Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another Chapter in the Saga of Depleted Uranium

The official story is that depleted uranium, or DU as it’s commonly called by the military, is harmless to humans that are exposed to it. Well now there is a story about DU that flies in the face of the Pentagon’s lies.
Contaminated sand from Gulf War to pass through Longview
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:44 AM PDT
By Erik Olson

A ship carrying 6,700 tons of sand contaminated with low levels of hazardous waste at a U.S. Army base in Kuwait during the first Gulf War will be unloaded at the Port of Longview on April 22.
The vessel BBC Alabama is delivering 306 containers of the sand, which contains low levels of uranium, to the port, which will then be loaded onto trains bound for a disposal site in Grand View, Idaho, said Doug Averett, the port’s director of operations.
A cleanup contractor packaged the contaminated sand in bags designed to hold hazardous waste and then placed them in a container, said Chad Hyslop, project manager for Idaho-based American Ecology, the company responsible for disposing of the material.
Longshoremen will not directly handle contaminated material — only the containers holding it, according to the port.
The shipment is safe, Hyslop said, because the concentration of uranium in the sand is so low — about 10 parts per trillion. That concentration — about 0.00000000001 percent — is about five to 10 times higher than the concentration of uranium found in concrete or wall board, he said.
This is being shipped from Kuwait to the US because it was a health hazard to leave it where it was. No matter what the government “spin” says, this country would not have spent the money to remove it and send it over here if the situation didn’t warrant it. This is breaking news and should be on the front page of every newspaper and on every television channel in the United States.
This is news, not only because of the sand being relocated, but because the lies that this government has been telling about the “harmless depleted uranium” being used in Iraq and Afghanistan are now admitted by this very act of removing this sand. The United States would not be shipping sand halfway across the globe to placate the concerns of some soldiers that were exposed to it. They have proven time and time again that they don’t care about exposing our sons and daughters to DU, or poisoning the country of Iraq for the rest of time, so why should they care about some soldiers in Kuwait?
The truth is that America is responsible for perhaps the greatest war crime in history, the poisoning of entire nations and exposing hundreds of thousands of US military personnel to the effects on ionized radiation in the form of vaporized depleted uranium. The military continues to argue that this sand they are transporting is not a danger to anyone. If this is the case, why are they shipping it here to eventually be unloaded in a desolate area in Idaho?
The question we must all ask ourselves at this particular time is a different version of what “Dirty Harry” asked the criminal at the beginning of the movie that had the same name;
“You don’t know if this “sand” is radioactive or not. You don’t know if it will kill you or cause mutations of your offspring or not. The question you have to answer for yourself is do you feel lucky now punk?”
“Well do you?”
Be careful how you answer that question folks. It could put this country on the list of terrorist nations and state supporters of terrorism.

Why Jeremiah Wright is justified in taking Barack Obama to task.

Last night MSNBC (including Keith Olbermann) was all over Jeremiah Wright for going on a book tour and — gasp! — daring to criticize Barack Obama. Reading today's hate-fueled rant on the web site, you'd think he had done something wrong. Why? Why shouldn't the man who was publicly tossed overboard by his former parishioner return the favor?

Reading Kevin Alexander Gray's assessment of the speech in which the Democratic candidate for president distanced himself from the man who presided over his marriage and baptized his children, I couldn't help but conclude that Wright had been thrown under the proverbial speeding bus by Obama — who apparently decided long ago to adopt Bill Cosby's out-of-touch, blame-the-victim rhetoric (an observation echoed by Adolph Reed, Jr., in the May issue of The Progressive).

"His political repertoire," writes Reed, "has always included the repugnant stratagem of using connection with Black audiences in exactly the same way Bill Clinton did — i.e., getting props for both emoting with the Black crowd and talking through them to affirm a victim-blaming, 'tough love' message that focuses on alleged behavioral pathologies in poor Black communities." Reed blasts Obama for going "beyond Clinton and rehears[ing] the scurrilous and ridiculous sort of narrative Bill Cosby has made famous."

Gray pointed out in his April 2, 2008 Progressive online column:

Until the controversy broke about his ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama himself frequently played the race card — on black people.

