The Real Financial Crisis

chinesechina

 

Scary things are happening in the world of international finance. Greece is broke. Computers that run the New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal are mysteriously malfunctioning…

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But what you’re not seeing in the headlines is even scarier.

China’s stock market has crashed.

Yes, Communist China has a stock market (photo above). It’s not quite the same as in countries like the United States, but it’s similar, and it represents the hopes and dreams of Chinese investors, including thousands of villagers who risked their life savings in it, creating a massive bubble that has now burst. The Chinese government, which at first encouraged the poor, uneducated villagers to become traders, has tried frenziedly to stem the tide of selling and stabilize the market. And you know a Communist dictatorship has a lot more sheer power over its citizens than democracies do.

But nothing has worked so far.

The situation is eerily reminiscent of the collapse of America’s banking system 86 years ago. And you know what that ushered in. The Great Depression.

The mood in China is being described as “panic.” And markets in the rest of Asia are reeling from the shock waves.

Of course, as a dictatorship, China’s government has more power than America did to avert that kind of catastrophe. But at what price?

This experience could make China’s Communist bosses, who have been moving toward a free-market type of economy over the past few decades, gun shy. They could back away from their program of financial reform.

What that would mean to the global economy is anybody’s guess. But my guess is that it won’t be pretty.

Click for China’s stock market crisis.

 

The Right to be Ugly

lepage

 

This is the true face of today’s Republican Party. It is the face of Paul LePage, the widely loathed governor of Maine. You will read that he is an outlier, a Tea Party extremist, who belongs on the fringes of American politics. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think he is really the kind of human being that the majority of today’s Republicans demand the right to be.

The rest of us have long accepted certain boundaries to our behavior. To live in a civilized society, we acknowledge that other people have rights and that we should respect those rights. We acknowledge that we should share good fortune and “walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes.” We feel guilty if we cheat or lie or steal or take advantage of our job (or whatever) to treat others unfairly.

But people like this LePage character accept no such restrictions. They demand the right to be mean spirited bullies who splash mud on the less fortunate lying in the gutter as they drive by in their limousines. While the rest of us cringe at the prospect of being offensive, they proclaim they will be as offensive as they want to be. And if they happen to belong to a privileged ethnic group, why that’s their good luck and it sucks to be you.

After all, isn’t this the Land of the Free? So why shouldn’t they be free to be repugnant?

Most Republican politicians aren’t as brash as Paul LePage. They know American voters would shun them if they showed their true colors. So they use “spin” to mask the ugliness of their policies and goals.

Of course there are also laws to consider. Laws that were designed to curb abuse by those in authority. And LePage is in trouble with those laws. He is on the verge of being impeached for withholding government funds from a school for disadvantaged children in retaliation for the school hiring one of his political opponents.

What other prominent Republican does that remind you of. Chris Christie of course. Remember Bridgegate?

Yes, Christie and his minions were not above using their political clout to punish a mayor who refused to support his candidacy for governor of New Jersey. And Christie is also a blustering bully who hurls insults with abandon. Naturally, LePage was the first to endorse Christie’s presidential candidacy.

You might think Christie and LePage are exceptions, that good ole Jeb, for example, is more representative of the party’s true character. But I have news for you. I know Jeb. He is no Dudley Doright. He can be mean spirited, too. He just knows how to put a better face on it.

And how do you explain Donald Trump? Scott Walker? Ted Cruz? You wouldn’t call any of them Mr. Nice Guy, would you?

No, if there is one characteristic that distinguishes the modern Republican Party it’s sheer, unashamed ugliness.

A vote for any of them is a vote for all that is ugliest in human nature.

Click for more on LePage.

Click for more on Bridgegate.

Click for another view of the GOP.

 

What Makes Them Run?

cainAnothewebbr day, another announcement that somebody is running for President. The list of candidates seems endless. I used to think only Republicans were susceptible to the call of the campaign trail, but now Democrats are getting into the act, too.

And you know it’s often just an act. The vast majority of the candidates have no chance whatsoever of being nominated.

Most of the 16 Repubiclan candidates are barely making a dent in the polls, and, among the Democrats,  only Bernie Sanders presents a challenge to Hillary Clinton.

Why, for example is Jim Webb (lower photo), wasting our time?

It will be a cold day in Hell when Democrats choose a presidential candidate who supports the Confederate flag and opposes Affirmative Action.

Among the Republicans, there are too many longshots to mention. Take George Pataki for example.

I know. George who?

Pataki. He used to be governor of New York state. Remember? Of course you don’t. It was a long time ago.

