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Surviving Critical Times Hard To Deal With

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Surviving Critical Times Hard To Deal With

NEWS FROM THE ECONOMIC FRONT
2006: To Bull or Not to Bull

M.A. Nystrom over at safehaven debates bear market meltdown.
If there is anything that I have learned in my years of watching the market, it is that anything can happen! So that we're not taken by surprise, I'd like to take a look at two opposing viewpoints on the stock market and the economy in 2006 and beyond. The bullish viewpoint, held by Harry Dent (read his free forecast) among others, holds that we're on the brink of a new bull market that could bring the Dow up to 40,000 (literally) in the next several years. The bearish viewpoint, most prominently held by Robert Prechter, holds the exact opposite: that we're on the brink of a deflationary depression that will ultimate bring the Dow down to 400 or below! Literally.
Now, you may be a bull or a bear and have already made up your mind about where the stock market is going. But I urge you to keep an open mind and take a look at both arguments. My generally bearish outlook made me laugh at the idea of Dow 40,000 until I actually read the argument. Considering everything, including the fact that Helicopter Ben will be sitting in the Fed Chairman's seat for the next several years, Dow 40,000 is not an impossibility. The case for deflationary depression is based on cycles and extremes of valuation. Today the market is so historically overvalued, and global financial imbalances (read: American debts and deficts) are so large that a correction is all but inevitable.
http://www.safehaven.com/article-4332.htm
OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Economics: Interesting article from smirkingchimp.com

Mike Whitney: 'Doomsday for the greenback'Contributed by
megsdad on Thursday, December 29