Shortly before the Texas and Ohio primaries, Obama was speaking to a mostly black audience and said, “I know some of ya’ll, you got that cold Popeye’s out for breakfast. I know. That’s why ya’ll laughing. … You can’t do that. Children have to have proper nutrition.”

In South Carolina, he told the state Legislative Black Caucus that a good economic development plan in the black community would be “cleaning up the garbage.”

Now, if white politicians had said these things they would have been pummeled.

And even in his much-heralded speech, Obama went out of his way to criticize welfare, decry “the erosion of black families” and stress the need for black fathers to spend more time with their kids.

This Bill Cosby routine goes down well with white voters, but it further stigmatizes blacks.

Obama managed to weasel his way out of trouble a month ago by dissing his former pastor as a bitter relic of a bygone era. So who can blame Jeremiah Wright when he goes on the talk circuit to defend himself and retaliate against his betrayer? For truly, did Obama not merely use his former pastor's church as a means of establishing ties to a community whose political backing he wanted to strengthen his career (writers at Black Agenda Report and The New Republic certainly seem to think so)?

The point here is not to criticize Barack Obama so much as it is to defend Jeremiah Wright as he gives back what he received. The danger of dismissing him as an angry, bitter old man whose message is equally ignorable lies in continuing the cycle of racism in this country, and the suppression of very real issues pertaining to U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

The fact is that not only was Wright betrayed, so too was the whole of the Black community, and the legitimate criticisms of imperialist policy that have wrought suffering and devastation upon others. We may disagree with the reverend's delivery, but we cannot deny that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were a direct consequence of our country's meddling in Middle Eastern affairs that resulted in mass death and political oppression in the region. Nor can we deny that our nation was built on the backs of African slaves, and the genocide of the aboriginal peoples of this continent. The indignation over Jeremiah Wright's fiery rhetoric clouds the truths contained in his diatribes.

So let's cut the man some slack. He may not be the sort of person we'd prefer to point out these truths, his method of delivery far too blunt for our comfort. But sometimes we need that in order to face up to unpleasant facts about ourselves and our nation's history. We should consider that Mr. Wright may be justified in going public with his side of the story, with his criticisms.

If that happens to hurt Barack Obama's presidential campaign, whose fault is that?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let's remove Pelosi.

Thanks to Linda Milazzo at Smirking Chimp for posting these.

That is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, effectively admitting on Larry King's program that she is chummy with a mass murderer and dictator. That is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, dissing the mother of a soldier killed in her friend's war of choice, because she has "a day job."

And what job is that, exactly? Aiding and abetting tyrants -- war criminals -- as they continue to torture, wage illegal war, spy on us, and collapse our economy. And that's not even half of the list of crimes committed by the shrub-gargoyle regime.


Shirley Golub is a Democrat challenging Pelosi for the California-8th District primary in June. She has the guts to say what no other member of the Democratic Party will: that the Speaker of the House is a craven coward. I think Pelosi is beyond cowardice; she is complicit -- an embodiment of evil, the very kind now doing so much damage to our country and our world.


Cindy Sheehan was the face of the anti-war movement in America as it helped propel the Democratic Party back into political power for the first time in over a decade. And when she reaized that the Democrats had simply used us to obtain power, that they had no intention of changing the status quo, she was compelled to act in the only way she could: campaign to unseat Pelosi.

I am urging each and every member of this web site to donate to these two Ladies, to make every effort to help them defeat Pelosi and send her sniveling back to the dog house she shares with Barney the Scottish Terrier. No one who professes friendship with the dictator who has wrought so much pain and suffering should be allowed to hold power. No one who so callously and arrogantly dismisses the mother of a slain soldier should be allowed to walk the halls of Congress. No one who so criminally undermines the duties placed upon her by the Constitution of the United States should be allowed to show her face in D.C.

Ms. Golub and Ms. Sheehan are the best chance we have of removing the biggest obstacle to impeachment, and the most prominent enabler of the occupation and the regime that is dismantling our democracy. Let's help them topple Pelosi.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why Clinton is going to become 2008's Ralph Nader.

Everyone's talking about Hillary Clinton's win in Pennsylvania yesterday over rival Barack Obama. Ten whole percentage points: may I make whoopee in my pants, now? It's still not enough to help the senator supposedly representing New York catch up to the one supposedly representing Illinois in terms of pledged delegates.