I suppose some people simply can’t resist the allure of the limelight. They want their 15 minutes of fame and they want it now.

Yes, I know there are some candidates who run because they feel deeply about something – abortion or gay marriage  or whatever.

But some candidates have more mercenary motives.

Herman Cain (top photo) for example. He parlayed his nutty 2012 candidacy into a lucrative media career.

Newt Gingrich is another ex-candidate who has built a highly profitable publishing operation.

Being a former presidential candidate does wonders for your resume, too. You can become a highly paid lobbyist, perhaps… or get invited to join the boards of some high-profile corporations… or – if you’re a lawyer – wind up as a partner in a posh legal firm.

And, of course, all that media attention can make a candidate’s speaking fees soar. I guess Phineas T. Barnum was right when he said there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

It doesn’t always work, though. The political landscape is littered with might-have-beens who sought the limelight, got whupped and vanished from public view.

I suppose it’s a chance worth taking, but I for one wouldn’t want to try it. Would you?

 

Stop Avocado Abuse!

trumpguacamole Where is Donald Trump (above, left) when America needs him most? He is being strangely reticent in the guacamole debate raging on social media.

The debate has attracted attention from Americans in all walks of life – including the President and candidates vying for his job.

In case you’ve been spending the past week or so in Tibet, I’ll bring you up to speed.

The New York Times food editor recently published a guacamole recipe that includes peas. Oh the outrage! Oh the shock!

President Obama (above, right) immediately twittered in protest. No peas in guacamole, he proclaimed. Onions and garlic yes. Peas no.

Presidential wannabe Jeb Bush joined in the clamor. No peas in his family’s guacamole, either, he assured the voters.

I was astonished. I didn’t realize guacamole (photo above) had become so pervasive in the USA. You mean this foreign concoction has even invaded the White House? I was aware the President indulges in arugula, but guacamole?

Is the Hispanic invasion reaching into the nation’s kitchens now, displacing patriotic American fare like hamburgers and hot dogs? I even heard a CNN anchor confessing that she serves her family guacamole for lunch and dinner!

What’s next? Burritos and chimichangas on the Fourth of July? To the barricades! To the border! Yes, Mr. Trump we must build that wall!

Surely the Donald is not going to stand meekly by while Hispanic invaders abuse our homegrown avocados, beating them to a pulp and serving them to an unsuspecting American public?

I am waiting for him to step up and defend the avocado’s civil rights. This native fruit is in dire danger from those drug dealers and rapists he warned us about – not to mention food editors!

Click for more on the guacamole scandal

 

Be Shocked! Be Entertained!

zucker

 

Watching the news these days is a scary way for me to pass the time. Especially those all-news cable channels. Desperate for viewers, they are resorting to the kind of sensationalism that could bring on a stroke or a heart attack.

The new CNN is a glaring example of this brand of “journalism.”

Ever since Jeff Zucker (above) took over, the once-credible news outlet has become a circus (and of course the ratings have picked up considerably). We viewers are constantly being shocked, outraged and frightened out of our wits.

You might have caught that shocking newscast from London showing “an ISIS flag” being displayed by a Gay Pride marcher.  If you did, you were treated to one of the most egregious examples of media nonsense in years. The flag was spotted by London assignment editor Lucy Pawle, who tied herself and security analyst Peter Bergen in knots trying to analyze the marcher’s motives.

Here are some of their musings, as reported in Salon.com this morning:

“If it was a political statement of some sort it was very subtle,” Pawle says. She even notices that it’s not in Arabic.

“The main question is, what are [the flag holder’s] motivations?” CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen, who must be counting his Emmys to reassure himself about his journalistic skills, adds. “The whole thing is very strange…we don’t know who this person is. We don’t know his motivations.”

And you have to admit the marcher’s motives would be puzzling – if he really was carrying an ISIS flag.The problem is that he was not. The flag CNN chose to spotlight – and misidentify – depicted an assortment of sex toys.

That’s right – sex toys.

That’s the kind of fare we get on CNN these days. When the TV personalities are not obsessing over escaped murderers on the loose in someone’s back yard, they’re exclaiming over some outlandish and overblown threat to civilization as we  know it.

It’s all part of Zucker’s plan (as reported in Politico when he took over as president) “to transform CNN from an old, tired, 24-hour breaking-news channel to an entertaining, personality-driven network.”

I guess it’s entertaining when you mistake a drawing of dildos for a terrorist flag. But I, for one, am not amused.

It’s said, really. As a lifelong journalist, I cringe at the shambles to which my profession has been reduced.

