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Global Financial Meltdown October 2008 Newsletter

October Newsletter

Welcome to the October Edition of the Satya Center newsletter. Warm greetings from your Editors, Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry.

This is the week of the Global Financial Meltdown, during which stock exchanges around the world have lost 5 years worth of gains, extinguishing TRILLIONS of dollars worth of investor equity. Pension funds, 401(k)s and IRAs are suddenly worth only a fraction of their former worth.

Investors have voted with their dollars, and their verdict is that the entire financial system needs rebooting – maybe an operating system upgrade too. Speculators are in a panic.

Hundreds of millions of middle class people around the world are likewise in a panic, unsure what to do. Will they be able to finance their retirement? If they need a job at that time, who will hire them?

The entire global banking system is collapsing, from New York to London to Moscow, to Rio and Mumbai, putting savings at risk, and creating a demand for TRILLIONS of dollars in bailouts from various national governments with lots to lose.

America, Europe, and rest of the G7 group of wealthy nations are meeting this weekend to plan a strategy to avoid another GREAT DEPRESSION.

Here at Satya Center we predicted the current crisis in great detail back in February in our newsletter entitled “The Coming Collapse of Globalization” (http://www.satyacenter.com/coming-collapse-of-globalization).

At that time, I said, “I believe we are witnessing the slow motion collapse of the current financial system, known as ‘globalization’, which is shorthand for a whole range of political, economic and social policies, including laissez-faire Utopian capitalism and its trickle-down economics, Reaganomics, free trade and the leveling down of global wages, human rights and environmental protection, financial deregulation and corporate oligarchy.”

“US taxpayers are being set up to bail out the extremely rich institutions and individuals who have profited the most by creating the present debacle. This is an unacceptable, immoral, and undemocratic outcome, to say the least.”

“It is time to have a full-throated public discussion about the necessary re-structuring of our financial system so it will benefit everyone, and not just the elites who gamble with our world’s financial future in their members-only digital casinos, secure in the knowledge that they will get to keep all their winnings, and that in the event they lose their shirts, Uncle Sam will be happy to buy them a new tuxedo in time for them to appear at the next glittering virtual financial soiree.”

“It is hardly surprising that the Presidential candidates in America have no stomach for such a discussion. This crisis is a bi-partisan crisis. It is a crisis created by the last twenty-five years of consensus governance, and implicates all of Washington and Wall Street.”

 

“Unfortunately, just bleeding American taxpayers for a trillion dollars or so will not be enough to avoid a global recession, and perhaps a global loss of confidence in the Federal Reserve, the stock exchanges, and the banking system. Nor will a Gargantuan bailout necessarily guarantee that we can avoid a lengthy recession, perhaps to be followed by a long-lasting global depression.”

“Reregulation of the American financial system is necessary to avoid a repetition of this Mother of all Financial Collapses. This crisis is partly caused by the immense concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, which means that wealthy institutions and individuals have vast pools of “hot money” available to them, and they are chasing high yield in risky financial instruments fabricated from risky real estate deals, investment fads and risky corporate restructurings that are sold around the world in various stock exchanges. This hot money chases high yield and as it flows into various types of investments, bubbles are created. Thus we have a bubble economy. First the commercial real estate and LBO bubble of the Eighties, then the dot.com bubble of the Nineties, then the LBO and real estate bubble of the Bush Jr. years.”

“The government bailout will be huge however, that goes without saying. A few hundred billion, I imagine is a good starting number for it.”

How big a bailout will be required? That’s a good question. I am not sure anyone knows. Let’s talk about America. We’re talking at least several trillion dollars, at this point, but the total could certainly grow.

According to a recent study by Professor L. Randall Wray, by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, projected losses on residential mortgage backed securities will be $200 billion to $1 trillion. Home values are expected to decline around $6 trillion altogether. Losses from nonperforming construction and nonfinancial corporate debt could be $400 billion more. Bank losses on special investment vehicles will start at $150 billion. Losses on credit cards could be $100 billion more. Losses on credit default swaps and other derivatives, which are at the heart of the crisis, would be another $2.25 trillion, if the losses reach a 5% level, a not at all unthinkable outcome.

Because the global financial system is collapsing, we are now seeing that the rules of the game, as currently constructed in our laws and regulations, our economic theory and our political ideology, are outdated and no longer work.

Our financial system is a social construct, a game if you will, with rules we all come to know so well, we begin to assume that this is the only way the game can be played. Not so!

It’s time to create new rules for financial markets, new laws and regulations to insure that mistakes are not repeated, new economic theory and new political ideology. This new way of thinking and acting should include a few basic truths.

First, there is a constructive role for government in the financial system, contrary to free market neo-liberal economic orthodoxy.

Second, there is no “invisible hand” regulating markets.

The theory of the invisible hand presumes when every individual acts solely out of self-interest the “magic of the marketplace” will automatically produce the greatest good, and the best interests of the entire community will be served. This is illogical and has historically proven to be false.

We are finding now that in markets where people are allowed to act without some social constraints, in the form of specific government requirements and regulations, the end result is the collapse of the global financial system.

Without active regulation and oversight, financial markets act to maximize profits without regard for morality or the good of society as a whole. That is their purpose and function.

As reckless behavior and misrepresentation become standard practice under pressures to maximize profits, entire industries, like the residential real estate industry, can be weakened to the point where the entire financial system simply self-destructs as investors themselves withdraw their confidence and their funds from the system, which freezes up and then implodes.

On the environmental front, when people are allowed to act without specific governmental, legal constraints on their behavior, they tend to trash up their area. We humans have trashed up the area to the point of actually driving half the species on Earth into extinction, poisoning the air and water, and raising the global temperature into ranges that could even result in the deaths of billions of humans around the world.

So, we need government to provide a safe playpen for investors and to insure that the good of society as a whole is protected. We engage in politics to determine what those rules will be. And that’s a good thing. We need not be worried that these rules will hamstring the “free market”.

Our third important truth is that there is no “free market”.

In the real world, as opposed to the world of economic theories, the “free market” is a social construct, with rules that are created by governments to insure transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. Without such rules, no advanced economy can operate. Thus investors have problems in countries like Russia, China, and African countries where the rules of the marketplace are not sufficiently developed to protect the interests of investors.

In America, we have a highly developed system of laws and regulations designed to insure that business can be conducted safely and securely. The government appoints regulators who are appointed and empowered by we, the people, to protect the players in the marketplace from harming themselves or others unduly.

However the present crisis is proof that the guardians of the public trust have failed in their sacred duty. They have allowed the foxes to guard the henhouse. Since Ronald Reagan, every administration, both Republican and Democrat, has allowed the financiers to rewrite the rules governing banking and investment to their own advantage.

The end result is a global catastrophe in which the wealthiest firms and individuals in the world are blackmailing the rest of the planet into paying for their greed, arrogance and miscalculations.

The people who benefited most from Reagan’s policies of deregulation, privatization, and “free trade”, which have created this global financial meltdown, are the very rich, the politically well-connected, and the financiers who service them.

"The American people are bitter,” said Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at the time of the Senate vote on the Paulson-Bush bailout bill. “They are angry, and they are confused. Over the last seven and a half years, since George W. Bush has been President, 6 million Americans have slipped out of the middle class and are in poverty, and today working families are lining up at emergency food shelves in order to get the food they need to feed their families. Since President Bush has been in office, median family income for working-age families has declined by over $2,000.More than seven million Americans have lost their health insurance. Over four million have lost their pensions. Consumer debt has more than doubled. And foreclosures are the highest on record. Meanwhile, the cost of energy, food, health care, college and other basic necessities has soared.

