Forever Under Construction

KbQ

Posted in Economics by homeyra on March 28, 2010

Karma Banque (KbQ) is at the center of a new activist movement which combines the civil disobedience of Gandhi with the financial savvy of George Soros to help change the economic and political landscape of the world!

Isn’t this a great idea?

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The Loop

Posted in Economics by homeyra on July 12, 2009

What I don’t get is that all that is not a new discovery. Why it took so long for countries to react to?

Max Keiser: “Economic advisors are getting together as you know and the Indian prime minister has said that “The major part of Indian reserves are in dollars — that is something that’s a problem for us”. As a former economic advisor to governments and presidential candidates yourself, what are your thoughts on the statement coming out of India, the dollar is after all one of this magical money machines.”

Michael Hudson (author, president of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends): “Well India said that as just a week or two ago it met with China and Brazil and Russia in Yekaterinburg to decide “Let’s draw a line and not have any more dollars” so this follows the […] meeting in Yekaterinburg and the decision to say “Wait a minute we are all financing the US treasury and the US treasury is turning that money over to the Pentagon to build military bases around us so if we don’t accept more dollars they are going to attack us We are not going to finance the military surrounding us to force us to accept yet more dollars. We are going to stop the process right now”, and they are stopping the process and they say no more and they realize that the American military machine and the whole empire is based on the ability to produce pure paper and get real resources and to run a huge deficit, largely military since the Korean wars of over fifty years ago and it’s a free lunch and what they are saying is that the free lunch is over.”

Source, third video, minute 5.40

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Dr. Paul Graig Roberts: “[…] Countries like China, Japan and OPEC – the oil producing countries – are financing the American wars in the Middle East and the American efforts to destabilize other countries. I am absolutely convinced the Americans will attempt to destabilize China, they’ll try to destabilize Russia, they are destabilizing former constituent parts of the old Soviet Union […] with military bases and the rest of the world is financing that.
So what you say is true, at some point people have to wonder why we are we giving up real goods and services so Americans could conduct wars? […]”

Source, minute 4.40

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The New Face of Class War: “Free trade” and “globalization” are the guises behind which class war is being conducted against the middle class by both political parties.

Working for free:

British Airways has asked 40,000 employees to work for free for the month of July
Google is now asking illustrators to work for free

The lonely robot

Posted in Economics, Society by homeyra on June 1, 2009

the-trap-curtis1“In economics the whole idea that the free market is an efficient system is coming under serious attack. Over the past five years many of the Nobel prices for economics have been awarded for research that shows that markets do not create stability or order. What Adam Smith called the invisible hand, is invisible, because it isn’t actually there, and politicians do have a powerful role to play in controlling the markets.
And a new discipline called behavioral economics is being studying whether people really do behave as the simplified model says they do.
Their studies showed that only two groups in society actually behaved in a rational self-interested way in all experimental situations:
One is the economists themselves, the other is psychopaths.”

Excerpt from Part 2: The Lonely Robot fromThe Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom, a 2007 BBC documentary series by English filmmaker Adam Curtis.

Curtis blogs here.

The Century of The Self

Posted in Economics, Society by homeyra on May 31, 2009

I had bookmarked this 2002 BBC documentary long time ago, then forgot all about it.

After a discussion on democracy which occurred after an earlier post, I was listening to a podcast where this movie was mentioned again. Finally I watched an hour of The Century of The Self and I am heading to see the rest of it. It is so thought provoking that I had to share and recommend it right away. Here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and part 4. You can read about all episodes through links on this BBC page.

A key figure of this first video is Edward BernaysFreud‘s nephew – and the profession he invented in the 1920s: Public Relations.

225px-Edward_BernaysBernays was the first person to take Freud‘s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. He was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.

Bernays was an adviser to the tobacco industry, big business, General Motors, U.S. Presidents and the CIA. He was also an inspiration to Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister.

A few excerpts from Part 1:

“Following that (Roosevelt‘s) election, business people start to get together and start to carry on discussions, primarily in private, and they start to talk to each other about the need to sort of carry on ideological warfare against the New Deal, and to reassert the connectedness between the idea of democracy on the one hand and privately owned business on the other. And so under the umbrella of an organization which still exists, which is called “National Association of Manufacturers” and whose membership include all of the major corporations of the United-States, a campaign is launched explicitly designed to create emotional attachments between the public and big business. It’s Bernays’ techniques used in a grand scale, I mean totally.[…]

The campaign set up to show dramatically that it was business, not politicians who had created modern America.”

