Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hope for the Establishment?

Well, the World Bank is a dirty word in some circles. But I've recently had some experiences that suggest the Global Justice Movement might have influenced The Bank.

Perhaps, the cynic would say, the following statistic is just the Bank engaging in self-promotion the justify their own existence.

According to the World Bank, 75-80 of the effects of climate change are being felt in the developing world. So, you have this inverse relationship between cause and effect.

But another take is that the Bank is, 1) acknowledging the existence of climate change, something the Palinistas won't do, and 2) providing evidence for a legal challenge with reparations as the remedy.

By chance I discussed the changes at the World Bank with someone who is #2 for a particular geographic region. In response to a question about changes at the Bank over the past decade, he said that the Bank has deeply changed it's perspective on two things. First, the Bank recognizes the use of "structural adjustments" as a condition of loans was bad policy, in part because it was coercive. Thus, nations would do what was necessary to secure the loans, but were not really committed to the changes.

Second, and related to the first, was to take a more holistic view of the loans, recognizing distribution issues and social issues. In other words, recognizing that the results of the loans need to affect a broader spectrum of people in the recipient country, with particular attention on impacts of the poorest people.

The purpose here isn't to praise the World Bank as much as it is to point to the success of the Global Justice Movement in helping raise the consciousness of an institution like the World Bank.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Financial Elite in a Sea of Poverty

Back in 1975, when oil wealth in the Middle East was accumulating, the Kuwait fund for Economic Development pledged $16 billion to developing countries. According to National Geographic,

The fund's director general, Abdlatif Al-Hamad, 39, explained the philosophy behind such generosity: "We cannot close our doors and say to hell with everyone else. Nothing is clearer than the danger of having an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty."

We've all heard that about the 1% of Americans who own 38% of the wealth. The bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation's wealth. These are 2001 statistics and the disparity has grown since then.

Sounds like an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty.

Where is Abdlatif Al-Hamad today?


National Geographic, "Arabs," October, 1975.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Bogus Wall Street Profits Attract Investors

Trust your instincts on your reaction to the following:

Wall Street Headed for Record Profits in 2009

New government figures show Wall Street is on pace to have its most profitable year to date. On Tuesday, the New York Comptroller Office said Wall Street profits are set to exceed the record set three years ago, before the onset of the nation’s financial meltdown. The four largest firms—Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase—took in $22.5 billion in profits through September. The top six banks set aside $112 billion for salaries and bonuses over the same period. In a statement, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said, “The national economy is slowly improving, but Wall Street has recovered much faster than anyone had envisioned.” [1]

My take on this is that the Obama administration knows the following and hopes you don't:

1. These too-big-to-fail financial institutions are insolvent, probably even despite the trillions in tax-payer bailouts.

2.The establishment, including the Obama administration, cannot expose this insolvency because they are trying to attract private capital (investors) to overcome the insolvency.

3. Investors need to see the too-big-to-fail financial institutions as "good investments," therefore these institutions need to be seen making profits.

4. The "profits" of these financial institutions are founded on complex accounting gimmicks.

5. This is all being done for one basic reason: To avoid the social chaos that would follow if the bottom were allowed to drop out of these financial institutions, which would lead to loss of power among many in the establishment.


1. Democracty Now Headlines, November 18, 2009.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let Down by Obama? Steps you can Take

So the Obama afterglow is fading and the word "establishment" is starting to look like both major parties? No need to hyperventilate; you're not alone. There is support among like minded people.

One of those like minded people has taken the time to consolidate some advice for doing something about it. I don't agree with it all*, but you can be the decider.

Check out the recent post: "What to Do If You Are Disatisfied with Obama and Bush" at the Godless Liberal Homo blog.


* One of the "action items" is to "Stay a Registered Democrat." This can be argued both ways.

An alternative perspective is to "Register Green." In doing so, you cast a vote that will be recorded for all to see in the County Election Board tables of registered voters, including Democratic Party operatives.

As the numbers in the Green Party column grow, the Democrats will realize that they are actually to the right of a growing group of people... this will help pull the Dems back to the left. True, you give up your primary vote, so be sure to convince at least one friend who would NOT have voted in the primary to do so... now you've offset the minor benefit of remaining registered Dem and you still have your number reflected in the County Election Board's tally of registered voters for all to see. Simple.

Final Note: Is it only me, or when you first glance at the photo in the upper right, doesn't it look like "Change Label"?


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is Obama a Prisoner?


There is an elite within the establishment that are so influential, they often seem to call the shots. In Central American countries, like El Salvador, this oligarchy is more blatant than in the US and has been called "the 14 Families."

Blaze Bonpane, a former Jesuit priest, recounts an observation from his experience in Central America:

I’ve seen presidents who were prisoners in Guatemala, that were elected and then immediately told by the military, “You will do what we say, or you’re out of here.”

It was in this context that the question is raised with Obama, as recounted by Bonpane.

When Obama went to the meeting with the thirty-two countries, [in] Trinidad, Tobago, the parting shot from the ALBA nations was, quote, “Are you a prisoner?”

I think [the question] came directly from Hugo Chavez—“Are you a prisoner?”

If not a prisoner of the establishment elite, perhaps he's a prisoner of an economic system that is careening out of control, precariously close to collapse.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obama's Agriculture Trade Rep = More of Same

President Obama’s nominee for the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the office of the US Trade Representative, Islam Siddiqui is currently a vice president at CropLife America. CropLife is a major trade association for the pesticide industry, the members of which include Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical. He was previously a lobbyist for CropLife. [1]

We can expect Siddiqui to promote a corporate, establishment policy. This policy will consolidate wealth among a small number of ever larger companies that are able to navigate complex transnational trade policies. He will promote policies that undermines diversity in crops, leading to mono-culture crops that are at risk of catastrophic failure. We can predict the crash, but but the establishment stands to make huge profits in the short run, and thus don't care about the future crash.... does this ring a bell?

Obama believes in "compromise." Obama selected Tom Vilsack as head of USDA, who pretty much represents the establishment view of industrial farming. Then, as Deputy Agriculture Secretary Obama picks Kathleen Merrigan who supports organic farming.[1] So, Obama believes, if you put one foot in boiling water, and the other in ice water, on average, you're comfortable!


DemocracyNow!,"Obama Nominates Pesticide Executive to Be Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the US Trade Representative," November 17, 2009.

Poster Credit: Drew Heles. See Results of FTAA Art Constest.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Clinton Link to Italian Cleric Rendition Conviction

As all should already know:

In a landmark case, twenty-three Americans, mostly CIA operatives, have been convicted in Italy for kidnapping a Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003.... The case marks the first time any American has been convicted for taking part in a so-called “extraordinary rendition.” [1]

The 2003 operation has been described in terms of the "Keystone Cops," ridiculed as inept and corrupted by by excesses:

CIA people had stayed, in five-star hotels, eating expensive meals with vintage wines, rented luxury automobiles—all at taxpayers’ expense. [1]

It's true that this particular operation was conducted on the watch of George W. Bush, and it might be tempting to for liberals to point out this conviction as another strike against Bush administration excesses. Sure, there's some truth in that; however, the reality is that this behavior is indicative of an establishment orientation that goes beyond Bush:

The case marks the first time any American has been convicted for taking part in a so-called “extraordinary rendition,” a practice the CIA has used, dating back to the Clinton administration, to kidnap wanted individuals anywhere in the world. [1]


1. DemocracyNow!, "Italian Prosecutor in Case Against CIA Operatives Hails Convictions for ’03 Kidnapping of Egyptian Cleric," November 6, 2009.