Clinton's broke, trailing her Democratic rival by a small but undeniable margin, and now reduced to threatening to nuke Iran in the event it uses its non-existent nuclear weapons to attack Israel (let me reiterate: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, a finding held by all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies—so the fact that Clinton and Obama keep acting as though the opposite is true means neither of them has a fucking clue on anything, and why we're supposed to trust their judgment when they can't even call bullshit on the lies being shat out by the Bush-Cheney regime is beyond my comprehension). Meanwhile, John McCain gets to have the media give him another round of reportorial oral sex for his "decency" in choosing not to run a dirty ad against Obama.

As recently as last month Zogby and other polls were showing the senator pretending to represent Arizona narrowly ahead of either of his Democratic rivals for the dictatorship. The Republican is using the time between now and the general election to win back his party's crazed right-wing base, raise money, and plot out his general election strategy. Do I even need to continue explaining what this all means?

Hillary Clinton wants the presidency so bad she is willing to tear the Democratic Party asunder in order to get it, leaving it too battered and weak to win in November. She absolutely cannot let it go, cannot allow an upstart like Barack Obama to "steal" what she thinks is hers by inheritance. And it sure as hell doesn't help that Obama is too big a pandering, hard-headed phony to be able to seal the deal and win a clear mandate from Democratic voters by embracing the Edwards-Kucinich bloc. No, he'd rather use them and dump them to the curb, and his piss-poor performance at the last debate proved he, too, is running out of steam. Like Clinton, he never expected to have to compete this long for the Democratic nomination, and he is becoming dangerously low on ideas.

So no matter how the remaining primaries play out, this fight is going all the way to the convention in August. All because Hillary Clinton won't let go of the illusion that the presidency is somehow hers. If 2008 accomplishes anything, it may be to finally rid Ralph Nader of the blame (wholly undeserved) for destroying any chance Democrats might have had of winning back the White House this century.

Somebody pass me a brick, so I can throw it at my television set the next time I have news coverage of the campaign on. Oh, wait, I have my steel mace for that. Never mind. At any rate, I'd be really grateful for some ideas for how we might avoid this fiasco—because if we can't, the massive ego of Hillary Clinton is going to rain shit down on all of America.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Focusing the Outrage

If you've read my posts you know I'm no fan of Barack Obama, and that I have a distinct tendency to display copious amounts of Righteous Indignation. There's a reason for that, but there is always a danger in creating outrage fatigue, so today I'm going to try to help put it all into perspective.

Yes, there is indeed a method in my ranting. If you read down to the end of my entry about Obama's purge of anti-war delegates in California, the answer lies there.
Fortunately, this latest outrage by the Obama campaign has a somewhat happy ending; all of the delegates purged from California's bloc seem to have been reinstated.

The people who got good and ticked off about this sorry spectacle didn't just complain about what had happened to them, allowing resentment and disillusionment to fester; they allowed their anger to motivate them to do something about their situation. Overnight, the Obama campaign offices in California were flooded with e-mails and messages undoubtedly left on voice mail, demanding that the delegates be reinstated or a reasonable explanation given for why they were removed.

In the end, having no explanation for the purge anyone would buy, the Obama campaign had no choice but to reinstate the delegates. This is but one example of how righteous anger served to motivate people to apply the needed pressure on a politician to do the right thing. Another for consideration is the defeat of Maryland Representative Al Wynn by Democratic primary challenger Donna Edwards. His defeat sent a signal to one of the most stubborn Bush Dogs in the House, Iowa's Leonard Boswell (and, by extension, all the so-called 'Blue Dogs'): get with the program, or you're next.

Boswell, facing his own primary challenge from Ed Fallon, belatedly signed on to efforts by fellow Democrat Robert Wexler to begin the impeachment process against the shrub and his gargoyle. It is in response to voter anger, taken out at the polling locations, that got Boswell to pay attention to what his constituents are demanding. Does anyone think an otherwise loyal Bush Dog would have changed his tune on impeachment if he hadn't seen how strong voter resentment is, if the people hadn't risen up and voted a bum out?