"While the middle class has declined under President Bush's reckless economic policies, the people on top have never had it so good. For the first seven years of Bush's tenure, the wealthiest 400 individuals in our country saw a $670 billion increase in their wealth, and at the end of 2007 owned over $1.5 trillion in wealth. That is just 400 families, a $670 billion increase in wealth since Bush has been in office.

"In our country today, we have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth, with the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent and the top 1 percent owning more wealth than the bottom 90 percent,” contends Senator Sanders. “We are living at a time when we have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthiest people in this country, when, among others, CEOs of Wall Street firms received unbelievable amounts in bonuses, including $39 billion in bonuses in the year 2007 alone for just the five major investment houses.

“Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes - a minimum of $87 million in 2000. . .now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000,” says Bob Herbert in a New York Times article entitled ‘A Class War is Raging, and the Rich are Winning Handily’. “Those earning more than $10 million a year now pay a lesser share of their income in these taxes than those making $100,000 to $200,000.”

The rest of us must now pay the price for the larger-than-life mistakes of America’s wealthy classes, and for the mistakes of the politicians and bankers who set up the rules of the game that favored the wealthy so disgracefully, and which is now coming to a very messy and very public end all over the world.

For example, in America, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, becomes Treasury Secretary. His firm receives a government bailout, but Goldman’s arch-rival Lehman Brothers is bankrupted by a decision made – at the Treasury Department. Investors ask, what are the rules here? How do I know which firms will be saved and which will be bankrupted by government regulators? If the power of government regulators is used to benefit individuals, specific companies or classes of citizens at the expense of others, then no one can trust the markets at all. We are seeing the results of a lack of confidence in the regulators of the American marketplace all around us today.

When it became clear a little while ago that every investment firm on Wall Street was going bust and that they all needed a bailout, Paulson provided $700 billion in taxpayer money, to be administered by an assistant at Treasury, who used to work at Goldman Sachs. There is discussion in Washington about outsourcing the bailout to a private company, perhaps allowing Goldman, Sachs to manage the entire operation.

Here we have a classic case of market failure, marked by one regulatory failure after another.

First, government regulators allowed reckless endangerment of the entire financial system by greedy Wall Street investment bankers. Indeed, they deregulated banks and Wall Street firms repeatedly over the last twenty years, in spite of problems like the S&L debacle and the Enron scandal, both of which are traceable directly to lack of government oversight.

Second, capricious actions by virtually unaccountable government officials who appear to be favoring individual firms with whom they have relationships over the rest of the players in the market.

Third, Treasury Department officials and the President, along with Congress, are guilty of favoring the interests of wealthy investment bankers over the interests of taxpayers, and favoring the interests of the financial sector of the economy over the interests of those who work in the productive sectors of the economy, producing goods and services other than financial products.

In this case the government officials who come from Wall Street decided that the same investment bankers who were paid tens of millions of dollars a year while they created a financial house of cards that was doomed to fall, should now receive hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money as a reward.

This is socialism for the rich, as practiced in Reagan’s America. This is socialism for Wall Steet financiers. Profits go to the wealthy in the private sector, but all these losses are paid for by the taxpayers.

Not only is the Bush-Paulson plan an arrogant and immoral attack upon America’s middle classes by the wealthiest most privileged people in the world, it is also totally inappropriate to the moment, and will do little or nothing to fix the basic problems in our banking system.

Robin Hahnel, an economist at American University, told Alternet’s Joshua Holland that "while it's not necessary for the U.S. financial crisis to become a world financial crisis, and for the U.S. recession to become a depression of the magnitude and duration of the Great Depression of the 1930s, if the short-term, medium-term and longer-term responses continue to be as incompetent as the short-term response in the U.S. has been so far, this worst-case scenario could happen."

You see, Henry Paulson and George Bush just failed bank economics 101 with their bailout bill. The Paulson-Bush plan has the government buy bad assets from banks. The banks have to volunteer to sell those bad assets to the government and then they negotiate a price.

 


But all the banks are virtually bankrupt. They have not got a spare dime to lend. Buying their bad assets does not provide them with additional equity capital they need so they can once again make loans.

 

If a bank were given an injection of money directly into its equity, by say a government program to buy part of or all of a bank directly, then the bank would be able to make loans equal to ten times the value of that new capital.

In addition, the United States government, the taxpayers, would be owners in these banks and would be able to minutely scrutinize their books, making sure that the problems are identified, understood and properly managed. This would restore investor confidence in markets and enable lending between banks and lending by banks to companies and individual borrowers. This would ease the credit crunch.

Anyone who is in charge of a government’s Treasury Department and can’t tell the difference between a liquidity crisis and a solvency crisis is completely incompetent. This is why banking insiders and sophisticated investors know that the Paulson-Bush plan is a complete failure, a waste of $700 billion.

Not only that, the Bush administration should have known about this crisis months ago and acted then to prevent the huge problems ballooning every day as you read this article.

One would think that if we at Satya Center were able to predict the current crisis in great detail back in February in our newsletter entitled “The Coming Collapse of Globalization, then surely the President of the US and the former CEO of Goldman, Sachs should have known that our banking system was in a serious crisis. up. But they did nothing.

No wonder Americans are angry. Someone should ask them why they did nothing to prevent this when economists have been warning about this very dramatic moment for months & months.

Americans’ anger has not produced much response from the Presidential candidates or from either political party. Politicians in America are spending more time attacking one another than in producing any kind of viable or comprehensive plan to deal with this global crisis.

"The great presidential debate last night was painful to watch,” said Richard Russell, editor and publisher of Dow Theory Letters, in remarks posted on his website on October 8th. “On the important subject of economics, I thought both candidates were totally at sea. Neither McCain nor Obama had any idea of what they were talking about. Neither mentioned the scandalous $150 billion of earmarks that were added to the bailout bill. Neither touched on unemployment or the need for massive government programs and spending. Neither mentioned the precarious state of the dollar or of rising gold. Their ignorance of economics was frightening. Let's hope they, at least, have informed economic advisors -- on their own they are both clueless.”

“Based on the Wilshire 5000, [ed. note: an index of small companies] this bear market has now cost stockholders 4.7 trillion dollars,” says Russell. “The annual gross domestic product of the US is $13 trillion. The loss in stock value is almost equal to one third of the US's annual GDP, and that's got to hurt."

Now we know that the economics of competition and greed does not serve us well as a people or a country or as a small interconnected global marketplace.

Who will be able to say “Greed is good!” with a straight face ever again?

There is a tremendous amount of anger, frustration and fear cloaking the entire world like a poisonous fog.

 

Yet we have every reason to expect an infusion of new visions, new vitality, and new ways of doing business starting this week and continuing for the next several years.

This crisis creates an opportunity to envision an entirely new global financial system. In fact, you can bet and hope that this is exactly what the G7 leaders are discussing this weekend in Washington.

Citizens, politicians, activists, and consumer advocates around the world will soon be adding their own ideas to the emerging mix. What we have seen over the last few weeks is very instructive.

The conservative Republican party of America is now presiding over the biggest government intervention in the US economy in fifty years. This was supposed to be utterly taboo, a violation of the most sacred tenets of the secular religion of Reaganomics, whose presiding deity is Mammon.

And the rules of the banking and investing game are being changed, virtually day to day, by a handful of appointed bureaucrats in central banks and Treasury Departments around the world.

