Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing catch up 2, 3, 4

The global financial mess: blaming the victims by Ann Pettifor

"The stupidity, poor economic analysis and sheer ignorance of those - central bankers, politicians, auditors - that have a duty to act as guardians of the nation's and the world's finances has had and will continue to have very grave consequences for the whole of the global economy, but also for millions of individual and corporate borrowers.

Their conduct stems in part from a failure of economic analysis. More precisely, the economics profession has failed to correctly analyse and alert policy makers to the impact of the finance sector - and of privatised credit creation - on the global economy. Indeed the economics profession has had a (not accidental?) blindspot for the role of haute finance in the economy, while at the same time encouraging its deregulation.

Now, just as the curtain is being raised on the house of cards built by the finance sector, so a cabal of economists is working to pull it down.

Their main concern is - of course - to protect the sector from governmental or democratic oversight and regulation, and to transfer private losses to taxpayers. To do so, they need to distract attention from the sector, limit debate, prevent a coherent analysis of the causes of the crisis emerging, and blind citizens to the "science" of finance.

The first tactic in the campaign to divert attention is to blame the victims. The most hapless of these are sub-prime borrowers - people in low-paid work earning $7 an hour in the poorest districts of Ohio (for example) who were persuaded by dodgy mortgage-floggers that they could take on a adjustable rate mortgage at "teaser rates", go to the ball and have a roof over their heads."

The Shape of Cuba's Reforms by Saul Landau and Nelson P. Vald├ęs

"The Party has not changed enough, however, to satisfy disaffected Cubans, those unimpressed by past accomplishments. 'What do past glories have with to do with the uncertainty of daily life?' they ask. Possessing quality education, high skill levels and good health, they feel they deserve good jobs. Indeed, their entire school experience from day care through doctorates has taught them self esteem and stimulated them to expect the best. But quality jobs are scarce on the island – and in most third world countries. Several Cubans in their 20s and 30s offered glazed looks to references of the revolution’s accomplishments and replied: 'I don’t see much future for myself here.' Yes, a qualified Engineer can feel frustrated making pizzas eight hours a day. Frustration can also lead some to become oblivious to the outside conditions that affect their lives. Cuba exists within the larger globalized corporate economy, possesses limited resources, and remains victim of a seemingly eternal US super embargo."

A Shattered Myth in Georgia by Brendan Cooney

"It's a good thing for Putin that Bush has already set the course of the 21st century. Bush's aggression offers him a ready analogy: 'Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages,' Putin said. 'And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed ten Ossetian villages at once, who ran elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilians alive in their sheds — these leaders must be taken under protection.'

None of Putin's charges has yet been confirmed, although scattered reports of Georgian aggression in South Ossetia have started to trickle in. If true, we'll want to know more about what prompted Saakashvili's cockamamie attack. Russian leaders have also suggested Georgia got the green light from the United States, another insinuation yet to be confirmed.

It's too early to draw conclusions, but it would be hard to believe Saakashvili got his swagger from anywhere other than his ex-best bud, Bush, who once thrilled thousands of Georgians by jigging to one of their folk songs. As good as Saakashvili's English is, it's not surprising he was unable to see through the fake Texas accent of the paper tiger.

When you believe fervently in a myth, you discard anything that contradicts it. You forget that the United States recently smashed the territorial integrity of Afghanistan and Iraq and now wants to do the same in Iran. You might remember that it attacked Iraq in 1991 ostensibly for the sake of Kuwait's territorial integrity. But you forget that it exercises this rationale only with weak countries, never with strong. It allows Chinese abuses in Tibet, and will stand idly by while Russia invades Georgia and massacres people for years in Chechnya.

A bully does not stand up to other bullies. Russia knows it can do what it wants on its block while another bully stamps its foot at the other end of the street.


'It was just interesting to me that here we are, trying to promote peace and harmony, and we're witnessing a conflict take place,' said Bush Monday, while he was still playing grab-ass with the athletes in Beijing. The first sitting U.S. president to attend an Olympics on foreign soil, Bush returned to the White House to deliver the following words with a straight face:

'The Russian government must respect Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.'

The Georgians no longer believe. Does anyone?

Ah yes, many of us here at home still do. The Times on Sunday published an op-ed by William Kristol describing the 'aggressive powers' of the world without even a self-reflexive twitch, not even a nod at the most aggressive power of them all. It's like Parisians used to say about the ugly Eiffel Tower when it first went up—the only time you can't see it is when you're inside it."

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