get it? The engine driving the great ‘American Economic Empire’ for 233 years will collapse, a total disaster, a destiny we created.”

He writes that based on Faber’s predictions, capitalism, which has been the driving engine of America and global economies for over two hundred years, will collapse and, consequently, trigger global “wars, massive government-debt defaults, and the impoverishment of large segments of western society.”

He goes on to explain how the Wall Street has “sacked Washington” by examining Bogle’s writings.

Farrell mentions that in “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism,” Bogle warns of a growing three-part threat or in other words a “happy conspiracy.”

“The business and ethical standards of corporate America, of investment America, and of mutual fund America have been gravely compromised,” writes Farrell citing Bogle’s book.

“But since his book, ‘Wall Street America’ went over to the dark side, got mega-greedy and took control of ‘Washington America.’ Their spoils of war included bailouts, bankruptcies, stimulus, nationalizations and $23.7 trillion new debt off-loaded to the Treasury, Fed and American people.”

Going back to Faber’s work, Farrell argues that it is a historical imperative for “Every successful society” to grow “out of some kind of challenge.”

“Today, the ‘life cycle’ of capitalism is on the decline,” he reiterates.

Farrell believes that, in short, America has turned into a “grumpy old man with hardening of the arteries.”

“Our capitalism,” he writes, “is near the tipping point, unprepared for a catastrophe, set up for collapse and rapid decline.”

Among the reasons he offers to back his claims about the failing US economy are that America’s top 1% own more than 90% of America’s wealth, the average worker’s income has declined while the CEO compensations have exploded over ten times, the federal debt has skyrocketed from $11.2 to $23.7 trillion in two years, and that it is the Wall Street wealth that now calls the shots in the US Congress and the White House.

Farrell finally concludes, “American Capitalism is a ‘Lost Soul’ … we’ve lost our moral compass … the coming collapse is the end of an ‘inevitable’ historical cycle stalking all great empires to their graves. Downsize your lifestyle expectations, trust no one; not even the media.”

A Science Fiction Story

November 15, 2009

By Fidel Castro

November 15, 2009 -“Fidel’s reflection” – Nov, 11, 2009 — I very much regret to have to criticize Obama knowing that there are in that country other could-be presidents worse than him. I am aware that that position in the United States is today a major headache. The best example of this is the report in yesterday’s edition of Granma that 237 US members of Congress, or 44%, are millionaires. This does not mean that every one of them is an incorrigible reactionary but it is extremely difficult that they feel like the many million Americans who do not have access to medical care, who are unemployed or who need to work very hard to earn their living.

Of course, Obama himself is no beggar; he owns millions of dollars. He excelled as a professional and his command of language, his eloquence and intellect are unquestionable. Also, he was elected president despite his being an African American, a first time occurrence in the history of his country’s racist society, which is enduring a profound international economic crisis of its own making.

This is not about being an anti-American as the system and its huge media intend to label its adversaries.

The American people are not the culprits but rather the victims of a system that is not only unsustainable but worse still: it is incompatible with the life of humanity.

The smart and rebellious Obama who suffered humiliation and racism in his childhood and youth understands this, but the Obama educated by the system and committed to it and to the methods that took him to the US presidency cannot resist the temptation to pressure, to threaten and even to deceive others.

He is a workaholic. Perhaps no other American president would dare to engage in such an intense program as he intends to carry out in the next eight days.

According to plan, he will take an extensive tour of Alaska where he intends to address the troops stationed there. He will be visiting Japan, Singapore, the People’s Republic of China and South Korea. He will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) and that of the Association of East Asian Nations (ASEAN). He will hold talks with the Prime Minister of Japan and His Majesty Emperor Akihito in the land of the Rising Sun as well as with the prime ministers of Singapore and South Korea and the presidents of Indonesia Susilo Bambang, of Russia Dimitri Medvedev and of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao. He will be making speeches and giving press conferences. He will be carrying with him his nuclear briefcase, which we hope he will have no need to use during his hasty tour.

His Security advisor has said that Obama will discuss with the president of Russia the continuance of the START-1 Treaty set to expire on December 5, 2009. There is no doubt that some reductions of the enormous nuclear arsenal will be agreed upon, albeit this will be of no consequence to world peace and economy.

What is our distinguished friend planning to discuss during his intense journey? The White House has made its solemn announcement: climate change and economic recovery; nuclear disarmament and the Afghan war; and, the risks of war in Iran and in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. There is plenty of material to produce a science fiction book.

But, how can Obama unravel the problems of climate change when the position of his representatives during the preparatory meetings of the Copenhagen Summit on the greenhouse effect gas emissions was the worst among those of the industrialized and rich nations, both in Bangkok and Barcelona, because the United States chose not to sign the Kyoto Protocol and the oligarchy of that country is not willing to really cooperate.

How can he contribute to the solution of the grave economic problems afflicting a large part of humanity when at the end of 2008 the total debt of the United States –including that of the federal, state and local administrations, the businesses and families—amounted to 57 trillion dollars, that is, over 400% of its GDP, and that country’s budget deficit reached almost 13% of its GDP in fiscal year 2009, an information that Obama is certainly aware of.

What can he offer Hu Jintao when his openly protectionist policies have been aimed against the Chinese exports and he is demanding at all costs that the Chinese government revaluates the Yuan, an action that would adversely impact on the growing Third World imports from China?

The Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, who is not a disciple of Karl Marx but an honest catholic among others who are not willing to cooperate with the imperialism in Latin America, has recently said that “….we are risking our destruction and the devastation of life’s diversity.”

“[…] almost half of humanity is living today under the poverty line. The wealthiest 20% are consuming 82.49% of all of the riches on Earth while the poorest 20% are living on a tiny 1.6%.” He also quotes the FAO as he warns that “…there will be in the upcoming years from 150 to 200 million climate refugees.” And then he adds that “humanity is consuming today a 30% above the regenerating capacity…the planet is giving unmistakable signs that it can stand it no more.”

What he says is true, but Obama and the US Congress have yet to find out.

What is he leaving to us in the hemisphere? The shameful problem in Honduras and the annexation of Colombia where the United States will set up seven military bases. They also established a military base in Cuba more than one-hundred years ago and remain there by force. It was in that base where they installed the horrible torture center widely known around the world; the same that Obama has been unable to close, yet.

I hold the view that before Obama completes his term there will be from six to eight right-wing governments in Latin America that will be allies of the empire. Likewise, the US extreme right will try to limit his administration to one term. Once again there will be a Nixon, a Bush or the like of a Cheney in the White House. Then, the meaning will be clear of those absolutely unjustifiable bases threatening today the South American peoples with the pretext of fighting drug-trafficking, a problem created by the tens of billions of dollars that organized crime and the production of drugs in Latin America receive from the United States.

Cuba has shown it only takes justice and social development to fight drugs. In our country, the crime rate per 100,000 people is one of the lowest in the world. No other country in the hemisphere can exhibit such low rates of violence. It is known that, despite the blockade, no other country can boast our high education levels.

The Latin American peoples will resist the onslaught of the empire!

Obama’s trip seems a science fiction story.

Fidel Castro Ruz