We are discovering that in many cases the new rules benefit the personal friends and associates, the wealthy corporations and supporters of these financial high priests, at the expense of the rest of their countrymen and women.

This has increased the level of anger and outrage around the world, most of it directed at Washington and Wall Street.

But the main point is that this is one of those rare times, which comes around once a century on average, when the financial rules of the road are all up for rewriting.

It is only on these rare occasions, usually preceded by a systemic crisis, that the people of the world will be given an opportunity to speak up for their own interests.

Now is the time to demand reforms that level the financial playing field, and to create new laws, rules and regulations that will guarantee transparency and accountability on the part of Wall Street financiers and Washington political wizards.

It has become clear that the entire political system in America is geared toward meeting the needs of the financiers at the expense of the productive economy, the middle class, all taxpayers, and the rest of the world.

If Washington can find $700 billion in one day to bail out Wall Street bankers, then we can surely find the money to provide the middle class with affordable mortgages, affordable health care, affordable education, and good jobs with good pay.

In fact the future success of the entire financial system depends upon providing the middle class with these rights and benefits. If there is no middle class, there will be no market for the products and services provided by big business, and thus there will be no future profits for the financiers.

If Washington can spend $700 billion in one day to bail out Henry Paulson’s friends and associates, we DO have the money to protect the environment and to jump-start a Green Technology industry in this country that could be the envy of the world. We do have the money to reset mortgages to lower, affordable prices that reflect reality and to keep millions of Americans in their homes. We have the ability to rewrite the rules of the political and financial games we play so they are more democratic, more equitable, and more beneficial to the society as a whole, while protecting the environment and the future of our children.

The key constituency for America’s governing classes is no longer the middle class, despite Sarah Palin’s constant invocation of her best friend, “Joe Sixpack”.

The key constituency for both the Democratic and Republican parties, has been big campaign contributors for the last thirty years. These big contributors are concentrated on Wall Street and in financial industries generally.

During that period, the government was considered the enemy. New Deal reforms were replaced by self-supervision of financial markets, safety nets were shredded to allow tax cuts for the wealthy, and monetary and fiscal policy were skewed against full employment. The government actively promoted the outsourcing of jobs via GATT, NAFTA and the free trade and globalization agenda.

Now the US has created an economy, a political system, and a culture that is more like a Third World country. We have extreme disparities of wealth and power, a consumer culture of conspicuous triviality, a politics of celebrity worship and a cultural bias toward cut-throat competition that encourages greed and aggression.

We are destroying our middle classes. We are punishing the poor. We have a health care crisis that affects everyone but the extremely rich. We have an environmental crisis that threatens our coastal cities, and our entire way of life. We have a peak oil crisis that requires trillions of dollars to be invested in new green technologies, but we are focused on maintaining control of the supply of world oil by military means.

Worst of all, our leaders are behaving like Third World despots, engaging in multiple wars of aggression to strengthen their own power, endorsing torture, bombing civilians indiscriminately, and alienating billions of people around the world as a result.

That is the lesson of the $700 billion bailout and the TRILLIONS of dollars in bailouts to come. We have the ability to rewrite the rules of the game and to try entirely new ways of relating to one another and to the world around us. So let’s get to work!

This then, is a time when courage, compassion and above all, discernment, are called for in abundance. And this week, the Cosmic Forces are in alignment with humanity’s most pressing needs.

Cosmic Weather Forecast

Full Hunter’s Moon in Aries & Libra Solar Festival

This Tuesday is the Full Hunter’s Moon in Aries, occuring at 10:02 am EST.

Here in the Hudson valley, we are still in the season of long twilights in these northern latitudes, but it is a little surprising to be sitting in the sunlight without a shirt on – even in mid-afternoon - at this time of year. The leaves are starting to change color with that startling clarity of blue sky days that helps you forget winter is right around the corner.

This is a time of global change and transformation, a time of balancing the needs of Self and Community, and the Full Moon on Tuesday is ideally positioned to bring forth the qualities of compassion and courage we most need today, since this is the Libra solar festival (22˚ Libra) & Aries Full Moon (22˚ Aries).

Libra is ruled by Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty, and Aries is ruled by Mars, God of War, so the Universe is simultaneously providing us with a spine-stiffening jolt of martial energy and a heart-opening hug by the Mother of Love.

We are being confronted by a series of global crises to wake up, open our hearts, and courageously choose to work with others in a harmonious way to resolve the issues that threaten our very way of life. This is an example of using Mars energy to achieve the goals of Venus, and we can only hope that many, many individuals around the world will answer the call to forge a new, global community in which the power to help others is valued more highly than the power to dominate others.

The astrological Sabian symbols for the Sun and Moon this Tuesday reinforce this Cosmic Message.

For the Sun at 22˚Libra: “A child giving birds a drink at a fountain; the concern of simple souls for the welfare and happiness of less-evolved beings who thirst for life renewal.”

 

Here we see the Cosmic Child within us acting as responsible steward of nature’s inexhaustible refreshment – symbolized by the waters of life. When we cooperate in partnership with nature & all of life, and share resources with careful stewardship, then the waters can flow back to their Source, replenishing the One from whom they came. This completes the Circle of life and insures an abundant return on all we give to the Universe.

Each of us must be willing to sacrifice to save the planetary garden, and to share the waters from the garden’s fountain with neighbors, and with the birds, the bees, the worms and the occasional deer or rabbit. All this must be factored into the gardener’s seasonal plans.

The Cosmic Forces of the Solar Logos call upon each one of us at this time to create sacred space, to cultivate a sacred garden, to tap the hidden resources of Mother Earth for the benefit of all sentient beings. We are asked to cease the plundering of the Earth which is mortgaging the future of our children’s children’s children, and to create a new society that puts birds, animals, and children FIRST!

By this Full Moon, we are called to make a sacrifice. The Great Mother in her Mask as Venus, in her Mask as Moon Maiden, in her Mask as Ruler of Libra, bids us make an offering to the Spirits of Nature.

We are called upon to make a sacrifice in our own lives -- to put the needs of the environment above our own need to consume more and more products, beyond the need for a me-first affluent lifestyle.

We are called upon to trust in the abundance of the Universe, and to open our hearts, the fountains from which spring the Waters of Life, and to share that abundance with those in our community who are hungry, thirsty, naked, and helpless and who need our assistance.

For the Moon at 22˚ Aries: “The gate to the garden of all fulfilled desires; abundance made possible by human togetherness and co-operation.”

Here the fiery energy of the God of War is harnessed toward the creation of a community garden that can feed all the people. We are each challenged as individuals to do our part. We must each make the decision to support a more co-operative society.

The last thirty years in America have been a time of unbridled economic competition. We as a people, as a culture, have idolized the rich. We have made celebrities of wealthy individuals like Warren Buffet and Donald Trump, and of the children of the wealthy, like Paris Hilton and Ivanka Trump.

The last thirty years have seen the rich in America grow ever more wealthy and the rest of us grow steadily more financially insecure. There is a reason for that. Public policy has favored the wealthy over the rest of us. Now is the time to demand a new financial deal, a fair deal, a deal that works for all of us, not just the few.

We must demand justice because it is clear that our political leaders are incapable of providing the needed checks and balances that are required to protect the vast majority from the powerful and wealthy few.

The End of American Empire

We are somewhat stunned by the dawning awareness that even a long string of summer hurricanes, and a once in a lifetime global financial panic, has not served to rouse America’s leaders from the stupor induced by their power, wealth and privilege.