A preemptive attack on Iran would "provoke other industrial nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse"... "in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world's hydrocarbon energy supply." William R. Clark "Petrodollar Warfare; Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse" The Federal Reserve is the financial headquarters for the cartel of multinational banking establishments. The confederation of banks in the Fed underwrites the exploitative activities of the world's main industries and sets rates in a manner that best serves their objectives. This is how the bankers perpetuate the system of economic hegemony and apply the shackle of debt and dependence to the planet's most destitute countries. The Federal Reserve is every bit as critical to the maintenance of the empire as its political counterparts in Washington or its blood-brothers in the US Military. It is the largest of the empire's three gears; economic, political and military, which mobilize the mighty wheel of state terror. If we look carefully at the Iraq war, the main financial institutions stood squarely behind the hostilities and did their best to create a hospitable economic environment for aggression. The Federal Reserve dropped the prime rate to a paltry 1.5% just 6 months before the Iraq invasion to keep the American economy purring along while Bush dragged the nation to war. The bloody footprints for Iraq lead straight to the oak-panel doors of America's primary lenders even before they trail off to the bastions of America's energy giants.There's a reason for this. The main impetus for the war was not petroleum, but greenbacks and the future of a currency that is underwritten by $8 trillion of debt. The only way to safeguard its dominance is to back up the listing dollar with boatloads of oil. And, that is exactly the plan.The Capital of Empire America's capital is not in Washington DC. In fact, it is not geographic location at all. It is the greenback, the epicenter of the global rule. The dollar is the cornerstone upon which the mighty pillars of empire rest. At the same time, the greenback is the greatest swindle in human history; a worthless scrap of paper buried beneath a mountain of debt. It is only through the skillful mix of politics, diplomacy, and brute force that the grand deception is maintained. As America's fortunes grow more tenuous, the probability of attacks on the dollar will increase exponentially. Even now, nations are conspiring to knock the dollar from its towering summit and introduce a more equitable system. At present, the greenback serves as the world's reserve currency, the main medium of exchange. This allows the US to pile up enormous debt while avoiding the pitfalls of skyrocketing interest rates or hyper-inflation. The $2 billion of borrowed wealth that props up the faltering empire every day comes primarily from the exporting powerhouses Japan and China. This means that America's profligate spending is financed by the labor of some of the most poorly paid workers in the world. Ironically, sweatshop workers in Kwantung Province are now bankrolling the criminal occupation of Iraq by facilitating America's massive trade deficits.
Every greenback carries with it the accumulated weight of two centuries of war, slavery, and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. It is the flaccid script that has fueled 50 years of covert activities, coup d'etats, and third-world death-squads. It churns through the arteries of the empire to the furthest most extremities where torture and abuse are carried out beneath the tri-colored standard. It is strewn across the empire like the myriad gulags that now speckle the planet. It is the heart of the beast; a venom-pumping organ with arteries strung across the globe like the concertina-wire that surrounds Falluja, Samarra and Tal Afar. Eventually the stately images of Lincoln and Washington will be stripped from the currency; replaced with the looming specter of Guantanamo's gun towers or the iconic figure of an Abu Ghraib prisoner, hooded in sackcloth, arms outstretched in Christ-like submission, wires draped from his hands and feet. These are the freshly minted symbols of the new realm, the republic of terror. As the empire extends its withering grip to the world's last resource-centers, the dollar is coming under increasing scrutiny. It is the dollar that facilitates the perennial war and the vast expansion of military force; just as it is the dollar that binds together the constellation of American colonies that function exclusively in the interests of their Washington overlords. The asymmetrical warfare that is approaching will put the greenback squarely in the crosshairs; the weal-link in America's coat of mail. Hugo Chavez knows this, as did Saddam; that's why he switched to the euro 6 months before "Shock and Awe". Now, Putin is trading oil in euros and Iran will open an oil bourse in petro-euros in March. For Iran, its actions are tantamount to a declaration of war. Already, America's proxy Israel has threatened to attack in March. Is it merely coincidence that Iran's oil bourse is scheduled to open at the same time?No, it's not.The empire requires a steady diet of petrodollars to maintain its gluttonous appetite for debt. If the oil-producing nations switch to euros, the dollar would freefall like a wingless gull and America would be trapped in a bottomless vat of red ink.America's prodigious dept has made the war for the world's remaining resources an existential struggle. A retreat from Iraq is no longer possible. If America's debt is not propped up with oil reserves the anemic dollar will crumble with the economy following right behind. In William R. Clark's "Petrodollar Warfare; Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse", Clark outlines the problems the dollar faces if Iran proceeds with its plan to use a euro-based oil trading exchange. The new Iranian bourse would compete head-on with the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and London's International Petroleum Exchange IPE) giving international buyers an option of "buying a barrel of oil $60 on the NYMEX or IPE or 45 to 50 euros via the Iranian bourse." Clark calls this the Federal Reserves "biggest nightmare" as it would precipitate a face-off between the dollar and the euro and would fundamentally change the dynamics in the world's largest market. "In essence, the US will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via US Treasury Bills, and the dollars demand-liquidity will quickly fall." This will "challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London and New York."In other words; doomsday for the greenback.Clark also notes that "both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second world reserve currency." This would effectively end the petrodollars hegemony as the "monopoly oil currency".The world is preparing for a seismic shift in the global power-structure, but Washington believes it can forestall that change through military force. The prospect of a competing Iranian oil-exchange greatly increases the likelihood of a unilateral attack by the US. Clark anticipates that this may "provoke other industrial nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse"..."While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to 'dump the dollar'"... "They would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world's hydrocarbon energy supply."A strategy to "dump the dollar"? Some variant of Clark's scenario will undoubtedly transpire pending an American attack on Iran. The world will not confront the empire militarily, but neither will they stand idly by while vital oil resources are put at risk. A coordinated assault on the dollar is an extreme, but probable consequence. The vulnerability of the dollar, skittering atop an ocean of red ink, has become the Achilles heel of the empire. Washington may believe that its weakness is well-concealed behind a wall of high-tech weaponry and media propaganda, but potential adversaries will certainly know where to strike if they are forced to respond.America's future has grown increasingly uncertain due to the reckless militarism of its leaders. An attack on Iran is sure to incite an asymmetrical war that will target the greenback; dislodging it from its lofty perch. When the dollar collapses, the baling-wire of economic coercion that keeps the empire sewn together will quickly unravel.
RESOURCE WARS
The Red Dragon smacks the Eagle?
China lays down gauntlet in energy warWith the opening of an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China, Beijing has pulled off a stunning move in the geopolitical chess game for control of the energy flows of Central Asia. The US, which has now had its strategic BTC pipeline undercut, knows that Beijing will take extraordinary measures to secure its long-term oil and gas supplies. And that means in Iran, too. - F William Engdahl (Dec 20, '05) http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/GL21Ad01.html
IRAQ WAR NEWS
IraqNam?

