Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why the latest eurozone bail-out is destined to fail within weeks

I want last week's European bail-out to work. My sincere hope is that collective and decisive action by the eurozone's large member states will stabilize global markets, at least for a while, so allowing the global economy to catch its breath. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a press conference held at the end of a Eurozone summit at the Justus Lipsius building, EU headquarters in Brussels
Last week's eurozone "agreement", for all the related fanfare, was a case in point. Far from making the situation clearer, allowing investors to make considered assessments, this latest announcement made Western Europe's grotesque debt crisis even more acute, sowing further infectious spores of confusion. Photo: AFP

As someone who works in financial services, I follow the markets – in the West, across Asia and the entire world – closer than most. Since the Bear Stearns collapse in March 2008, through the demise of Lehman Brothers and its ghastly aftermath, much of my professional life has been dominated by the angry flashing of those little lights on a Bloomberg screen.
In recent years, the violent gyrations on financial markets have been deeply discomforting, causing angst among market professionals, like me – but that is the least significant aspect. For those little lights represent, of course, the ebbs and flows of cash which, in turn, determines the fate of real businesses. It is at the sharp end of employment and livelihoods, dispossessed homes and broken families that the human impact of financial turbulence is most keenly felt.
So, yes, I want such turbulence, which will never be fully-eradicated, nor should it be in a free-market system, to now lessen to more manageable levels. Yet the responses of our politicians to recent financial troubles – hiding behind complexity and kicking the can down the road – have not only failed to temper the volatility, but have actually made it much worse.
Last week's eurozone "agreement", for all the related fanfare, was a case in point. Far from making the situation clearer, allowing investors to make considered assessments, this latest announcement made Western Europe's grotesque debt crisis even more acute, sowing further infectious spores of confusion.
The deal itself, unveiled dramatically in the early hours of Thursday, was met with the now obligatory "relief rally". The FTSE All-World equity index soared 4.1pc, helped by signs of renewed US economic growth. European bank shares spiked no less than 12pc on Thursday, as traders recognised, for all the official obfuscation, the latest dollop of government largesse.

By late Thursday, though, and certainly on Friday, the warning signs were there. Global bond markets, by character more sober and smarter than the excitable equity guys, were voting against the deal. This is alarming. For it is only by selling more bonds that the eurozone's deeply indebted governments can roll-over their enormous liabilities and keep the show on the road.
Some say Western governments shouldn't "accept" what the market says. "Who do these trading people think they are," I hear from the lips of the educated but financially-illiterate political elite. Let's be clear – if global bond markets stop lending to a number of large Western economies, we are in the realms of unpaid state wages and pensions, transport chaos and closures of schools and hospitals – sparking the prospect of serious civil unrest. Forgive my intemperate tone, but these are the dangers we face. And I'm afraid the only rational response to Thursday's announcement is that the probability of such undesirable outcomes has just been increased.
European leaders have reached an "agreement", we were told, with the private holders of Greek debt, who now accept a 50pc write-down on their stakes. This is predicated on an additional €120bn (£105bn) cash-injection by EU member states and the IMF. By paying bond-holders less, and making other savings, the hope is that Greece can cut its sovereign debt from 150pc of GDP to 120pc in the next few years.
This deal was presented as a "victory" by the eurocrats. After all, back in July those nasty private creditors agreed only to a 21pc "haircut" on their Greek debt. The deal is "voluntary", though, nothing having been decided except the "50pc haircut" headline. In reality, by bargaining hard over coupons and maturities – how much the bonds will pay annually, and for how long – those who so unwisely lent money to Greece (eager to reap high yields, while always expecting a bail-out) will get a much sweeter deal. This is the discussion that will take place, behind closed doors, during the coming months. But that sweeter deal will need to be paid for with yet more sovereign borrowing, by some eurozone government or other, plus further sack-loads of taxpayers' cash.
It is telling that Greek bond-holders themselves were on Friday reassuring their investors that the reduction in the net present value of their stakes, compared with the "21pc haircut" deal, "will not be overly onerous". In addition, the July agreement, while also "voluntary", included a 90pc creditors' participation. Thursday's variant cited no such number.
So, the centre-piece of last week's "package" is far less decisive than meets the eye. It was, in fact, singularly indecisive. The hope that Greece will clean-up its balance sheet autonomously now relies even more on a privatization programme that is already laughably behind schedule. So the moral hazard will go on, making it tougher still for the governments of Portugal, Ireland and the other eurozone "peripheries" to sell to their electorates the virtues of fiscal responsibility. These are not clever-clever academic points. I'm pointing-out, quite simply, what the bond markets will have noticed.
Having said all that, the prospect of "haircuts", however half-hearted, now looms over eurozone sovereign bond-holders, not least fragile European banks. So Thursday's announcement also stressed that the €440bn (£386bn) euro European Financial Stability Facility would be "levered", allowing it to borrow to make it bigger. This is supposed to allow the eurocrats to raise cash without having to trouble national parliaments, given that they're likely to refuse.
The question of who will lend to the EFSF, on whose collateral, and who will ultimately repay the loans, was barely addressed last week. Such tricky questions will apparently be answered at the next European summit in December. Meanwhile, the fundamental disagreement between France and Germany regarding who should take the biggest losses – eurozone governments or private creditors – remains unresolved. Since Thursday's announcement, though, Germany's powerful constitutional court has issued an injunction requiring the country's full Parliament to approve any EFSF bond-buying.
What is needed, urgently, is a clean, transparent Greek default – allowing this flailing semi-developed economy to leave the eurozone, re-establish a weaker drachma and regain its self-respect. Portugal should leave too, its membership of the same currency bloc as Germany is as absurd, and self-defeating, as that of Greece. There would be further market turmoil, yes, but a few more months of volatility, leading to an ultimately more stable outcome, is surely better than the current situation where the entire world is living in fear of a massive "euroquake".
The eurocrats, of course, lack the guts to trim back monetary union to a more manageable size. Too much face would be lost. So "euroquake" fears, once viewed as outlandish, are gaining pace. Despite Thursday's deal, and all the reassurances of a "durable solution", the Italian government on Friday paid 6.06pc for 10-year money, up from just 5.86pc a month ago and a euro-era high. Such borrowing costs are disastrous, given that Rome must roll-over €300bn of its €1,900bn debt in 2012 alone. A default by Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy, and the eighth-largest on earth, would make Lehman look like a picnic.
The eurozone must be consolidated. World leaders should similarly force European banks to disclose their losses, we all take the hit and then we move on. Instead, we are served-up, in ever more complex variants, the same "extend and pretend" non-solutions. It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I give this deal two weeks.

Goldman's Vampire Squid Attacks Occupy Wall Street's Non-Profit Bank

Great story that should be read in full at its source.  Goldman proves that no bank is too small and no insult too fleeting for an arrogant response from the squid.
Source - Media With Conscience
Mega-bank Goldman Sachs (assets $933 billion), has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York (assets $30 million), the customer-owned community bank that happens to also be the banker for Friends of Liberty Plaza, Inc, also known as Occupy Wall Street. And you thought Goldman didn't care.
The trouble began three weeks ago when the occupiers suddenly found their donation buckets filling with thousands of dollars, way more than needed for their pizza dinners. Suddenly, the anti-bank protesters needed a bank. Citibank and Chase certainly wouldn't fit.  So OWS opened an account at the not-for-profit Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union.  Peoples has a unique federal charter - designated to open accounts for low-income folk from all over NewYork, available to those families earning less than $38,000 per year.
Goldman Sachs had also joined up with the Peoples bank. Goldman partners reportedly earn a bit more than $38k per annum, yet Goldman's association so far was limited to giving the credit union $5,000 toward the little bank's 25th anniversary celebration dinner.  Goldman's largesse was acknowledged on the dinner invites - along with the night's honoree: Occupy Wall Street.
When a Goldman exec saw its gilded name next to Occupy Wall Street, the financial giant expressed much displeasure. In fact, my sources say, Goldman threatened legal action unless the credit union gave up the $5,000 and reprinted the invite sans the Sachs moniker. Goldman Sachs did not respond to our requests for comment on the affair.
So far, it's a cute story: tiny bank uses Goldman's money to fete some tent-dwellers who are denouncing Sachs as the Giant Vampire Squid.
But there's a lot more at stake in this battle than a $5,000 donation gone wrong. Underneath, it's a battle royal for control of tens of billions of dollars in government mandated "community reinvestment" funds.
In 2008, the US Treasury handed Goldman Sachs a check for $10 billion from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (Tarp), the bailout funds given to desperate commercial banks. A few eyebrows were raised: Goldman was not desperate, and it certainly was not a commercial bank. Yet - abracadabra! - Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson transformed investment bank Goldman into a commercial bank overnight. (Paulson's prior post was chairman of Goldman Sachs. Just saying.)
But there was a catch.
Continue reading...

MOVE YOUR MONEY - Bank Of America Branch Manager Begs Customer Not To Close Accounts

This is a great story.
By Tripnman
Over the past two weeks, I have been closing down and moving money out of my Bank of America accounts. I have done my personal and business (I own a consulting business) banking there for over ten years but have decided to vote with my wallet and express my displeasure with the system by removing my money from their clutches. One by one, I have zeroed out the balances on various accounts by transferring and consolidating via their website. After each transfer I then called to close the accounts over the phone without issue.
Yesterday was different. I visited a branch to make a business deposit and when I arrived, there were signs on the ATMs indicating that the system was down and that customers should come into the branch. Before I got to the business customers' line, I was stopped by a banking associate and asked the purpose of my visit. I told him I was there to make a deposit and he waved me to a desk. When I sat down the banker first asked for my account number. I don't know it, so I handed him my ATM card. That's when he explained that all of their computers were down, and although they would accept the deposit, without the account number they would have to give me a generic receipt. Say what huh? When I told him that my newly opened accounts at a local (small, community) credit union would like the deposit he insisted that their computers were down too. Fifteen minutes after leaving BoA I found that to not be true and the money was happily deposited into a new account at the CU without issue.
Yesterday was different. I visited a branch to make a business deposit and when I arrived, there were signs on the ATMs indicating that the system was down and that customers should come into the branch. Before I got to the business customers' line, I was stopped by a banking associate and asked the purpose of my visit. I told him I was there to make a deposit and he waved me to a desk. When I sat down the banker first asked for my account number. I don't know it, so I handed him my ATM card. That's when he explained that all of their computers were down, and although they would accept the deposit, without the account number they would have to give me a generic receipt. Say what huh? When I told him that my newly opened accounts at a local (small, community) credit union would like the deposit he insisted that their computers were down too. Fifteen minutes after leaving BoA I found that to not be true and the money was happily deposited into a new account at the CU without issue.
Later in the afternoon I hit up a different branch of BoA and found their computers working just fine. I went in, asked to speak with a banker and was seated in an office. When the young associate came in and asked the purpose of my visit, I handed her my ATM card and requested that she tell me the balance. When she did, I then asked for a cashiers check in that amount. That's when things got wonky. She froze, stumbled over her words and asked why I needed that amount (It was not a small sum). This gave me an opportunity to explain that although I personally would not be affected by their new fees I know plenty of friends and family that would feel the pain. In solidarity with them, I wished to close the account and move on. She unwittingly suggested that if I just use my debit card once a month then there would be no fee. That was good for a belly laugh from me, then I again requested the balance to be issued to me in the form of a cashier's check. She then told me that there would be a $10 fee for this service. Another laugh. I guess it didn't sink in when I told her that I was fee adverse. There was an easy work-around anyway - I requested the cash. That finished my time with this associate banker as the amount I was requesting was "well past" her daily limit for withdrawals. I asked if there would be an issue with securing the cash and she said "I honestly don't know if we have that here" and walked out to get the branch manager.
The manager was pleasant enough and very direct. After introducing herself she flat out asked "What can we do to change your mind?" "We don't want to see you go" she emphasized. This opened a door for me to further explain my decision to leave the bank and why I was doing it. Amazingly, it did not fall on deaf ears. She indicated that understood where I was coming from and actually showed genuine surprise at some of the facts I provided her about the less than consumer friendly policies and machinations of her employer. She did make some feeble counter-arguments and repeatedly asked me if I would change my mind (with a hint of desperation!). I stood firm and by the end of our conversation she asked if I would be willing to put it all in writing so she could send it up the chain.
She shared that management is nervous, they are seeing money leaking out of the bank and realize that they have made mistakes.  She even hinted that there has been high-level discussion on reversing the new fess since there has been so much consumer push-back.  They are also aware of the growing momentum behind the November 5th move your money movement.
Why do I share all of this with you?  For one, I wanted to let people know that it IS still possible to withdraw large sums of cash from BoA and close your accounts - just be ready for them to beg.  Two, that management is aware that people are angry (how could they not be!) and have put an ear to the ground.

Occupy protesters outside the San Francisco headquarters of BofA.

'Occupy' camps provide food, shelter for homeless

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – When "Occupy Wall Street" protesters took over two parks in Portland's soggy downtown, they pitched 300 tents and offered free food, medical care and shelter to anyone. They weren't just building, like so many of their brethren across the nation, a community to protest what they see as corporate greed.

They also created an ideal place for the homeless. Some were already living in the parks, while others were drawn from elsewhere to the encampment's open doors.
Now, protesters from Portland to Los Angeles to Atlanta are trying to distinguish between homeless people who are joining their movement and those who are there for the amenities. When night falls in Portland, for instance, protesters have been dealing with fights, drunken arguments and the display of the occasional knife.
However, many homeless say the protests have helped them speak out against the economic troubles that sent them to the streets in the first place.
"The city wasn't giving us what we needed," said Joseph Gordon, 31, who trekked his way from Cincinnati two months ago and noted that there is nearly always enough food but never enough shelter. "You can't feed your problem away. It took this camp to show people how it really is."
As protesters across the country try to coalescence around an agenda in the coming weeks and months, they are trying to make life work in camps that have become small-scale replicas of the cities in which they were erected. And just like those cities, they are dealing with many of the same problems the local governments have struggled for decades to solve.
Some organizers see the protest and the inclusion of the homeless as an opportunity to demonstrate their political ideals. They see the possibility to show that the homeless are not hopeless and that they, too, can become a functional part of society.
In Portland, the protest has swallowed up two square blocks. There are shaggy haired college kids, do-gooder hippies, and couples with their young children. They came by the dozen, in cars and vans, on bikes and on foot and in rides hitched on the highway. Rain falls daily and dry socks are at a premium.
At the center of the camp are the medical, information, library and wellness tents. Along one side are families, who established a play area for children. On the opposite side is the "A-Camp" — for anarchist. It's where the city's anarchist faction and long-term homeless sleep.
"We're here to spoil each other," said Kat Enyeart, a 25-year-old medic who says she spends half her time tending to the homeless, some of whom are physically and mentally ill. "It's a big, messy, beautiful thing."
As the occupation enters its fourth week, divisions have begun to emerge. Without the ability to enforce laws and with little capacity to deal with disruptive or even violent people, the camp is holding together as it struggles to maintain a sense of order and purpose.
One man recently created a stir when he registered with police as a sex offender living in the park. A man with mental health problems threatened to spread AIDS via a syringe. At night, the park echoes with screaming matches and scuffles over space, blankets, tents or nothing at all.
Last week, a homeless man menaced a crowd of spectators with a pair of scissors. Micaiah Dutt, a four-tour veteran of the Iraq War, and two other former soldiers had no problem tackling and subduing the man. Other members of the protest's volunteer security detail have been punched and threatened with knives.
Dutt said he felt helpless at times and noted that the man he helped subdue could, in theory, press assault charges against him.
"I served four tours in Iraq, and I felt more safe there at times than here," he told a gathering of protest organizers under a drizzly evening sky. "There, I had a weapon and knew the people around me were with me. Here, I don't know."
Dutt said the protests are not just about the radicals and the politicians. "It's about our community taking care of itself because the city, county and federal governments have neglected this population," he said.
In Los Angeles, protesters are dealing with similar issues: Homeless transplants from the city's Skid Row have set up their tents within the larger tent city. No violence has been reported, but protest organizers are attempting to discourage people who are only at the encampment for the amenities.
Some, like Steven Pierieto, said they've fallen on difficult times but are at the protest because they support the movement. They scorn those who come for the sandwiches but never lift a protest sign. Life in camp, Pierieto said, is far better than life on Skid Row.
"I'm very comfortable right here," Pierieto said. "I don't have to smell urine. I don't have to see people smoking crack. I have porta-potties right here. It's peaceful."
In Oakland, Calif., where the camp on the City Hall lawn has become a tourist attraction, organizer Susanne Sarley said getting along for a common cause will be an ongoing challenge. "This is the homeless people's turf," Sarley said. "This area we're occupying is their home. We can't move them. We have to cooperate and respect the community that we're in."
The friction between the homeless and the protesters has not been the case in other cities. In Atlanta, for instance, it has been a benefit. The homeless have helped newbie protesters learn how to put up tents that can withstand wind gusts, maintain peace in close quarters and survive the outdoors.
Billy Jones, 28, provides security at the protests. Jones said he's not just looking for free food.
"Don't have the misconception that most homeless people are always out for a meal," Jones said. "I'm here because there are things I can lend that are helpful to the movement. I can get food anywhere. I don't have to be at 'Occupy Atlanta' to get food."
In Salt Lake City, protesters see working with the homeless as an opportunity to demonstrate their political views. "We can help people get out of homelessness," said organizer Jesse Fruhwirth, 30. "We have already surpassed any effort the state or city has ever made to create a sober, happy space for the homeless."
Brent Jackson, 46, is one of the homeless who has been recruited as a volunteer and is an active member of a planning group. He said the protest's message rings especially true with homeless people. "The homeless are the bottom of the 99%," Jackson said, referring to the percent of Americans the protest says it represents.
"We have a lot of disillusioned Americans, but they don't think what happened to us can happen to them," he said. "Except it can."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Occupy Vatican!!!

Marching to the River on the Tree of Liberty

War profiteers top 0.01% of wealthy Americans - Press TV News

Occupy LA ripped apart by argument over pot-smoking

As the Occupy Los Angeles protesters begin to encounter pressure from a formerly welcoming city administration to think about ending their occupation, the group also appears in danger of being ripped apart from within over the issue of pot-smoking.
The Los Angeles Times commented in a Friday editorial, “Four weeks after protesters converged on the Civic Center, they are wearing out their welcome. Even some of the city’s most liberal politicians, who initially embraced them, are trying to figure out a graceful way of getting them to go home. … But it’s hard to negotiate with a headless group united only by its resentment toward bankers, corporations, Congress, the media and others in positions of power — including the police.”
“It would be best for everybody, including the demonstrators, if the impasse could be resolved without resorting to police in riot gear,” the paper urged. “Another location for the protest should be found, and if the participants are organized enough to put out a joint statement, they’re organized enough to negotiate a peaceful departure.”

An internal mutiny over the issue of pot-smoking, however, has raised doubts as to just how unified the protesters really are, and whether any person or group among them is in a position to negotiate on behalf of the entire occupation.
As described by journalist Natasha Vargas-Cooper, “Around 8 p.m. on Wednesday night, the 300 people who have been occupying the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall for the past three weeks split themselves into two hostile camps.”
She explains that “drug use has been a key conservative talking point used to undermine the various Occupy camps around the country,” but that in Los Angeles, “smoking weed has become a wedge issue dividing the camp into increasingly entrenched groups.”
“Rumblings of dissent and palpable animosity had been mounting in the camp throughout [Wednesday] afternoon,” Vargas-Cooper reports. “Informal meetings were held around the clock to hotly debate an issue that had factionalized the camp: weed. . . . Occupy LA’s decision-making body, the General Assembly, has been responsible for conducting the encampment’s business. … But on Wednesday, a large group of dissenters decided to occupy the General Assembly’s usual outdoor meeting space and assert themselves as the new regime.”
“A large group, made up almost entirely of men, stood in a circle denouncing the General Assembly and their efforts to ‘police’ the camp, particularly regarding drinking or smoking weed,” she continues. “Anyone who spoke in favor of a code of conduct was aggressively booed. … When a runner from the General Assembly made the announcement that they would begin the meeting, he was thunderously shouted down, then someone yelled out ‘The GA is dead!’ and the crowd erupted in both celebration and shock: ‘We don’t want you or your fucking procedure!’”
She goes on to quote one of the protest’s original organizers as explainng that “on one side there’s the hardcore Politicos-Get-Shit-Done process freaks and on the other are people who think they are starting a new society.”

“Who makes the rules?” Vargas-Cooper asks. “Who enforces the rules? Going even further: should there even be rules? Is this a narrowly focused social movement bent on economic reform through massive but nonviolent participation? Is it a petri dish of something new? There is a wing of the Occupy LA that sees their encampment as a radical new mode of living; one that not only rejects income inequality, but any sort of action that enables one group to represses any other. This means contempt for anything like a parliamentary up or down vote, or adopting the same drug laws as ‘the outside.”
Photo by World Can’t Wait, posted at Flickr.

Reward Offered for the Identity of the Police Officer Who Shot Marine Vet Scott Olsen

Reward for the Identity of the Police Officer Who Shot Marine Vet Scott Olsen

A generous friend is offering a $5,000 reward for the identify of the policeman who shot Scott Olsen.
The officer can likely be seen in publicly available videos (see this and this). But his badge and face are not visible.
Similarly, Anonymous is already leaking names and information of officers in the Oakland P.D., but it is still difficult for outsiders to identify the shooter.
As such, the tip will likely have to come from someone within the Oakland Police Department or the other law enforcement agencies present at the protest.
Do your force proud and stand up for liberty … identify the shooter.
Update 1: As this video shows, he might actually be with the San Francisco Sheriff instead of Oakland police:
See this for a detailed analysis. Update 2: Anonymous has tentatively identified the shooter as Officer Bergstresser of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Emergency Service Unit.  And see this.  The ESU unit has allegedly been highly-militarized by the Department of Homeland Security.

Again this is a tentative conclusion by Anonymous, and we at Washington’s Blog certainly have no idea whether or not it is accurate.

Eurozone Bailout Deal

by Stephen Lendman
One size fits all doesn’t work. Uniting 17 dissimilar countries under rigid euro rules failed.
Membership means foregoing the right to devalue currencies to make exports more competitive, maintain money sovereignty to monetize debt freely, and legislate fiscal policy to stimulate growth.
Eurozone’s obituary remains to be written. It’s just a matter of time.
Maastricht criteria limit inflation, long-term interest rates, budget deficits, and government debt. Granting money power to a supranational authority flopped. Globalists want it anyway. Wrecking economies to enrich bankers matters most.
The euro’s 1999 introduction prevented the European Central Bank (ECB) from financing government deficits. Eurozone members can’t monetize credit. Their public sector is “dependent on commercial banks and bondholders,” explains Michael Hudson.
It’s a “bonanza for them, rolling back three centuries of attempts to create a mixed economy financially and industrially, by privatizing the credit creation monopoly as well as capital investment in public infrastructure monopolies now being pushed onto the sales block for bidders – on credit, with the winner being the one who promises to pay out the most interest to bankers to absorb the access fees (economic rent) that can be extracted.”
As a result, nations were financialized and economies privatized. “Financial oligarchy” replaced democracy. Wealth more than ever is concentrated in private hands. Banker rules force selling off public land and enterprises.
Austerity demands public sector layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, and unrestrained economic freedom, unfettered of rules, regulations, onerous taxes, and trade barriers.
Governments work best by getting out of the way to give private business free reign. Financialized economies empower bankers most of all. Money power in private hands and democracy can’t coexist.
Troubled Eurozone countries now suffer most. Throwing good money after bad delays decision day at the price of far greater trouble on arrival.
Greece highlights what other debt entrapped countries face, including bankruptcy, mass impoverishment, and growing anger threatening revolution.
Pledging an “ambitious and comprehensive” debt crisis solution, Eurozone leaders sold out to bankers.
Europe’s debt problem is too great to solve. Throwing good money after bad compounds it. Eastern Europe is deeply troubled. Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe up to $6 trillion.
Allegedly less than one-fourth was pledged, but sketchy details leave many unanswered questions. European debt is triple the size of Germany’s economy. Its banking giants are insolvent. So are France’s. Solutions tried so far failed. Wednesday’s deal may be worst of all.
On November 23, a congressional “Super Committee” must agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Republicans won’t raise taxes. Democrats oppose greater social safety net cuts.
Without resolution, automatic cuts will result. Ordinary Americans will be hit hardest. Any steps taken won’t solve out-of-control deficits. Disruptions and dislocations are assured.
For the first time ever, Western societies face default. Eurozone unity is crumbling. Major banks face bankruptcy. Political solutions assure greater trouble. Rage against the system grows.
Bailouts accomplish nothing. Ordinary people suffer most. The mother of all train wrecks approaches. On arrival, it’ll be too big to ignore or resolve without consequences no one wants to consider.
Economist David Rosenberg called the Eurozone deal “tentative,” involving 100 billion euro bailout for Greece. Allegedly it includes a 50% debt haircut, but suspicions are that bookkeeping entries may end up shifting it from one account to another so bankers get off easier than announced.
With leverage, a pledged overall 250 – 275 euro package implies 1.375 trillion euros for troubled Eurozone economies. If Italy needs help, as expected, it’s not nearly enough to cover its debt burden.
Where funds come from isn’t clear. Voluntary public and private investor participation is needed. Who’ll provide it isn’t known, especially with fears of throwing good money after bad.
Moreover, clear details are lacking, and 17 Eurozone countries must agree to go along. Bailing out Greece is one thing. What if Portugal, Italy and Spain follow. Healthy countries like Germany haven’t enough money for it without wrecking their economies and raising public anger higher than now.
In addition, doubts are being raised. The Financial Times (FT) questioned “optimistic assumptions” about Greek privatization revenues raised.
Under the best scenario, substantial risks remain. FT headlined, “Eurozone bailout: the blogosphere’s verdict,” saying:
the Wall Street Journal Europe Source blog called the deal “too little too late to keep Italy out of the crosshairs of financial markets and open the next battle in the struggle to save the euro;”
“FT Alphaville” worried about projecting Greece’s debt still at a troubling 120% of GDP in a decade under assumptions too optimistic to meet;
some analysts can’t distinguish between smoke and mirrors and reality in the announced package;
stagnant growth worries Germany’s Die Welt commentator Gunther Lachmann, saying the deal omits ways to create jobs and achieve prosperity;
Germany’s business daily Handelsblatt said the agreement creates problems Germans wanted to avoid; and
other critics see nothing good ahead for troubled Eurozone countries; at best, only their day of reckoning was delayed.
Regular Progressive Radio News Hour contributor Bob Chapman expressed great skepticism about a workable policy response, saying:
“All the lies of the past two weeks by various European governments and bureaucrats, as well as Sarkozy and Merkel, were just delaying tactics to attempt to find a solution to Europe’s financial dilemma.”
In his judgment, they don’t have one, headlines notwithstanding.
On October 28, Naked Capitalism headlined, “Grand European Rescue Already Starting to Come Unglued?” saying:
Analysts worry about wrecking economies to save banks. Other issues include an inadequate “rescue fund, heavy reliance on smoke and gimmickry to get it to that size, insufficient relief” for Greece, doubts about whether “banks will go along with the ‘voluntary’ rescue, and way too many details left to be sorted out.”
In addition, “haircuts will apply to only a portion of (Greek) bonds” if enforced. Smoke and mirrors manipulation suggests not, or at least not as announced.
Moreover, troubled banks in greater trouble from haircuts will get bailout help to compensate.
About one-third of Greece’s 350 billion debt is held by private international investors. The ECB, IMF and sovereign governments hold another third. The remainder is held by Greek and Cypriot banks and the Greek Social Fund.
If half of Greece’s debt is written off, the nation’s pension funds will lose 12 billion euros. As a result, they’ll face bankruptcy. At the same time, Greek and other banks need hundreds of billions of euros to survive. Some need even more. Patchwork bailouts only delay their day of reckoning.
Even the ECB is skeptical about a flawed deal. Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann expressed alarm about leverage “without putting any new money into the pot.”
China and other BRIC countries are being courted to help. None will without compensating benefits. Eurozone countries must contribute most. A workable package is key. What’s known makes a bad situation worse. China’s got its own problems. Will it exacerbate them by bearing some of Europe’s burden?
Most troubling is throwing good money after bad. Greater trouble ahead is assured. Out-of-control debt isn’t resolved by more of it.
Neither is repeating failed policies and expecting a different outcome.
Reality differs greatly from hope. European officials met 20 times this year alone because nothing tried so far worked.
Bond investors reacted negatively to their latest deal. They usually have the last word.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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Court stops fast-track bailout fund committee

Germany's top court Friday stopped a new fast-track committee appointed to approve emergency measures to tackle the eurozone crisis, potentially slowing decisions by the eurozone paymaster.
The Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe upheld the complaint of two opposition deputies filed this week to stop the nine-member body from taking any decisions on the European rescue fund.

The ruling, which says only parliament can approve such measures, is temporary pending a definitive decision by the tribunal.

The Bundestag lower house had only created the panel, comprised of members of all the parties in parliament, on Wednesday with the aim of allowing Germany to take quicker action to fight the crisis.

It was to have started work behind closed doors on Friday.

In particular, the committee would have been able to green-light decisions on the use of the €440 billion EFSF bailout fund for debt-wracked European nations, such as buying bonds or aiding threatened banks.

In early September the Court gave parliament a bigger say in decisions on saving the euro. The decision raised concerns that it would slow Germany's reaction in crisis situations when speed is vital.

The head of the EFSF himself, Klaus Regling, had insisted on Germany creating a rapid-response body to head off turmoil while markets await action.

Depending on the urgency of the measures, the entire Bundestag, the 41-member budgetary committee or the nine-member panel would have been tasked with providing approval.

But the Court said the panel could threaten parliament's sovereignty on budgetary issues, a "possible violation of the law" that could not be reversed if breached because Germany would have made "commitments that are binding under international law."

The chief whip for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, Peter Altmeier, said that despite the ruling, parliament would make sure the EFSF could be activated when needed.

"The German Bundestag will ensure that until a final ruling is made, Germany's ability to take action and the ability of the European rescue fund to be used will be ensured at all times," he told reporters. "We will, if necessary, take quick and effective action."

But government sources told news agency DPA that the preliminary verdict would slow decisions on the EFSF and open the door to speculators exploiting the gaps before measures can be taken.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said he would not comment on an ongoing judicial review but pledged the administration would continue to work closely with parliament according to the tenets of the country's Basic Law.

When asked when a final decision could be expected from the Court – something observers said could take months – finance ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus told a briefing: "We can only hope it will be soon."

Despite occasional grumbling among members of her coalition, Merkel has
never failed to win strong majorities for parliamentary decisions on eurozone crisis measures.


Doctors: Scott Olsen suffered brain damage and is unable to speak

Marine Scott Olsen, 24, shortly after being shot in the head by a police projectile on Oct. 25, 2011.
The Iraq veteran seriously wounded Tuesday night at “Occupy Oakland” sustained minor brain damage and has been rendered unable to speak, doctors said Friday, adding that he will likely be able to make a full recovery in time.
Scott Olsen, 24, was said to be otherwise lucid and able to communicate with his family by writing notes, but his ability to spell is also damaged, according to sources who spoke with The Guardian. He is, however, able to understand what’s being communicated to him.
Keith Shannon, Olsen’s roommate who served with him in Iraq, explained that “He cannot talk right now, and that is because the fracture is right on the speech center of his brain,” the paper added. “However, they are expecting he will get that back.”

Olsen is believed to have been struck in the forehead by a police projectile, and many speculate it was either a tear gas canister or a beanbag full of lead fired from a shotgun. Both can be lethal at close range, although many police departments use them as “non-lethal” weapons. Video from the scene seems to show him being struck by a tear gas canister fired from just a few feet away, but the image is not clear.
The blow was so severe that doctors were forced to place Olsen in a medically-induced coma to help fight swelling on his brain.
The two-tour Iraq veteran has since become a flashpoint for the 99 Percent movement, who’ve seemingly been targeted for police harassment in most major cities.
In response to Tuesday’s events, the general assembly at “Occupy Oakland” has called for a city-wide general strike on Nov. 2, aimed at shutting down city services for one day to protest police violence.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quon, who authorized the eviction, has since distanced herself from the police chief, saying on Friday “I only asked the chief to do one thing: to do it when it was the safest for both the police and the demonstrators.” Current TV’s Keith Olbermann has called on her to go further than pass the blame: he wants Mayor Quon to fire the police chief or resign. There’s no indication that she plans to do either.
Since the violence she’s also claimed to support the 99 Percent movement and withdrawn much of the police presence near the park where protesters had been camping.

Olsen may still face brain surgery, but doctors haven’t determined whether that’s necessary just yet.

Egyptians march from Tahrir Square to support Occupy Oakland protestors

As they vowed earlier this week to do, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir square to the U.S. Embassy today to march in support of Occupy Oakland—and against the type of police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Tuesday night, and commonly experienced in Egypt.

In this post, photos from Egyptian blogger Mohammed Maree, who is there at the march live-tweeting these snapshots. He is a journalist with, a human rights activist, and a veterinarian; all photos are his.
The larger demonstration back at Tahrir was about issues closer to home: Egyptians are demanding that the military transfer power quickly to a representative civilian government, after the death by torture of a 24-year-old political prisoner named Essam Ali Atta. As the Guardian reports, critics say his death proves that the junta is failing to dismantle Mubarak's brutal security apparatus:
Essam Ali Atta, a civilian serving a two-year jail term in Cairo's high-security Tora prison following his conviction in a military tribunal earlier this year for an apparently "common crime", was reportedly attacked by prison guards after trying to smuggle a mobile phone sim card into his cell. According to statements from other prisoners who witnessed the assault, Atta had large water hoses repeatedly forced into his mouth and anus on more than one occasion, causing severe internal bleeding. An officer then transferred Atta to a central Cairo hospital, but he died within an hour.
His funeral took place today. Follow live tweets from the memorial at #esamatta. Journalist Reem Abdellatif, who is there, tweets:
His sister just passed out screaming they took my brother from me. [photo]. The scene is devastating at the morgue #essamatta's mom and sister keep calling out to him like he's still alive. Essam was 24.
As some protesters noted, that is exactly the same age as Scott Olsen, the US vet injured at Occupy Oakland. They see both men as victims of state brutality.
by via Xeni Jardin Friday Oct 28th, 2011 11:36 AM

by via Xeni Jardin Friday Oct 28th, 2011 11:36 AM

New Veterans Hit Hard by Economic Crisis

After a mortar sent Andrew Spurlock hurtling off a roof in Iraq, ending his Army career in 2006, the seasoned infantryman set aside bitterness over his back injury and began to chart his life in storybook fashion: a new house, a job as a police officer and more children.

“We had a budget and a plan,” said Mr. Spurlock, 29, a father of three, who with his wife, Michelle, hoped to avoid the pitfalls of his transition from Ramadi, Iraq, to Apopka, Fla.
But the move proved treacherous, as it often does for veterans. The job with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office fell through after officials there told Mr. Spurlock that he needed to “decompress” after two combat tours, a judgment that took him by surprise. Scrambling, he settled for a job delivering pizzas.
Mr. Spurlock’s disability claim for his back injury took 18 months to process, a year longer than expected. With little choice, the couple began putting mortgage payments on credit cards. The family debt climbed to $60,000, a chunk of it for medical bills, including for his wife and child. Foreclosure seemed certain.
While few Americans are sheltered from the jolt of the recent economic crisis, the nation’s newest veterans, particularly the wounded, are being hit especially hard. The triple-whammy of injury, unemployment and waiting for disability claims to be processed has forced many veterans into foreclosure, or sent them teetering on its edge, according to veterans’ organizations.
The problem is hard to quantify because there are no foreclosure statistics singling out veterans and service members. Congress recently asked the Veterans Affairs Department to find out how badly veterans were being affected, particularly by foreclosures. The Army, too, began tracking requests for help on foreclosure issues for the first time. Service organizations report that requests for help from military personnel and new veterans, especially those who were wounded, mentally or physically, and are struggling to keep their houses and pay their bills, has jumped sharply.
“The demand curve has gone almost straight up this year,” said Bill Nelson, executive director for USA Cares, a nonprofit group that provides financial help to members of the military and to veterans. Housing, Mr. Nelson said, “is the biggest driver in the last 12 months.”
Congress has recently taken small steps to help, banning lenders from foreclosing on military personnel for nine months after their return from overseas, up from three months, and ensuring that interest rates on their loans remain stable for a year. Another relief bill to prevent certain injured veterans from losing their homes while they wait for their disability money was signed into law in October. The protection is good for one year.
“We owe these men and women more than a pat on the back,” said Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who introduced one of the bills.
But the short-term measures do little to address the underlying economic difficulties that new veterans face, beginning with the job hunt. Veterans, particularly those in their 20s, have faced higher unemployment rates in recent years than those who never served in the military, though the gap has shrunk as the economy has worsened. (Veterans traditionally have lower unemployment rates than nonveterans.)
Recently discharged veterans, though, fared worst of all. A 2007 survey for the Veterans Affairs Department of 1,941 combat veterans who left the military mostly in 2005 showed nearly 18 percent were unemployed as of last year. The average national jobless rate in October was 6.5 percent.
A quarter of those who found jobs failed to make a living wage, earning less than $21,840 a year.
“You fill out a job application and you can’t write ‘long-range reconnaissance and sniper skills,’ ” said Mr. Spurlock, who searched a year for a better-paying job than delivering pizza, finally finding one as a construction supervisor.
The situation is especially troubling for the injured, whose financial problems begin almost immediately.
“The wife drops everything to be by his bedside,” said Meredith Leyva, founder of Operation Homefront, a nonprofit group that provides emergency money and aid to 33,000 military families a year, including the Spurlocks. “She stays at the nearest hotel to make sure he is alive. They live that way for months. She either has to quit her job or she is fired. This bankrupts people.”

Gerald Celente: Financial Review - 10/27/2011 - 2/2

My pay is very low, moans advertising tycoon with a basic salary of £1 MILLION a year

One of Britain’s highest paid executives prompted outrage last night by insisting that his £1million basic salary is 'very low’.
Sir Martin Sorrell, head of advertising giant WPP, rejected criticism of executive pay in the wake of a study showing it rose by almost 50 per cent in the past year.
David Cameron described the huge increases commanded by bosses at a time when ordinary workers have had their incomes squeezed as 'disturbing’.
High flying: Sir Martin Sorrell, pictured with his wife Lady Cristiana, said his pay as head of advertising giant WPP is very low
High flying: Sir Martin Sorrell, pictured with his wife Lady Cristiana, said his pay as head of advertising giant WPP is very low
And Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was a 'slap in the face’ for employees, seizing on the astonishing rise as evidence that tax cuts for the low paid should take priority over scrapping the 50p top tax rate.
But Sir Martin, 66, said his bumper income, which rose by 83 per cent to £4.2million last year, was fully justified and was mostly linked to the firm’s performance.
He added that he considered his basic salary, of just over £1million, to be 'very low’.
Condemnation: Nick Clegg
Condemnation: David Cameron
Condemnation: Nick Clegg (left) and David Cameron have both said bumper pay rises for Britain's top bosses are unacceptable
But his comments astonished MPs and infuriated union leaders. Labour education spokesman Karen Buck described the huge rise in executive pay as 'grotesque’, adding: 'What planet do these people live on?’
Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the High Pay Commission which is looking into executives’ remuneration, said the performance-related pay deals enjoyed by executives 'don’t really work’.
My pay is very low, moans advertising tycoon with a basic salary of £1 MILLION a year
Commenting on the study by the research group Income Data Services, she added: 'I think it is very hard to justify these sorts of pay increases when we have seen companies’ share prices go down, profits down, companies laying off staff, and when average wages are going up 1 or 2 per cent, not even keeping up with price rises.’
But in an interview with the Daily Mail, Sir Martin angrily defended his bumper pay packet.
He said: 'The only planet I am living on is looking at our company in terms of the competition – that’s the planet. We need to maintain a competitive position. The UK only accounts for 12 per cent of our business. We have more Brazilians, Russians, and Indians than we have Americans and Brits.
'In 2009 it was a tough year for us and compensation across the board fell. In 2010 we delivered record profit.
'People are not distinguishing between fixed pay and incentive pay. I don’t sell my stock. Other people, including our competitors, do. The value of the business has grown from £1million to £8.5billion over its life.’
However, there was little sympathy for him among ordinary workers outside WPP’s offices in West London last night.
One of the firm’s delivery men, who declined to give his name, said: 'To say that his salary is not very much is really insensitive. I’m not earning that much, no one is.’
Julian Chambers, a street cleaner working next to the building, said: 'I work here every day on minimum wage and I work weekends just to pay the bills. It’s been really hard even finding work during the past few years. It just shows how out of touch he must be.’
Yesterday’s report by the IDS showed pay among directors of Britain’s FTSE 100 companies had risen by 49 per cent last year. It now averages £3.8million.
The Prime Minister said the increase was 'not okay’ when millions were facing pay freezes and called for 'transparency, proper accountability and a sense of responsibility from boardrooms’.
And Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union, said: 'The same top bosses demanding wage restraint and attacks on workers’ rights on the shop floor have been caught stuffing their own pockets in the boardroom.’

British families are £6,000 worse off than 3 months ago

Soaring energy bills, dwindling house prices and high cost of groceries take their toll on households' wealth

The average family lost almost £6,000 in the past three months, Daily Mail figures reveal.
Savers with large pension pots were the worst hit after the stock market collapsed in August.
But soaring energy bills, dwindling house prices and the high cost of groceries have also taken their toll on households’ total wealth.
Worrying times: Domestic financial woes are set to inflict further misery on households, who have lost almost £6,000 in three months
Worrying times: Domestic financial woes are set to inflict further misery on households, who have lost almost £6,000 in three months
And with inflation of 5.2 per cent eating into savings, domestic financial woes are set to continue.
Between June and September, the average family will have lost £5,736, according to figures produced by the Daily Mail.
At the same time, a respected report shows families’ total wealth suffered the biggest three-month fall ever recorded.
The findings by the investment company  Alliance Trust take into account household budgets, family earnings and wider economic conditions.
The company said the third quarter – between June and September – saw the biggest fall on its index since it began reporting in 1997.
‘Higher inflation continues to cause higher basic goods prices and a loss of real spending power which is hitting household budgets,’ said the report’s author, Linsey Thomson.
‘On top of this, economic activity has slowed and we have seen a rise in the unemployment rate which makes conditions even tougher.’
Stress: The effect of soaring energy bills and the high cost of groceries is increasingly disheartening
Stress: The effect of soaring energy bills and the high cost of groceries is increasingly disheartening
She added the squeeze would continue into next year. ‘The key thing is the labour market, and once we start to see that improving, then things will begin to look up for families.’ The hardest hit across the period were savers and pension holders.
Figures compiled by the Daily Mail show anyone who had managed to squirrel away £60,000 in a pension scheme will have seen the value of their savings diminish to the tune of £5,370 – leaving them with just £54,630.
Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, the independent financial adviser, said: ‘When you have big drops in pension values, it’s not surprising that savers are disheartened.
‘And it’s unfortunate but inevitable that it’s going to be hard for many people who face wage freezes, economic uncertainty and rising inflation to keep on saving into a pension.
‘But the longer term is what matters here, and it’s vital for those affected to accommodate all the financial difficulties in order to keep on saving for the future.’
House prices were down 0.1 per cent in the three months, according to Nationwide, meaning a £250,000 family home would now be worth £250 less.
Over the summer energy bills rose by more than £100 per household as every major supplier hiked prices by up to 19 per cent.
This left households facing an average gas and electricity bill of £1,250, and threatened to leave millions more in fuel poverty.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at the price comparison website uSwitch, said: ‘Families are coming under enormous financial pressure from every direction and two rounds of energy price hikes in a year are going to push some even closer to the edge this winter.
‘The facts speak for themselves: almost 7million households living  in fuel poverty, a third of people  saying energy is already  unaffordable in the UK and over a quarter already struggling to afford their bills.’
Although the cost of a family  shop actually fell slightly across  the period – now £1.15 cheaper than in June – the average remains high  at £49.96.
James Ford, spokesman for the shopping website mySupermarket, said: ‘In the past year alone, shoppers have been subject to double-digit price hikes to the contents of their shopping trolley.
‘It is imperative consumers shop around for the best deals, and it’s easy too – savvy shoppers can switch to cheaper budget products and supermarket own labels to make their budgets stretch.’
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘This fall in household income is dragging down growth.
‘You can’t build a recovery on the back of people getting poorer.
‘Life for millions of people in and out of work is now just as tough, if not worse, than at the height of the recession.
‘Ministers must do all they can to ease the squeeze for hard-pressed families, rather than blaming everything on Europe.’

Norway's Sovereign Wealth Fund Sold All U.S. Mortgage Bonds

Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Norway's $570 billion sovereign wealth fund sold all its holdings in U.S. mortgage-backed securities as part of a shift of its fixed-income portfolio.
The fund holds no mortgage bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S.-controlled mortgage financiers, and an "insignificant" amount of private home loan-backed bonds, said Yngve Slyngstad, chief executive officer of Norges Bank Investment Management, today in an interview in Oslo.
"We've reduced our holdings of mortgage-backed securities," he said. "MBS has been taken out of our internal policy benchmark. This means that we don't have mortgage-backed securities issued by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae any longer."
The debt was sold primarily because of the refinancing risk, he said. In the U.S., when a borrower refinances a mortgage it can cut short the maturity of the bond backed by the loan and reduce the expected interest over time, so-called prepayment risk. The fund held 36 billion kroner ($6.6 billion) in bonds from Fannie Mae at the end of the second quarter and 11.5 billion kroner from Freddie Mac at the start of the year.
The change doesn't include European covered bonds, Slyngstad said.

Pimco Positive

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage bonds fell earlier this week as the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency announced changes to guidelines for the government-supported companies' refinancing program affecting so-called underwater borrowers.
The decline prompted Pacific Investment Management Co., manager of the world's biggest bond fund, to call for investors to buy the bonds. Pimco boosted mortgage securities to 38 percent of assets in its $242 billion Total Return Fund in September, the most since January, from 32 percent the prior month, according to data on the firm's website.
Fannie Mae's 6 percent 30-year mortgage bond fell today. The yield rose 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 2.38 percent while the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell 2 basis points to 2.38 percent. Yields move inversely to price.
The fund announced today it has changed its internal benchmark portfolio, reducing it to 4,000 bonds from 11,500 bonds and keeping primarily corporate and government debt. The fund also weighted its euro government bond holding according to gross domestic product rather than the size of the market, which it had earlier proposed as a way of reducing its holdings in nations with increasing debt.
The investor, which is part of the central bank and gets guidelines from the government, held 55.6 percent in stocks, 44.1 percent in bonds and 0.3 percent in real estate at the end of the quarter. It's mandated to hold 60 percent in stocks, 35 percent in bonds and 5 percent in real estate, which it first bought this year.


It got its first capital infusion in 1996 and has been taking on more risk as it expands globally, raising its stock portfolio from 40 percent in 2007. It first added stocks in 1998, emerging markets in 2000 and this year real estate to boost returns and safeguard wealth.
Norway, a nation of 4.9 million people, generates money for the fund from taxes on oil and gas, ownership of petroleum fields and dividends from its 67 percent stake in Statoil ASA, the country's largest energy company. Norway is the world's second-largest gas exporter and the seventh-biggest oil exporter. The fund invests outside Norway to avoid stoking domestic inflation.

--With assistance by Meera Bhatia in Oslo and Jody Shenn in New York, Editors: Jonas Bergman, Tasneem Brogger