“There has been much moaning, air-sucking, and outrage about the $700 billion that the U.S. government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches,” says Dr. Chalmers Johnson, author of over a dozen books, including "The Sorrows of Empire," "MITI and the Japanese Miracle" and "Japan: Who Governs?".

“In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.”

“On Wednesday, September 24th, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all,” Johnson continues. “The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.

“The defense bill includes $68.6 billion to pursue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only a down-payment on the full yearly cost of these wars.” Jonhson adds. “The rest will be raised through future supplementary bills. It also included a 3.9% pay raise for military personnel, and $5 billion in pork-barrel projects not even requested by the administration or the secretary of defense. It also fully funds the Pentagon's request for a radar site in the Czech Republic, a hare-brained scheme sure to infuriate the Russians just as much as a Russian missile base in Cuba once infuriated us. The whole bill passed by a vote of 392-39 and will fly through the Senate, where a similar bill has already been approved. And no one will even think to mention it in the same breath with the discussion of bailout funds for dying investment banks and the like.”

“This is pure waste,” Johnson contends. “Our annual spending on ‘national security’ -- meaning the defense budget plus all military expenditures hidden in the budgets for the departments of Energy, State, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, the CIA, and numerous other places in the executive branch -- already exceeds a trillion dollars, an amount larger than that of all other national defense budgets combined. Not only was there no significant media coverage of this latest appropriation, there have been no signs of even the slightest urge to inquire into the relationship between our bloated military, our staggering weapons expenditures, our extravagantly expensive failed wars abroad, and the financial catastrophe on Wall Street.”

Well, here at Satya Center we see the connection between the collapse of the financial system and America’s profligate spending on Imperial wars of adventure around the world. And we thank Chalmers Johnson for bringing it to the public’s attention.

America can no longer pretend to be the world’s policeman. We no longer have the credibility or the cash to fulfill the role. And we certainly don’t want to be an aggressive bully.

Yet, even as the global financial system teeters on the brink of collapse, America has begun a third major war, with air and ground forces striking Taliban sympathizers and insurgents inside Pakistan, a nuclear power whose economy and government have been controlled by a pugnacious and extremely nationalistic military cadre for the last several decades.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that Pakistan has built 24-48 HEU-based nuclear warheads, and has developed missiles to deliver them throughout the South Asian region. Pakistan’s military, which is the world's 7th largest armed force as of 2007, has nearly 1,000,000 people in the army, navy air force, paramilitaries and Coast Guard combined.

The Brookings Institution estimates that in the event of a major war with Pakistan, the United States would require somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 men to invade and occupy the country.

America’s leaders have not given any indication they understand the need to wean the world off its deadly addiction to petroleum products secured by armed conflict, nor have they demonstrated true compassion toward the increasing number of poor and middle class Americans who are suffering from high-priced health care, skyrocketing unemployment, collapsing housing prices, and rapidly deflating investment portfolios.

America’s leadership concentrates instead upon a foreign policy of naked imperialism and a domestic policy of repression and exploitation of the workers, the middle class, and minorities.

Changing the World Means Learning to Cooperate

We have been hearing from our peers who walk the ways of Spirit in different parts of this country and around the world, and they are increasingly concerned that the cavalier attitudes of the global elite and the business-as-usual ethos of the majority of world citizens could accelerate the current global financial and environmental meltdown, resulting in the worst case in a war of all against all and the collapse of civilization as we know it.

This seems to be a plausible scenario, but it may be that these world-shaking events are simply the wake up call we all need to motivate us to demand that our political leaders choose peace over war, sustainability over exploitation, civil liberties over police state repression, a democratically controlled financial system over oligarchy, and productive jobs over financial manipulations.

Those of us who are connected to Spirit, those of us who have seen the writing on the wall, have a heavy responsibility – to stay grounded and centered and to shine our light steadfastly into the darkness around us. In times like these, the ability to hold the light and to remain confident in the prospect of positive change becomes more important than ever.

There will be more messages from Mother Nature, more wake up calls about the failure of business as usual and the need to change our American way of life, and more strenuous tests devised for our callous leadership and for all of us around the world in the coming months and years.

These tests are designed to stimulate the emergence of the will to Ascension within our species. These tests certainly provide a strong Aquarian impulse toward collective action and co-operative community. Such impulses can help us transcend the drive toward increasing individualization which has been the primary task of humanity’s spiritual evolution for the last several hundred years.

The emergence of individuated consciousness, which is the great gift of Western civilizations, and which has been the primary lesson of human history over the last few thousand years, has enabled humanity to transcend the relatively unconscious collective awareness that was typical of the Neolithic priestly cultures, and their descendants, such as the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian dynasties with their absolute ruling classes and their rigid hierarchical class and caste distinctions.

In facing the difficult tests before us, while we must continue to evolve as individuals, our primary goal must be to establish a harmonious group consciousness. It is up to us to maintain our individuality and yet to set aside our differences with others with whom we form our spiritual, familial, professional and personal communities in pursuit of common goals that benefit the common good and transcend our own petty egoistic personality needs and desires.

The coming environmental catastrophes, and the potential war of all against all that could be unleashed by water shortages, food shortages, greed and lust for power during the end of the age of abundant, cheap oil can only be averted or mitigated by the emergence of a group consciousness that honors the Earth and simultaneously honors the value of all individuals.

 

Those of us who can successfully integrate these communitarian impulses into our psyches and our lives, and find common cause with those who share our goals, but who may have different belief systems and values, will be richly rewarded by the Universe, and will be given the tools enabling us to work together to ameliorate the coming global troubles in our immediate vicinity and around the world.

We all create our own realities, to this extent. We can choose from various options. We can focus our intent upon desirable outcomes. We can exercise our will through free choice to take action in our own communities in selfless service to humanity.

We all are responsible for our own actions and our own spiritual development. We all have free will. Working together, in alignment with our Higher Purpose, and in concert with our friends, family, neighbors and chosen allies, we will find ourselves uplifted during the turbulent times to come.

This is the great gift of our turbulent times, that we are being given the task to Ascend to higher states of consciousness, as individuals, and within the groups to which we belong, as family members, as neighbors, as citizens, and as human beings, brothers and sisters on a small, blue-green marble spinning in space.

For only through Ascension to a higher state of consciousness will we be able to create new ways of living that can replace war with peace, competition with co-operation, exploitation with brother and sisterhood, environmental destruction with environmental restoration, soul-less materialism with enlightened spirituality that honors ALL paths to the Divine.

How to Overcome Fear in a Turbulent World

The greatest obstacle to Ascension is now and always has been fear. As we all know, the group consciousness of humanity is generating a tidal wave of fear in the face of the daunting task set before us at this time in history.

Fear of losing our jobs, our homes, our lives. Fear of war, of illness and pestilence, of famine, of World War, of terrorists, of environmental catastrophe. Fear of the end of our petroleum based way of life. Fear that we are guilty and deserve to be punished. Fear that we are incapable of rising to the occasion. Fear that we will be enslaved by the rich, the powerful, the ones with the guns.

The mass media amplify this fear frequency and broadcast heart-numbing and mind shriveling waves of paranoia, greed and cynicism around the world every day.

Politicians seize and maintain power in countries around the world by exploiting the fears of the people and focusing their fears upon external enemies, upon those with different skin color, those with difference levels of income and education, those with a different religion, or those with no religion at all.

Corporations sell us products that purport to assuage our fears – there are many products designed to alleviate our fear of our aging bodies, our fear of being left behind in the economic ratrace, our fear of failing to be sexy enough, our fear of failing to conform to conventional standards of beauty, and most of all, the fear of being left behind, of being excluded from consumer society.