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“He (Bernays) was about to help create a vision of the utopia that free market capitalism would build America if it was unleashed. In 1939 New York hosted the World’s Fair. Edward Bernays was a central adviser, he insisted that the theme be the link between democracy and American business. […]
The World’s Fair was an extraordinary success and captured America’s imagination. The vision it portrayed was of a new form of democracy in which business responded to people’s innermost desires in a way politicians could never do. But it was not a form of democracy that depended on treating people as active citizens as Roosevelt did, but as passive consumers because this, Bernays believed, is the key to control in a mass democracy. […]

But this struggle between the two views of human being as if there were rational or irrational was about to be dramatically affected by events in Europe. […]”

The director, Adam Curtis is also the author of  The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear – 2004 and The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom – 2007.

Adam Curtis blogs here.

Want to invest?

Posted in Economics, Society by homeyra on May 30, 2009

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I’ll try Gulag Wealth Fund

Money

Posted in Economics by homeyra on July 24, 2008

The Money Myth Exploded: short, educational and informative (h/t 99)

Picture: A terracotta forger mold for a gold coin, Sassanian, 3rd-7th century

I Don’t Know

Posted in Economics, War on Terror by homeyra on April 28, 2008

Henry C. K. Liu is a regular contributor to Asia Times Online on economics and finance.

I enjoy reading C. K. Liu‘s articles, although I don’t understand half of his financial jargon. What eases my way through his lengthy specialized writings is that the social, cultural, historical, even artistic and philosophical aspects are always included. That’s where I got some idea about the history of central banking, the Bretton Woods regime and its collapse in 1971, the fiat currency, the dollar hegemony, etc.

A few days ago I came across the following article: The Global Economy in Transition presented in a conference in 2003. Here is Henry C. K. Liu‘s take on the “war on terrorism“:

“[…] The hollowing out of America’s manufacturing and digital sectors becomes a compelling rationale for US control of the world to protect its offshore sourcing. After all, wars have been fought to protect the supply of oil in places where nature has placed it; why should the United States not fight to protect where the “free” market puts its manufacturing and data processing? In this strategy, the US needs only two things: a powerful military with instant power-projection capability everywhere around the globe, and dollar hegemony to create dollars that can buy all the things that the world makes for export to the US. The British Empire was rationalized by the need of Britain to import food as domestic agriculture became crowded out by industry. Similarly, the US Empire will be rationalized by the need of the United States to import manufactured goods as domestic production is crowded out by financial services.

There are only two difficulties with this grand strategy: 1) to build the ideal empire, US workers will have to be retrained for the service sector and large numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers will fall through the cracks – and that creates problems in a democracy; and 2) the rest of the world is not stupid and may not take it lying down. So freedom and democracy at home will have to be modified in the name of homeland security and foreign resistance will have to be crushed in the name of freedom and democracy. The “war on terrorism” is tailor-made for this grand strategy.”

The complete Henry C. K. Liu, AToL
C. K. Liu’s website

Gini

Posted in Economics, World by homeyra on March 23, 2008

The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini, is a measure of income inequality ranging between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds to a society where everyone has exactly the same income, and 1 corresponds to a society where one person has all the income and everyone else has none.

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Income distribution by country
2007-2008

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World vs. Bank

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, India, World by homeyra on November 27, 2007

The World Bank claims to be the world’s preeminent anti-poverty institution.

But according to Robert Wiessman: “The developing countries that have most closely hued to policies imposed by the World Bank (and its sister institution, the IMF) have found themselves much poorer, less healthy and less educated than countries that have resisted Bank recommendations.”

Weissman, co-director of Essential Action, explains: “The World Bank’s great failings over the last decades are rooted in its commitment to the market fundamentalism known as “the Washington consensus.” This is a set of maniacal market-oriented policies including: deregulation of the economy, […] removing all trade barriers and orienting economies to support exports, massive privatization […], eliminating subsidies for basic necessities, rolling back legally guaranteed labor rights, cutting back on government services and restricting government spending. The Bank has also maintained a penchant for environmentally and socially destructive mega-development projects. […] The result has been a literal human disaster.”

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In September 2007 The Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank held at Jawharlal Nehru University, India, publicly audited programmes introduced by the bank in India for developmental activities. After listening to 60 depositions made by activists, economists, lawyers and researchers, the jury in its preliminary findings, charged the bank with serious violations of democracy and human rights and indicted it for meddling in India sovereignty.

Althought the World Bank had initially stated that it welcomes opportunities for dialogue, it pulled out of the tribunal in the last minute and none of its representative participated, as it didn’t accept to make itself accountable to the Tribunal judgment process.

Excerpts from the Jury findings:

leftbanner_wbt_1.gif “[…] the evidence and depositions we have witnessed presents a disturbing and shocking picture of increased and needless human suffering since 1991 among hundreds of millions of India’s poorest and most disadvantaged in rural areas and in the cities. […] a significant number of Indian government policies and projects financed and influenced by the World Bank have contributed directly and/or indirectly to this increased impoverishment and suffering. […]

The most disturbing leading indicator for this suffering is the alarming increase in farmer suicides since the 1990s. From 2001 to 2007 alone, […] 137,000 poor farmers have killed themselves. […] as a result of some or all of the following policies, such as: reduced subsidies […], higher prices for irrigation water, electric power, and seeds; […] reduced access to low interest loans for the poor, and opening up of the Indian economy to an uneven playing field in international trade in agricultural commodities. India’s farmers must now compete with imports from the heavily subsidized farms of the European Union and North America, at the same time when even the most meager state assistance for the poorest farmers is reduced. India was once self-sufficient in food production; its food security is now dependent on imports. […]

Other World Bank loans have promoted the institution of user fees in the health and education sectors, as well as partial privatization in these sectors. […] they have further disadvantaged the poor. […] The net effect of many Bank prescribed policy “reforms” appears to be the reorientation of the Indian State priorities from striving to secure a safety net for the poor and vulnerable to providing a safety net for large domestic and international corporations and investors.

We heard witnesses […] describe the deterioration for their communities from poverty to destitution because of forced displacement caused by World Bank financed projects. […] Although the Bank’s own Independent Inspection Panel found in 2002 that Bank management violated its own environmental and resettlement policies on 37 counts, Bank management has taken no effective measures to ameliorate the condition of these families. […]

[…] The Indian Government, of course, shares at the very least equal responsibility for all of the abuses we have witnessed, indeed a significant number of officials in key ministries such as finance and planning have either worked at the Bank or IMF, or share their assumptions and biases. Together all bear considerable responsibility for wide reaching policies and specific investments which in the name of growth and development have had the cruelest impact on the most vulnerable groups in our society.

[…] India and the international community must join to hold the World Bank accountable for policies and projects that in practice directly contradict its mandate of alleviating poverty for the poorest.”

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See also World vs Bank: The World Bank Campaign Europe, The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal held a Public Hearing on the World Bank in October 2007, in The Hague, Netherlands. Analysis, Case Studies

Oxfam: World Bank ignores recommendations to help the poor, 2004
Oxfam: Six point plan for the president of the World Bank, 2007

Bank Information Center: World Bank governance challenges: what must be done, 2007
The Guardian: Charities want UK to withhold World Bank cash over loans to poor, Nov. 2007

Financial Hypocrisy by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz

Modern Art & Power

Posted in Architecture, Art, Economics by homeyra on May 5, 2007

Henry CK Liu has published a very interesting series of article in the Asia Times online: Money Power and Modern Art. A Harvard graduated architect and urban designer, Liu developed and interest in economics and international relations. He is an independent commentator on culture, economics and politics. He is currently chairman of the New York-based Liu Investment Group and a contributor to Asia Times. His homepage contains articles mainly on monetary and economic issues.

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Money Power and Modern Art focuses on the creation of the Museum of the Modern Art in New York and the legacy of a few protagonists, mainly Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the wife of John D Rockefeller Jr, son of the founder of the Standard Oil.

The first two articles describe the historic and economic background: the rise of Rockefeller, the monetary controversy in the late 19 and early 20th century, the private control of currency, and the creation and implementation of institutions and acts which made the wealth accumulation structurally systemic.