Published on Tuesday, December 27, 2005 by the Boston Globe
How Will the Iraq War End?
by H.D.S. Greenway
On one level, of course, there is no comparison between America's lost war in Vietnam and the current enterprise in Iraq. After all, Vietnam is in Southeast Asia and Iraq is the Middle East. That conflict was fought in rain forests, this one in desert towns. One was fought by draftees, this one by a volunteer army. The list goes on. Yet, although the Bush administration takes pains to deny it, the comparison keeps creeping into the national conversation, and the most obvious link is the word ''quagmire." For the dwindling band of reporters who covered the war in Vietnam, a trip to Baghdad cannot help but bring forth ghosts. America fought in Vietnam to contain communism. In this war the reasons for fighting keep shifting, but the central idea seems to have been to create a friendly democracy in the heart of the oil-producing Middle East that could transform the region by example. Forty years ago the ''best and the brightest," as David Halberstam called them, got us into Vietnam to prevent other neighboring countries from falling like dominoes, or so the theory went. The best and the brightest this time around believed in a domino theory in reverse -- the transformative power of democracy. Lots of talk about an ''Arab Spring" by prowar professors is beginning to sound a little hollow, however. Both Vietnam and Iraq were wars of choice. Neither Saddam Hussein nor Ho Chi Minh threatened the United States directly, but in both cases our leaders in Washington took the road to intervention to further perceived American interests. In Vietnam, however, there really was a communist threat, while in Iraq, Islamic extremism was not a problem before we got there, nor did Saddam Hussein possess the means to harm us. In Vietnam then and in Iraq now, the administration finds itself engaged in a war it is unable to win and reluctant to lose. The American people are walking away from this war, as they did in Vietnam, and the Bush administration knows that staying the course is not a long-term option. The recently announced troop drawdown is a reflection of this domestic pressure, not conditions in Iraq. But Bush today, as did Lyndon Johnson before him, vows to fight on until victory, and some of the same ridiculous rhetoric prevails -- such as that we are fighting them there so we won't have to fight them at home. In Iraq, war is actually helping Al Qaeda to recruit terrorists to one day attack us at home. Both Vietnam and Iraq saw monumental miscalculations on the part of our war leaders. Hubris played a big role in both. It seemed inconceivable to both Johnson's and George W. Bush's defense departments that these weak opponents could stand up to America's modern arms. In both cases it was thought that the Americans could prevail quickly and go home.

As Richard Nixon's defense secretary, Melvin Laird, recently wrote: ''Both the Vietnam War and the Iraq war were launched based on intelligence failures and possibly outright deception." To deception, add willful self-deception as well. For in both wars there was a tendency to ignore those who could tell our government about what Vietnam and Iraq were about. Johnson's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, would confess years later that he didn't know anything about Vietnamese culture and history, but as far as I know he hasn't confessed that he went out of his way to ignore people who could have informed him as to the difficulties ahead. Likewise, Donald Rumsfeld went out of his way to ignore the advice of those who knew something about Iraq. In both cases any information that would get in the way of doctrine was unsought and unheard. America's former viceroy, Paul Bremmer, and his young ideologues ran Iraq in blissful ignorance. I am told that making sure that there was no room for abortion in Iraq's Constitution was a goal -- likewise a flat tax for Iraq. John Negroponte's team would later call Bremmer's people ''the illusionists." Consider the author of ''The Assassins' Gate," George Packer's account of briefings in Baghdad: Daily press conferences ''about the coalition's intentions toward the rebels that were usually at odds with the facts, on occasion flatly untrue, and often in direct contradiction to statements made a day or a week earlier. . ." Packer might have been describing the ''5 o'clock follies" briefings in Saigon. Likewise, in Saigon of old, there were bright young people working long and hard hours to have the Vietnamese do things in the American way totally removed from the reality of the country around them. That being said, however, compared to Iraq there were quite a few Vietnamese speakers among the Americans who got themselves out and about in the countryside in Vietnam. In comparison, Americans in Iraq live in near total isolation with few Arab speakers and very little contact with Iraqis outside their fortified compounds. The civilian theorists and intellectuals that came to power with George W. Bush, and promoted this war, had almost to a man no military experience. They had ''other priorities" than to fight for their country, as Vice President Cheney so famously put it.

Although President Bush is finally admitting to some problems in Iraq, Washington's dreary drip of propaganda has the same Vietnam-era ring. The famous ''light at the end of the tunnel" of the Vietnam War is reflected in all the overly optimistic statements from the Bush White House about the Iraq insurgency's bitter-enders and last gasps. Today the training of an Iraqi Army is being pushed at a frantic pace so that we can withdraw, much in the same way President Nixon's ''Vietnamization" was supposed to prop up Vietnam so that we could bring our armies home. It is not that there is no progress being made in Iraq. There is. But the question is, as it was in Vietnam: What does this progress mean for our ultimate goals? In Vietnam it became all to clear that no matter how many wells we dug or schools we built, there would be Vietnamese who might drink from the wells and accept the schools, but remain adamantly opposed to Americans in their country. The same strikes me as true in Iraq. It is perfectly logical for an Iraqi to have opposed Saddam yesterday and oppose us today. As nationalism became our adversary in Vietnam, more so than communism, so is nationalism in Iraq growing against us. US troops, with their reliance on fire power, caused great destruction and loss of civilian life in both wars. The Nixon administration also agonized about how atrocities committed by Americans in Vietnam would hurt the war effort, and how the information could be contained. The Bush administration's handling of the Abu Ghraib horrors are hauntingly similar. Melvin Laird wrote that, in Vietnam, ''elections were choreographed by the United States to empower corrupt, selfish men who were no more than dictators in the garb of statesmen." It may be too early to make that same judgment in Iraq, but it is clear that too many Iraqi politicians are cast in the same mold as were our Saigon politicians.

And that old chimera the ''body count," which the Americans first avoided in Iraq, is creeping back into usage -- as if the number of insurgents we killed today had any bearing on whether we are actually winning the war. Likewise the search-and-destroy missions that General William Westmoreland employed in Vietnam seem to be in vogue today in Iraq. But then as now, the insurgents melt away before our armies and come back again when we have passed on. And somehow they always seem to know when we are coming. It was interesting for someone like me who spent years in Vietnam to meet even US generals in Iraq who are too young to have fought in Southeast Asia. But then as now, it is clear that this protracted war is putting tremendous strain on the US Army. It was something that General Creighton Abrams worried about aloud to me in Saigon, and it worries our military commanders today. It took years for the US Army to recover from Vietnam, and it will take years for it to recover from the strains put upon it in Iraq. But the most haunting parallel to me is that it will be possible to win every battle in Iraq and yet lose the war. US involvement in Iraq will not end with American helicopters flying from the roof of the embassy. But it may end badly with Iraq split among ethnic and sectarian warlords, empowering those who wish America ill -- destabilizing the Middle East rather than transforming it. Or Iraq could emerge united with some kind of representational government. But ultimately, all that will be up to the Iraqis, not the Americans, who do not, and cannot, control events. Once again, as in Vietnam, we are learning the limits of American power.

H.D.S. Greenway's column appears regularly in the Globe.
© 2005 The Boston Globe
RACE ISSUES
Who are you?
Published on Thursday, December 29, 2005 by the Guardian/UK
Modern Identity is Not All Black or White - It's a Beige ThingMy experience of ticking the 'mixed race' box makes me hope that a better understanding of ethnicity will evolve
by Raphael Mokades

Are you black, brother? Growing up, I just was. My mum was white and my dad was brown. My mum's relatives lived here, and the old ones had German accents. My dad's relatives lived in Israel and mostly couldn't speak English. When we went there, they said things in a funny language and pinched our cheeks. They smelled of garlic. And they came, originally, from exotic-sounding places like Bukhara and Isfahan (in today's Uzbekistan and Iran respectively). This was no big deal. My friends' families came from Jamaica and Guyana and India and Ireland and England and Wales and Spain and South Africa. I was vaguely aware that I was Jewish; but everyone was something. None of it seemed very serious. Things started to change when I went to secondary school. My state primary had been mixed, multicultural, and multi-ability. My new school was private, posh, and predominantly Jewish. But these Jews weren't like my family. They were all white, and a lot of them were blond with blue eyes. Not only that, but they liked football, talked like cockneys, and lived in the suburbs. They went to synagogue - "shul" - and hung around only with other Jews. Some of them called black people "schwarzes" and brown people "pakis" and they didn't know what to make of me, this olive-skinned Jew who didn't practise. One of them told me that because of my irreligiosity the Messiah would not be coming.

At about 14, I started playing basketball seriously. The Harlesden Cougars basketball club was 99% black. The other 1% was me. I wasn't black, and couldn't understand the patois into which the other guys sometimes lapsed. I was basically the white kid, or the whitest they had. And then came university. Where Harlesden had been black, Oxford was white. I went from being the only white kid on the team to the only black kid on the team. The blackest they had, anyway. They even told me that I had natural athleticism but lacked control and shouldn't shoot the ball. Away from the basketball court I had a few amusing incidents. One night, a very drunk, very blonde girl staggered into my room. "I've never really met a coloured person before," she confided in me. When I told her that we didn't say coloured, we said black, and in any case I was not black but Jewish, her reply was: "I've never met one of those either". All this time, I scrawled sarcastic comments across any ethnic monitoring forms that came my way. Well, it's not nice when they don't have a box for you. That became considerably harder after university, when I got a job running diversity policy for a big company. I learned about institutional racism and about monitoring and about glass ceilings and about how, at every imaginable stage in recruitment, promotion and termination, across all employment sectors, people with darker skin get treated worse than people with lighter skin with the same aptitudes and qualifications. And I understood that without hard data, you couldn't prove this was happening, and do anything about it. And that I ought to fill the form in. So I started to tick the box "mixed race".

As part of the job, I started to try and get more people from different ethnic backgrounds to apply to the company. I went out and started talking to groups of black people or Muslims or whatever. And they all thought I was one of them. The black people thought I was black - light-skinned, certainly, but black. Muslims assumed I was Muslim. Indians had me down as an Indian. Arabs thought I was an Arab. Greeks - well, check the surname: Mokades. Sometimes my job took me to America. On one especially memorable trip I was picked up at the airport by a driver called Raul. Raul was overjoyed to see me. Instead of shaking my hand, he bumped my fist. As we walked through the car park he told me that he was a music producer, who drove cars on the side. He told me that reggaeton - a sort of fusion of dancehall, hip-hop and Latin American sounds - would be the next big thing. And then he looked me in the eye and asked: "Are you black, brother?" I told him no, not exactly, but it didn't matter. He'd made his mind up - I was a brother. So he was going to show me Harlem. And as we crossed 110th street, down went the windows, up went the music, and out came Raul's chat. "Hey, shorty!". "Lookin' fine, sista". "Where you headin', girlfriend?" And so on. By the time the impromptu tour of Harlem was finished, Raul - who had confessed to me both that he had eight women on the go and that he was a member of the Nation of Islam - had decided I was not just a brother but a friend for life. "Here's my number, man, put it in your cell phone and give me a call Saturday. I'm a go' hook you up with the finest ghetto sistas".

So there you have it. I'm black and I'm brown and I'm a brother and I'm Indian and I'm Jewish and I'm Muslim. White people have told me I'm white, too: after all I went to Oxford and I talk properly, don't I? Wherever I go, I can fit in. So I'm everything. But I'm nothing. I fit in, but I'm never at home. I'm not part of a "community". I'm Jewish, but I don't practise, and I'm about as unlike your average north London Jew as it's possible to be. So talk of "people from ethnic minority communities" makes me feel a bit left out. I don't spring from a community. I'm not alone, either. Among my friends I count a woman who is half-Zimbabwean, half-English; another half-Filipino, half-German Brit; a guy who is half-Dutch, half-Nigerian; and so on. All of us have complex identities. And it may be that in the future there will be more rather than fewer of us - the 2001 census suggested that mixed-race people had the youngest average age profile, and one in five of London's schoolchildren will soon be from mixed-race backgrounds. I know there can never be a box on those forms for every possible permutation of ethnic origin. But I also hope that as mixed-race people become more numerous and start to reach the higher echelons of British society, a more sophisticated understanding of ethnicity will evolve: one which allows people like me to be seen as a subtle shade of beige. Raphael Mozades is managing director of Rare Recruitment, a recruitment agency for ethnic minority graduatesraph@rarerecruitment.co.uk
ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS
Jeffrey St. Clair over at CounterPunch describes how ANWAR narrowly dodged a bullet. Hooray!
ANWR Dodges Another Bullet
The Worst Day of Ted Stevens' Life
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
Before Bush boarded his helicopter for evacuation into the Maryland hill country for Christmas at Camp David, the president-in-lycra made the inexplicable observation that "it's been a great year for Americans." He probably wasn't speaking for the families of the 735 US troops who had been killed in Iraq in 2005, although increasingly the military death toll there is claiming the lives of recent Mexican immigrants, who Bush may not consider fully "American". Also Bush likely wasn't talking about the 300,000 people still displaced by Hurricane Katrina, perhaps because the First Mother has assured him that those who were dropped off in Texas have never had it so good. And he certainly wasn't referring to Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, once the most powerful man on the Hill, who whined in a threnody worthy of a passage from Aeschylus, that the close of this year's congressional session had been the worst day of his life.What tragedy could have cast such a gloomy pall across the mighty man from Anchorage, who, as chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, commands the flow of trillions of dollars from the federal treasury? The final days of congress are usually a joyous time for Stevens. This is the season when he gets to play Santa, by implanting into the final budget bills billions of dollars of porkbarrel projects in the states of senators who have shown him the proper obeisance over the previous year and by stripping out cherished projects from those few who had dared to defy him.

But this year, it was Stevens who was rudely jolted by a last second reversal of fortune, when his brethren and sistren in the senate blocked his stealthy maneuver to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. Surely, the Porcupine caribou herd raised their heads at Stevens's long-distance howl and snorted in celebration at the news that their calving grounds on the Arctic plain had been spared for yet another year from intrusion by oil derricks and pipelines and that their nemesis for the last 30 years had received a rare rebuke. Stevens's agony must be all the more acute because he was so tantalizingly close to achieving what he has said is his last major objective as a senator. Indeed, earlier this year, after the senator had slipped the ANWR drilling measure into the budget reconciliation bill in an effort to evade the senate filibusters that had frustrated his efforts in the past, Stevens told his hometown paper, the Anchorage Daily News, that his work in the senate was done and he could now retire a contented man.Stevens wasn't counting on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to throw a monkey wrench into his devious plans. But that's exactly what happened this fall when 25 Republicans, staring at polar-bear friendly poll numbers and not wanting to risk aligning themselves with the oil company executives who had gloated about making record profits in the wake of Katrina, demanded that the ANWR provision be stripped from the budget bill. The defeat of ANWR in what Stevens contemptuously calls the "other body" may also reflect the collapse of House discipline now that Tom DeLay has been forced to stand aside as leader following his indictment in Texas. Read the rest at http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair12282005.html
HUMOR
Check out Jib Jabs Year-End-Round-Up at
Fiore's 12 Days of Whoopsmas at

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