Tomgram: Nick Turse, Closing Down Main Street

March 7, 2009

February 22, 2009
Tomgram: Nick Turse, Closing Down Main Street

[Note for TomDispatch readers: Last week, I asked you to consider writing friends, colleagues, relatives — whomever — to urge them to go to the “sign up” window at the upper right of TD’s main screen, put in their email addresses, and receive the mailing that offers notification whenever a new post goes up. (Word of mouth is, of course, still the major kind of publicity this site can afford.) A number of you did so and TD got a nice stream of new subscribers. So, many thanks indeed! If some of you meant to do this but didn’t quite get around to it, now’s as perfect a time as any. Lots of good posts coming up, so please pass the word! By the way, let me offer special thanks to those of you who, unbidden, used the site contribution button (“Resist empire. Support TomDispatch”) and sent in contributions. Your generosity allows the site to offer younger writers like Dahr Jamail and Nick Turse a few extra $$$s for all their hard work. It matters. Tom]

As I read an early version of today’s third (but by no means last) piece in Nick Turse’s Tough Times series, I couldn’t help thinking about an old line that, by my childhood in the 1950s, had become a kind of national folk wisdom: “As General Motors goes, so goes the nation.” (Indeed, as befit the rise of the U.S. as an imperial power, “nation” was sometimes replaced with “world.”) Of course, in those days, if you were the head of General Motors, it wasn’t so unreasonable to imagine that you controlled the fate of the nation and the planet. Not only were you atop a global powerhouse of a company, but you might still be going places.

After all, in 1953, Charles Wilson, GM’s president, did become President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secretary of defense. Asked in his Senate confirmation hearings whether he would have a problem making governmental decisions that might not be in the interest of GM, he famously replied that he found it hard to imagine a conflict of interest “because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” (Soon, that would be simplified to: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”)

Only a few years after Wilson stepped down, a new President, John F. Kennedy, asked Ford’s president, Robert S. McNamara, to step into the very same post. At that moment, it seemed true indeed that, as Big Auto went, so went the world. Of course, that was before McNamara and his “whiz kids” got us deep into, but not out of, the Vietnam War. Now, that’s so much ancient history — though today, you might imagine a new version of the old adage, based on Bush and Obama administration staffing decisions at the Treasury Department: What’s good for Goldman Sachs is good for the country.

In any case, if Wilson’s statement seems like history, the old GM line doesn’t. As General Motors goes, so goes America. How sadly true. We know just how GM is going these days — down the tubes; and, as Nick Turse indicates in his latest post, so go the towns and small cities not only in the vicinity of the Big Three’s collapse, but countrywide. Tom

Tough Times in Troubled Towns
America’s Municipal Meltdowns
By Nick Turse

When Barack Obama traveled to Elkhart, Indiana, to push his $800 billion economic recovery package two weeks ago, he made the former “RV capital of the world” a poster-child for the current economic crisis. Over the last year, as the British paper The Independent reported, “Practically the entire [recreational vehicle] industry has disappeared,” leaving thousands of RV workers in Elkhart and the surrounding area out of work. As Daily Show host Jon Stewart summed the situation up: “Imagine your main industry combines the slowdown of the auto market with the plunging values in the housing sector.” Unfortunately, the pain in Elkhart is no joke, and it only grew worse recently when local manufacturers Keystone RV Co. and Jayco Inc. announced more than 500 additional job cuts.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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ICH: Ron Paul: The Creation of the Second Great Depression