And CNN is far from alone in this race to the bottom.

As writer Jack Mirkinson observes in the Salon story:

Stupid crap gets on TV literally all the time. Nor is Pawle’s boast that she “[seems] to be the only person who had spotted this.”  The craziest part of the video is that everyone in it admits they have no idea what they are talking about

.There’s nothing that exemplifies the brainless heights that cable news can reach quite so much as the moments when the participants openly acknowledge that they’re just filling time with informationless drivel.

I guess that about sums it up. For me, anyway.

Click for the Salon.com story.

Click for Zucker’s approach to the news.

 

Class Warfare? Yes!

bernie

 

So you say you don’t believe in class warfare. Give Mr. Moneybags a break, you tell me. He worked hard for his millions – make that billions – and deserves to keep his hard-earned loot. After all, you, too, could get lucky, and when your ship comes in, you don’t want Uncle Sam dipping into your pocket.

Furthermore, you never got a job from a poor man. It’s the rich who hire folks like you. Right?

It’s that kind of thinking that empowers the Republican Party. And it has been promoted relentlessly in America for the past 45 years. Deliberately and skillfully promoted, with unlimited funds fueling a propaganda mission of awesome proportions.

A man named Lewis Powell, who was later to become a  Supreme Court Justice, is credited with being the evil genius behind this brainwashing crusade.  In 1971, he wrote a letter, now known as “the Powell Memorandum,” outlining the strategy that has enabled America’s ruling class to capture so many hearts and minds in the American working and middle classes.

In a Salon.com article today, journalist Conor Lynch explains that the memo:

… called for a counter movement to “the assault on the free enterprise system” being led by “Communists, New Leftists, and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic.”

The plan included founding think tanks, taking over media outlets and funding college departments, as well as an unprecedented kind of aggressive political activism guided by PR professionals and psychologists.

Clearly, Powell was advocating class warfare.

But when it’s the rich waging war on the rest of us, the media don’t think of it that way. “Class warfare” to them is when the poor cry enough and turn on the rich. As Lynch explains:

Since the ’70s, the ruling class has gone on the offensive, while the middle and lower classes have been brought to their knees. Of course, when the lower classes go on the attack, its class warfare; but when the ruling class does it, it’s reform

Obviously, the Powell strategy has been a big success. It captured Congress for the Republicans. It also brought such side effects as the Koch Brothers, an even more massive military-industrial complex, enhanced racism and child hunger.

But America is waking up at last. The unlikely success of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is evidence of this awakening.

As the Salon writer reports, Sanders “has struck a nerve in the heart of America.” He is attracting huge and enthusiastic crowds across the country and is polling unexpectedly well against rival Hillary Clinton.

And while he is not likely to win the Democratic nomination, his populist message will undoubtedly push Hillary to the left, forcing her to line up with the have-nots against the have-lots.

And if that turns out to be class warfare, I say bring it on!

Click for the Salon.com article.

Click for more on the Powell memo.

 

Hope, Change and Rage

obama

scalia

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.

 

Evil in the Shadows

Dlyann-Roof-Hate-Leader-Earl-Holt-00062742014341

 

You will have to forgive me for going on and on about the white supremacist terror threat. I suppose it’s not as appealing a topic as – say – female beauty. When I write about Serena Williams’ physical appearance, I get a flurry of comments; when I write about racism, I only hear from one or two readers.

But I have to keep sounding the alarm.

This is a serious matter. It’s not about a few crazies in white robes burning crosses or the display of a revolting flag. It’s about life and death.

America needs to wake up to the fact that evil forces are at work, stirring up hatred, fueling rage, spreading toxic ideas.

I read in the Daily Kos today about a man named Earl Holt III (photo above), for example, “a Texan who regularly describes himself as a ‘slumlord’ when he donates to political candidates.”

According to the story I read, this evil creature is the leader of a group that goes by the innocuous name of “the Council of Conservative Citizens.” 

This group played a critical part in triggering Dylann Roof’s racist rage. The Daily Kos article, by writer and lawyer David Nir,  quotes Roof’s manifesto as saying he visited the group’s web site after Trayvon Martin’s shooting and:

There were pages upon pages of … brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

Tracing the origin of the “council,” Nir calls it “the direct offspring of the notoriously segregationist White Citizens Council that sprung up in response to the Supreme Court order to integrate schools.” And Nir says, “You’ll frequently see the CCC referred to as the “uptown Klan.” Nir provides this excerpt from the council’s expressed views:

We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races

Apparently, these ideas are not restricted to the fringes of American political thought. Increasingly, they appear to be embedded in the base of today’s Republican Party. According to Nir’s article, this Earl Holt character is a frequent and welcome donor to “48 different Republicans in 34 states. The article includes a list of the candidates who got Nir’s money. Contributions range from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars – more than $65,000 in all. Beneficiaries included Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

In the wake of the furor over Roof’s slaughter of black churchgoers, some of the candidates have said they will return Holt’s donations. But there’s more to the story than candidates accepting donations from a shady character.

The true horror is that racist terror groups have found a home in a major American political party.

When Richard Nixon and his crew came up with their Southern Strategy  I suppose they thought they could simply exploit adverse reaction to the passage of civil rights legislation during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. But, intentionally or not,  they opened the door for the “white supremacists.”

Now the swallows have come home to roost. Increasingly, Republican candidates are pandering to the foul notions of these extremists in order to win primaries. Increasingly, the extremists are gaining mainstream political power.

And, in the meantime, their racist doctrine is infecting loonies like Dylann Roof, with tragic consequences.

Click for the Daily Kos article.

Click for more on the Southern Strategy.

Click for more on Earl Holt.

 

Using “the N Word”

N word

 

I didn’t grow up in America and I cannot claim to fully appreciate the horror of that N word the President used recently in a TV interview. But in Jamaica, where I grew up, it’s certainly not acceptable. It’s ugly and insulting anywhere.

Still, the President’s critics should take into consideration the context in which he used the word.

He was saying that racism is a lot more than using “n***** in public.” Yes, he said the word right out loud … not just in public but on television.

Media response was immediate – and sometimes critical. CNN called the President’s behavior “shocking.”

Did the President intend to be shocking?  A White House spokesman said he didn’t.

But if he did, maybe that’s what he needs to do – shock his “fellow Americans” into realization that America faces a real and present danger. A cancer is eating at the country’s guts.

That danger is a lot more shocking than the use of a taboo word.  Racism is rampant on the web, in law enforcement, and on the street.

The murder of nine African-American worshippers in Charleston is just one symptom of a dangerous disease.

There is no word, not “the N word,” not “the F word” – not  even Jamaica’s expressive “R word” – that can adequately express the rage decent people should be feeling.

It’s time to get shocking. It’s time to throw discretion and political correctness out the window. It’s time to yell and scream and cry bloody murder.

As they say in Jamaica, “words are wind.”  It’s action that counts.

And, by all that’s sacred, by all that’s holy, even by all that’s unspeakable, it’s time for action.

Human beings are dying for God’s sake! People with hearts and minds and blood flowing in their veins – not black blood, but blood the same color as anyone else’s.

There’s bound to be a backlash. As Shakespeare’s Shylock said:

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?

Racism is not a one-way street. A rank and unashamed assault on one ethnic group by another cannot fail to evoke a response.

America is in peril.

As President of all Americans,  Barack Obama has to take the lead in heading off this imminent conflagration. And if he uses the N word – or any other word – in doing so, we should cut him some slack.

Click for the news story.

Click for CNN’s reaction.

American racism today.

 

Nightmare in Charleston

manifesto

 

No, it was no accident, Rick Perry. And you folks at Fox must know by now that Dylann Roof was not motivated by hatred of religion when he massacred those nine worshippers in Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. There’s no getting around it: This heinous act was driven by racism.

Investigators have discovered a manifesto on the Internet that was authored by the 21-year-old South Carolina resident (photo above).

The 2,444-word manifesto rants against African-Americans, Jews, Hispanics and Asians. And Roof concludes:

I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet.  Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.

And a survivor of the massacre has reported that the shooter said:

You all rape women and you’re taking over our country.

It seems like so much time has passed since America celebrated the election of the country’s first black President. I look back at the starry eyed optimism I felt then and I feel foolish. I had thought that America was emerging from the dark ages, that the time had finally arrived when people in this country would be judged, as Rev. King once said, by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Of course I know that Dylann Roof is one individual, that he does not represent the 300 million-plus people who live in America, and so on. Of course he is crazy. You have to be crazy to do what he did. And of course there has been significant progress in the past half century toward the realization of Martin Luther King’s dream.

But, conceding all that,  racism is a very real, very scary fact of life in this, the world’s leading democracy.

To deny that, as the Supreme Court did when it gutted the Voting Rights Act a couple of years ago, is to hide your head in the sand.

Until the nation’s leaders – and the nation’s media – face up to the ugly truth, American racism will continue to fester. And we shall have horrors like the nightmare in Charleston.

Click for the manifesto.

Click for the Voting Rights Act ruling.