Finally, I give you this article from Black Agenda Report as proof of how Righteous Indignation served to get Barack Obama to reinstate his anti-war speech on his campaign web site in 2003.

After calls to Obama's campaign office yielded no satisfactory answers, we published an article in the June 5, 2003 issue of Black Commentator effectively calling Barack Obama out. We drew attention to the disappearance of any indication that U.S. Senate candidate Obama opposed the Iraq war at all from his web site and public statements. We noted with consternation that the Democratic Leadership Council, the right wing Trojan Horse inside the Democratic party, had apparently vetted and approved Obama, naming him as one of its "100 to Watch" that season. This is what real journalists are supposed to do --- fact check candidates, investigate the facts, tell the truth to audiences and hold the little clay feet of politicians and corporations to the fire.

Facing the possible erosion of his base among progressive Democrats in Illinois, Obama contacted us. We printed his response in Black Commentator's June 19 issue and queried the candidate on three "bright line" issues that clearly distinguish between corporate-funded DLC Democrats and authentic progressives. We concluded the dialog by printing Obama's response on June 26, 2003. For the convenience of our readers in 2007, all three of these articles can be found here.

The lesson to be learned here is that outrage, used as a motivator for action, works. If Barack Obama can be made to do as the Progressive Movement dictates, so too can Hillary Clinton, and so therefore can Congress. As Mickey Z. of Smirking Chimp points out:

How about some good old-fashioned anger, rage, and passion? (Che sez: "If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.") Let's forget hope and aim for vision, clarity, strategy, courage, and finally: some goddamned results. "Creativity comes from trust," sez Rita Mae Brown. "Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work" (as they say in South Florida: bingo).

So whenever you see a report about politicians preaching change but preserving the status quo behaving badly, don't get discouraged, don't get disillusioned, and above all, don't give up. Yes, get angry. Get good and outraged. Let that serve as your motivation to get up and do something about the evils visited upon us all by a corrupt system, force those we pay with our tax dollars to work for us.

If Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or Barack Obama say or do something fundamentally stupid on the campaign trail, get a hold of your media outlets and demand that they report it. Flood their offices with telephone calls, e-mails, and letters, until they pull their heads out of their asses. If your representatives in Congress, in both the House and the Senate, pass bad legislation or look as though they're going to, do likewise. Better yet, in addition to that, gather about two or three dozen of your closest friends -- the ones willing to get beaten up, tazered, sent to jail -- and march on down to their offices and stage a sit-in. Don't let yourselves be corralled into "safe", out of the way "free speech zones". Free speech doesn't need zones, places kept well out of sight and earshot of the powerful. Get up in their faces and make them pay attention to you, make them do as they're told. Remember, these people work for you -- NOT the other way around. And if all that doesn't get them to pull their heads out of their asses, you can always pull together and get them voted out.

While we're on the subject, there's no reason why we cannot apply similar tactics to the corporate media. Remember, these whores only report what is in their bosses' best interests to report. Unless we make the punditry report the truth, and on a regular basis, how is the rest of the nation to know what's going on? So yeah, send out those e-mails and telephone calls. Put those postal delivery workers on a good weight-lifting routine with those bags they carry.

Do these things on a regular basis, and there may yet be cause for optimism about our country's future. Let your outrage be focused like a laser beam, and aim it squarely where it needs to be.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's called Karma.

Reading this MyDD analysis of Obama's rhetorical flub about rural Pennsylvania voters, which would be 100% excellent if not for the writer's insane devotion to ignoring the apostrophe whenever trying to condense 'it is' -- which is a shame because otherwise the piece seems well written (for that it's earned a mere 99% for its grammatical apathy), I couldn't help but feel that the senator supposedly representing Illinois is facing a bit of Karmic justice.

People have a right to be angry that their religion and their values have been manipulated time and again to cover for a corrupt and inefficient Republican party. They also have a right to be angry that when a politician actually acknowledges that people are being played, McCain completely ignores the context of the statement itself and goes for the easy attack. Its much easier to brand someone "elitist" and walk away without addressing the actual issues they brought up. Since yesterday "elitist" seems to have become the new insult du jour. Why address the meat of the issue when you can shellac a questionable persona on someone, regardless of its truth, and just discount the individual along with their words entirely out of hand?

The writer happens to mention Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in the following paragraph. Hence my feeling of Karmic justice contained within what's happening to the senator. For did not Barack Obama walk away from Wright's message about what America has done to the world and to its minority members, having dismissed it all as the ramblings of a bitter old Black man? As pointed out by The Progressive's Kevin Alexander Gray:

[W]hile Obama gets points for not tossing his church pastor under the bus, he loses points for running away from the critique of American empire-building and oppression that his pastor offered.

Obama fobbed off his preacher’s entire sermon as an expression of the “anger and bitterness” of an older generation of black men.

What Obama refused to say was that Wright made some solid points: about the genocide of the Native Americans, the immorality of dropping atom bombs on Japanese civilians in World II, the killing of millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians, and the deaths so far of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

So now Barack Obama is paying the price, courtesy of a higher plane of justice than anything we mortals care to provide on our own initiative, for his blithe dismissal of what Jeremiah Wright was trying to explain to his congregation. Just as Obama so flippantly zeroed in on his former pastor's delivery, ignoring the legitimate message of America's darker side, so too are the media, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and worst of all the voters, now focusing their anger and contempt on his choice of words.

I imagine that somewhere Mr. Wright is chuckling to himself at how what goes around, comes around.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What exactly was behind Obama's California delegate purge?

Stop me if you've heard this one. Yesterday MyDD reported that the Obama campaign had wiped over nine hundred delegates in California from its list of chosen representatives for the national convention in August. Ostensibly, this was done to ensure only Obama loyalists would represent the senator from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention. No big deal, right? After all, Hillary Clinton's campaign did a similar purge.

The problem is this: while Clinton trimmed only fifty or so delegates, down from an initial 950, Obama wiped roughly half of 1,700. Furthermore, whereas Clinton appears to have carefully screened the delegates to be excluded, Obama's purge list appeared random -- activists with solid credentials and who worked tirelessly to campaign for their candidate were eliminated, while those who did little or nothing got to stay on the list to go to Denver.

But here's where things get more ominous. As MyDD points out, Obama campaigner Marcy Winograd -- a woman with more than a few political credentials to her own name -- seems to think the main targets were anti-war progressives.

By dusk on Wednesday, the California Obama campaign had purged almost all progressive anti-war activists from its delegate candidate lists. Names of candidates, people who had filed to run to represent Obama at the August Democratic Party National Convention, disappeared, not one by one, but hundreds at a time, from the Party web site listing the eligibles. The list of Obama delegate hopefuls in one northern California congressional district went from a robust 100 to an anemic 23, while in southern California, the list in Congressman Waxman's district almost slipped out of sight, plunging from a high of 91 candidates to 17. Gone were strong women with independent political bases.

And the Huffington Post's Nathaniel Bach wrote:

After completing the application process and finding my name on the official list of registered candidates, I received an email from the California Democratic Party today (Wednesday) at 4:48 p.m. informing me that the final approved lists of delegate candidates had been posted and that I should check the website. (I assume the same email went out to all the delegate candidates.) I clicked over to the website and found that, lo and behold, what had been a list of 90 candidates had been eviscerated down to only 17, and that my name was gone. I immediately checked the Obama candidate list for the 33rd District, where a friend and fellow Obama die-hard was also running for a delegate spot. His name was gone, too, and a list that formerly contained 83 names was down to a mere 20.

The ostensible rationale for the cutting of delegate candidates is to prevent "Trojan horse" delegates from making their way to the Convention floor and then switching allegiances. The vetting and removal of delegate candidates is expressly allowed by party rules. But could the 30th District really have had 73 such turncoats, and was I really one of them? I was a Precinct Captain for the Obama campaign for the California primary; I've donated several hundred dollars to Senator Obama's campaign (the first politician I've ever supported financially); and I've boosted the campaign in numerous posts on this website...

It's hard not to be cynical. Remaining on the list of approved candidates is the slate of candidates (longtime campaign volunteers) that the Obama campaign has officially endorsed, as well as several names recognizable from local politics. These delegate candidates aren't to be faulted for being longtime political activists, but the cynic in me wonders why those names remained while the "nobodies" on the list disappeared. The Obama campaign owes those of us who were cut a fuller explanation of the decision process.

MyDD's 'campskunk' clearly believes that this is not accidental, that the Obama campaign wants "people who will go to the convention and vote for Obama, no matter what. It's not about the issues, it's about the candidate. If these delegates have strong dedication to particular causes they might be persuadable, so none of those types are allowed."

But the purge of California delegates, and the fear that anti-war activists among those sent to represent Obama in Denver come August might defect, may run even deeper than anyone suspects. According to the New York Sun, Obama's phony anti-occupation position stands a good chance of being exposed for the sham it is.

A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security*. In “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000–80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).”

Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign’s working group on Iraq. A shorter and less detailed version of this paper appeared on the center’s Web site as a policy brief.

If this is true, if Obama plans to back off from any and all public pledges to withdraw from the quagmire in Iraq by the end of his first term (assuming he gets a first term), then this cynical lack of faith in his own supporters exposes a far more serious crisis. The senator from Illinois, in spite of his alleged initial opposition to the invasion of Iraq, really does support the policy of American imperialism. And if he's worried enough about his true position becoming widely known that it has driven him to purge half his California delegates -- thus making the prospect of a brokered convention likelier, what does that say about the worth assigned to the anti-war movement by the Democratic Party? Not much, apparently.

Fortunately, this latest outrage by the Obama campaign has a somewhat happy ending; all of the delegates purged from California's bloc seem to have been reinstated. But if Obama thought these devoted supporters might have harbored plans to defect to Hillary Clinton's camp, he may have pushed his fear one step closer to realization.

*: Is it me, or does this organization's name sound ominously similar to Project for the New American Century?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Obama had better pull his head out of his posterior.

According to MSNBC, McCain has erased Obama's ten point lead over him. If the senator from Illinois doesn't start running like a Democrat, and stop acting like a fucking Republican, he's going to find himself making one hell of a concession speech come November. And that shall be bad in far more ways than one.

If Obama really wanted to win this thing, he could have distinguished himself by running to the left of Hillary Clinton -- not to the right of her. His failure to seal the deal, combined with his Republican-style attacks (not that Mrs. Clinton is innocent of following suit) and condescending dismissals of the challenges faced by minorities, indicates that he is fully prepared to blow it come November. Consider this: Recent polls show that Ralph Nader may actually get up to five percent of the vote in November, and that a sizable number of Clinton supporters are likely to vote for McCain -- twenty-eight percent, in fact.

That is how things stand at this point. Can you imagine what shall happen if a bruised and battered Obama comes out of the Democratic National Convention, having alienated upwards of 33% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, and with the media attacking him at every turn having smelled blood in the water? Imagine that pathetic creature going up against McCain. We cannot allow overconfidence to cost us this time. There really is far too much at stake.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

News of the New Depression is slowly spreading.

If you're at all familiar with Michael Fox (the columnist, not the actor), and you're trying to decide if the current economic crisis is a recession or a full blown depression, he certainly makes it hard to be optimistic. Back in November, Mr. Fox reported that the New Depression had already begun. In February, he reported that it had entered Phase Two, and that it had gone global.

Deniers may or may not have paid Mr. Fox much attention, if any at all. But now news of just how bad our current economic crisis really is is starting to bleed into the rest of the Blogosphere. Salon.com's Andrew Leonard writes:

Most economists are no longer debating whether there will be a recession in 2008. Now, they're arguing over when the recession started -- was it last November, or December? -- and how bad it's likely to get. While they bicker, however, a far more terrifying economic specter from the distant past has sent a chill through the infosphere.

"We have not seen a nationwide decline in housing like this since the Great Depression," said the CEO of Wells Fargo late last year. "It is now clear that the U.S. and global financial markets are experiencing their worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," wrote economist Nouriel Roubini last week.

What's kept things from completely collapsing is the hardcore denial by those in power that anything is even wrong. The children running the Federal Reserve "reason" that if they can hold off all public acknowledgment that there is a crisis, and that allowing the "free" market to run wild was the cause, then the problem doesn't exist. And if the problem doesn't exist because no one admits there is one, then the "reasoning" goes that when the next administration comes in and has to tell the public the truth, blame can then be shifted to that bunch. Because, after all, the Depression "didn't exist" until the new folk in charge began talking about it.

Except it does exist, and it shan't be long before even the lazy and all-too-often complicit corporate media are forced to admit it. The independent media has already belatedly come to terms with the fact of the economic crisis. Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive wrote yesterday about the growing problem of looting other people's homes for metals such as copper and steel. People are getting so desperate, they're ignoring things such as televisions and stereos. Guard your plumbing jealously, ladies and gentlemen. That's what robbers are really after in today's Great Depression.

What's that? You're still not convinced? Let's read more from Mr. Leonard.

In 1933, 24 percent of the workforce was unemployed. In February 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.8 percent (though there are reasons to believe that number significantly underestimates the true picture). Between 1929 and 1933, U.S. GDP growth declined by around 30 percent, the stock market lost almost 90 percent of its value, and a whopping 40 percent of the nation's banks failed. In the fourth quarter of 2007, GDP growth registered an 0.6 gain. While stocks are down over the last year and a half, there's still no consensus about whether we're living through a "correction" or a full-scale bear market. And even though scores of mortgage lenders have declared bankruptcy in the last year, both the real banking system and the so-called shadow banking system of generally unregulated investment banks and hedge funds are still afloat, thanks in large part to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's dogged determination to ensure that if economic disaster does strike, it won't be because the Fed failed to pump enough liquidity into the system (an error that conservative economists are convinced helped cause the first Great Depression).

Now let's read some portions of Mike Fox's report from last November:

The Chinese had begun a sell-off of their US securities. They have dollars held by their government and, separately by their treasury (like the Fed).

Today, that entity has made clear that they will be unloading some $400 billion, which they already began in August (according to the China Daily, they sold off $9 billion - without buying any new debt in that month alone) in an attempt to divest of American Government securities. (They still hold over a trillion dollars of, well, other dollars, stock, corporate paper, etc)

The Japanese, not to be outdone, sold off some $24 billion in US treasuries in August.

Today, GM posted a loss of $40 billion in the 3rd quarter, because they had so much anticipated income from anticipated tax credits that they had opted to show as possible income FOR THREE YEARS in order to minimize the appearances of real losses, that they now had to suck it up and stick it all on the balance sheet for this one quarter, even though, at selling cars, they made a profit in that quarter! Can you wrap your mind around LOSING 40 BILLION DOLLARS IN 3 MONTHS? There are many nations that don't have that number for a GDP, annually. This is America's great manufacturing giant. And, as they used to say, what's good for GM is Good for America.

So, America, let's just all write-down our losses in the third quarter and move on, shall we?

Today, Washington Mutual (the one hitherto considered clean), got nabbed on CRIMINAL charges by Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General of NY for their mortgages (specifically for defrauding Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae with bundled mortgages).

Today, the Europeans (as I pointed out in my January 07 letter, not published on SC - everyone else thought they were safe) are suffering too. BMW and LVMH both took large hits on their stock values, as they realize that all that entry-level luxe crap - that foolish Americans were mortgaging the floorboards to buy - will no longer sell (3-series BMWs are where the money is, but that market just slammed shut, similarly Louis Vuitton, which has opened dozens of mall stores to sell items that used to be exclusive, may as well close those doors, because the market will revert to the rarified air it used to breathe, and all those middle class gals who've been buying $1200 purses will do so no more, because you can't mortgage a house after it's been foreclosed.

Remember, this was back in November, before the bailout of Bear Stearns. Now let's take a look at Mr. Fox's reports from February:

Egg, a British online bank, said it would cancel the credit cards of 161,000 customers it deemed too risky. The cards will stop working in March. The news provoked angry reactions from some credit-card holders who claimed their credit records were spotless. Egg was acquired by Citigroup last year, before the deterioration in money markets. [From The Economist, Feb. 7, 2008]

Citigroup recently found itself short of cash-on-hand, so they sold another 5% of the company to the UAE. That wasn’t enough, evidently, so now they’re tightening up on lending. First was the mortgage sector, now the consumer credit. Dropping 161,000 credit cards in Britain would work out to dropping over 800,000 were they to do likewise in the United States. Only, this is one small subsidiary bank in Great Britain, and this is only the beginning.

Those credit cards they’ve been “pre-approving” and issuing to anyone who’d sign up will soon be gone. Without the credit card - mad consumerism of the last ten years, store closures will be drastic, and accompanying unemployment will go without saying. Meanwhile, the government is printing more money to keep the spending spree going, even if the banks can no longer underwrite the party. Still, the Fed keeps lowering the interest rates to encourage borrowing – if only anyone were lending! Yet as the cost of money drops for the banks, credit card interest rates and fees are skyrocketing.


Okay, people, if the foreclosure rate, the banks closing perfectly good credit card accounts, or the loss of thousands of jobs a month hasn’t convinced you, this is Earthshaking. Because, as depressed as the real estate market has been, and as volatile as the stock market has been, bonds have been the conservative investment of choice for large investment fund managers and long-term individual investors. Secretly, who hasn’t aspired to “retire and clip coupons?” (Note to the young’uns: tax-free municipal bonds used to have perforations like a sheet of stamps, and each coupon represented a monthly or quarterly interest payment that was like tax-free cash, thus the expression amongst the wealthy, “clipping coupons”; it has nothing to do with 20¢ off a box of Tide). Now this:

UBS AG won't buy auction-rate securities that fail to attract enough bidders, joining a growing number of dealers stepping back from the $300 billion market, said a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The second-biggest underwriter of the securities, whose rates are reset periodically at auctions, notified its 8,200 U.S. brokers of the decision yesterday, said the person, who declined to be identified because the announcement wasn't publicly disclosed. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Citigroup Inc. allowed auctions to fail...Bank of America Corp. estimated in a report that 80 percent of all auctions of bonds sold by cities, hospitals and student loan agencies were unsuccessful yesterday.

That may mean as much as $20 billion of bonds failed to find buyers, based on the $15 billion to $25 billion of auction-rate bonds scheduled for bidding daily…Auctions are failing as confidence in the creditworthiness of insurers backing the securities wanes, and as loss-plagued banks…[Feb. 14 (Bloomberg)]

Yesterday, Warren Buffett, the billionaire head of Berkshire Hathaway Fund offered to personally shore-up the four companies that insure all bonds, and are at risk of having their own credit-worthiness downgraded (which would send a huge ripple of skittishness throughout the economy – a ripple, in my opinion, just waiting to happen). Mr. Bufett’s offer has been publicly rebuffed, and, yet, such bravado on the part of MBIA and Ambac isn’t making anyone feel the rock solid security they’re trying to convey. Everyone knows that when the defaults begin in bundled mortgage backed securities, they will not be able to come up with the $800 billion, and then, those holding more traditional bonds, those issued by municipalities and states, will be dependent upon the tax income of those entities, which are dwindling as the home foreclosure rate goes up.

And the Swiss are having none of it. So, yesterday, New York City's Health and Hospitals Corp.’s auction of $64.9 million failed. Likewise, the Port Authority (of New York and New Jersey), saw its auction debt soar to 20 percent on Feb. 12 from 4.3 percent a week ago.

Meanwhile, the CFO of MBIA, Charles Chaplin (no kidding), has taken his show on the road, telling everyone who’ll listen that everything’s okay, nothing to see over here, have faith. Earlier this week he announced that they had enough to cover any degree of failure that may occur, and today, he’ll be testifying before Congress that “A bailout of highly credit-worthy companies, who, at most, are at risk of losing the very highest ratings available, is misplaced.” But no disclosure of details has been made. So far, this roadshow is all talk, and I, for one would prefer to see the balance sheets. As the bonds themselves aren’t selling, the interest rate will have to go up to entice buyers. But that just increases the risk for the insurers. The problem snowballs.

By the way, did anyone notice that platinum hit $2,000./ounce last night? No wonder.

Convinced yet? If not, don't worry. Sooner or later, the corporate media shall have to acknowledge that the New Depression exists. The only question is whether it will happen under a Democratic or Republican regime. If it's the former, look for blame to be laid on the Democrats. If it's the latter, it'll be those pesky regulations that take the blame, and the resulting wave of further deregulation shall inevitably lead to a meltdown that makes the First Great Depression look like a day at the beach by comparison.