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It is always nice to see the various economic classes looking out for one another. When the assets of the top are threatened, the bottom must suffer. Easy math, really.
This excerpt from an interview with Michael Hudson on Counterpunch.
Peries: Look forward to it, Michael. So Michael, some mainstream news outlets are saying that this is the China contagion. They need someone to blame. What’s causing all of this?
Hudson: Not China. China’s simply back to the level that it was earlier in the year. One of the problems with the Chinese market that is quite different from the American and European market is that a lot of the big Chinese banks have lent to small lenders, sort of small wholesale lenders, that in turn have lent to retail people. And a lot of Chinese are trying to get ahead by borrowing money to buy real estate or to buy stocks. So there are these intermediaries, these non-bank intermediaries, sort of like real estate brokers, who borrowed big money from banks and lent it out to a lot of little people. And once the small people got in it’s like odd lot traders in the United States, small traders, you know that the boom is over.
What you’re having now is a lot of small speculators have lost their money. And that’s put the squeeze on the non-bank speculators. But that’s something almost unique in China. Most Americans and most European families don’t borrow to go into the market. Most of the market is indeed funded by debt, but it’s funded by bank lending and huge, huge leverage borrowings for all of this.
This is what most of the commentators don’t get. All this market run-up we’ve seen in the last year or two has been by the Federal Reserve making credit available to banks at about one-tenth of 1 percent. The banks have lent to big institutional traders and speculators thinking, well gee, if we can borrow at 1 percent and buy stocks that yield maybe 5 or 6 percent, then we can make the arbitrage. So they’ve made a 5 percent arbitrage by buying, but they’ve also now lost 10 percent, maybe 20 percent on the capital.
What we’re seeing is that short-term thinking really hasn’t taken into account the long run. And that’s why this is very much like the Long-Term Capital Management crash in 1997, when the two Nobel prize winners who calculated how the economy works and lives in the short term found out that all of a sudden the short term has to come back to the long term.
Now, it’s amazing how today’s press doesn’t get it. For instance, in the New York Times Paul Krugman, who you can almost always depend to be wrong where money and credit are involved, said that the problem is a savings glut. People have too many savings. Well, we know that they don’t in America have too many savings. We’re in a debt deflation now. The 99 percent of the people are so busy paying off their debt that what is counted as savings here is just paying down the debt. That’s why they don’t have enough money to buy goods and services, and so sales are falling. That means that profits are falling. And people finally realized that wait a minute, with companies not making more profits they’re not going to be able to pay the dividends.
Well, companies themselves have been causing this crisis as much as speculators, because companies like Amazon, like Google, or Apple especially, have been borrowing money to buy their own stock. Corporate activists, stockholder activists, have told these companies, we want you to put us on the board because we want you to borrow at 1 percent to buy your stock yielding 5 percent. You’ll get rich in no time. So these stock buybacks by Apple and by other companies at high prices can push up their stock price in the short term. But when prices crash, their net worth is all of a sudden plunging. And so we’re in a classic debt deflation.
Wow, kinda early to be talking about the upcoming Canadian federal election, yet because our beloved Conservatives love power more than democracy here we are. Let’s check in with the former head of Elections Canada on the merry jig Harper is doing on the grave of Canadian democracy.
“The former head of Elections Canada says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is “gaming the system” with an early election call and the result is parties with less money are politically disadvantaged.
“What it does is completely distort everything we’ve ever fought for, everything we’ve established as rules,” Jean-Pierre Kingsley said in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House.”
Well that sounds pretty damning Mr.Kingsley. What exactly is our benevolent government planning?
“What should be happening right now is very simple — the prime minister should not call the election. He should wait for the 37 days to count towards the 19th of October, political parties should stop advertising right now, third parties should stop advertising. Then I’d say, hey, those people are respecting the spirit of the law.”
A longer election campaign means a higher ceiling of allowable expenses, under the rules set by Elections Canada.
In a typical 37-day election period, each party can spend a maximum of $25 million. For each additional day, the limit is increased by 1/37th, or an extra $675,000, meaning an 11-week campaign would allow parties to spend more than $50 million.
“What you’ve done is that you’ve distorted the role of money in politics,” Kingsley said.”
Oh! Fascinating. Essentially it looks like our neo-liberal PM is just, ever so slightly, tilting the table heavily in favour of the Conservatives because they are the only ones who can afford a long electoral campaign.
“Canadians have said, $25 million is enough for you to run a campaign. Now we’re going to be facing the possibility that it’s going to be more than $50 million just to pump more ads our way.”
Kingsley said it’s no coincidence that only one party can afford to spend $50 million on a campaign.
“If (the Conservatives) are doubling it to fifty, it’s because they can get to fifty,” he said.”
It would seem that more rules are required to stop the kind of hard bullshite that is going on here. This is a cynical loophole being exploited by Harper so he can flood the media airwaves with Conservative party propaganda.
“Parties plan how much will be required to spend. The Conservatives are way ahead of the other two, so by doubling the amount, all of a sudden you’ve thrown a monkey wrench into all of that financial planning that’s been going on.”
“And that’s what distorts the game for Canadians,” Kingsley added. “That is what is happening to us. We’re the electors here, and we’re the ones who are going to be faced with the consequences of this thing.”
I hope Canadians won’t let this shameless manipulation of our electoral system go unnoticed. This foul political ploy is rotten and needs to follow the Tories throughout the entire election – we are talking dead albatross around the neck levels of shame here. Speaking of our government spending like a drunken sailor:
“The financial consequences of an 11-week campaign for the public could be significant because of the campaign rebate, which sees taxpayers subsidize 50 per cent of what the parties spend on a national campaign.
“Significant elements of [the estimated cost] are doubled, or more than doubled,” he said. “We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars the chief electoral officer will need extra.”
Yeah – did you just feel that? That was the sound of conservative fiscal policy hitting the side of the bin, as the taxpayer dollar wasting election extravaganza is about to begin. A feather in the cap of the government that purportedly manages the public purse with the utmost care.
So, what the Conservatives are doing electorally is dirty pool. Surprising? Not really – but this election scandal tears a rather large hole in the facade of our democratic electoral system. Fair? Level playing field? Let Canadian choose the best ideas and policy? Bollocks to that!
“That means parties will be disadvantaged politically because they can’t afford to keep up with bigger spenders, Kingsley added.
“What about the disadvantage this imposes upon, for example, the Green Party?” he said.
“Now they’re facing foes who are going to be shooting twice as hard at them as they were before. It destroys the fairness that is at the base of our system.
“That level playing field gets it in the neck.”
The Conservative Party just doubled down on the idea that big money and big donors will win elections. I hope that the people of Canada are wise enough to see through this cynical dog and pony show and kick them out of office.
The case for constructing more pipelines from the Alberta Tar Sands Kill Our Biosphere Extravaganza to the rest of the world weakened when a new pipeline, armed with state of the art accident notification system quietly ruptured and had the never not to notify anyone until a couple of football fields worth of sludge poured out.
“Nexen is apologizing for a pipeline break that leaked five million litres of bitumen, sand and water at its Long Lake oilsands facility in northern Alberta this week.
The spill was discovered Wednesday afternoon at Nexen Energy’s oilsands facility near Long Lake, south of Fort McMurray.
The material leaked through what Bailey says was a “visible burst” in the pipeline. a double-walled, high-pressure line installed in 2014. Bailey said the line was shut down immediately after the leak was discovered.
The detection system did not work in this case, so it isn’t known how long the substance was leaking. A contractor walking along the pipeline discovered the spill.”
Well it’s only FIVE million litres of liquid petrochemical death being splashed around. How bad could that be?
“A spokesman for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said a spill this big will have an “extremely serious” impact on the muskeg, which is home to aboriginal medicines, berries and wild game.
“There is no way to clean or reclaim the muskeg,” said Eriel Deranger in a news release Friday. “Destruction and contamination like this that directly affects a key component of our ecosystems is affecting First Nations’ ability to access lands and territories for hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping rights, rights protected by both the Constitution and our treaties.”
Chief Allan Adam said the spill is “dangerously close” to the Clearwater River, which flows directly into the Athabasca River.
“The repercussions from the incident could potentially be felt far and wide by those that rely on the Athabasca basin,” he said.”
I’m thinking that we need less pipelines and infrastructure that caters directly to the destruction of our biosphere. This is another warning, in a long list of warnings, about how badly we need to divorce ourselves from fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry.
The funny-sad notion is that with current technology in renewable energy production, we can lessen and then eventually eliminate our dependence on dirty energy. The government, backed by the people, needs to stop all the subsidies to oil and gas industry and redirect investment into renewable energy solutions. This is not a job for the free market because the free market gives exactly no fucks about the our future climate or well-being. This is not the time for cap and trade or any other ‘market based solution’ – because profitability will always trump environmental stewardship.
It is time to make the stewardship of our ecology the number one priority, for the sake of the future and our continued existence on Earth because the Earth’s climate, like Free-Marketers, gives exactly no fucks about the future of humanity.
I’m curious as to how our military procurement system is intends to differentiate itself from the awesome-fun game of spitting into the wind.
“The Harper government is terminating its contract with Thales Canada Ltd., which was to supply new radar units to support Canada’s CF-18 fighter jet squadrons in Cold Lake, Alta., and Bagotville, Que.”
The idea behind the procurement process is to investigate the fine details of a piece of equipment and estimate how much the supplier intends to soak you with bullshit added-costs, delays and ‘upgrades’.
“The deal signed in November 2010 was initially worth $55 million for two tactical-control radar systems, with delivery to begin in 2013. Thales won the tender over one other bidder.
Defence Department documents show costs had risen to more than $78 million by 2013. And by November last year, the Public Works Department was deep in negotiations with Thales to resolve problems.
“In February 2015, Canada and Thales reached agreement in principle to terminate this contract by mutual consent,” said Public Works spokeswoman Annie Trepanier.”
Somewhere along the line our Master Procurers must have had a rectal cranial inversion as a jump from $55 million to $78 million dollars seems a little extreme. It is not like we enjoy spending money on overpriced non-functional military hardware…
“The botched deal is yet another military procurement gone sour, alongside the more high-profile F-35 Stealth Fighter project, the Cyclone helicopter purchase to replace the aging Sea Kings, and used British submarines that have been sinkholes for maintenance and repair dollars.”
Errr…whoops. I wonder when our lovely government will realize that we need our military primarily for domestic security – (full props to Canada’s army for mobilizing units to fight forest fires) and peacekeeping roles. Imperial ambitions and force project have never been our forte and we should stop trying to compete with more imperialistically focused nations.
Canadian foreign policy concerns aside some careful attention should be paid to this:
“Negotiations for a final termination agreement are still underway, and Public Works declined to provide any information about penalties, losses to the taxpayer or even the reason for the termination.
“Public Works is working with DND [Department of National Defence] to identify an appropriate path forward to meet their long-term capability needs on this project,” Trepanier said in a terse email.”
From a government whose platform trumpeted accountability and transparency to the high-heavens and back, this response from Public Works can be reasonably classified as neither accountable, nor transparent to the Canadian public.
If you have been watching our beloved conservative government the above response is not out of place with the deep centralization of power that our PM has undertaken. This government has been all about the control and management of information and unsubtle PR for the hoi-paloi. The Prime Ministers Office has subsided into the shadows, sorta like Sauron in LOTR – sure you can see the flaming eye up there on the tower – but you have no idea what it is doing or what policies it happens to be crafting. Canadians just have to brace themselves for whatever crap policy that magically appears on the horizon and hope for the best.
Cultural Marxism? As the feminist tag in the wordpress reader becomes more diverse (read filled with dudes and their important ideas) this phrase is popping up all over as of late. I’ve never seen it before, and as a minor logophile my curiosity was peaked. The context of how the term Cultural Marxism (CM) is being used was my first clue that this is yet another sad portmanteau of the right-wingers/dudes to mischaracterize ideas and notions that make them uncomfortable.
It was this putrid nugget of a sentence, fresh from the high mountains of Turdistan, that started my logophilic escapade:
“Leftist ideology (cultural Marxism) ascribes all observed statistical differences in group performance to nefarious cultural forces, therefore nefarious cultural forces must be at work everywhere, therefore you must be oppressed at all times, thus you must dedicate yourself to finding the oppression in every aspect and moment of your life. “
What we can see above exhibit the hallmarks of what will be a reason-free mind-fap-festival of fail; usually with a side of misogyny or racism thrown in just for fun. But, apart from the haphazard generalizations, the erection of grand strawmen and a generally uncharitable starting point, the above sentence is perfectly fine.
So doing some arduous research, a.k.a typing “Cultural Marxism” into Duck Duck Go, the fateful shrouds of mystery were slowly pulled back. Oh the magic of Wikipedia:
“The Frankfurt School (German: Frankfurter Schule) is a school of social theory and philosophy associated in part with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The school initially formed during the interwar period in Germany and consisted of dissidents who were at home neither in the existent capitalist, fascist, nor communist systems that had formed during the interwar period. Meanwhile, many of these theorists believed that traditional theory could not adequately explain the turbulent and unexpected development of capitalist societies in the twentieth century. Critical of both capitalism and Soviet socialism, their writings pointed to the possibility of an alternative path to social development.
Although sometimes only loosely affiliated, Frankfurt School theorists spoke with a common paradigm in mind, thus sharing the same assumptions and being preoccupied with similar questions. To fill in the perceived omissions of traditional Marxism, they sought to draw answers from other schools of thought, hence using the insights of antipositivist sociology, psychoanalysis, existential philosophy, and other disciplines. The school’s main figures sought to learn from and synthesize the works of such varied thinkers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Weber and Lukács.
Following Marx, they were concerned with the conditions that allow for social change and the establishment of rational institutions. Their emphasis on the “critical” component of theory was derived significantly from their attempt to overcome the limits of positivism, materialism and determinism by returning to Kant’s critical philosophy and its successors in German idealism, principally Hegel’s philosophy, with its emphasis on dialectic and contradiction as inherent properties of human reality.“
Erm…ya. A lot of word salad that makes academics feel important and the basis of a school of interpretive historical though. In other words, nothing about leftist ideology and ‘oppression seeking’ going on there outside of arcane historical theory relevant mostly to academic historians. The Rational Wiki though has a pithy summation of Cultural Marxism which roughly aligns with my first impressions of the use of the word:
“In current wingnut usage, the term is a favourite of Pat Buchanan and, to the most dangerous extent, Anders Behring Breivik. It is a Cold Warrior’s way of decrying “political correctness” or “multiculturalism.” It’s when capitalism and democracy are still the law of the land, but they don’t work exclusively for you anymore.
Despite its widespread popularity among the hard-right, many on the right have thoroughly debunked the concept as not being Marxist at all, including Christian Dominionist Gary North, Michael Acuña from Common Ruin, and How to Paint Your Panda.
It’s become a favorite term of many of the nuttier Gamergaters—demonstrating the movement’s attraction of many anti-Semites, white supremacists, and MRAs — to explain why those bitch slut whores won’t shut up about sexism in video games. They got their collective jockstraps in a knot when discussions on Wikipedia predating their obsession with the term resulted in the “Cultural Marxism” article on Wikipedia being redirected to the “Conspiracy theory” section of Frankfurt School, restored after appealing to the God-King, no consensus after that, then deletion and redirection back to the conspiracy theory.“
Laughing out loud forever – you know when the gamergaters show up sexism and misogyny are never far behind.
Well, fellow word travellers, that’s all there is for this session. I’ve done the long form work here, but all you need to know is in the title of this blogpost. :)
Here at DWR we’ve been keeping an eye on the Greek economic situation. As early as 2010 we commented that the IMF had been working its magic on the Greek economy:
“Did you ever want to see a society remade into the corporatist mode? Greece is going down that path right now. The IMF is gleefully setting out conditions and ‘austerity measures’ necessary for Greece to qualify for the bailout package. How much would you wager that the Public Sector is going to take a beating? Today’s news is part of a cycle of the forced privatization of the Greek economy.”
Here we are in 2015:
“Greek lawmakers have approved a government motion that allows reform proposals [AUSTERITY] to be used as a basis for negotiations with international creditors, as the country seeks a third bailout.
The 300-member parliament passed the motion by majority vote, with 251 lawmakers voting in favor, 32 against and 8 voting ‘present’ — a form of abstention indicating dissent from their own party line.
In a speech delivered ahead of the vote, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to persuade lawmakers, including dissenters within his own left-wing Syriza party, to back the proposals and grant his finance minister the authorization to use them as a basis for negotiations with creditors over the weekend.”
You see? The IMF hasn’t stopped its slow destruction of the Greek economy, like slowly metastasizing cancer, the financial skulduggery makes fixing the economy untenable. The recently ousted Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis comments:
“Varoufakis explains exactly why he fought for a NO vote and how unfair and irrational the creditors have been in refusing to discuss debt re-structuring. As Varoufakis points out, it is perfectly normal in the world of finance for us to be offered long term loans that suit our budget. It happens every day, yet Greece has not been offered a sustainable debt repayment plan that will enable it to pay back its creditors with interest, without forcing people at home to suffer as they do right now. If Greece has no money left, then how can it possibly pay what the IMF and the ECB expect it to? Varoufakis had suggested that his country pay an increased sum of money back over a longer time period, enabling the economy to grow over time. The creditors refused. When Prime Minister Tspiras announced a referendum would take place, the creditors were absolutely furious. Democracy is not something they understand, it seems.”
This is exactly the no-win situation that Disaster Capitalism sets up. Which leads to this inescapable conclusion:
“And herein lies the problem. We live in a neo-liberal, globalized plutocracy. An elite group of bankers control the global money supply (and the politicians we vote for), and here’s the thing: they do not believe in democracy. They do not believe that ordinary people have the right to an opinion, let alone a vote, on issues as enormous as the one facing Greece. This is all the more infuriating when you consider the fact that it’s regular members of the public who are being forced to bail out private banking debts. Worst of all, rather than listen with interest to Varoufakis’s logical and intelligent argument, corporate journos like Paul Mason prefer to doggedly defend the position of Greece’s creditors, while peddling fear and lies about the consequences of a Greek exit from the Eurozone.”
So what to do in Greece? The proposed “bailout plan” is shite, and the people of Greece have already said no to similar BS:
“The proposed measures, including tax hikes and cuts in pension spending, are certain to inflict more pain on a Greek public who just days ago voted overwhelmingly against a similar plan.”
“The new measures overturn many of the election promises of Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party, which had vowed to overturn bailout austerity, and come less than a week after 61 per cent of voters opposed similar reforms, proposed by creditors, in last Sunday’s referendum.”
The Greek people have said “No” to Austerity and Greece’s political elite are apoplectically pretzelling trying to make the societal poison known as Austerity somehow palatable to masses.
A quick review of what is coming next:
We need to watch what happens in Greece very carefully now. The forces of international neo-liberal capitalism need to make an example of Greece to scare other countries in similar situations (Spain, Italy) into accepting the resculpting of society for the benefit of the hyper-rich.
Democracy is expected to bend a knee toward this insidious neo-liberal economic paradigm – the will of the people subsumed to corporate interests – an for what?
We all know the answer.
Well you know it is important when Al Gore is in the house:
“Al Gore says there’s a “powerful voice” speaking out about climate change: Mother Nature.
Gore, citing “striking” examples of extreme climate-related conditions, said while scientists have long agreed climate change is real, the real environmental challenges facing people will drive change.”
What you don’t see is the changes being made to our global system of economics and trade that will actually do something to move the planet away from the lovely CO2 oven outcome that we’re building for ourselves. One of the key aspects of the problems surrounding controlling global warm is the compartmentalization of the climate talks and the trade talks.
“Not that there was any question about which side would win should any of the competing pledges to cut emissions and knock down commercial barriers ever come into direct conflict: the commitments made in the climate negotiations all effectively functioned on the honour system, with a weak and unthreatening mechanism to penalize countries that failed to keep their promises. The commitments made under trade agreements, however, were enforced by a dispute settlement system with real teeth, and failure to comply wold land governments in trade court, often facing harsh penalties.
In fact, the hierarchy was so clear that the climate negotiators formally declared their subservience to the trading system from the start. When the U.N. climate agreement was signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, it made clear that “measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute… a disguised restriction on international trade.” (Similar language appears in the Kyoto Protocol.)”
-Naomi Klein. This Changes Everything p. 76 – 77.
So even back in the day we were being screwed over by capitalism (shocked). The notion that we can’t restrict trade in order to preserve our biosphere has underwritten almost every climate agreement the world has put forward. And that is the problem – moving goods all over the globe is carbon intensive and for the necessary work to start in tackling climate change the fundamental economic principles of neo-liberal capitalism and trade need to be rewritten.
So until you see a climate conference that includes the WTO, IMF, and World Bank be prepared for nothing more than important words and no real change in the system.