Monday, May 23, 2011

WATCH LIVE: Protests In Spain

Live embedded video is inside to save space on the front page. It's Friday night in Madrid and the crowd is getting anxious, and drunk.

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They've got a Thing for the Crack in The Liberty Bell.

Dog Poet Transmitting.......

‘Cry haddock and let slip the dogs of tofu’

There are many truths hidden in the symbols of this dying culture, if you know where to look. The crack in The Liberty Bell is where the truth leaked out. The signs of ancient Tantra are preeminent in The Washington Monument; a massive hard-on of hubris, pointing like a Pershing Missile at every manufactured threat abroad, so that ultimately it can be buried in the quivering minds of genus populis. As impressive as this symbol of rigid patriarchy can be, it is no match for the prophetic meaning of the Martha Washington Monument, whose location is barely mentioned in the news of our time; a five hundred foot hole in the ground located in Arlington, VA, not far away from two massive economic holes that sucked the power and virtue of the country all the way to China; The Pentagon and The CIA.

By day, the American public wrestles with hoary questions that have yet to be successfully answered; who’s buried in Grant’s tomb and what color was General Grant’s white horse? This is how it is with traditions, whose foundations and tenets lie obscured in the mist of the far past. All of these things meant something once. They must have been profound. What ever they meant is no longer clear. The meaning of the genesis and intent of the thing is buried in the dark dreams of nine ravenous vultures, which perch over the highway of a vanished time. Sulfuric acid drips from their beaky maws and pits the landscape as they dream of feasting on the road-kill of empire.

Star War stormtroopers, march across a Hollywood set in an apocalyptic fever of fascism, rampant on a field of blood and broken bodies. In millions of households, the populace sits transfixed in front of a one-eyed god, who whispers of plastic and poisoned comestibles, laid out on the smorgasbord of entropy at the end of the world and the Mississippi mirrors the tone. They dance like the characters in Childhood’s End, bathed by the warm falling, Fukushima rain.

Howdy Doody lurches to the left and lurches to the right, pointing in either direction like a Halidol basted Dr. Mengele. It’s all moot as to where he was born as we all know he was grown in a chemical bath at The Tavistock Institute; ‘not beautiful, these wasted skies, o’er amber waves of pain, for purple mountain’s travesties, above the looted plain, Amerika, Amerika’ and so forth and so on.

This is not the Smoking Mirrors I anticipated, when I arose this morning and studied the lies of the day to see how much closer we have come to a projectile vomiting Armageddon. Somewhere a critical domino trembles. Somewhere a camel groans under a mass of straw. Somewhere, terrific heat is building beneath dirty rags in the corner of Room 101. Each day that passes brings us closer to that signal moment, when the dam will no longer hold and the stew of abiding corruptions drowns the landscape and the televisions wink out.

Spain says that what’s good for Iceland is good for them. They’ve actually isolated the causes of their distress. This is good news for the rest of the world. That great ugly beast, the Zio-Ogre is panicking in its lair. It’s criminal, banking empire is being exposed in all of its bloodthirsty iniquities. It’s going to get Biblical. Finally one too many children got violated, murdered and disappeared. One too many chambermaids got chased through a luxury suite by a priapic AshkeNazi, with a feather duster up his ass. One too many brown people with Korans got flame broiled by white phosphorous and garnished with cluster bombs. The enemy of the world has been captured by a thousand iphone cameras, waving his dick in front of one too many Girl Scout troops.

One country after another is announcing that they will support the declaration of a Palestinian state. Riots are spontaneously igniting around the world, in reaction to the vampire bankers. Venal and sold out politicians are lying through their teeth but the generation of youth incarnated for this purpose are having none of it. They can’t get anywhere near the good life that the one-eyed god has promised them. They can’t work and they can’t eat but they can revolt and they will.

Throughout the police and the military, a revolution simmers and plots are made to stand aside when the moment comes. The oath-keepers are gathering in Tucson. Matt Taibbi has stuck a fork in Goldman Sachs and their stock is down 24% from a year ago. The age of darkness is crumbling, as the light of revelation pours through the cracks. The greedheads are not deterred; larger and larger bonuses for those with too much, are announced to a hungry and unemployed populace. They prance like rabid baboons upon the stages of the world. They don’t have a clue. Massive vats of tar and warehouse loads of feathers are traveling on the conveyor belts of destiny and the author of Smoking Mirrors is adrift on a sea of hyperbole and bad metaphor.

If you have eyes to see it, the whole scenario is a scripted masterpiece, half Shakespeare, half Pinter and half Stan Lee. Please don’t comment on the math. Across the dark, narcotic ocean of self interest, sails the ship of fools, bound for Lilliput and the ropes and snares of the Lilliputians. As they turn upon each other, the truth of how deep their evil runs will be revealed in all its shocking ugliness. Who would have believed that so many of the politicians, bankers and religious figures were practicing Satanists, or possessed by demons? Who would have believed they actually were engaged in child, blood sacrifices. Now we know what fears imprisoned them on the wheels of their callous actions. Now we know what they feared the exposure of. It is possibly even worse than this. We shall see.

Who knew that the slaughter of the Palestinians were actually blood offerings to Moloch and Baal? Who knew that these were ritual killings prayed over by dreadful priests, bowing and scraping before the entities of material gain? Who knew that they actually gathered in rooms, butchered babies and drank their blood? Then they cavorted in crazed orgies upon the corpses of dismembered innocence.

Who knew that police forces the world over, conspired in the kidnapping of virgin youth (‘kids’-as per the doctrine of the rituals) and possibly even delivered the bodies? ‘Who knew’, indeed? Who knew that Hollywood was awash in such crimes? Who else would they celebrate and worship? Who else would ask for such things as signs of fealty and spiritual bondage?

It’s as clear as daylight now, what has befallen us. If you cannot see it then your veils have yet to be lifted. If you cannot see this march to epic dénouement, then your fear and denial still shield you from the spectacle. They shall not long endure. Their day is arriving and even as they publicize their ridiculous claims about Iran, Russia and China nod to themselves about unknown weapons readied for response. It would be foolish to think of China as the good guys, while they assent to Lord Mandelson as the new head of the IMF. As Nietzsche said over a hundred years ago; “those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad”. So it has come to pass, as the borders of insanity are pushed more and more outward, into the empty field of Saturn, where those so driven will gnaw on their own flesh and bones, in their solitude of endless desperate hours without end.

‘Step by step and inch by inch’, they go. They are looking into funhouse mirrors. They see a false destiny that draws them like men chasing a will o’ the wisp; the lanterns of the dead shine up from the swamps. The creatures that feed on them wait in the shadows. There will be no death for them and there will be no peace. There will be fear and apprehension, so much greater than what now impels them to ever more horrible deeds.

They are intoxicated with imaginary power. Their lies have become so preposterous that even the sleeping masses turn uneasily in their beds. The world is in transformation and soon, the domino tumbles, that last straw descends upon the camel’s back, the rags burst into flames and the house of cards is ignited in a conflagration of hungry flames. It may not look like this to you but it looks this way to me. I base my hope and faith in the future upon this and- as with everything- we shall see. We shall soon see.

End Transmission.......

The Manufacturing Rebound is a Myth

Peterbilt manufacturing - Wiki Commons
Ian Fletcher

Talk of a manufacturing revival is in the air. America has, in fact, gained a quarter-million industrial jobs since the start of 2010. Unfortunately, this is less than 15 percent of the number lost during the recession. Furthermore, after this teasing uptick, U.S. manufacturing output seems to be stalling again. So, it is worth revisiting a much-denied fact I have written about before here and here: American manufacturing is in a state of profound crisis.

To get past the slew of analysis out there claiming everything is fine, it is crucial to understand why the usually quoted statistics that seem to show that American manufacturing is healthy are wrong.

First off, looking at aggregate manufacturing output, as most of these analyses do, obscures the fact that total output has only been stable (or close to it) because of a few sectors which have grown enormously. The rest of the manufacturing economy has been declining. According to a recent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:

"Most manufacturing sectors actually shrank in terms of real value-added from 2000 to 2009. In fact, from 2000 to 2009, fifteen of nineteen U.S. manufacturing sectors saw absolute declines in output; they were producing less in 2009 than they were at the start of the decade. There were declines of:

Food, beverage, and tobacco products – 0.2 percent
Electrical equipment – 2 percent
Chemicals – 3 percent
Machinery – 14 percent
Printing – 15 percent
Wood products – 16 percent
Motor vehicles – 18 percent
Fabricated metals – 27 percent
Nonmetallic minerals and primary metals – 28 percent
Paper – 28 percent
Plastics – 31 percent
Apparel – 40 percent
Furniture – 43 percent
Textiles – 43 percent"

The bottom line? Fifteen manufacturing sectors, comprising nearly 80 percent of U.S. manufacturing output, produced less in 2009 than in 2000.

What were the wonder sectors that made up for all this decline? Mineral fuels (coal, oil, gas) and computers. Unfortunately, there are good reasons to believe that the apparent soaring of American fuel output is illusory. Coal output was unchanged 2000-2010, according to the Energy Information Agency, and gas output declined somewhat, so oil must have boomed spectacularly for these numbers to be right. (It hasn’t.) Most of this increase in output is simply the rising price of oil. In any case, classifying oil extraction (not production!) as a manufacturing sector is dubious, for obvious reasons.

What does our manufacturing sector look like if we correct for these distortions? If we assume no real increase in oil production, and assume that the computer sector expanded by a more-realistic 50 percent during this period, American manufacturing’s real (inflation adjusted) output declined by nine percent. Even if we bump up our assumptions about the computers and electronics sector considerably, we still get decline.

To be fair, other analyses of the problem have produced different numbers. This is to be expected, as not all these analyses measure exactly the same things. But their general conclusion is consistent. For example, economist Susan Houseman has reported that while total manufacturing output grew 1.18% per year from 1997 to 2007, it grew by just 0.46% per year once the computers and electronics are taken out of the picture. That’s anemic.

Computers are fine things, and it’s understandable that they would be a growing part of our economy. But this is hardly a picture of a healthy manufacturing sector. It’s an image of broad-based decline covered up by a boom in one industry.

Consider now manufacturing employment, as opposed to output.

Isn’t the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment simply due to the relentless march of factory automation, and therefore a good thing? No. If the decline in manufacturing employment were due simply to the endless march of automation, we would expect to see slowly declining employment in this sector since a peak shortly after WWII. But instead, what see is a relatively stable employment level, but then things fall off a cliff after Y2K. See the chart below (source):

But there was no revolution in manufacturing technology in Y2K that suddenly started radically reducing the number of workers needed, which is what would have to be true for the above decline to be due to technological progress. So these numbers are a sign that outright decline, especially a yawning trade deficit, is responsible, not gradual technological change.

In any case, Luddite mythology aside, automation per se doesn’t hurt overall manufacturing employment—as suggested by the fact that Japan, which leads the world in number of robots, also has a higher percentage of its workforce in manufacturing than the U.S.

If you think about it, this makes sense, as if automation enables nine workers to do what ten used to do, those nine are now a better bargain—which increases the incentive to hire them. (In energy economics, this fact is called Jevons Paradox.

So don’t blame technology for our job losses. If anything, it’s a lack of workplace technology, compared to our rivals, that is costing us jobs.

This lack of technology ultimately traces, of course, to a failure to invest in upgrading the manufacturing workplace. If companies continue to invest in manufacturing, whether this takes the form of physical plant or intangibles like research and development, their manufacturing operations will tend to remain healthy. If they don’t, they will gradually exit the manufacturing business as their existing plant and know-how become obsolete over time. They may survive (or not!) as designers and packagers of goods manufactured by others, but they will no longer be manufacturing companies.

This means that the writing is on the wall for American manufacturing, as it is falling behind our competitors in the investment race. From 2000 to 2008, our capital investment in manufacturing as a percent of GDP was lower than that of most of our major peer economies. Indeed, between 2000 and 2009, capital investment within the U.S. by American manufacturers went down by more than seven percent. As a result, most American manufacturing industries are now less well capitalized than they were a decade ago.

American companies are not only running down their own productive capacity here at home, they are building up the capacity of foreign nations. From 2000 to 2009, their manufacturing investment abroad averaged 16 percent higher than manufacturing investment at home.

It is no accident that many foreign nations are simply not having the same experience of industrial decline that we are. Despite the myth that manufacturing necessarily declines in advanced nations, the truth is that, over the last decade, many other developed nations have seen manufacturing as a percent of their GDP remain stable, or even increase. In the “stable” category belong Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. In the “increase” category go Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and South Korea. (Source)

The final blemish on the supposed manufacturing revival in America is the fact that the few industrial jobs that are returning to the U.S. are returning at much lower pay scales than before. For example, the Suarez Corp. is reopening a former Hoover plant in North Canton, Ohio to produce EdenPure space heaters, vacuums, air purifiers and other small appliances it previously made in China. But while the Hoover plant used to pay its workers around $20/hr before it shut in 2007, the new jobs will pay $7.50/hr.

This is not the formula for a middle-class economy, now or in the future.

Ian Fletcher is Senior Economist of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a nationwide grass-roots organization dedicated to fixing America’s trade policies and comprising representatives from business, agriculture, and labor. He was previously Research Fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington think tank founded in 1933 and before that, an economist in private practice serving mainly hedge funds and private equity firms. Educated at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, he lives in San Francisco. He is the author of Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What Should Replace It and Why.

US, Pakistan Near Open War; Chinese Ultimatum Warns Washington Against Attack

Anthony Freda Illustration
Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D

China has officially put the United States on notice that Washington’s planned attack on Pakistan will be interpreted as an act of aggression against Beijing. This blunt warning represents the first known strategic ultimatum received by the United States in half a century, going back to Soviet warnings during the Berlin crisis of 1958-1961, and indicates the grave danger of general war growing out of the US-Pakistan confrontation.

“Any Attack on Pakistan Would be Construed as an Attack on China”
Responding to reports that China has asked the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty in the aftermath of the Bin Laden operation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu used a May 19 press briefing to state Beijing’s categorical demand that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan must be respected.” According to Pakistani diplomatic sources cited by the Times of India, China has “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.”

This ultimatum was reportedly delivered at the May 9 China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington, where the Chinese delegation was led by Vice Prime Minister Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo.1 Chinese warnings are implicitly backed up by that nation’s nuclear missiles, including an estimated 66 ICBMs, some capable of striking the United States, plus 118 intermediate-range missiles, 36 submarine-launched missiles, and numerous shorter-range systems.

Support from China is seen by regional observers as critically important for Pakistan, which is otherwise caught in a pincers between the US and India: “If US and Indian pressure continues, Pakistan can say ‘China is behind us. Don’t think we are isolated, we have a potential superpower with us,’” Talat Masood, a political analyst and retired Pakistani general, told AFP.2

The Chinese ultimatum came during the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani in Beijing, during which the host government announced the transfer of 50 state-of-the-art JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, immediately and without cost.3 Before his departure, Gilani had stressed the importance of the Pakistan-China alliance, proclaiming: “We are proud to have China as our best and most trusted friend. And China will always find Pakistan standing beside it at all times….When we speak of this friendship as being taller than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans it truly captures the essence of our relationship.”4 These remarks were greeted by whining from US spokesmen, including Idaho Republican Senator Risch.

The simmering strategic crisis between the United States and Pakistan exploded with full force on May 1, with the unilateral and unauthorized US commando raid alleged to have killed the phantomatic Osama bin Laden in a compound at Abottabad, a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s national sovereignty. The timing of this military stunt designed to inflame tensions between the two countries had nothing to do with any alleged Global War on Terror, and everything to do with the late March visit to Pakistan of Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian National Security Council chief. This visit had resulted in a de facto alliance between Islamabad and Riyadh, with Pakistan promising troops to put down any US-backed color revolution in the kingdom, while extending nuclear protection to the Saudis, thus making them less vulnerable to US extortion threats to abandon the oil-rich monarchy to the tender mercies of Tehran. A joint move by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to break out of the US empire, whatever one may think of these regimes, would represent a fatal blow for the fading US empire in South Asia.

As for the US claims concerning the supposed Bin Laden raid of May 1, they are a mass of hopeless contradictions which changes from day to day. An analysis of this story is best left to literary critics and writers of theatrical reviews. The only solid and uncontestable fact which emerges is that Pakistan is the leading US target — thus intensifying the anti-Pakistan US policy which has been in place since Obama’s infamous December 2009 West Point speech.

Gilani: Full Force Retaliation to Defend Pakistan’s Strategic Assets
The Chinese warning to Washington came on the heels of Gilani’s statement to the Pakistan Parliament declaring: “Let no one draw any wrong conclusions. Any attack against Pakistan’s strategic assets, whether overt or covert, will find a matching response…. Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force. No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland.”5 A warning of full force retaliation from a nuclear power such as Pakistan needs to be taken seriously, even by the hardened aggressors of the Obama regime.

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Goldman Plunges, As Market Cap Shrinks By $8.3 Billion Just Since The Matt Taibbi Takedown

If you haven't been paying attention, Goldman Sachs shares have been in freefall.

They lost over 3% Friday amid a slew of headlines about imminent subpoenas related to Blankfein, the firm's activities during the crisis, and just generally for being the much-reviled Goldman Sachs.

The stock has lost over 10% in just the last week since Matt Taibbi wrote his latest takedown, costing the firm over $8 billion in market cap.

From its 52-week high made earlier this year, the stock is off 24%.

At $134, it's only barely above its $129 book value, meaning that either A) people don't believe that the company's book value is real, or b) the value of the Goldman Sachs franchise has been reduced to $5/share, or just over $2.5 billion, based on 517 million shares outstanding.

The stock is only barely above where it was at its depths last summer, before it settled civil fraud charges from the SEC.

Panic time, and of course, another sign of the rapture.

Read more:

Foreclosure flood may not have crested yet

If the national foreclosure crisis were a baseball game, we would be in about the top of the sixth. And we may have to go to extra innings.

Since the housing market peaked in 2006, some 6.5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure. There are likely another 4.3 million more homeowners who are “seriously delinquent,” meaning they are more than three months behind in their payments, according to data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association this week. Many of those homeowners will soon enter the foreclosure pipeline.

Though the pace of new foreclosures has fallen recently, that is largely the result of lenders choking on the torrent of paperwork created by the millions of foreclosures already in progress.

After lenders tried to speed the process and cut corners by “robo-signing” documents, bank regulators last month ordered them to clean up their act – saying those practices had jeopardized the “safety and soundness” of the banking system. Some 14 of the biggest mortgage lenders were ordered to come up with a plan to fix the problem within 60 days. When they do, analysts expect the pace of foreclosures to pick up again.

There is some good news in the latest data. The number of “early-stage” delinquencies —people who are between one and three months behind in their payments — has fallen, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics. As of April, 1.9 million first mortgage loans were 30 to 90 days overdue — down from a peak of 2.7 million in April 2009. Zandi says the “normal” level of early stage delinquencies is about 1.5 million.

That means the flood of people falling behind on their mortgages — due to exploding mortgage payments, job loss or other reasons — may have peaked. But those 4.3 million “seriously delinquent” homeowners have yet to receive foreclosure notices, which means the river has not yet crested downstream.

Story: Home sales dip shows slow housing recovery

When those foreclosures occur, they will create another wave of “distressed” sales as banks move quickly to move those properties off their books. Distressed sales have been the major force pushing home prices lower; if the price of the foreclosed house across the street falls by 25 percent, you’ll have a pretty hard time convincing someone to buy your house at “full price.”

Falling prices mean many homeowners owe more than their home is worth. As of the end of last year more than 11 million — or 23 percent — of borrowers were in a "negative equity position," according to the data out this week from CoreLogic. Collectively those homeowners owe their lenders $750 billion more than their properties are worth.

With very few lenders willing to modify mortgage terms, some of those homeowners are opting to walk away.

Builders, meanwhile, continue to sit on the sidelines. Housing starts fell sharply in April – due in part to the severe weather that battered much of the South. With home prices still falling and the cost of materials rising, there are few reasons encouraging builders to get back in the game.

During the peak of the housing boom, investment in residential real estate accounted for roughly 6.1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. That has fallen to just 2.1 percent – the lowest level since the Great Depression according to Dales of Capital Economics. He figures new home construction will remain depressed for as long as another four years.

The good news on distressed sales is that they may have peaked, according to the National Association of Realtors. Home prices continued to fall in April, and the median home price was 5 percent lower than a year ago. But the share of distressed sales shrank a bit -from 40 percent in March to 37 percent in April.

“In terms of house prices, what matters is the share of sales that are distressed,” said Zandi. “We’re going to have an elevated level of foreclosure for an extended period. But the impact on price is going to abate by this time next year as the share begins to go back down.”

Zandi estimates home prices will fall another 3 to 5 percent before leveling off over the next 18 to 24 months.

Those national averages mask a wide range of conditions from one part of the country to the next.

Many parts of the Midwest that avoided the excesses of the housing boom have been spared the pain of the bust. Most of it is being felt in a handful of states. Roughly a quarter of all mortgages in foreclosure are in Florida.

“We have areas of recovery, but those numbers are often overwhelmed by the bad numbers still coming out of a few large states," said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.