Unfortunately many religious leaders in both the East and West utilize fear to control the faithful entrusted by the Divine into their care, committing a grave sin against the Holy Spirit by putting the desire for personal power above the well-being of their flocks. These retrograde religious leaders foment wars between religions, wars between civilizations, war between races, war between nations, in a most self-righteous manner, playing upon the fears of the people who most trust them in order to expand the institutional power base of their own religion at the expense of others.

In the face of this tremendous global tsunami of fear, for those of us who are humanitarians, who are Lightworkers, for those of us who are disciples of the true Masters of the Divine Mysteries, both East and West, there is no excuse for giving in to this global flood of fear. We know that fear is the soul-destroyer, the tool of the oppressor.

The Masters tell us that Love is the antidote for fear. Love leads to the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice of the ego in service to the Higher Self, in co-ordination with the Divine Plan of Love and Light. That loving sacrifice leads us onward and upward on the Ascension path, the path that leads us as individuals toward a new civilization, a new brotherhood and sisterhood, a new connection to the web of life and a renewal of humanity’s ancient connection to the Divine Source, the Crown of Creation. Ascension, both individual and collective, is the Divine Plan for humanity during the 21st century.

This Ascension process has been envisioned by many around the world, in a myriad of ways. We have heard of the Ascension from the 3rd dimension to the 4th dimension. This is the transition from consciousness centered in the third, solar plexus, chakra, governing personal power and egoistic individuation, to consciousness centered in the fourth, heart chakra, governing ego-transcendence, universal compassion, and selfless sacrifice in the service of humanity, Mother Earth and that Unity that transcends our world.

This Ascension involves the sacrifice of the ego and the opening of the heart, the willingness to join our own individual efforts with those of others in group service for larger goals than those formulated by our own personalities for our own personal pleasure, power, and glory.

Here on planet Earth in the early 21st Century, we are truly at the crossroads of the Aeons. During this transitional moment of the year, as summer turns to fall, we are at a seasonal crossroads as well.

This is the traditional season of the year when religious and spiritual traditions around the world celebrate the transition from outward-directed focus to inward-directed aspiration.

This is the moment when Initiates and Disciples of the Mysteries direct their energy inward and upward, turning their attention from activities in the outer world, toward attainment of higher states of consciousness, toward Ascension of a very personal nature.

This is the season on Earth when the Archangel Michael assumes responsibility for directing the energies that support the new season of harvest, Ascension and community sharing.

This Autumn season is the perfect moment to ask Guides, Teachers and Archangel Michael to help us in our monumental task of Ascension. Let us ask Michael to protect us from the tsunami of fear flooding the world today. Let us ask our Spiritual Teachers to guide us on the difficult, steep and narrow path that leads us ever upward and to provide us with the grace and insight we need to achieve our loftiest spiritual goals.

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Top News Stories From Around the Web

[Ed. Note: These are excerpts from lengthy news stories that provide the analytical context, the intellectual framework, the historical analysis, that is so completely missing from most so-called news in the mainstream media. If you are interested in the topic, click on the link provided to read more. . .]


Global Economic Monitor

The world is at severe risk of a global systemic financial meltdown and a severe global depression

Nouriel Roubini | Oct 9, 2008

The US and advanced economies’ financial system is now headed towards a near-term systemic financial meltdown as day after day stock markets are in free fall, money markets have shut down while their spreads are skyrocketing, and credit spreads are surging through the roof. There is now the beginning of a generalized run on the banking system of these economies; a collapse of the shadow banking system, i.e. those non-banks (broker dealers, non-bank mortgage lenders, SIV and conduits, hedge funds, money market funds, private equity firms) that, like banks, borrow short and liquid, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and illiquid and are thus at risk of a run on their short-term liabilities; and now a roll-off of the short term liabilities of the corporate sectors that may lead to widespread bankruptcies of solvent but illiquid financial and non-financial firms.



On the real economic side all the advanced economies representing 55% of global GDP (US, Eurozone, UK, other smaller European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan) entered a recession even before the massive financial shocks that started in the late summer made the liquidity and credit crunch even more virulent and will thus cause an even more severe recession than the one that started in the spring. So we have a severe recession, a severe financial crisis and a severe banking crisis in advanced economies.

At this point severe damage is done and one cannot rule out a systemic collapse and a global depression. It will take a significant change in leadership of economic policy and very radical, coordinated policy actions among all advanced and emerging market economies to avoid this economic and financial disaster.

Urgent and immediate necessary actions that need to be done globally (with some variants across countries depending on the severity of the problem and the overall resources available to the sovereigns) include:

- another rapid round of policy rate cuts of the order of at least 150 basis points on average globally;

- a temporary blanket guarantee of all deposits while a triage between insolvent financial institutions that need to be shut down and distressed but solvent institutions that need to be partially nationalized with injections of public capital is made;

- a rapid reduction of the debt burden of insolvent households preceded by a temporary freeze on all foreclosures;

- massive and unlimited provision of liquidity to solvent financial institutions;

- public provision of credit to the solvent parts of the corporate sector to avoid a short-term debt refinancing crisis for solvent but illiquid corporations and small businesses;

- a massive direct government fiscal stimulus packages that includes public works, infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits, tax rebates to lower income households and provision of grants to strapped and crunched state and local government;

- a rapid resolution of the banking problems via triage, public recapitalization of financial institutions and reduction of the debt burden of distressed households and borrowers;

- an agreement between lender and creditor countries running current account surpluses and borrowing and debtor countries running current account deficits to maintain an orderly financing of deficits and a recycling of the surpluses of creditors to avoid a disorderly adjustment of such imbalances.

At this point anything short of these radical and coordinated actions may lead to a market crash, a global systemic financial meltdown and to a global depression. At this stage central banks that are usually supposed to be the "lenders of last resort" need to become the "lenders of first and only resort" as, under conditions of panic and total loss of confidence, no one in the private sector is lending to anyone else since counterparty risk is extreme. And fiscal authorities that usually are spenders and insurers of last resort need to temporarily become the spenders and insurers of first resort. The fiscal costs of these actions will be large but the economic and fiscal costs of inaction would be of a much larger and severe magnitude. Thus, the time to act is now as all the policy officials of the world are meeting this weekend in Washington at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings.

Thursday midnite update: A few hours after I had written this note the market crash that I warned about is underway in Asia: the Nikkei index in Japan is down 11% and all other Asian markets are sharply down. This reinforces the urgency of credible and rapid policy actions by the G7 financial officials who are meeting in a few hours in Washington and the need to also involve in such global policy coordination the systemically important emergent market economies.


Vanity Fair

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/11/stiglitz200811?printable=true¤tPage=all

Reversal of Fortune

Describing how ideology, special-interest pressure, populist politics, and sheer incompetence have left the U.S. economy on life support, the author puts forth a clear, commonsense plan to reverse the Bush-era follies and regain America’s economic sanity.

by Joseph E. Stiglitz

November 2008

When the American economy enters a downturn, you often hear the experts debating whether it is likely to be V-shaped (short and sharp) or U-shaped (longer but milder). Today, the American economy may be entering a downturn that is best described as L-shaped. It is in a very low place indeed, and likely to remain there for some time to come.

Virtually all the indicators look grim. Inflation is running at an annual rate of nearly 6 percent, its highest level in 17 years. Unemployment stands at 6 percent; there has been no net job growth in the private sector for almost a year. Housing prices have fallen faster than at any time in memory—in Florida and California, by 30 percent or more. Banks are reporting record losses, only months after their executives walked off with record bonuses as their reward. President Bush inherited a $128 billion budget surplus from Bill Clinton; this year the federal government announced the second-largest budget deficit ever reported. During the eight years of the Bush administration, the national debt has increased by more than 65 percent, to nearly $10 trillion (to which the debts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should now be added, according to the Congressional Budget Office). Meanwhile, we are saddled with the cost of two wars. The price tag for the one in Iraq alone will, by my estimate, ultimately exceed $3 trillion.

This tangled knot of problems will be difficult to unravel. Standard prescriptions call for raising interest rates when confronted with inflation, just as standard prescriptions call for lowering interest rates when confronted with an economic downturn. How do you do both at the same time? Not in the way that some politicians have proposed. With gasoline prices at all-time highs, John McCain has called for a rollback of gas taxes. But that would lead to more gas consumption, raise the price of gas further, increase our dependence on foreign oil, and expand our already massive trade deficit. The expanding deficit would in turn force the U.S. to continue borrowing gargantuan sums from abroad, making us even more indebted. At the same time, the higher imports of oil and petroleum-based products would lead to a weaker dollar, fueling inflationary pressures.

Millions of Americans are losing their homes. (Already, some 3.6 million have done so since the subprime-mortgage crisis began.) This social catastrophe has severe economic effects. The banks and other financial institutions that own these mortgages face stunning reverses; a few, such as Bear Stearns, have already gone belly-up. To prevent America’s $5.2 trillion home financiers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, from following suit, Congress authorized a blank check to cover their losses, but even that generosity failed to do the trick. Now the administration has taken over the two entities completely, a stunning feat for a supposedly market-oriented regime. These bailouts contribute to growing deficits in the short run, and to perverse incentives in the long run. Market economies work only when there is a system of accountability, but C.E.O.’s, investors, and creditors are walking away with billions, while American taxpayers are being asked to pick up the tab. (Freddie Mac’s chairman, Richard Syron, earned $14.5 million in 2007. Fannie Mae’s C.E.O., Daniel Mudd, earned $14.2 million that same year.) We’re looking at a new form of public-private partnership, one in which the public shoulders all the risk, and the private sector gets all the profit. While the Bush administration preaches responsibility, the words are addressed only to the less well-off. The administration talks about the impact of “moral hazard” on the poor “speculator” who borrowed money and bought a house beyond his ability to pay. But moral hazard somehow isn’t an issue when it comes to the high-stakes speculators in corporate boardrooms.How Did We Get into This Mess?

A unique combination of ideology, special-interest pressure, populist politics, bad economics, and sheer incompetence has brought us to our present condition.

Ideology proclaimed that markets were always good and government always bad. While George W. Bush has done as much as he can to ensure that government lives up to that reputation—it is the one area where he has overperformed—the fact is that key problems facing our society cannot be addressed without an effective government, whether it’s maintaining national security or protecting the environment. Our economy rests on public investments in technology, such as the Internet. While Bush’s ideology led him to underestimate the importance of government, it also led him to underestimate the limitations of markets.

We learned from the Depression that markets are not self-adjusting—at least, not in a time frame that matters to living people. Today everyone—even the president—accepts the need for macro-economic policy, for government to try to maintain the economy at near-full employment. But in a sleight of hand, free-market economists promoted the idea that, once the economy was restored to full employment, markets would always allocate resources efficiently. The best regulation, in their view, was no regulation at all, and if that didn’t sell, then “self-regulation” was almost as good.

The underlying idea was, on the face of it, absurd: that market failures come only in macro doses, in the form of the recessions and depressions that have periodically plagued capitalist economies for the past several hundred years. Isn’t it more reasonable to assume that these failures are just the tip of the iceberg? That beneath the surface lie a myriad of smaller but harder-to-assess inefficiencies? Let me venture an analogy from biology: A patient arrives at a hospital in serious condition. Now, it may be that the patient has simply fallen victim to one of those debilitating ailments that go around from time to time and can be cured by a massive dose of antibiotics. In this case we have a macro problem with a macro solution. But it could instead be that the patient is suffering from a decade of serious abuse—smoking, drinking, overeating, lack of exercise, a fondness for crystal meth—and that it has not only taken a catastrophic toll but also left him open to opportunistic infections of every kind. In other words, a buildup of micro problems has led to a macro problem, and no cure is possible without addressing the underlying issues. The American economy today is a patient of the second kind.

We are in the midst of micro-economic failure on a grand scale. Financial markets receive generous compensation—in the form of more than 30 percent of all corporate profits—presumably for performing two critical tasks: allocating savings and managing risk. But the financial markets have failed laughably at both. Hundreds of billions of dollars were allocated to home loans beyond Americans’ ability to pay. And rather than managing risk, the financial markets created more risk. The failure of our financial system to do what it is supposed to do matches in destructive grandeur the macro-economic failures of the Great Depression.

Economic theory—and historical experience—long ago proved the need for regulation of financial markets. But ever since the Reagan presidency, deregulation has been the prevailing religion. Never mind that the few times “free banking” has been tried—most recently in Pinochet’s Chile, under the influence of the doctrinaire free-market theorist Milton Friedman—the experiment has ended in disaster. Chile is still paying back the debts from its misadventure. With massive problems in 1987 (remember Black Friday, when stock markets plunged almost 25 percent), 1989 (the savings-and-loan debacle), 1997 (the East Asia financial crisis), 1998 (the bailout of Long Term Capital Management), and 2001–02 (the collapses of Enron and WorldCom), one might think there would be more skepticism about the wisdom of leaving markets to themselves.


Common Dreams

Published on September 13, 2008 by the San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/09/13-2

Advice for the Next US President
by Desmond Tutu

For several years now, American pundits have commented sadly on the alleged rise of anti-Americanism abroad.

I am not aware of any such anti-Americanism. What has been growing is resentment of and opposition to certain, current U.S. government policies. America itself still stands tall in international eyes as a stronghold of democratic values and the ideals of individual liberty. All that remains is for informed citizens to stand up in November and call the country back to its roots.

Yet how does a nation accomplish such change?

South Africa completed such a transition a decade ago when it addressed the horrors of apartheid. At the time, a peaceful reconciliation between blacks and whites - between the long oppressed black majority and the controlling white minority - was by no means certain. Skeptics viewed our first black-led government with concern and uncertainty, wondering whether the natural urges for revenge and retribution would tear the country apart. That story had already played out time and again across the African continent, as it does today in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

It was thus with amazement that the world witnessed South Africa's tranquil transition. The new democracy didn't descend into the predicted pit of vengeance or become ensnared in years of frustrating red tape over Nuremberg-type show trials for the accused.

At the same time, Pretoria also rejected blanket amnesty, which would have deepened the national wound by victimizing the victims a second time around.

Instead, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which steered us through these difficult times, provided a third alternative: that of restorative justice.

The commission chose to grant amnesty in exchange for the whole truth: a complete disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to the offense for which amnesty was being sought. A confessing perpetrator bore the stigma of public shame and humiliation regarding his crime, which frequently included very real family and career consequences.

The commission also created a means by which rehabilitation and re-acceptance into the community was possible, providing healing and reconciliation for victims and perpetrators alike.

Victims were able to share their stories in a friendly and supportive forum, affirming that they had not struggled in vain, while truly contrite perpetrators were given a chance to be salvaged and ultimately reintegrated into the community. By offering amnesty for a high price, the commission managed to reconcile the bitterly wronged with the wrongdoers.

World history has proved that forgiveness is never cheap or easy. Even in South Africa, there were some who said the truth made them want to see the perpetrators facing trial and others who refused to forgive, often because they claimed that the amnesty applicants had not told the entire truth. But the rare success stories like South Africa prove that reconciliation can happen on the basis of truth and there can be no future without forgiveness. Revenge only begets further violence. In the end, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

American voters would do well to keep South Africa's lessons in mind when they head to the polls in November. America's strained relationships in the global community are due largely to the fear and siege mentality that set in after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, causing many in Washington on both sides of the aisle to reject certain civil liberties considered core American values.

If the next U.S. president cares for global reconciliation, then he will stand up for these values and reject those policies that have weakened or undermined individual liberty. In this regard, I suggest that your new president would be surprised at the reaction of the world if he were to say to the world, "We made big mistakes over Iraq." And while he is at it, shut down Guantanamo Bay. And just as in South Africa a decade ago, it never hurts to say "I'm sorry."

With honesty, humility and international forgiveness, the United States can and should remain a beacon for liberty for the world long into the future.

 

AsiaTimesOnline

Oct 11, 2008

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JJ11Df01.html

A long, hot winter for Pakistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

The Taliban are escalating the conflict in Pakistan's cities, aiming to strike before the US and its partners can dig in for the all-out war that all quarters - the Western ruling establishments, Afghan government, Pakistani ruling military and political establishment and the two US presidential candidates - tacitly agree must be waged against the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.



The Taliban's pre-emptive strategy continued on Thursday when a bomb - disguised as a delivery of sweets - destroyed the headquarters of Pakistan's Anti-Terrorist Force in Islamabad. The blast occurred during a special session of parliament at which the director of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was briefing lawmakers on Pakistan's strategy in the "war on terror".

 

Newshoggers

http://www.newshoggers.com/blog/2008/10/pakistan-faces.html

Pakistan Faces Bankruptcy, Wants $100bn Handout

10/06/-08By Cernig

The UK's Daily Telegraph reports that Pakistan may be the first nation to go bankrupt as a result of the continuing global financial meltdown.   

Officially, the central bank holds $8.14 billion (£4.65 billion) of foreign currency, but if forward liabilities are included, the real reserves may be only $3 billion - enough to buy about 30 days of imports like oil and food.    

Nine months ago, Pakistan had $16 bn in the coffers.   

The government is engulfed by crises left behind by Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who resigned the presidency in August. High oil prices have combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement to inflict huge damage on the economy.   

Given the country's standing as a frontline state in the US-led "war on terrorism", the economic crisis has profound consequences. Pakistan already faces worsening security as the army clashes with militants in the lawless Tribal Areas on the north-west frontier with Afghanistan.   

... Mr Zardari told the Wall Street Journal that Pakistan needed a bail out worth $100 billion from the international community.

    

"If I can't pay my own oil bill, how am I going to increase my police?" he asked. "The oil companies are asking me to pay $135 [per barrel] of oil and at the same time they want me to keep the world peaceful and Pakistan peaceful."

 

Newshoggers

http://www.newshoggers.com/blog/2008/10/leaked-report-t.html

Leaked Report Ties Pakistani Intelligence To Taliban

10/02/08 By Cernig

A secret, high-level report leaked to the Spanish press explicitly ties the ISI, Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, to the Taliban - the first time a NATO member has made the allegation so specifically. The report's leak comes at an embarassing time for the Pakistani givernment as they are currently engaged in a PR campaign, including interviews with President Zardari and press releases about the new ISI head, to bolster their fading image of being a staunch ally in the "war on terror" and to distance the ISI from allegations it uses terror groups as proxies.   

The August 2005 report says Pakistan's shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped the Taliban procure roadside bombs and may even have provided training and intelligence to the Taliban in camps set up on Pakistani soil.   

The Pakistani agency, known as the ISI, planned to have the Taliban use the explosives "to assassinate high-ranking officials" in Afghanistan, the report said.    

It also warned of possible advanced training camps in Pakistan "where the Taliban receive training, help and intelligence from the ISI and where they are also developing new kinds" of improvised explosive devices. The report said the Taliban had also been receiving help from al-Qaida.    

The document, which was obtained by Cadena Ser radio and posted on the station's Web site Wednesday, was marked "confidential" and topped with the Defense Ministry seal and the title of Spain's military intelligence agency.

 

Network World

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/082208-e-voting-vendor-programming-errors-caused.html

E-voting vendor: Programming errors caused dropped votes

By Grant Gross , IDG News Service , 08/22/2008

An major electronic voting system vendor has changed its story in an attempt to explain how its machines dropped hundreds of votes in Ohio's March primary elections, saying it was a programming error, not the fault of antivirus software.

E-voting machines from Premier Election Solutions, formerly called Diebold Election Systems, dropped hundreds of votes in 11 Ohio counties during the primary election, as the machine's memory cards uploaded to vote-counting servers. Premier originally blamed conflicts caused by antivirus software from McAfee, but the company this week said a logic error in the machines' GEMS source code was responsible for the problem.

"We now have reason to believe that the logic error in the GEMS code can cause this event when no such antivirus program is installed on the server," Premier President Dave Byrd wrote in a Tuesday letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. "We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error."

Numerous tests by voting authorities had failed to identity the logic error before Ohio discovered the dropped votes, Byrd wrote.

. . . Brunner filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in Ohio earlier this month, as a counter-claim to a May lawsuit filed by Premier seeking a judgment that the vendor did not violate any contracts or warranties in Ohio. Brunner's lawsuit accused Premier of not fulfilling its contracts with election officials. The lawsuit also alleges breach of warranty and fraud.

Those two lawsuits have not been resolved.

In December, Brunner's office issued a report questioning the security of touch-screen e-voting machines like those sold by Premier. Machines from Premier and two other vendors had "critical security failures," the report said.

The report recommended Ohio move away from touch-screen e-voting machines.

 

informationclearinghouse

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20700.htm

Triangulating an Asian Conflict

By Chan Akya05/09/08 "Asia Times"

One of the more predictable turns during any US presidential election year is the sheer speed with which issues of longer-term strategic importance are quietly subsumed by a global media fed a steady diet of soap-operatic drama on the candidates, their spouses, born and unborn children and so on. . .

Even as the media feverishly debates the paternity of the Republican vice-presidential candidate's granddaughter and the difficulties associated with sitting through an Obama speech without either dancing or dozing off, these important Asian stories are being relegated to the back pages. The first of these stories gets some coverage, but perhaps without any comprehensive analysis of its longer-term ramifications; the second and third are virtually missing from all media.

These stories are: firstly, the encirclement of Pakistan; secondly the resurgence of Han nationalism and thirdly the trend towards Hindu fanaticism.

. . .Bleeding on its western flanks and ever-watchful of its eastern border with India, the Pakistani military has limited options. Cooperating with the US or NATO is unlikely in the current political climate, which ensures that increasing resources are misspent on the lost war pursuing al-Qaeda. Quelling an internal rebellion - no military man actually wants to die in combat, contrary to their popular image - would take an assumption of political power once again in the country, with all the baggage this brings.

Taken to a logical extreme, the slippage of the Pakistani establishment to a quasi-vassal relationship with al-Qaeda ideologues appears all the more likely. Politicians will strike deals with extremist Islamic groups and seek to appease their grievances; these range from the heavy handedness of Pakistani police against the militant groups to the regrouping of madrassas across the country.

Meanwhile, the army is also likely to secure its own peace with the terrorist groups by calling off intensive operations and allowing for a return of an expanded Taliban state within Pakistani borders that calls the shots in Afghanistan. I don't believe it will take more than year for the current Afghan government to fall and make way for the Taliban when this happens.

The resulting theocratic state will be run essentially by today's al-Qaeda reservists, with the added advantage of possessing nuclear weapons. As epitaphs go, George W Bush could not wish for anything worse, but sadly this does seem to his most likely legacy. . .

Simplistically put, the West will have to depend on the munificence of China and India to control the pest that will be unleashed on their borders over the near term. While China has less to fear initially as compared with India about the expansionist aims of Islamic fundamentalists, it does have a sensitive border problem in Xinjiang, which could present the Achilles' heel of its non-interventionist policy with respect to Muslim issues.

 

Simply put, a Taliban government with nuclear capabilities is unlikely to treat China any differently - better or worse - than it treats India over the longer term.

The emerging economic slowdown - sparking talk of a government stimulus package in short order - presents a casus belli for the majority Han. . .

Echoing the behavior of the Chinese during the Tibetan riots earlier this year, India's Hindus have gone on the warpath in the eastern state of Orissa, against Christian missionaries who they claim are illegally converting their members. Even as the Han are pushing for greater dominance over their own affairs in China, India's Hindus appear to be rebelling under a similar impulse in their country. . .

. . .the indomitable force of Islamic fundamentalism that emerges from Pakistan will have to confront the immovable objects of Han and Hindu resurgence. It is well likely that the first course of action will be against the well-known enemy of India rather than the scarier opponent in China, but that is a relatively minor detail in that it only applies over the relative near term.

 

AlterNet

http://www.alternet.org/story/89940/

The Era of Catastrophe? Geologists Name New Era After Human Influence on the Planet

By Mike Davis, Tomdispatch.com

August 11,2008

Our world, our old world that we have inhabited for the last 12,000 years, has ended, even if no newspaper in North America or Europe has yet printed its scientific obituary.

This February, while cranes were hoisting cladding to the 141st floor of the Burj Dubai tower (which will soon be twice the height of the Empire State Building), the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London was adding the newest and highest story to the geological column.

Although the idea of the "Anthropocene" -- an Earth epoch defined by the emergence of urban-industrial society as a geological force -- has been long debated, stratigraphers have refused to acknowledge compelling evidence for its advent.

At least for the London Society, that position has now been revised. This new age, they explain, is defined both by the heating trend ... and by the radical instability expected of future environments.

In somber prose, they warn that "the combination of extinctions, global species migrations and the widespread replacement of natural vegetation with agricultural monocultures is producing a distinctive contemporary biostratigraphic signal.

These effects are permanent, as future evolution will take place from surviving (and frequently anthropogenically relocated) stocks." Evolution itself, in other words, has been forced into a new trajectory.

 

The Washington Post

April 27, 2008

WHY THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT CANNOT PREVENT CATASTROPHE

By Ross Gelbspan

Environmentalism is almost as compromised as the planet itself, argues Gus Speth in his new book. He faults the movement for using market incentives to achieve environmental ends and for the deception that sufficient change can come from engaging the corporate sector and working "within the system" and not enlisting the support of other activist constituencies.

Contemporary capitalism and a habitable planet cannot coexist. That is the core message of The Bridge at the Edge of the World, by J. "Gus" Speth, a prominent environmentalist who, in this book, has turned sharply critical of the U.S. environmental movement.

Speth is dean of environmental studies at Yale, a founder of two major environmental groups (the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute), former chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality (under Jimmy Carter) and a former head of the U.N. Development Program. So part of his thesis is expected: Climate change is only the leading edge of a potential cascade of ecological disasters.

"Half the world's tropical and temperate forests are gone," he writes. "About half the wetlands... are gone. An estimated 90 percent of large predator fish are gone.... Twenty percent of the corals are gone.... Species are disappearing at rates about a thousand times faster than normal.... Persistent toxic chemicals can now be found by the dozens in... every one of us."

One might assume, given this setup, that Speth would argue for a revitalization of the environmental movement. He does not.

Environmentalism, in his view, is almost as compromised as the planet itself. Speth faults the movement for using market incentives to achieve environmental ends and for the deception that sufficient change can come from engaging the corporate sector and working "within the system" and not enlisting the support of other activist constituencies.

Environmentalism today is "pragmatic and incrementalist," he notes, "awash in good proposals for sensible environmental action" -- and he does not mean it as a compliment. "Working only within the system will ... not succeed when what is needed is transformative change in the system itself."

In Speth's view, the accelerating degradation of the Earth is not simply the result of flawed or inattentive national policies. It is "a result of systemic failures of the capitalism that we have today," which aims for perpetual economic growth and has brought us, simultaneously, to the threshold of abundance and the brink of ruination. He identifies the major driver of environmental destruction as the 60,000 multinational corporations that have emerged in the last few decades and that continually strive to increase their size and profitability while, at the same time, deflecting efforts to rein in their most destructive impacts.

"The system of modern capitalism... will generate ever-larger environmental consequences, outstripping efforts to manage them," Speth writes. What's more, "It is unimaginable that American politics as we know it will deliver the transformative changes needed" to save us from environmental catastrophe. "Weak, shallow, dangerous, and corrupted," he says, "it is the best democracy that money can buy."

Above all, Speth faults environmentalists for assuming they alone hold the key to arresting the deterioration of the planet. That task, he emphasizes, will require the involvement of activists working on campaign finance reform, corporate accountability, labor, human rights and environmental justice, to name a few. (Full disclosure: He also approvingly cites some of this reviewer's criticisms of media coverage of environmental issues.)

 

Common Dreams

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/08/13/10965/

A Frozen Katrina

by Katrina vanden Heuvel, in The Nation

As John McCain and the Republicans trumpet their election year boldfaced lie–drill now so we can lower prices at the pump today–they continue to ignore a looming energy disaster with lives hanging in the balance.

Currently, eight million homes rely on heating oil during the winter months, and last winter’s prices forced too many citizens to choose between heat, food, and medicine.

According to the New York Times, heating oil prices are now 36 percent higher than they were last winter and bills will be up to $1500 higher than they were last year. As for the 54 million households heating with natural gas, prices are expected to be 67 percent higher this winter. Current funding for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is below 1980’s levels–”a time when fuel prices were just a tiny fraction of what they are now,” The Timberjay newspapers point out. In fact, last year’s $2.5 billion in LIHEAP funding allowed just 16 percent of eligible recipients to receive aid.

Congressional representatives of New England states have sought as much as $6.5 billion in additional LIHEAP funding to meet the anticipated needs of the upcoming winter. With both lower-income and middle-class people now unable to afford this basic necessity–a requirement for security in one’s own home–newspapers in the Northeast are sounding a clarion call to head-off the impending disaster.

Meditation Moment: The Key to World Peace

"Evolving is about being able to enlarge the sphere of your concerns and activities with each day that comes. But what do we find?

Humans are concerned above all with their personal
interests and slightly with those of their family and their country, all of which leads to so many misunderstandings.

Many people will say there is no greater ideal than to work for one’s country. This is not so, because their country does not represent the whole. If everyone set to work solely for their country, it would inevitably lead to conflicts with other countries.

When you concentrate exclusively on a part of the
whole, you necessarily enter into conflict with other parts of the whole.

World peace would require people to see things from
the broadest, most universal perspective.

In order to evolve, you have to continually expand your point ofview, open your heart to an increasing number of creatures and use all your will to make the universal family a reality."

-- Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov