How Do Barney Fife and Fidel Castro Factor Into the Biggest News Story of the Year?

by Scott Creighton

I wish to see if I can connect a few dots here, so bear with me.

Putting aside “ISIS™” for a moment and the “Big Story” about some talking head on MSNBC lying to folks (yeah, there’s some news for you) what are the biggest geopolitical trends in the news today? Is it the fact that Syriza, the new “Radical Left™” brand of 3rd Way centrist ideology (think “CHANGE™” circa 2008) seems to have forgotten what the term “odious debt” means?

In international law, odious debt, also known as illegitimate debt, is a legal theory that holds that the national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation, should not be enforceable. Such debts are, thus, considered by this doctrine to be personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state. In some respects, the concept is analogous to the invalidity of contracts signed under coercion. Wiki

Is that the biggest story in the world today? Well, if you consider the fact that international debt has risen by 57 trillion dollars since the global economic terrorism of 2008, coupled with the fact that much if not ALL of that new additional debt may be declared odious were Greece to set the precedent, well, that could very well be the story of the year. The story of the decade or the millennium in fact.

But it isn’t, because they wont (“use us to implement the European programme” Varoufakis).

And the usually antagonistic ones, the Webster Tarpley’s of the “interwebs”, aren’t really calling for Syriza to live up to their campaign pledge and do that.

How about “ISIS™”? Now that the MTV music video director and their team made that “burning man” video, seems like all the world wants a piece of “ISIS™” butt.

We have senators and congressman lining up to get in front of anyone with a camera so they can pledge their undying devotion to autocratic, despotic regimes like those in Jordan, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar for the sole purpose of providing them weapons and training, all paid for with your tax dollars while they say they can’t afford to pay teachers here in the states.

No money for teachers or disabled folks but we got butt-loads of cash to heap on dictators from the Middle East to help bomb Syria into regime change. Funny how that works, ain’t it?

We have “progressive” TV personalities spending enormous amounts of their airtime proving what warmongering hawks they can be just like the neocons of yesteryear they pilloried for a decade.

We have the Obama administration, the President Peace Prize farce, presenting their own version, a hand-crafted document they expect to be passed without debate, authorizing war anywhere, anytime against anyone they say is supporting “ISIS™”. That new AUMF document, one usually crafted by congress, will be slapped on the desks of leading congressmen sometime today or tomorrow. It’s something this president has wanted since they created “ISIS™” now that the old one from 2001 is a bit sketchy considering the fact that it names al Qaeda as the enemy and we now call them “moderates” and are funding them in Syria.

And all of this is based on what? A ridiculous MTV-styled video custom made for the purpose of providing the pretext for what is happening right now and released on the very same day the King of Jordan was visiting Obama and congress looking for money to fight “ISIS™”. (I will write more about that video later this morning)

Are those the biggest stories in the world today?

No. Not in my opinion.

So what is? What is the one big story everyone knows about and no one is talking about and how does Barney Fife and Fidel Castro of all people fit into this? Have I gone crazy? Inquiring minds want to know.

Continue reading

Fed Delays Volcker Rule, Giving Wall Street Another Holiday Gift

by Zach Carter, Huffington Post

Christmas came early for Wall Street this year. The Federal Reserve on Thursday granted banks an extra year to comply with a key provision of the Volcker Rule, a move that gives financial lobbyists more time to kill the new regulation before it goes into effect.

The Volcker Rule is a key element of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law that bans banks from engaging in proprietary trading — speculative deals that are designed only to benefit the bank itself, rather than its clients. Thursday’s move by the Fed gives banks an additional year to unwind investments in private equity firms, hedge funds and specialty securities projects. The central bank also said it plans to extend the deadline by another 12 months next year, which would give Wall Street a two-year reprieve through the 2016 presidential election.

The Fed’s delay comes less than a week after Congress granted Wall Street a reprieve from another reform that had been mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The measure, known as the swaps push-out rule had eliminated federal subsidies for trading in risky derivatives — the complex contracts at the heart of the 2008 banking meltdown. Bank watchdogs say the Volcker Rule delay adds insult to injury.

[read more here]

Detroit auctions city assets for pennies on the dollar

by Seraphine Collins and Andre Damon, from the WSWS

On the side of the Lodge Freeway, a few blocks from Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison neighborhood, stand, row upon row, acre upon acre, hundreds of city maintenance vehicles—backhoes, snow plows, and lighting and utility trucks—all newly-painted and cleaned.

It looks as though these vehicles have been lined up for some great task; perhaps, at any moment, thousands of workers will arrive at the lot, man the cabins, and stream into America’s poorest large city to repair its thousands of broken street and traffic lights, fill the potholes that mar nearly every street, prepare its antiquated drainage system for the harsh Michigan winter, and remove the trash piled up in neighborhoods and parks.

But these vehicles have been assembled to a different end. As part of the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, the city has turned over nearly 500 vehicles and other pieces of city infrastructure, the vast majority of them in completely functional condition, for auction to the highest bidder.

Over 130 public lighting vehicles, 120 garbage trucks, more than 70 busses, and 24 lift buckets are parked in the vacant lot of the Herman Kiefer Health Complex, which was shuttered earlier this year and is itself being auctioned off.

The city sold the vehicles to Hilco Industrial and Miedema Auctioneering and Appraisals, who are conducting the auction, for $5 million. The garbage trucks alone, new, cost more than three times that amount.

“Historic” was the word that Isidor Strom, the co-owner of a small used truck parts business who was browsing the vehicles Wednesday, used to describe the sale. “Earth shattering. The biggest auction I have ever seen.”

Asked why the city was selling off the vehicles, Isidor did not mince words. “To f**k the workers in the city of Detroit.” He made his attitude clear: “I’m not happy about it; I don’t like it.”

[read more here]

The US Housing Market is Still “Flat on its Back”

from Mike Whitney, CounterPunch

Get a load of this chart from DataQuick’s National Home Sales Snapshot. It’ll tell you everything need to know about housing.

As you can see, prices are flatlining or drifting lower while sales are sinking like a stone. That’s the whole ball of wax, isn’t it?

Sure, sales will increase in the spring (as they always do), but judging by the sharp dropoff in last year’s hottest markets, this could be the crappiest spring selling season since the crash.

Why?

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(Note: MSA=metropolitan statistical area)

Because prices are too high, rates are too high, “organic” demand is too weak, credit is too tight, and the pool of potential buyers has shrunk to the size of a walnut, that’s why.The banks have reduced the percentage of distressed homes (foreclosures and short sales) on the market to roughly 11 percent from 59 percent in 2009. Fewer distressed homes mean higher prices, but higher prices mean fewer sales. It’s a trade-off. The banks get their money, but the market goes to hell. That’s how it works. According to most estimates, there are roughly 4.5 million homes in some stage of foreclosure. That means that –at the present pace–we should get through this Housing Depression a few weeks before Judgment Day. But don’t hold me to that.

Did you catch this gem on Bloomberg last week? It’s about the big private equity guys exiting the market. Take a look:

“Blackstone Group LP is slowing its purchases of houses to rent amid soaring prices after a buying binge made it the biggest U.S. single-family home landlord. Blackstone’s acquisition pace has declined 70 percent from its peak last year, when the private equity firm was spending more than $100 million a week on properties, said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for the New York-based firm…” (Blackstone’s Home Buying Binge Ends as Prices Surge, Bloomberg)

Okay, so the speculators are getting out of housing. How’s that going to effect the market?

No one really knows yet, but it can’t be good, after all, all-cash deals amounted to nearly 50 percent of all homes sales in many of the hotter markets last year. That’s why prices went up even though the economy was still in the shitter, because the fatcats were loading up on cheap real estate. Now it looks like they’re headed for the hills. That’s NOT going to be good for sales.

Did you know that existing home sales have dropped for six months straight, dipping below trend to the same level they were at in 1998?

But how can that be, you ask, when everyone’s blabbing about the recovery? How can that be when the Fed has purchased more than $1.4 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and rates are a measly 4.5%? How can that be prices have been climbing higher for more than a year?

[read the rest, here]

Five years of Obama’s “recovery”

by Patrick Martin, WSWS

This week marks five years since the New York Stock Exchange hit its low point at the bottom of the financial crash that erupted with the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank. On March 6, 2009, Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its post-collapse low of 6,443. Three days later, on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 hit its post-collapse low of 676.

Yesterday, at the close of stock trading for the week, the Dow Jones average closed at 16,452, up a colossal 10,000 points over five years, or 154 percent. The S&P 500 stood at 1,878, rising even faster than the Dow, gaining 170 percent over five years.

These are only the most striking of a barrage of numbers reported in recent weeks, demonstrating that for the US financial aristocracy, the Crash of 2008 has been used to engineer a historic redistribution of wealth.

Continue reading

Ukraine’s Brown Revolution: Brought to you by your friends at the IMF

by Scott Creighton

Just a couple of quotes from recent articles to put all of this Ukrainian “democracy” into perspective for you.

  • Among the reasons Mr. Yanukovych turned away from signing political and trade accords with Europe in November was his unwillingness to carry out austerity measures and other reforms that the International Monetary Fund had demanded in exchange for a large assistance packageNew York Times
  • A $15 billion bailout package secured by Mr. Yanukovych from Russia in December has been suspended, and Ukraine is now hurtling toward default. New York Times
  • Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the leader in Parliament of the Fatherland Party and a leading contender to serve as acting prime minister, pleaded with colleagues to swiftly reach an agreement on the designation of an interim government, which is needed to formally request emergency economic assistance from the International Monetary Fund. New York Times
  • The International Monetary Fund has made clear that it will demand austerity measures and other long-stalled economic changes in exchange for any assistance package. New York Times

As I have written in the past, the color revolution currently unfolding in Thailand was also brought to you by your friends at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as was the illegal Washington backed coup in Egypt.

 

A bankers’ plan for Detroit

from the WSWS

The proposal submitted late last week by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to the federal court overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy is a blueprint for a devastating attack on the working class of the city. The “plan of adjustment” would be better termed the “plan of destruction,” targeting pensions, health care and core public assets, including the world-renowned Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

Orr’s plan confirms the central premise of the Workers Inquiry into the Bankruptcy of Detroit held by the Socialist Equality Party on February 15: A crime is being perpetrated, one that is the product of a political conspiracy involving both big business parties and all the institutions of the state.

A New York Times article over the weekend compared, approvingly, what is taking place in Detroit to the restructuring of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Indeed, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was used as an opportunity to depopulate sections of the city and go after basic social rights, including the handing over of public education to for-profit charter schools.

[read the rest, here]

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