September 26, 2008
The Creation of the Second Great Depression
By Ron Paul
Whenever a Great Bipartisan Consensus is announced, and a compliant media assures everyone that the wondrous actions of our wise leaders are being taken for our own good, you can know with absolute certainty that disaster is about to strike. The events of the past week are no exception.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20862.htm
====
Show Us the Money
By William Greider
Taxpayers should wake up the politicians and ask them to tell Wall Street: “We want the same deal Warren Buffett got.”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20867.htm
====
Richest Americans See Their Income Share Grow
By Jesse Drucker
In a new sign of increasing inequality in the U.S., the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation’s adjusted gross income for two decades, and possibly the highest since 1929, according to Internal Revenue Service data.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20863.htm
====
America’s Elephant In The Room
By David Michael Green
The scope of the destruction is breathtaking to gaze upon. The rapidity with which American affluence and power and respect and responsibility were converted into their opposite numbers is mind-boggling.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20868.htm
====
McCain’s Debate Ploy
By Michael Tomasky
A move so unserious, contemptible and cynical that it’s hard to imagine how they even thought of it.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20866.htm
====
====
The New World War
The Silence Is A Lie
By John Pilger
It is a war of the world. In Latin America, the Bush administration is fomenting incipient military coups in Venezuela, Bolivia, and possibly Paraguay, democracies whose governments have opposed Washington’s historic rapacious intervention in its “backyard”. Washington’s “Plan Colombia” is the model for a mostly unreported assault on Mexico.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20864.htm
====
Morales Cites “Evidence” of U.S. Meddling
By Haider Rizvi
Bolivian President Evo Morales reiterated the charge Tuesday that the U.S. government was plotting to overthrow his government and that Washington had a hand in the recent episodes of violence in which a number of his supporters were killed and wounded by opposition gangs.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20860.htm
====
The Destabilization of Bolivia and the “Kosovo Option”
By Michel Chossudovsky
The death squads armed with automatic weapons responsible for killing supporters of Evo Morales in El Porvenir are supported covertly by the US. According to one report, “USAID has an “Office of Transition Initiatives” operating in Bolivia, funneling millions of dollars of training and support to right-wing opposition regional governments and movements.”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20861.htm
====
The Future Is One Nation
The two-state approach in the Middle East has failed. There is a fairer, more durable solution
By Ghada Karmi
Imagine the scene: the United Nations general assembly meets to discuss a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Unlike previous resolutions, which have been based on a Jewish state in most of historic Palestine with Palestinians relegated to the remnants, this one calls for a new state, covering what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, whose present and former inhabitants are equal under the law. Such a resolution has, in fact, already been drafted and discussions have begun to place it on the agenda at the UN.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20865.htm
===
Horrors of War Our Leaders Never Have to Confront
By Robert Fisk
Private James Owen was to describe how an enraged friend was trying to bayonet another German. “He lunged at the German again and again, who each time lowered his arms and stopped the point of the bayonet with his bare hands. He was screaming for mercy. Oh God it was brutal!”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20856.htm
====
The Blood of Dresden
By Kurt Vonnegut
The author Kurt Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in Dresden during the allied bombing raids and was later forced to dig out bodies from the ruined city. In papers discovered by his son after his death last year, he provides a searing eyewitness account of the ‘obscene brutality’ that inspired his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20857.htm
====

Heather Wokusch: Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?

September 26, 2008

It’s good to hear back from my American friend, progressive writer, author, political commentator and blogger, Heather Wokusch.  Check out her two short videos and following links:

I’ve been on a short break from blogging, but recent events have gotten me riled up! If you have strong opinions about the Bush administration’s ‘toxic debt’ bailout and/or destabilization of Pakistan and Iran, then check out the ten-minute video I made called ‘Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?’ here:

Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?

The video provides background and context into these dangerous developments, as well as ideas for taking action.

I hope to be back to blogging on a regular basis soon, but for now, check out:
Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?

Links for sources cited in the video:

Bailout:
Crisis talks over $700B ‘toxic debt’ rescue plan
Bush: “The American people have got to know that I made this decision along with a lot of experts because it was necessary to protect them.”

Pakistan:
Washington is Risking War with Pakistan

The American War Moves to Pakistan

Iran:
Preparing The Battlefield July 07, 2008

Dutch intel: US to strike Iran in coming weeks September 1, 08

Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran September 11, 08

U.S. to sell IAF smart bombs for heavily fortified targets September 14, 08

Bush could still attack Iran September 17 08


Tomgram: William Astore, Rebuilding America, Remaking Ourselves

September 24, 2008

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Again, thanks to all of you who offered your hard-earned dollars to help this site via the new “Support TomDispatch. Resist Empire.” button. Believe me, that was truly appreciated. Be forewarned, I’m traveling this week and may turn out to be an even worse correspondent than usual for those of you who write in. Last week, I also appealed to all of you to consider writing friends, colleagues, relatives to suggest that they go to the “sign up” window at the upper right of the TomDispatch main screen, put in their email addresses, and sign on for the new, snazzily updated site mailing that offers notification whenever a post goes up. (Word of mouth is, of course, still the major kind of publicity this site can afford.) A number of you did so and TD got a small flood of new subscribers. So, many thanks indeed! If some of you meant to do this and didn’t quite get around to it, now’s as perfect a time as any. Lots of good posts upcoming, so please pass the word!]

When you can read a piece headlined in the Wall Street Journal, “Worst Crisis Since ’30s, With No End Yet in Sight” — with passages like, “Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, walking into a hastily arranged meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday night to brief them on the government’s unprecedented rescue of AIG, looked like exhausted surgeons delivering grim news to the family” — you know you’re at a new moment in our history. Recently, thinking about the American experience in the 1930s, I was wondering why the present administration was now so willing to throw vast sums at the speculators, who thought nothing of the rest of us in their high times, and not even crumbs to Americans; why no one calls us to “the colors” of civil society, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did then. Fortunately, along came TomDispatch regular William Astore with the following post, based on memories of his father’s days in the Civilian Conservation Corps. (That program, which put so many Americans to work rebuilding the country, was, by the way, the one New Deal initiative that even Republicans, even the fiercest opponents of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came to admire.) Tom

Hey, Government! How About Calling on Us?

Reviving National Service in a Big Way

By William J. Astore
Lately, our news has focused on tropical depressions maturing into monster hurricanes that leave devastation in their wake — and I’m not just talking about Gustav and Ike. Today, we face a perfect storm of financial devastation, notable for the enormity of the greed that generated it and the somnolent response of our government in helping Americans left devastated in its wake.

As unemployment rates soar to their highest level in five years and home construction sinks to its lowest level in 17 years, all our federal government seems able to do is buy up to $700 billion in “distressed” mortgage-related assets, bail-out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (at a cost of roughly $200 billion) or “loan” $85 billion to liquidate insurance giant AIG. If you’re Merrill Lynch, you get a hearing; if you’re just plain Marilyn Lynch of Topeka, what you get is a recession, a looming depression, and a federal tax bill for the fat-cat bail-outs.

But, amazingly enough, ordinary Americans generally don’t want bail-outs, nor do they want handouts. What they normally want is honorable work, decent wages, and a government willing to wake up and help them contribute to a national restoration.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Mike Whitney: Mushroom Cloud over Wall Street

September 23, 2008

In his latest post on his blog at The Smirking Chimp, Mike Whitney paints a very dark picture ahead for the U.S.:

“One bank to rule them all;
One bank to bind them…”

These are dark times. While you were sleeping the cockroaches were busy about their work, rummaging through the US Constitution, and putting the finishing touches on a scheme to assert absolute power over the nation’s financial markets and the country’s economic future. Industry representative Henry Paulson has submitted legislation to congress that will finally end the pretense that Bush controls anything more than reading the lines from a 4′ by 6′ teleprompter situated just inches from his lifeless pupils. Paulson is in charge now, and the coronation is set for sometime early next week. He rose to power in a stealthily-executed Bankster’s Coup in which he, and his coterie of dodgy friends, declared martial law on the US economy while elevating himself to supreme leader.

“All Hail Caesar!” The days of the republic are over.

Section 8 of the proposed legislation says it all:

“Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Right; “non-reviewable” supremacy.

[…]

Read the remainder of this post here.


Arianna Huffington: The Bailout Plan: Welcome to Economic Shock and Awe

September 23, 2008

In the preface to her post, Arianna Huffington has this to say about the Paulson bailout package:

“Over the past 30 years, Americans have been bombarded with sermons evangelizing for the free market religion of the Right. In the course of selling us on buying, the market-worshippers tried to convince us that all concerns about the most vulnerable members of society could be left up to the soulless, self-correcting calculus of supply and demand. Government involvement was an anachronism, regulatory oversight an impediment. The last few weeks have demolished that notion. In the battle over the proper role of government, the high priests of the church of the Free Market — including Bush, Paulson, and the Masters of Wall Street — have suffered a monumental defeat. So why are we allowing them to dictate the terms of their surrender?

Arianna begins her corresponding article The Bailout Plan: Welcome to Economic Shock and Awe with this:

See if this sounds familiar:

There is a gathering threat to the safety of the United States. We must take immediate action. Congress must quickly grant the President and the Secretary what they want and also give them full and unfettered authority to execute the plan.

Welcome to Economic Shock and Awe (or as some have dubbed it, according to Paul Krugman, “the Authorization for Use of Financial Force”).

Even the amount of taxpayer money being bandied about — $1 trillion — is similar. Think you got your money’s worth for the Iraq war? Congratulations — you’re about to buy another pricey debacle.

[…]

Read the rest of this article here.


Dirty Secret Of The Bailout: Thirty-Two Words That None Dare Utter

September 23, 2008

This post by Jason Linkins in The Huffington Post sheds light on the proposed Bush Administration bailout package:

A critical – and radical – component of the bailout package proposed by the Bush administration has thus far failed to garner the serious attention of anyone in the press. Section 8 (which ironically reminds one of the popular name of the portion of the 1937 Housing Act that paved the way for subsidized affordable housing ) of this legislation is just a single sentence of thirty-two words, but it represents a significant consolidation of power and an abdication of oversight authority that’s so flat-out astounding that it ought to set one’s hair on fire. It reads, in its entirety:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

In short, the so-called “mother of all bailouts,” which will transfer $700 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase the distressed assets of several failed financial institutions, will be conducted in a manner unchallengeable by courts and ungovernable by the People’s duly sworn representatives. All decision-making power will be consolidated into the Executive Branch – who, we remind you, will have the incentive to act upon this privilege as quickly as possible, before they leave office. The measure will run up the budget deficit by a significant amount, with no guarantee of recouping the outlay, and no fundamental means of holding those who fail to do so accountable.

[…]

Read the rest of this article here.