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A third article The Year of Contradictions is about 1913. A year marked by the Armory Show in New York, with the purpose of introducing the work of antiacademic artists from both sides of the Atlantic usually neglected by current shows. 1913 was also the year of the creation of the Federal Reserve System and the textile workers strikes. Left-wing intellectuals such as John Reed were debating about social responsibility and the cultural cause, while a rightist radicalism was taking form through what Liu calls a monetary coup d’état.

Pivotal figures of the creation of the MoMA in 1929 are also introduced in this article.

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View across garden, in new MoMA building by Yoshio Taniguchi

In Modern art and socialism Liu describes Abby Aldrich Rockefeller‘s commitment to modernity as well as the innovative approach of Alfred Barr the founding director of the MoMA. This article includes an interesting reflection on the conceptual problem facing a museum of modern art and the contradiction between the museum as a depository of things of the past, a legitimizing academy and modernity.

Regarding the dominant socialist content of art and culture of this era, Liu writes: “In many ways, what saved the Modern Movement in the US, more than the sanitizing of its socialist content, was its rejection by the Soviets, a fundamental error in a series of fundamental errors traceable to a garrison-state mentality, killing the revolution to protect the revolution. Stalin, who saw the state as the sole agent of revolution rejected non-objective art…”

Other interesting chapters are the beginnings of the Modern Art Movement, the architecture of the MoMA at the beginning and the latest addition, architectural considerations in a museum design, as well as the business aspects of a museum.

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The last article: Modern Art and freedom of expression
In the early 30’s, the Junior Advisory Committee of the MoMa criticized the museum’s trustees of the Modern’s near-exclusive focus on European artists and for neglecting the works of American artists. The trustees authorized the committee to organize a show, “Murals by Painters and Photographers”, of works of American muralists. This exhibition included controversial artworks, such as Us Fellas Gotta Stick Together – Al Capone by Hugo Gellert, depicting among others Henry Ford, president Hoover and Rockefeller Sr sitting with Al Capone. The controversy of this artwork was a prelude to a later famous scandal: Diego Rivera‘s mural including a portrait of Lenin in the Rockefeller Center, an episode which is widely reported including Rivera’s own narration. Through these episodes Liu writes about the contradiction of ideals of liberal capitalism and freedom of expression through art. Is it legitimate to “sanitize the unwanted social-political content of art“?

We read about more recent controversies, such as mayor Giuliani’s outrage over an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 99, lawsuits against some government funded exhibitions – censorship based on the taxpayer’s money rationale, and the private money versus public funding of art events and their respective prerogative in censorship.

I tried to present some of the headlines of these articles. Liu draws some very interesting parallels between this era and the present times, such as common aspects with Stalinism, early Protestantism in part 3, or the (lack of) historic basis of protection of intellectual property rights and the Microsoft case – part 2: A monetary coup d’état.

If this field interests you, I highly recommend the original text.

Relevant links:
MoMA Web site
Henry CK Liu’s homepage
Diego Rivera Web museum
Diego Rivera House Museum
Hugo Gellert: History of a controversy

A Century Of War

Posted in Economics, Energy, Geopolitics, Middle East, Oil, Politics, USA by homeyra on December 31, 2006

Control energy and you control the nations. Kissinger

What is most important to the history of the world? The Talliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold-war? – 1998 Brzezenski

Frederick William Engdahl has written on issues of energy, politics and economics for more than 30 years, beginning with the first oil shock in the early 1970s.

After a degree in politics from Princeton and graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm, he worked as an economist and free-lance journalist. He currently lives in Germany and in addition to writing regularly on issues of economics, energy and international affairs, is active as a consulting geopolitical risk economist.

Engdahl is the author of the best-selling book on oil and geopolitics: A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.

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The University of Michigan Press: This book is a gripping account of the murky world of the international oil industry and its role in world politics.

From George W. Bush’s election victory to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, US politics and oil enjoy a controversially close relationship. The US economy relies upon the cheap and unlimited supply of this single fuel.

William Engdahl takes the reader through a history of the oil industry’s grip on the world economy… Moving from the post-World War I period up to the present day, he shows how oil is and has always been the motivating factor in international policy and conflicts.

Shedding light on the 1970s oil shocks and the grand strategy of Washington after the end of the Cold War, Engdahl presents a convincing case that geopolitics and oil were behind the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breakup of Yugoslavia, the rise and fall of the Taliban. He reveals evidence to show that the US and UK decision to go to war in Iraq was not simply an issue of corporate greed. It was a strategic move to control the world economy for the following half century or more. 

