Showing posts with label Debtor's revolt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Debtor's revolt. Show all posts

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Argentina and debt restructuring

It is extremely difficult to not feel sorry for Argentina's plight.  They successfully negotiated a debt restructuring package.  Haircuts were handed out and some debts were cancelled.  This now worthless paper was bought up by some rich folks with too much money and greed and time to make trouble—for pennies on the dollar.  Now all these vulture "capitalists" had to do was find some corrupt judge to rule that these worthless debts should be honored after all.

And that is what has happened.  Some vultures got a favorable ruling so now they claim they should be paid—even ahead of those who agreed to the restructuring.

But here's the even bigger problem.  In the essay below from Deutsche Welle, an Uta Thofern suggests that the vultures may have a point and should be paid.  She even invokes the widows and orphan argument to suggest that not ALL the creditors are cynical greedheads.

I sense a shift here.  Germans, who should know better than almost anyone of the needs for debt restructuring programs, has suddenly become highly reactionary.  Argentina will have the support of the Group of 77 as well as the OAS (minus USA) in this matter.  She has the moral and legal high ground with a lot of friends.  So why would Germany even consider being on the wrong side of this issue?

Actually, I have no idea but my guess is that because Germany has been saddled with a LOT of worthless paper in the maneuvering to save the Euro, she is beginning to think like a vulture in case all that garbage defaults.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are the pitchforks coming?

Although it helps, one doesn't have to be a fan of Chekkov to understand that the idle rich are usually the last people on earth to understand that the lower economic orders are unhappy with their lot.  I once met a woman who had been part of a Christian mission to China.  When the Communists took over in 1949, missionaries were some of the first people invited to leave the country.  As the dedicated cadres came to throw this woman out of the place she called home, where she had dedicated a substantial portion of her life's work, one of the most enthusiastic in demanding she leave was a young man who had worked as one of her house boys for several years.  When I met her, this incident was already 17 years behind her yet she still burned with a raging sense of injustice and betrayal.  "Only Godless Communism could turn that boy against me.  We loved our house boys," she explained.

Yeah, I'll bet.

It turns out that people who are richer than their neighbors have a whole catalog of reasons for believing why they have been so blessed.  God loves them more.  They belong to a superior race.  They are smarter.  They work harder.  Unfortunately, the most important reason most people are richer than their neighbors is because they are just more willing to cheat, lie, and steal.  Virtually ALL Predator Class fortunes are the result of practices most of us consider criminal.  Burying that reality usually consumes a significant fraction of their ill-gotten gains as they buy newspapers, endow historical societies and academic chairs, build museums of art, and most importantly, buy up the clergy.  Napoleon wasn't kidding when he said the only purpose of religion was to keep the poor from murdering the rich.

Me? I don't see the pitchforks coming for the plutocrats.  Their brainwashing has been too organized and sophisticated.  In the 1980s, I saw crooked bankers steal farms from people who had struggled with the problems of making a living from agriculture for four and five generations and the most organized response was Willie Nelson concerts.  Besides, killing the rich doesn't usually redistribute wealth anyway.  Wealth creation is MUCH more complicated than that.  And while societies that can keep a lid on their economic criminals are historically far more prosperous than the corrupt ones, violent revolutions usually just replace one gang of crooks with another.

Even so, it is a good thing to read that a rich guy at least PRETENDS to be concerned about wealth inequality.  But no, I don't think he's going to change many minds.  The thought and habits of the Leisure Classes are embedded VERY deeply.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

50th Anniversary Reprint of The Tolerant Populists

Regular readers know by now that, 1) any correct definition of populism must include popular control of a society's economic and monetary affairs so that the common good is protected from the excesses of private gain, and 2) the oligarchs and banksters who usually control economic and monetary affairs desire to make populism as unattractive as possible by falsely portraying populists as ignorant, bigoted reactionaries vainly trying to stop the advance of industrial modernization.

The most influential smear of USA populism was Richard Hofstadter's 1955 book, The Age of Reform, which was given the ruling elites' imprimatur of a Pulitizer Prize. (Hoftstadter's best known work is his 1964 book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics.) Eight years after The Age of Reform was published, Walter Nugent tore it apart in his book, The Tolerant Populists: Kansas Populism and Nativism, written as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago. Nugent's relentless rebuttal of a supposed classic by éminence grise Hofstadter was the opening shot in what has been called  “one of the bloodiest episodes in American historiography.” Late last year, a 50th anniversary edition of Nugent's book was released. Here is part of a review of Nugent's book:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Populism and the EU elections

The EU just held an election for its parliament and the establishment (neoliberal) parties took a well-deserved beating.  Their mismanagement of Europe's economy is utterly insane and has been since the EU was formed by the Maastricht treaty when reactionary neoliberalism was made part of the founding documents.  After that, it wasn't a question of if, but when the moneychangers would destroy the Europe that had managed to rebuild itself from the wreckage of WW II.  The destruction was made mathematically certain because the banksters actually believed they could extract rents at exponential rates.  And that's before they became hopelessly corrupt.  Now their mad extraction appetites cannot be sated unless they engage in criminality.  If there is a honest banker in London, it would require an intensive search to find such a creature.

And so we see unemployment rates of up to 50% (Greece) and a lost generation of young people who have been thrown on the social scrapheap where they can contemplate their advanced degrees as coffee shop baristas—assuming they have any job at all.  Under such conditions, no one in their right minds would vote for the parties of neoliberalism.  Yet they still get the votes from anyone with an elite education.  I read some of the European press and I am quite surprised at the pure vitriol hurled at anyone who doubts the EU, the Euro, or Maastricht, Nice, etc. treaties.

And one of the more common slanders is to call someone or their party "populist."  This practice drives me crazy because Populism has a historical meaning based on the People's Party.  They left behind documents.  So it is quite easy to know what Populists believed.  And rarely do the people the elites call "populist" have any relationship to the real thing.

But I am changing my mind about the European elites who misuse "populism" so casually.  They are on to something because ONLY Populism, from the menu of historical choices, has the analytical critique and the problem-solving methods suitable for combatting banksterism.  So anyone who comes to believe that the banksters are the problem has sort of become, by definition, a Populist.  The elites know who their most dangerous enemy is.

Anyway, the following is an interesting critique of Europe's political classes and why they lost big in places like GB and France.  Since they are hired to defend the system that produces banksters, they will be instructed to do everything in their power to defame the Populists—real or imaginary.  The following suggests that isn't working so well any more.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Public banking for the 21st century

Easily the biggest frustration with the lack of meaningful action on climate change is that solving such a problem should certainly be within the abilities of the human race.  And why do we know that?  Because we only have to look at the accomplishments of our great-grandparents to understand that we are woefully underperforming.

Here's the deal.  We know what is causing the problem—too many fires.  We have a very good idea of how we could exist without those fires because we understand electricity very well.  But WAH! we cannot change over because it will take a bunch of effort and cost a great deal of money.  Since chronic unemployment is a major problem, that fact the something will require great effort seems like a good thing.  As for the supply of money, we have made it ridiculously easy to create as much money as we need.  The problem is we have ceded the power of money creation to private interests who have no greater goal than enriching themselves and enslaving others.  To call modern bankers thieves with a slumlord's mentality is actually more flattering than it should be.

The options to seize the real economy back from such destructive fools are two:
  1. Regulate the hell out of them, or
  2. Create a public alternative.
Our pal Ellen Brown is quite convinced the public banks are the answer.  She has a point.  The Bank of North Dakota has been in business since 1917 and has a sterling track record.  She has fought the good fight but has not yet succeeded in getting anyone else to organize a public bank in their state.  The biggest problem she faces is that today's political activists are not nearly as imaginative or effective as they were back in 1917.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The New Populism conference on May 22, 2014

Populism is probably the most misused political term extant.  But it really does have an actual meaning because it is a term that people applied to themselves as the result of the founding of the Peoples Party in 1891-2.  The 1892 convention adopted a platform that is short and easy to read so there is primary evidence as to what the Populists believed.  Unfortunately, none of this evidence is enough to keep lazy writers, politicians, and academics from applying the term "populism" to almost any political position taken by folks who they perceive as ignorant and uneducated.  This sloppiness is especially acute in Europe.

Fortunately, here in USA, there ARE people who know what the Populists historically believed, who use the term correctly, and understand just how important that political party was.  And because the People's Party of 1892 addressed many of the same political problems that have infected and corrupted today's political parties, you will still see important politicians proudly calling themselves Populists.  And so on May 22, 2014, The Campaign for America's Future is holding an all day New Populism Conference which will feature Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as the keynote speaker.

As someone who has made the history of agrarian political political movements a serious avocation, I am tempted to be a little critical about anyone who describes themselves as populist who isn't a real farmer.  But of course, that is absurd because farmers now comprise one of the smallest occupational categories in the country and there are plenty of non-farmers who have been excellent Populists over the years.  (My descriptions of Populism can be found at this link.)  This current effort looks like a damn good approximation of the original movement so I will withhold judgement until I see the results.  In the meantime, here are a couple of excellent essays by RJ Eskow and David Johnson explaining why Populism is still one of history's better political ideas.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A new Populism? Robert Reich thinks it's time

Populism has fascinated me for most of my adult life.  Part of this is due to the fact that Minnesota was, along with Texas and Kansas, one of the main intellectual homes of the the Populist impulse.  As a result, I have heard Populist principles my whole life—even though I did not know they had that name until I was in my 20s.  But my main attachment to Populism comes from the fact that it was a political movement invented by the Producing Classes (mostly farmers).  Whenever it gets really cold here in Minnesota, I can easily imagine what it must have been like for those pioneers trapped in their tiny houses out on the prairie trying to imagine a politics that actually served their interests.  And the politics they invented is still more relevant today than any of the alternatives.

The problem these days is that because the Predator Class enemies love to trash populism as a political movement of the ignorant unwashed, it becomes a generic epithet hurled at anyone that the Leisure Classes find distasteful.  This is especially true of the European press and academia.  My best example came when in a conversation with me, a Nordic intellectual called former French President Sarkozy a populist.  Trying to imagine that little twit at the Omaha Convention about gave me a brain aneurism.  Occasionally, however, the Europeans get it right.  For example, Hungary's Viktor Orban is called a populist and he actually has a real Populist economic agenda.

So now we see that Robert Reich, the little neoliberal stooge that Clinton had as Labor Secretary, is now pushing Populism.  Hard to imagine him at the Omaha Convention either.  But the fact that he has embraced Populism in his old age speaks volumes about the enduring appeal of those ideas dreamed up by destitute farmers struggling to survive some of the planet's harshest conditions.

And for those who are confused by the hundreds of bogus descriptions of Populism concocted by the enemies of the Producing classes, there is Lawrence Goodwyn's magnificent The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America.  Last February, Tony wrote a moving tribute to Goodwyn following his death the previous September.  Well worth reading again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Iceland still has a few Vikings

The Iceland story never fails to make me feel like there is still some hope for humanity.  Their little spat with the banksters managed to get them listed as a bunch of terrorists by the Brits, after all.  Apparently, there is such a thing as institutional memory—"from the fury of the Northmen, deliver us oh Lord" lives on.  Of course, putting a country out of business to pay for the crimes of cheaters must have certainly offended the Viking sense of justice.  I don't think the elders at Althing would have paid off the banksters either.

So now they have a scheme to bail out all their homeowners.  Re-setting the finances is in the interest of every citizen of the island.  So of course, IMF and OECD—those repositories of economic insanity—have informed the Icelanders it is a bad idea.  Of course it's a "bad" idea—organized debt restructuring would end much of the bankster rape of the planet so these organizations which are arms of international banksterism intend to kill this idea in its infancy.

This is quite important to the lords of high finance.  Turns out that if these folks could not cheat and game the system, they don't make any money—and certainly not the sums they think they are worth.  And the rest of us would love to see them go—I don't know anyone who can afford to support this useless protoplasm.  Besides, less than 1% of what they do is of ANY value to the real economy.

Go Iceland!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ellen Brown on monetary matters

There are two absolutes when discussing the state of the banksters and finance. 1) The world needs $Trillions to build a sustainable infrastructure. 2) The current bunch of sociopathic charlatans who pull the main economic levers of the global economy these days are utterly incapable of funding such a project.

Ellen Brown is a unique commentator on economics because she not only covers the Predators and their vile banking practices, she campaigns relentlessly for the only possible workable alternative—democratically-controlled public banking.

While it is true that such public banking has been tried in one form or another since before the USA became a nation, this time it is a matter of life and death for the planet.  We are talking about a need for a $100 trillion Industrial-Environmental development bank here.  Obviously, this would be, by far, the largest public bank in history.  Good thing the vast majority of public banking attempts have been successful.

Both of my grandfathers were involved in political movements that had public banking as a primary goal, but even they would have never dreamt of anything so massive.  Of course, Brown is not talking about anything on this scale either.  I can see why—she probably would feel wildly successful if she got a handful of states to copy North Dakota's bank.

So good luck to Ms. Brown.  Good thing she is more informed and relevant than anyone who has ever worked for the IMF.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Far worse than Hitler

As we watch in sadness and rage the global economy stagger around with massive unemployment and almost infinite needs going unaddressed, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that this economic condition is a CHOICE.  We know how to run an economy at full employment.  We know how to create jobs in areas of the economy that needs stimulation.  It has been done before.  So the next time you see a family living in a car, just remember, they are there because someone made the political and economic choices to put them there.

In case that isn't enough to rouse your ire, consider this—the most successful example of a full-emplyment economy was the creation of Hitler's economists.  So when you choose to have this ghastly mass unemployment and other economic catastrophes, you are choosing to run your economy more unfairly, more wastefully, more miserably than the government of Adolf Freaking Hitler.  Got that?

Here are the facts.  When Hitler came to power in 1933, unemployment was running at 40-50%.  People were dying of starvation in Berlin.  The financial system was in chaos.  Germany was hopelessly in debt. (Does any of this sound familiar?)  Within two years, unemployment was less than 2%.  By 1936, Germany was easily the most prosperous country in Europe and arguably the world.  And by 1939 when Germany went off to war, her economy had become so powerful, it took the rest of the world to defeat them.

It's a CHOICE.  And if you cannot choose at least as well as Hitler, it is probably time to do some deep rethinking of your economic assumptions.  Mike Whitney over at Counterpunch (who I have long considered hopeless because of his weird fixation on inflation) has apparently discovered the story of 1930s German economics and has written a pretty good piece on why it was so successful.  I believe Mr. Whitney has done some serious rethinking of his economic assumptions.  Congratulations!  Anyone who can evolve is worth listening to.

Friday, June 21, 2013

And now Brazil

Turns out that economics triggered Brazil's social unrest.  But how can that be—isn't Brazil the oft-touted model of an successful emerging economy?  Well that maybe true but even a successful economy is not immune from the global economic reality.  And the reality these days is that vast swaths of the world's economies are inhabited by people and governments who don't have money to spend.  And so Brazil's exports have crashed.  In the meantime, a successful economy has raised the incomes of many people.  So naturally, the petty real estate speculators are raising rent and property prices.  It's what they do after all.  So while their petty Predators raise prices whenever possible in an effort to mop up the country's middle-class income gains, the effect is to raise prices for everyone—even those who have never seen a bit of that income prosperity.

In the meantime, the Leisure Class mania for sport got Brazil into hosting the World Cup AND the Olympics.  The irony here is that football / soccer is popular in the poor areas of the world precisely because it is a sport that can be played without much expensive equipment.  Brazilians are crazy for sport because it designates social champions from the nation's slums.  And yet here they are, building hopelessly overpriced stadiums so that guys who travel by private jet will feel comfortable watching others play a game.  I have never been to Brazil but I can guess there are plenty of better places to spend $14 Billion for upgraded infrastructure.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Protesters target ECB

With some notorious exceptions like the Bank of Japan, central banks are the very essence of today's economic mismanagement.  They tend to be staffed almost exclusively by austerians—folks who believe the crises spawned by the banksters should be the perfect opportunity to make life more miserable for the rest of us.  And of the world's central banks, the ECB headquartered in Frankfurt Germany is arguably the most reactionary.

Today, members of "Blockupy" have effectively blockaded the ECB.  This won't last long before the storm troopers are called out but it is a hopeful sign that folks in Europe are at least targeting the most evil of the bad guys.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Selling our children into slavery

There are few places on planet earth where the young are not royally screwed.  50% unemployment rates are fairly common.  But very few places rival good old USA for the evil treatment of their children.

Case in point—education.  In places like Minnesota, middle and high school education is well-funded and quite luxurious.  There are dozens of organized activities devoted towards personal enrichment.  Athletic teams often travel in coach-type buses.  In the town where I last lived, the high school had an enormous arts wing that included practice rooms, a theater, and a video editing complex that had two dozen Final Cut Pro editing suites.  In spite of the built-in trauma of being 15, these years may be the most comfortable and stimulating of many student's lives.  Unfortunately, while high school like this can be a lot of fun, the students graduate knowing FAR less of anything as academically rigorous as their grandparents had to know to graduate the eighth grade.

No problem.  They can all just go to college.  Nice plan but college can cost upwards of $50,000 a year.  Who can afford that?  Well, almost no one but hey, there is always the trip to the friendly arms of the moneychangers.  And so to get the education they should have gotten in high school, they go into massive debt.  And not just any debt, mind you, but debt that can never be discharged with bankruptcy.  Kids who simply want to obtain the skills they need to survive in today's society must sell themselves into debt slavery to get them.

And while our banks can borrow at nearly 0% interest, the poor, overwhelmed students must pay something close to the rates for consumer debt.  The government has been subsidizing the rate to keep it at 3.4% but the rates are set to double to 6.8% July 1st.  Elizabeth Warren seems to think that student loan interest rates should be closer to .75%.  She isn't about to address the naked rip-off of the young by an education business that charges $50k / year for a mostly worthless diploma, but at least she understands the concept of usury.

Here, Assif Mondvi looks at what students are actually getting for their high-priced educations and suggests that kids would be much better off staying out of school, seeking more practical alternatives, and not selling themselves into debt bondage.  For something out of a comedy show, this is intense and powerful.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Iceland votes

The vote this weekend in Iceland may seems confusing but it really is not.  The Social Democrats who managed the recovery from the financial disasters of 2008 did a pretty good job—at least by the standards of Irish politicians.  But the "prosperity" they engineered was pretty weak tea and lots of Icelanders are still hurting.  But the SDP wouldn't have lost the election if they hadn't decided that it would be a good idea to join the Euro.  Frankly, I have NO idea what they were thinking.  The Icelandic solution to their financial catastrophe would have been nearly impossible if they had been using the Euro.  This little factoid was so obvious, the voters turned to the parties that had allowed the banking crises to occur in the first place simply because they promised to stay away from the Euro.

This isn't really a left-right matter.  When it comes to cultural issues, most Icelanders are on the same page (a page that puts them on the far left in places like USA.)  NO, this vote was about the Euro and the Euro lost.  If the SDP had been anti-Euro, they probably could have stayed in power for a long time.  So the political parties that had been in power in 2008 were forgiven simply because they claimed they had learned their lessons and were absolutely committed to monetary independence.  The only question is: Now that the old parties are back in power, will they revert to their old neoliberal swinishness, or will they chart a better path?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The rage backlog

Rall asks an interesting question—why aren't people reacting to bankster criminality with some violent response?

May I have this one Ted?

People have to be provoked a LOT to react violently.  Especially at figures of authority.  Especially figures of authority backed by state power.  I remember the response to the wave of farm foreclosures in the early 1980s here in Minnesota.  The affected farmers were NOT happy.  Not only were they losing their homes, they were losing their livelihoods, and usually a large slice of their family's histories (fourth generation on the same farm anyone?)  So even though these farmers were seething with rage and many quite heavily armed, most of them went pretty quietly.  Yes, the sheriffs showed up to throw folks off the land—in many Minnesota counties that is all the sheriff's departments did for several years.  But most went peacefully—most had been totally beaten down in the futile attempt to keep up with loans that suddenly demanded 20%.  They had to believe that something, anything, was better than that impossible struggle.  Besides, these farmers were people who thought of themselves as the good guys.  A handful of bankers actually were killed but considering the social upheaval in progress, the casualty list was VERY short.

And then there is the matter that bankers can buy "respectability."  They conduct their business in buildings designed to intimidate.  They are good friends with anyone who has some money.  They dress beautifully.  They golf.  They conduct their business in hushed tones.  If this sounds like the tricks employed by the clergy to give credibility to their little scams, its because they are.  And in rural Minnesota, the local bankers were often the financial pillars of their churches in a usually successful attempt to show that they were on the side of the angels.

So Ted, good luck trying to start a riot against the banksters.  Not only do they have state and cultural power on their side, they have the ultimate weapon—insider information.  Just as clergymen traffic in the conceit that they understand how God wants the world organized, bankers retail the notion that they have the secret to magic, painless wealth.  Anyone who opposes them is condemned to a life of shoveling shit.  And amazingly, it works.  The fact is that a bunch of charlatans selling an obvious scam can not only corner the wealth of the planet, but buy academe, governments, and religion—lock, stock, and friggen barrel.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday 2013

A few years ago, a woman who complained about how often her mother had dragged her to devout observances (Protestant Christian) asked me in all seriousness, "Why do they call it Palm Sunday?"  As a preacher's kid who had a pretty sheltered childhood, I was surprised because I am pretty sure that I was at least 18 years old before I met anyone who couldn't answer this question.  But after thinking about it for awhile, I decided that if Palm Sunday didn't start Holy Week, virtually no one would have heard of it.  And it certainly would not be a major marketing opportunity for the florists who ship palm fronds to those churches in the north that can afford them.

In some ways, this is part of a larger phenomenon.  Good Friday and Easter are supposed to be the highlights of the Christian calendar.  Yet if you measure them by something like specialized music, they are trivial compared to Christmas.  Don't believe me?  Ask someone who claims Christian roots to name their favorite Christmas carol and they will have major problems narrowing their list down to five examples. Then ask them to name their favorite Easter hymn and it's a rare bird who can think of one.  Of course, it doesn't help that most Easter sermons sound remarkably like funeral sermons.  And as for Palm Sunday, if it weren't for the fact that my mother would sing an obscure number called Open The Gates of the Temple every year, I couldn't think of any music for the occasion—and church music was a major part of the family business.

All of this is quite unfortunate because Palm Sunday and its lessons form a major elements of how Christianity came to be practiced.

1) According to the legend, Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey—NOT a horse like a conquering general.  And while Christianity has a long bloodthirsty history, it also has serious wings (Quakers, Mennonites, etc.) devoted to ending wars and abolishing slavery.

2) Christ supposedly ended his triumphant entry by driving the moneychangers out of the temple.  When I was a kid, an old farmer solemnly informed me that this is the primary lesson of Christianity.  "Christ wanders a tiny area of the world healing the sick, making wine for weddings, comforting the oppressed, feeding the hungry, and teaching that the kingdom of God could be in each one of us.  Nothing happens.  But he starts messing with the moneychangers and they brutally executed him in less than a week on completely trumped-up charges."

And just think, that old farmer had never heard of Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon.

The Palm Sunday story from Matthew (King James Version)
[1] And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
[2] Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
[3] And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
[4] All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
[5] Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
[6] And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
[7] And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
[8] And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
[9] And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
[10] And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
[11] And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
[12] And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
[13] And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Matthew 21:5 first appeared in Zechariah 9:9.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
And as G.F. Handel used it in his Messiah.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cyprus—Is the EU now bailing out tax havens?

Tax havens are an amazing economic phenomenon.  You have a location that is too small or backward to host much of a real economy like Bermuda which decides to market its corrupt ethics.  Cyprus is such a place and became an especially popular destination for hot Russian money.  They promised insane returns for depositors so as math would predict, the banks went bust investing in crazy schemes.

This time, the EU bailout included a tax on bank depositors.  The idea is to tax some of that hot Russian money.  The democratic Cypriot response has been a hearty screw you to the Eurocrats.  Iceland was able to do this and get away with it because they had already decided they hated being a destination for hot money.  They have locally-sourced energy and a real economy to return to.  I am not sure Cyprus can claim as much

At some point the realization has to occur to even the most cement-headed conventional economist that what they believe is mathematically impossible.  Of course, I have believed this since the 1980s so my faith in the perfectibility of human nature may be horribly misplaced.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Italian politics—neoliberalism's Waterloo?

Damn!  This is getting interesting.  Italy has just lived through a banker's coup. And there are plenty of Italians who did not like that—not one little bit.  (Actually, I guess it was one little bit—Monti got almost 10% of the vote.)  But the big story is Beppe Grillo because unfortunately for the banksters, he actually understands the issues surrounding money—especially the idea that bankers get to create money out of thin air and then loan that newly-created money to the rest of us at interest.  And Grillo asks the interesting question (see below) which is, Why does that ability also give those people the right to meddle in a democracy?

Of course, the real answer is: It doesn't!   And now all the bets are off because this is the real fight.  This one really is a matter of life and death.  Money is a subject that explained well, can draw massive rallies like Grillo's in Rome the night before the election.  There are serious claims that 800,000 attended.  No Caesar ever addressed such a crowd.

The bankers will fight this understanding of money every step of the way.  This is their leverage.  Without the ability to create money out of thin air, the banksters will see a MAJOR reduction in living standards.  And as Evan-Pritchard points out, the moneychangers are organizing a new coup in case Grilloism gets out of hand—which is what they expect.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beppe Grillo on money

And yes, he is a real Populist.  Could have been a member of the Greenback Party too.  Amazing that he got so many votes.  Or maybe not.  The reason the establishment criminals so hate the Populists is because they have a winning message.

This video (from 1998!) has English and German subtitles.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Debt peonage—worse than slavery?

Of all the social crimes, debt peonage is the most evil surviver.  While there are technically differences between actual debt peonage as practiced in ancient Greece or modern India and simply being in debt, this tends to be a distinction without much of a difference.  And while the classical practices of debt peonage have been largely reformed away in most civilized lands, the extraction of a "pound of flesh" is still a very common practice among the creditors.  In fact the modern austerians are simply updated muscle of the modern loan sharks.

The current crises where governments cannot even undertake the necessary repairs to the public infrastructure can be traced back to the undoing of the various forms of debtor's rights legislation (including usury laws) that began in the late 1970s.  Up until that time in post WWII USA, a reasonably diligent person could be largely debt-free by their middle age.  Now it is almost impossible.  Yes it is still possible to avoid the debts that come from living a lifestyle more lavish than one's income will allow.  But now there are so many debt traps that even the most cautious and hard-working person cannot avoid all of them.  These traps include absurdly-priced higher education, the criminal exploitation of the sick, and most importantly, the failure of the minimum wage to keep pace with the costs of living.  But even IF folks manage to avoid these traps, their governments and employers have sold them into debt—with or without their approval.

Here Chris Hedges takes on the problems of debt slavery using the theological approach of crying for social justice.  This makes perfect sense because not only was he trained as a Protestant clergyman, this subject has been covered in depth by Christianity.  Not only are there at least 50 places in the Bible where the subject of creditor-debtor relationships are discussed, the most famous prayer in Christendom (The Lord's Prayer) contains the line "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."  So he is on sound footing here.

And if you need a good homily this Sunday, make sure you follow the link over to Truthdig.  This may be Hedges' best subject and it is obvious he has thought long and hard about it.  The whole thing is about six times longer than this clipping.