Frederick William Engdahl’s website

A must read: A New American Century? Iraq and the hidden euro-dollar wars 12-2006

See also: Calculating the risk of war with Iran 01- 2006

Behind Bush II’s War of Tyranny 02-2006

China lays down gauntlet in energy war 12-2005

Iraq and the problem of peak oil, 08-2004

Online book: How the world really works

Nobel Peace Prize 2006

Posted in Economics, Justice, Social work by homeyra on December 14, 2006

PPGG has posted the complete information about the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Here is a short version. If there is one story worthy of recitation, it seems to be the following. Thank you PPGG.

Read the whole text here

Gandhi once observed that “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Peace and justice are inextricably linked. 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the Bangladeshi economist and originator of the microcredit idea Muhammad Yunus, has given his Nobel Peace Prize lecture very much in this spirit.

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“Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society… I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.”

The difference between his successful ground-up strategies and the failed developmentalist models of the past is that it empowers and places responsibility with the lender, mostly small groups of female borrowers who apply for small amounts of credit to invest in small business projects such as making soap.

His strategy and that of the Grameen Bank is the innovative and cooperative microfinance model…the Bank’s continued wonderful success on the ground in alleviating poverty and improving lives is thoroughly deserving of its plaudits. See also the Grameen Foundation.

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See the 16 decisions of Grameen Bank

Excerpts from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture :

… By giving us this prize, the Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.

World’s income distribution gives a very telling story. 94% of the world income goes to 40% of the population while 60% of people live on only 6% of world income. Half of the world population lives on $2 a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace. See Miniature Earth

The new millennium began with a great global dream. World leaders gathered at the United Nations in 2000 and adopted, among others, a historic goal to reduce poverty by half by 2015. Never in human history had such a bold goal been adopted by the entire world in one voice, one that specified time and size. But then came September 11 and the Iraq war … I believe terrorism cannot be won over by military action. … We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.

… Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society.

I became involved because poverty was all around me. In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom … I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me … That brought me face to face with poor people’s struggle … I was shocked to discover a woman in the village, borrowing less than a dollar from the money-lender, on the condition that he would have the exclusive right to buy all she produces at the price he decides. This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor … 42 victims (had) borrowed a total amount of US $27. I offered US $27 from my own pocket …

The excitement that was created among the people by this small action got me further involved in it. If I could make so many people so happy with such a tiny amount of money, why not do more of it?

That is what I have been trying to do ever since.

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The first thing I did was to try to persuade the bank … to lend money to the poor… The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy… I offered to become a guarantor for the loans to the poor. I was stunned by the result. The poor paid back their loans, on time, every time! … I decided to create a separate bank … in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank or Village bank.

Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly 7.0 million poor people, 97% of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh…housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses… We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family.

… the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6.0 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit… 58% of our borrowers have crossed the poverty line.

It is 30 years now since we began. We keep looking at the children of our borrowers … Grameen Bank now gives 30,000 scholarships every year…There are 13,000 students on student loans. Over 7,000 students are now added to this number annually.

We are creating a completely new generation that will be well equipped to take their families way out of the reach of poverty. We want to make a break in the historical continuation of poverty…

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We shall not live in dilapidate houses. We shall repair our houses and work toward constructing new houses at the earliest.

Young people all around the world, particularly in rich countries, will find the concept of social business very appealing since it will give them a challenge to make a difference by using their creative talent. Many young people today feel frustrated because they cannot see any worthy challenge… Almost all social and economic problems of the world will be addressed … Healthcare, financial services, information technology, education and training and marketing for the poor, renewable energy − these are all exciting areas for social businesses …it addresses very vital concerns of mankind. It can change the lives of the bottom 60% of world population and help them to get out of poverty

Globalization … can bring more benefits to the poor than its alternative. But it must be the right kind …Globalization must not become financial imperialism.

We Create What We Want: …If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world … we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social system that we have designed for ourselves…we built our theoretical framework on assumptions which under-estimates human capacity…

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In a poverty-free world, the only place you would be able to see poverty is in the poverty museums. When school children take a tour of the poverty museums, they would be horrified to see the misery and indignity that some human beings had to go through…

Grameen has given me an unshakeable faith in the creativity of human beings. This has led me to believe that human beings are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty.

Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity.