Friday, October 10, 2008


They're scared to death as well they should be. They, being the big capitalists, are at a loss as to what to do about the crisis of capitalism. There really isn't much they can. Capitalism's cycles are an economic law, a fact of life. All the credit bullcrap that has gone on the past few years managed to delay the down cycle, but it had to come and it has.

The big finance bosses and their buddies running countries like ours are thrashing about like mad tyring to find a way out of the mess they've got themselves into.

An editorial in the Economic Observer said: "The United States is no longer the omnipotent savior and global protector of American values ... The demise of Wall Street means that the cornerstone of this global financial empire has been broken and no one knows whether it can ever be repaired."

John Bellamy Foster, editor of the independent socialist magazine Monthly Review and professor of sociology at the University of Oregon in Eugene, said in a recent interview:

"But in the face of this massive financial crisis, now 14 months old, and rapidly morphing into what looks like a full-scale debt deflation on the order of the Japanese meltdown/stagnation in the early 1990s -- even threatening to turn into a new Great Depression on the scale of the 1930s -- the U.S. government is bailing like mad with bigger and bigger buckets, and trying absolutely everything it can think of."

But the capitalists won't find a quick fix.

And we will all suffer for it. Some obviously worse than others. The crisis will undoubtedly hit the poor countries of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America hardest. Just today, for example, the UN warned that hunger in Africa is being made and will be made worse thanks to capitals latest hiccup.

Capitalism is global now and so are its problems.

And so is speculation. So waffleheads sitting at their computers around the world are buying and selling stocks by the seconds trying to make one more buck...voila today the stock market goes down 700, goes up a bit, goes down 500, goes up over 100 and ends up down again over 100. Nothing is's lala land.

Then there are those who seeing this as the demise of the superpower United States (which it is) turn to China asking for help. Some of them have called on Beijing to snap up stakes in United States financial institutions and further China's influence on global financial power.

China should lead rescue efforts for the US financial crisis, Mexican tycoon Carlos Sim, one of the world's richest men, told the press last week.

"China is now the most important country to help responsibly in this crisis," he says. "In the past, developed countries had reserves and financed developing countries, while today developed countries, especially the United States, are being financed with resources from developing countries".

The Chinese aren't so sure now is the time to come riding in and save the West. From Asia Times, "Although fortified with great liquidity and large reserves, Chinese banks and government investors have preferred to sit on their hands rather than go on a shopping spree of tumbling Wall Street firms."

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan told former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday as the largest developing country and a rising market, China's priority is to well handle its own problems

Premier Wen Jiabao summed up China's cautious position: maintaining "steady and fast growth" is the "biggest contribution" China can make to help the world overcome the current financial crisis stemming from the United States, he said during an inspection tour of Chinese provinces this week.

The Chinese aren't stupid thought. They know they are tied into international capitalism now just like everybody else. Their own stock market is going anywhere but up at the moment.

China is following closely Washington's response to the ongoing financial crisis for its own reasons. Chinese ambassador to the US Zhou Wenzhong said the other day the turmoil in the US has affected Chinese investment there, especially the large amount of US bonds being held by the Chinese.

"As China holds large amounts in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares and in US bonds, the financial storm has definitely impacted Chinese investment. So we're paying a good deal of attention to the crisis," said Zhou in a speech on China-US trade relations at the Center for National Policy in Washington DC, on Wednesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, says the current turmoil in the financial market is global, rather than confined to any single country. He says it is beyond any single state's ability to deal with such crisis. Qin says that's why all members of the international community should make joint efforts to cope with it. He says this is China's clear message as well as a solemn commitment to the international community. He says China will ensure the stable development of its own economy at a relatively fast pace and that will be an important contribution to the world economy.

People's Bank of China (PBOC) spokesman Li Chao told Xinhua today, "The PBOC will continue close contacts and cooperation with counterparts and international financial organizations to jointly maintain stability of global financial market." The global economic slowdown reduced demand for Chinese exports and inevitably affected China's economy, he said.

But China has something the US doesn't anymore.

China actually produces "things." They have factories.

And that ain't all China has.

Li Chao points out, "China has a huge domestic market and the liquidity is abundant. As long as we take strong measures to boost domestic demand, the economy has big potential for sustainable growth."

There are some folks who have other ideas although you'll seldom see them and those presenting them will be attacked for making them.

Marx argued that the cycles of capitalism could no more be abolished than the tides or the seasons. Since the 1990s, Marxism has either been ignored or dismissed by almost all mainstream economists and media commentators as an old time religion, of no relevance to the modern world.

Maybe they should think again.

At a news conference in Luxembourg, the communist parties from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg this week called for a new financial institution that will serve the interests of the people, not maximum profits.

Whoa, there's a strange idea.

“Instead of throwing public money at private banks over and over again – as if to satisfy their craving for a drug, we are instead calling for a major redistribution of wealth, a redistribution of income and property,” said Jo Cottenier of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB). This is the way we can ultimately achieve A fair re-evaluation of public and collective property.”

Aloyse Bisdorff, member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Luxemburg says following the Southeast Asia economic crisis and the crisis of the “New Economy,” this is already the third great crisis caused by free-market capitalism since its recent domination of the world. "While the governments try to save the capitalist system with the help of taxpayers’ money, they are at the same time creating the basis for a new crisis.”

Will the capitalist crisis weather the storm and right itself at some point. I'd say that's a good bet. As Marx pointed out over 150 years ago, capitalism has internal mechanisms — driving down wages, reorganizing work, massive bankruptcies — that allow it to recover from these crises. There will be no “final” economic crisis of capitalism — it will have to be overthrown.

But what does a "recovery" really mean.

The journal Solidarity says, "Whoever is elected President in November 2008 will likely face the same “stagflation” — the combination of price inflation and economic stagnation — that Nixon, Ford, and Carter wrestled with through the 1970s. For most of us, an ever-sharper attack on working-class standards of living will be the main consequence of the current crisis."

In the Monthly Review on line William K. Tabb writes what he thinks Marx might say today:

"Yes, the system may recover -- but only at great cost to working people, who will eventually understand that they do not have to put up with all this." He would also add that we now have the potential to meet human needs, accept that the development of each of us should be the goal of all of us, reject wars for oil, save the planet, and have ordinary people learn that they can govern themselves."

In the same analytic piece Tabb writes:

"David Harvey in an introduction to a new printing of The Communist Manifesto called attention to one of its modest proposals for reform, the centralization of credit in the hands of the state. This is happening already on a temporary basis as it did in Sweden and now in the UK and other places. So wrote Harvey earlier this year, why not consider some of the other equally modest but wholly sensible proposals -- such as free (and good) education for all children, serious progressive taxation, and significant inheritance taxation? The proposals made in the Manifesto for the most part now strike us as tame stuff. Yet even those which were to some extent achieved have been significantly repealed in the last decades in America. It would be useful to think about what we need and want and demand it, if not in some grand manifesto then in public discussion, demonstrations, and electoral struggles... And, if these are good ideas for a time of crisis, why not as a route to a more just economic system? We may be moving closer to a point similar to the one when the New Deal began: an entire economic system is understood to be broken and the usual policies of bailing out corporations can't reverse the decline, fear permeates all and hundreds of millions of Americans are desperate. At such times, people begin to say if this is how capitalism works it is time to figure out something better."

As John McCain would say, "I know what that something is!"

Says the Socialist Party USA (speaking in general terms what we all know), "The real solution to the vast majority of these problems would be to move rapidly to a socialist society, one in which housing is provided to all as a basic right, the financial sector and commanding heights of the economy are made publicly accountable through social ownership and worker control of the economy, and production is oriented toward the needs of working people, rather than maximizing the profits of an obsolete ruling class of multi-millionaires and billionaires."

Last week, Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was giving a lecture in Georgetown. Greenspan, the consumate capitalist, said the crisis will mean, "a return to the ideological struggle between socialism and capitalism.” He added, “Many of us thought that struggle was over with the collapse of the command economies, but this is not the case.”

I sure as hell hope not.

The following is from Bloomberg.

Berlusconi Says Leaders May Close World's Markets
By Steve Scherer

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said political leaders are discussing the idea of closing the world's financial markets while they "rewrite the rules of international finance."

"The idea of suspending the markets for the time it takes to rewrite the rules is being discussed," Berlusconi said today after a Cabinet meeting in Naples, Italy. A solution to the financial crisis "can't just be for one country, or even just for Europe, but global."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much 8.1 percent in early trading and pared most of those losses after Berlusconi's remarks. The Dow was down 0.5 percent to 8540.52 at 10:10 in New York.

Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers are meeting in Washington today, and will stay in town for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings this weekend. European Union leaders may gather in Paris on Oct. 12, three days before a scheduled summit in Brussels, Berlusconi said today, while Group of Eight leaders may hold a meeting on the crisis "in coming days," he said.

Berlusconi didn't give any details about what kind of rules leaders were looking to change, except to say that leaders are "talking about a new Bretton Woods."

The Bretton Woods Agreements were adopted to rebuild the international economic system after World War II in a hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The aim of the agreements was to establish a monetary management system, initially by pegging currencies to gold. The IMF was set up later to help manage the international financial system.


Hundreds of Icelanders vented their fury Friday at central bank chief David Oddsson, the man blamed for the country's financial collapse, as the government appeared unable to ward off national bankruptcy.

We ought to be seeing more of this on our street.

Anyway, back to Iceland. Anger over the situation there has mounted in recent days against Oddsson, who served as the country's prime minister from 1991 until 2004 and who orchestrated the liberalisation of the financial sector in the 1990s.

Until a few days ago Oddsson had repeatedly told Icelanders the situation was under control. It, of course was not. On Monday, the government announced sweeping emergency laws enabling it to take control of the country's foundering banks.

It has since then nationalised the three biggest banks and abandoned efforts to support the currency which is in free fall.

"He (Oddson) didn't do his work. He made the wrong decisions and has made inappropriate comments. We demand his resignation," one of the protesters, 23-year-old political science student Vera Knutsdottir, told AFP.

Iceland has seen its three biggest banks failed and its currency, the krona, collapsed.

In the midst of all this a war of words (and more) has erupted between Iceland and Britain. British customers' savings in Icelandic bank accounts have been frozen by Iceland's government.

British customers' money in Icesave, a British subsidiary of the nationalised bank Landsbanki, have been unable to access their money since Tuesday.

While Iceland may seem a fringe European country, its banks had recently spawned a range of internet banks which have sucked in billions in UK pension funds.

According to media reports, some 300,000 people in Britain have savings in Icesave, estimated at 5.1 billion euros (6.86 billion dollars). Major withdrawls would pretty much send Iceland down the tube.

To make matters worse, Iceland's financial hurricane seems to also be sucking in 108 of Britain's local administrative councils, which deposited a total of 799.0 million pounds ($1.4 billion) in Icelandic banks. As they are not classified as retail clients, getting their money back will be far more difficult.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has called Iceland's stance "completely unacceptable," vowed to do everything possible to recover money caught up in the island nation's financial meltdown.

"They have got to take responsibility for this situation... We've asked the Icelandic authorities to return money that should have been left in Britain," he said.

"I can assure people we are doing everything in our power for this money to be returned," he added.

Meanwhile, Icelandic Prime Minister, Gier Haarde, has expressed his annoyance that the UK used anti-terrorism legislation to seize assets in Britain of the one of the Icelandic banks.

Forbes reports, the cold war between Britain and Iceland over the stranded clients of Icesave left the British currency crippled Friday afternoon, as worries persisted over Britain's exposure to Iceland's economic turmoil.

It's clear that Iceland poses an idiosyncratic risk to the British economy and banking system," said Ned Rumpeltin, a currency strategist at Morgan Stanley. "That is being meted out on sterling."

Also, unhappy with Iceland is the Netherlands.

The Dutch Minister of Finance Wouter Bos said in an interview that the Icelandic state will be taken to court if it does not honor its obligations towards the roughly 120,000 Dutch accounts holder in Landsbanki Bank’s online savings bank Icesave.

“If it turns out that false information was given out then we will clearly take legal action against Icelandic authorities,” Bos told Elsevier magazine, according to Morgunbladid.

Russia today finalized an agreement to grant Iceland a EUR 4 billion (USD 6 billion) loan.

Jon Thorisson, CEO of VBS, an Icelandic investment bank, said a $4 billion euro loan could "help Iceland a lot," but admitted that he was surprised the source might be Russia.

"We have been calling for aid from neighboring countries and have been turned down," Thorisson said.

"This is looking like the beginning of relations between Russia and Iceland."

Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde said Tuesday that in times of crisis "one has to look for new friends," The Associated Press reported.

RIA Novosti writes: "The fate of Iceland has until recently not concerned Russia one bit. Now only a lazy person is not discussing the incredible sum the "island of stability" is going to inject into the economy of a sinking island of geysers."

Russia's own banks have been weathering liquidity problems, with the Central Bank stepping in to offer nearly $190 billion in funding for the financial sector, but it looks like the country is still in a good enough position to help Iceland cover some of the costs of bailing out its own banks.

"Russia is not in the same situation as Iceland. Their banks are extremely leveraged," said Vladimir Krendel, an analyst from the Institute of Financial Research in Moscow.

"In Russia, we are comparatively pretty stable. We have not been involved in subprime banking. It used to be a drawback, but now it's our advantage."

Krendel said that providing financial backing in Europe would also be of "great political advantage."

Strange bedfellows doth a global crisis of capital create.

The following is from Reuters International.

Angry Icelanders demand central bank head resign

REYKJAVIK, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Angry Icelanders protested outside the central bank on Friday over the way the economy has been run and called on the bank's governor to resign.

About 200 protesters stood outside the central bank on a bright, breezy autumn day, chanting "David Out!"

Central Bank Governor David Oddsson, a former prime minister and close ally of the current premier, has faced calls to resign from at least one prominent Icelandic politician, who said his views were shared by other lawmakers.

The government has been forced to take control of three of the country's top banks, seek financial assistance from Russia and abandon attempts to defend its currency as a financial crisis brought the economy to the brink of collapse.

The crisis has shocked and confused the island of 300,000 in the north Atlantic.

Two women in the throng held a sign reading "Stay Calm While We Rob You".

Snaebjorn Sigurdsson, 33, another demonstrator, said Oddsson should leave. "He's the former prime minister of Iceland. He let loose all the banks. He's been controlling things too long."

On Thursday, a senior politician in one of the parties in the ruling coalition called for all the directors of the central bank to be fired.

"I believe that the central bank directors have made repeated mistakes and should go," said Agust Olafur Agustsson, deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance.

"As long as the top management of the bank does not have credibility, the bank will not either."

Agustsson, speaking on state radio, criticised the central bank for not securing foreign currency reserves while it was possible and for potentially jeopardising a loan from Russia by prematurely stating it had been agreed.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Three Makah grandmothers (pictured here) have made the 330 miles journey from their home to Portland, Oregon today. They walked and drove the distance to protest what they say is a continual violation of Native American treaty rights. The women are Dotti Chamblin, 65, Gail Adams, 68, president, and Rhonda Markishtum, 50.

Two walked the whole way.

They brought with them at least 2,000 copies of a four-page letter they have written to hand out to congressional leaders' representatives, the governor, federal judges and anyone who wants a copy.

The letter demands better health care and talks of encroachments on treaty rights.

"Treaties are the supreme law of the land," Chamblin said.

It accuses elected officials of violating their oath of office by failing to honor Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution.

"Article 6 states that treaties are the law of the land and that federal judges will adhere to it," Chamblin said.

"A lot of things haven't happened that way.

"We ceded land to have a peace treaty, and there's a lot of atrocities that have happened to us that would not have happened to any other race of people — at least we think so, we grandmothers."

Among the treaty violations, the grandmothers believe, is the case of the five Makah men who hunted and killed a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sept. 7, 2007.

Last October, Chamblin and Adams took signs supporting Makah tribal whaling rights to the Port Angeles office of the 6th Congressional representative.

Their visit preceded a federal court arraignment of the five Makah men.

Since then, three of the men plead guilty to federal charges and were placed on five years' probation June 30, while one was sentenced to 90 days in the federal detention facility at Sea-Tac, and another was sentenced to five months there.

The Makah treaty of 1855 grants the tribe whaling rights.

"Those boys did nothing wrong, according to the treaty," Chamblin said then.

The grandmothers want their grandchildren to know when they see injustice, when someone tries to keep them quiet, they must speak out.

The following is from the Peninsula Daily News (Washington State).

Makah grandmothers marching for their causes reach Portland, Ore. -- Idaho next
By Diane Urbani de la Paz Peninsula Daily News

PORTLAND — Three walking, driving grandmothers made it to their destination Monday and pronounced their journey "awesome."

Rhonda Markishtum, Dotti Chamblin and Gail Adams, members of the Makah tribe and residents of Neah Bay, set out at 4 a.m. last Wednesday.

Their intention: To raise awareness of Native American treaty rights the women believe have been disrespected for too long.

At the end of the 330-mile trip, the trio walked into Portland, Ore., on Monday, just as they had planned, and headed for the Bureau of Indian Affairs office to deliver a simple message.

In treaties with the U.S. government, tribes all over this country traded their lands for basic human rights such as health care and education — but the United States hasn't held up its end of the deal, said Adams.

She lost her husband to cancer in May, and wonders whether he might have received better treatment if he'd lived somewhere besides the Makah Reservation.

In Neah Bay as in other remote Native American communities, tribal members struggle to get good care, said Adams, who at 68 is the eldest of the travelers.

Markishtum walked for her daughter, and for the grandchildren she hasn't seen in a long while. Her daughter's family, she said, was torn apart by domestic violence.

"My daughter is too scared to say anything. My whole family is too scared. But I'm not," added Markishtum, 48.

She's determined to get ­legal help for her daughter — and to call attention to the scourge of spousal abuse.

Wrapped in a shawl bearing a thunderbird, Markishtum walked into Port Angeles at noon last Wednesday.

She and Chamblin spoke about their hope to open a center for survivors of family violence in Neah Bay — and then they went to the Fifth Street office of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks to deliver a four-page letter about Native American rights.

Among other things, the grandmothers demand justice for the five Makah men who killed a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sept. 7, 2007, and who were later found to have violated the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Three of the men were placed on five years' probation while two are serving time at the federal detention facility at SeaTac.Whaling rights
The 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay was supposed to have guaranteed whaling rights to the Makah, Adams said.

In Port Angeles and on the road to Portland, she carried a sign that read, "Broken Trust: Makah Whaling."

Dicks, the Democrat from Belfair, sits on the Appropriation Subcommittee for the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He wasn't in his Port Angeles office on Wednesday, so the grandmothers gave their letter to aide Judith Morris.

Then they went on to Tacoma and on to Olympia, walking 5 miles at a stretch and driving the rest in a tiny white car decorated with U.S. flags.

"People honked and waved and gave us thumbs up," said Markishtum.

In Port Angeles, though, one yelled at the women to "go home."

"All the way through to Tacoma, we had no rain," Markishtum added. Taken as a whole, the trip was "awesome."

In Olympia the women took their letter to the office of Gov. Chris Gregoire, who was out. Again, an aide accepted the grandmothers' missive.BIA regional director
At the end of the road, they did find one man who was in his office: Stanley Speaks, Northwest regional director of the BIA and a member of the Chickasaw tribe.

"I met with them," Speaks said Monday. "They just dropped in. . . . I haven't had time to get into what they're trying to achieve.

"They have a lot of concerns. The main thing is to get through the materials they left here."

Chamblin, 65, said she was pleased to share her message about Native American rights with people on the street.

A few passers-by stopped for conversation, she said, so the grandmothers had a chance to talk about little-known treaties between the U.S. government and tribes.

They cited Article VI of the Constitution, which states that "treaties made . . . under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme Law of the Land."

Elected representatives in the federal and state levels, the article continues, "shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution."

"We're getting some information out to the public," Chamblin added, "that they need to know about."

The grandmothers say they aren't ready to return home. They're headed next to Lewiston, Idaho, for a meeting with Indian Health Service officials.

How will they get there?

"Walk," said Chamblin.

On dangerous highway stretches, however, the women will climb back into their car, flags still flying.________
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at


Soldiers patrolled the streets of Bangkok after two people died and hundreds were injured as police fought to disperse thousands of right wing protesters who had surrounded the parliament and attacked government representatives. They eventually created an exit for the trapped politicians, who hurried out of the building.

Thailand's army chief, General Anupong Paojinda, pledged that there will not be a new military coup, after troops from the army, navy and air force were mobilised to back up police trying to clear protesters from outside Parliament.

The military has staged 18 coups since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Euronews reports a young woman, aged about 20, is believed to have died and many others were were hurt in a suspected car bomb explosion during rioting on the streets of Bangkok. The device went off near to where anti-government protesters were laying siege to parliament. Shots are also said to have been fired at police, struggling to contain the demonstrators.

According to an article in the Asia Sentinel written by Thai scholar Giles Ji Unphakorn, the rioters are right wing thugs led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy who came prepared with iron bars and crash helmets.

Their plan, according to the Sentinel, as always, "was to create chaos in the hope that the military would stage a coup or that the ruling party would once again be dissolved by the courts. Their claim is that the present government led by the Peoples Power Party or PPP -- ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai in another name-- is illegitimate."

Overnight Tuesday, PAD supporters erected razor-wire barricades around Parliament manned by militia armed with sticks, knives, guns and slingshots, setting the stage for a day of confrontation and chaos.

The unrest marked an escalation of a four-month campaign to oust a government that was elected by rural and urban poor but is bitterly opposed by influential elites in Bangkok.

The PPP and the previous Thai Rak Thai have consistently won large majorities in elections, proving that they are popular with the poor, who make up the majority of the population. This support from the poor is not surprising, since the party was the first elite party in 30 years to offer a universal health care scheme and public funds to develop the rural economy.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is a protest group led by Sondhi Limthongkul, a former media magnate. The group has the support of right-wing royalists who would welcome military rule with royal patronage.

Its supporters are mainly urban, middle- to upper-class who are relatively rich compared to the majority of Thailand's rural population.

PAD advocate the scrapping of the one-man-one-vote democracy in Thailand and say only 30 per cent of parliament's members should be directly elected by the people.

The remaining 70 per cent should be chosen from various occupations and professions and be appointed, they say.

Supinya Klangnarong from the Campaign for Popular Media Reform, a Bangkok-based lobby group, told Al Jazeera that the group was going against democratic principles.

"It is obvious now that the PAD proposal is very anti-democratic principle because they no longer believe in the politicians who are elected by the people," she said.

Again, from Giles Ji Unphakorn in the Sentinel:

"Every public institution and organization in Thailand is now compromised by this inter-elite conflict and the losers, as usual, are the poor: workers and small farmers. The monarchy has failed to defuse the situation. The queen has openly sided with the PAD mob. The courts are practicing double standards, attacking Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai/People’s Power Party corruption while ignoring illegal coups, mob violence and corruption by opposition politicians and the military."

The military as always is on the side of the conservative royalists. The police are unable to act and the government lurches from crisis to crisis. The majority of academia is hopelessly compromised by its support for the coup and their support for decreasing the democratic space. Democratic principles have been thrown out the window by professors who teach "democratization" and the need for "the rule of law."'

We need to reform society to bring about progressive changes. This means expanding democracy, not allowing Thailand to slide back into the dark ages of dictatorship. But the task will only take place by forces in the Peoples' Movement – the left, the NGO networks, social movements and trade unions coming together to outline our own reform strategy. We cannot rely on the corrupt human-rights abusers in the government, nor the fascists of the PAD and their allies to achieve these aims."

The following is from The Standard (Hong Kong).

Blood runs on deadly streets of Bangkok

Anti-government protests left at least one person dead and hundreds injured yesterday as months of political turmoil boiled over in Bangkok, with troops deployed across the city to quell demonstrations.

There were scenes of chaos outside parliament as police fired teargas into a crowd of thousands, sending bloodied protesters fleeing. Angry mobs overturned police vehicles and fired guns.

A female protester was killed during the clashes, a hospital official said.

Eight police officers were shot or stabbed in the unrest that capped months of demonstrations aimed at removing Thailand's elected government because of its ties to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

A man was also killed in a car bombing near the protest site, police said, although it was unclear whether this was related to the clashes. They earlier identified the victim as a woman.

"We have been asked by the police to help maintain law and order," army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said.

"Troops will be deployed across Bangkok, not just at the flash points, to maintain law and order," he said, adding they would not be armed.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat - who assumed power only three weeks ago - said he would not declare a state of emergency. "I will continue my work," he said.

Medical officials said 358 people were injured, at least 20 seriously, as police tried to disperse several thousand protesters surrounding parliament to try to prevent Somchai from giving his first policy speech. The address went ahead but the special parliamentary session ended after two hours and protesters blockaded lawmakers inside, forcing Somchai and five aides to climb over a fence at the back of the parliament and onto the lawns of an adjoining palace before being flown by helicopter to safety.

Police hit the demonstrators with teargas as they tried to disperse about 8,000 protesters, eventually creating an exit for the trapped politicians.

Late on Monday, thousands heeded a call from a protest leader to march on parliament for a "final battle."

One of Thailand's five deputy prime ministers, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, resigned over the crackdown, saying his role as chief negotiator with protesters was compromised.

Parliament went ahead with its session yesterday morning despite a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party in protest against the crackdown.


Anyone who has actually read Karl Marx, especially "Kapital" knows the man knew of what he spoke. I'm not going to tell you everything Karl had to say was perfectly correct, but I am here to tell you that considering he was writing all his stuff back in the middle 1800s, he was pretty damn right on.

Marx, of course, has been largely hooted at by all those supposedly in the know. However, every so often, just as he suggested, the capitalist system insists on proving Karl right...irregardless of what the capitalist themselves think.

Of course, its happening again.

No doubt capitalism has proven more durable than old Karl might have imagined - or maybe it's just those of us who considered ourselves Marxists who assumed that capitalism couldn't last so long. After all Karl never said when, he only described what and how.

Karl Marx knew more about capitalism then any bourgeois economist of his time, or any time. His works have withstood the test of history. Their works just keep changing from decade to decade or, as now, from day to day.

To paraphrase Archie Bunker, "Mister, we could use a man like Karl Marx again."

What follows are two sections of the article "World capitalism in crisis" written by Alan Woods. To read the entire article go to

Alan Woods (born in Swansea, Wales in 1944) is a Trotskyist politician and writer. He is one of the leading members of the International Marxist Tendency and editor of 'the "In Defence of Marxism" website, "

Marx on fictitious capital

It is not a lack of money that causes a crisis, but on the contrary, it is the crisis that causes a lack of money. The bourgeois economists, with their banker's mentality, confuse cause with effect, appearance with essence. When the economy enters into crisis, credit dries up and people demand hard cash instead. This is the effect of the crisis, but in turn it becomes cause, pushing down demand and creating a downward spiral.

The bankers and their friends in government insist that the cause of the crisis is the fact that the financial system has too little capital. This is an astonishing statement to make. For the last two decades there was a vast moneymaking carnival in which the banks made huge profits. Now they claim they do not have enough capital! Actually, there was a huge amount of loan capital in circulation during the boom and this superabundance of capital itself showed the limitations of capitalist production. These were vast sums of capital available for speculation that could not find an outlet and the bourgeois had to find other ways of using it.

Marx pointed out long ago that the ideal of the bourgeois was to make money out of money, without going through the painful process of production. In the last period they appeared to have achieved this idea (except in China where there has been a real development of the productive forces). In the USA, Britain, Spain, Ireland and many other countries, the banks invested trillions in speculation, especially in the housing sector. This was the basis upon which the sub prime mortgage scandal arose and flourished, generating unimaginable amounts of fictitious capital.

Already in Marx's day there were huge amounts of circulating capital; this is capital which forms the basis of fictitious capital. In those days there were credit swindles - the equivalent of derivatives today. However, when compared to the position today, all the speculation in the past pales into insignificance. The total amount of speculation on a global scale is staggering. Let us take just one example: the credit default swap industry. This market allows two parties to bet on the likelihood of a company defaulting on its debt. It has grown to about $90 trillion in notional amounts insured. That is to say, probably more than double the total outstanding credit in the world. But contracts are registered nowhere but in the books of the partners. Nobody knows the real volume of trading, which therefore exposes the world economy to a huge risk. That explains the panic on Wall Street and in the White House. They fear - correctly - that any severe shock can bring the whole unstable edifice of international finance crashing down, with unforeseen consequences.

Even in the 19th century, at the height of the boom, when credit was easy and confidence was growing, most transactions were done without any real money. There is an abundance of capital at the beginning of the cycle and the rate of interest is low. The low rate of interest boosts the profits of enterprises early on in the cycle and stimulates growth. Later on the rate of interest reaches its average level during the height of prosperity. There is an increased demand for credit and therefore interest rates ought to rise at the peak of the boom. But in the last boom this did not occur.

In recent years the Federal Reserve pursued a policy of deliberately keeping interest rates low (they were even negative in real terms at one stage, considering the level of inflation). This was irresponsible from an orthodox capitalist point of view. It created the housing bubble and thus laid the basis for the present crisis. But as long as vast profits were being made and investors were happy, nobody cared. They all merrily joined in this mad carnival of moneymaking. The most respectable bankers and the most learned economists joined hands and danced to the chorus of: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!"

The reason why they now complain they have insufficient capital is that a large part of their assets are fictitious - the result of unprecedented swindling throughout the financial sector. As long as the boom continued, nobody minded. But now that boom has turned to bust, all these assets come under scrutiny. The bankers, who yesterday were prepared to buy large amounts of debt from each other, are no longer prepared to do so. Distrust and suspicion has become general. The old easy-going optimism has been replaced by a miserly attitude to borrowing and lending. The entire banking system, upon which the circulation of capital depends, is grinding to a halt.

Unless and until all the bad assets are removed, many institutions will still lack sufficient capital to extend fresh credit to the economy. Marx described this stage in the economic cycle long ago:

"It is clear that there is a shortage of means of payment during a period of crisis. The convertibility of bills of exchange replaces the metamorphosis of commodities themselves, and so much more so exactly at such times the more a portion of the firms operates on pure credit. Ignorant and mistaken bank legislation, such as that of 1844-45, can intensify this money crisis. But no kind of bank legislation can eliminate a crisis.

"In a system of production, where the entire continuity of the reproduction process rests upon credit, a crisis must obviously occur - a tremendous rush for means of payment - when credit suddenly ceases and only cash payments have validity. At first glance, therefore, the whole crisis seems to be merely a credit and money crisis. And in fact it is only a question of the convertibility of bills of exchange into money. But the majority of these bills represent actual sales and purchases, whose extension far beyond the needs of society is, after all, the basis of the whole crisis. At the same time, an enormous quantity of these bills of exchange represents plain swindle, which now reaches the light of day and collapses; furthermore, unsuccessful speculation with the capital of other people; finally, commodity-capital which has depreciated or is completely unsaleable, or returns that can never more be realized again. The entire artificial system of forced expansion of the reproduction process cannot, of course, be remedied by having some bank, like the Bank of England, give to all the swindlers the deficient capital by means of its paper and having it buy up all the depreciated commodities at their old nominal values. Incidentally, everything here appears distorted, since in this paper world, the real price and its real basis appear nowhere, but only bullion, metal coin, notes, bills of exchange, securities. Particularly in centres where the entire money business of the country is concentrated, like London, does this distortion become apparent; the entire process becomes incomprehensible; it is less so in centres of production." (Capital, Volume 3, Chapter 30, Money-Capital and Real Capital, I. pp. 478-9, my emphasis, AW)

The capitalists must now squeeze all this fictitious capital out of the system. Like a man whose body has been poisoned, or a drug addict who is struggling against the ill effects of his addiction, they must expel the poison from the organism or perish. But this is a painful process and creates new dangers to the organism. As the system shrinks and credit dries up, the capitalists call in their debts. Those who cannot pay will go bankrupt. Unemployment grows as a result, and this in turn reduces demand, causing new bankruptcies and new debts that cannot be paid. In this way, all the factors that pushed the economy upwards in the last period turn into their opposite.

What we predicted

Let us compare the perspectives of the Marxists with those of the bourgeois. In contrast to the bourgeois economists who committed the grave error of believing their own propaganda, the Marxist tendency explained the reality of the situation. In the Document On a Knife's Edge: Perspectives for the world economy written in 1999 we wrote the following:

"In the past it was said that the role of the Fed was to take away the punch bowl just when the party was getting into its swing. But this is no longer the case. While publicly paying lip service to financial probity and austerity, Alan Greenspan has been prepared to tolerate the creation of the biggest orgy of financial speculation in history, although he must realise the dangers involved. He is like the emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned. In fact, by raising interest rates by a paltry quarter of a percent, he has poured petrol on the flames. Thus the old motto is shown to be true: ‘Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.'"

In the same document we read:

"The fundamental barriers to the development of the productive forces in the modern epoch are private ownership of the means of production and the nation state. However, for a time, capitalism can partially get round these barriers by a series of means, such as the development of world trade and the expansion of credit. Marx long ago explained the role of credit in the capitalist system. It is a means whereby the market can be taken beyond its normal limits. In the same way, the expansion of world trade can provide a way out for a time, but only at the cost of preparing even more catastrophic crises in the future:
" ‘Capitalist production is continually engaged in the attempt to overcome these immanent barriers, but it overcomes them only by means which again place the same barriers in its way in a more formidable size.

" ‘The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself'. (Marx, Capital, vol. 3, 15; 2-3.)

"The circuit of capitalist production depends, among other things, on credit. The solvency of one link in the chain depends upon the solvency of another. The chain can be broken at numerous points. Sooner or later, credit must be paid off in cash. This fact is all too frequently forgotten by those who become indebted during the process of capitalist upswing. In the first phase of capitalist expansion, credit acts as a spur to production: ‘the development of the productive process extends the credit, and credit leads to an extension of industrial and commercial operations.' (Marx, Capital, vol. 3, p. 470.)

"This, however, is only one side of the coin. The rapid expansion of credit and debt pushes the market beyond its normal limits, but at a certain point this must turn into its opposite. During the boom, credit appears to be limitless, like the Horn of Plenty in ancient Greek mythology. But as soon as a crisis appears, the illusion is shattered. Returns are delayed, commodities are unsaleable in glutted markets, and prices fall. The development of the world market does not alter this fundamental process, but merely gives it a vastly greater scope in which to manifest itself. The accumulation of debt in the last analysis makes the crisis even deeper and more prolonged than what it would otherwise have been. The recent history of Japan is more than sufficient to confirm this. After a decade of boom characterised by rapidly increasing assets and share prices, the bubble was finally burst by a sharp increase in interest rates. The situation was very similar to that of the USA at the present time. On December 25th, 1989 the Bank of Japan raised interest rates, caused the sharp fall in the Stock Exchange, but since land prices still continued to rise, a new interest rate rise was necessary. Finally interest rates were raised to six per cent and by the end of the year share prices had fallen sharply by 40 per cent. Thereafter, the Bank of Japan kept interest rates high. At that time the Bank of Japan was praised by economists for its prudent handling of the economy. But the result was to prolong the recession for a decade.

"With globalisation, and the abolition of the restraints on credit and financial transactions, the scope for expansion has never been greater, but neither has the potential for a worldwide crash. However, it is not the case that crises are caused by fictitious capital, stock exchange swindles and excessive use of credit. Marx explains this in the third volume of capital:

" ‘Let us also disregard these sham transactions and speculations, which the credit system favours. Then, a crisis could only be explained as the result of a disproportion of production between the consumption of the capitalists and their accumulation. But as matters stand, the replacement of the capital invested in production depends largely upon the consuming power of the non-producing classes; while the consuming power of the workers is limited partly by the laws of wages, partly by the fact that they are used only as long as they can be profitably employed by the capitalist class. The ultimate reason for all real crises always have remained the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit.' (Marx, Capital, vol. 3, p. 472.)

"The expansion of world trade and the opening up of new markets in Asia also provided a temporary boost, but only at the cost of provoking an even bigger collapse. This is the shape of things to come."

These lines were written almost a decade ago, when the overwhelming majority of bourgeois economists were still denying the possibility of a world slump. We are entitled to ask: who understood the processes of the world economy better, and who made the correct predictions - the bourgeois economists or the Marxists?

Monday, October 06, 2008


Mauritanian security forces beat and fired tear gas at opponents of the ruling military junta on Sunday when they defied a government ban on street demonstrations.

"Long live President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi," protesters shouted before paramilitary gendarmes fired tear gas at them and beat some of them with batons. Gendarmes also broke up several smaller groups of 10 to 20 protesters.

The United Front for the Defence of Democracy (FUDD), a group of parties opposed to the coup, called Sunday's protest.

The demonstration came ahead of the African Union's (AU) Monday deadline for Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi to be freed and restored to power. Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was Mauritania's first democratically-elected president, has been held under house arrest since the coup in August.

The military leadership in Mauritania on Monday ignored an AU ultimatum for the junta to reinstate the ousted president, which is due to expire at midnight. "We don't care about these (AU) ultimatums, this doesn't scare anybody," Sidi Mohamed Ould Maham, a spokesperson for the majority of members of Parliament who support the new military leadership, said.

The president was ousted on August 6 just hours after he issued a decree firing the Mauritanian military's top brass, including Ould Abdel Aziz, who was the commander of the presidential guard.

The AU has already suspended Mauritania's membership over the coup and has warned of further sanctions.

But the army coup leader has dismissed the AU's demand as nonconstructive.

It is unclear what sanctions the AU would impose, especially as several of its members in the region have given their tacit approval to the coup. But overseas donors including the United States, France and the World Bank have acted quickly to cut aid.

Sunday's protest came in defiance of a ban on demonstrations imposed by the country's military rulers.

Local journalist Hamdi Ould Mohamed el Hacen told the BBC's Network Africa programme that police used tear gas and bludgeons to disperse the protesters, but no arrests were made.

According to France 24 News, after the demonstrators were dispersed, the organisers of the march announced they had changed tactics.

"We have decided to break up the protest movement in a dozen points where people will reassemble between 4 pm and 7 pm (1600 GMT and 1900 GMT). Leaders of the front (which organised the protests) will be at one of the meetings and will speak there," spokesman Ahmedou Ould Wedia said.

Mauritania's armed forces says it intervened to overthrow the elected government because it had allowed the social, economic and security conditions to deteriorate so badly that it threatened the country's foundations.

Abderrahim Ould Hadrami, Permanent Representative of Mauritania, delivered a statement last week to his country's Assembly's annual General Debate on behalf of the new Government in which he said the situation inside his country had become so dire that the armed forces had no other option.

"Economically and socially the situation has become disastrous," Mr. Ould Hadrami said, citing a rise in hunger, disease and misery after Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallah became president in March last year.

"And while the people suffer the former president, who only visited one city inside Mauritania, the city of Tainatan, in the aftermath of floods that hit the city, made 25 visits abroad, costing the Mauritanian taxpayer a lot of money, without achieving any tangible results in the field of cooperation between Mauritania and its development partners."

Hadrami said last month's coup was supported by two-thirds of parliamentary members, about 90 per cent of the country's mayors and two-thirds of the recognized political parties, as well as numerous civil society groups.

The United States and its allies support the ousted government leader.

The European Union has begun proceedings under its Cotonou Agreement with developing former colonies that could lead to further aid cuts. Prime Minister Laghdaf said last week Mauritania could turn to its Arab partners for help instead.

Even so, Abdel Aziz's military junta is isolated at a time Mauritanian forces are struggling to stem the spread of al-Qaeda, whose North African arm has launched a series of attacks in the past year, fuelling fears it is expanding south.

After the most recent attack, 11 army soldiers and their civilian guide were found with their heads cut off near the country's main iron ore mine in the remote northwestern Sahara.

The following is from Aljazeera.

Police tear gas Mauritania rally

Mauritanian police have beaten protesters who had taken to the streets of the capital against the ruling military.

Scores of residents loyal to Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallah, the president ousted in August, flocked to Nouakchott's main hospital on Sunday chanting: "Long live Cheikh Abdallahi."

Security forces using tear gas broke up the demonstration and small groups of protesters reassembled in other parts of the city.

Senior military personnel seized power at the beginning of August after Abdallahi had announced he was dismissing them.

All public demonstrations have since been outlawed, but Sunday's protest came a day before Abdallahi was due to be released from detention under an African Union ultimatum.

Mauritania risks sanctions if it fails to let him go.

One protester said: "I wish the soldiers were on the borders defending the country instead of assuming they have the right to ride roughshod over the fundamental right to demonstrate."

Other protesters chanted: "No to dictatorship, long live democracy."

Protesters came from the National Front for the Defence of Democracy (FNDD).

Abdallahi had been democratically elected and had received the support of the military, but he has remained under house arrest since the coup.

No date has been set for elections despite pledges by the army generals to act quickly to restore democracy.


I know I sure as hell wouldn't be thrilled to hear that Cobb Vantress, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods, was planning to build 60 poultry houses for research and hatchery operations in my neck of the woods. Now, of course, as a vegetarian I find these places pretty atrocious and evil.

And then there is the smell which bothers even those who eat chickens.

The hatchery which Cobb proposes to build in a Lafayette, Tennessee industrial park would hatch about 100,000 chicks a day, four days a week. Instead of an incinerator, the Macon County Times reports the hatchery would include a disposal tank - much like a septic tank - for shells and unhatched eggs. The waste will be shipped off and processed into byproducts for dog and cat food.

Cobb is opposed to any environmental impact studies if they were going to be done before the building of poultry houses. “If we're going to be told we can't build houses until there's an environmental impact study done, we'll probably move on,” Cobb spokesperson Ben Green stated. “Because there are a lot of little communities that want us. If we feel unwanted, we don't want to be here.”

It is usually a good idea to do such studies before rather than after the problem, don't ya think.

It was a local resident who brought up in September that an impact study ought to be conducted. Concerned about the health of the 500 residents that live across from the proposed site of the hatchery, as well as property values and quality of life, Bonnie Davis asked that the council look into Cobb's business as well as residents have.

“I talked to 125 of the households in my neighborhood,” said Ms. Davis, “and only one of those households said they thought the hatchery was a good idea. I ask you, especially, to look into the impact on those of us who live across the street from the industrial park.”

Doesn't sound like Cobb's threat to take their chickens and leave town is a grave concern of those who will live nearby the proposed operation.

Farmer Jeff Poppen, acting as as spokesperson for those who have reservations about Cobb's intentions, told local commissioners last month, “We're just asking that you slow down and think about it,” said Poppen, who asked for (1) an environmental impact study; (2) a study of what affect additional chicken houses would have on neighboring property values; and (3) the social impact, i.e., find out what has happened other places where Cobb-Vantress has located both research facilities, hatcheries and contract pullet and hen farms.

But as already noted, that's too much for these big chicken maggots.

Three years ago citing the protection of Oklahoma lakes and streams, drinking water and public health, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced his office had filed a lawsuit against several out-of-state poultry companies for polluting the waters of the state. Defendants in the lawsuit are: Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC., George's Inc., George's Farms Inc., Peterson Farms, Simmons Foods Inc., Cal-Maine Farms Inc. and Willow Brook Foods Inc.

The complaint alleges violations of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, state and federal nuisance laws, trespass and Oklahoma Environmental Quality and Agriculture Codes.

"It all comes down to pollution," Edmondson said. "Too much poultry waste is being dumped on the ground and it ends up in the water. That's against the law. The companies own the birds as well as the feed, medicines and other things they put in their birds. They should be responsible for managing the hundreds of thousands of tons of waste that comes out of their birds."

Among the organizations supporting the Oklahoma law suit are Illinois River Outfitters Association, Concerned Citizens for Green Country Conservation, Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, Greater Tenkiller Area Association, Grand Lake Association, City of Grove, Indian Nations Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited.

The law suit is still going on.

Recently Attorney General said the bottom line is that, "You cannot destroy a watershed in the name of profit."

Pollution from poultry farms in an issue of national importance, Edmondson said.

He has called for a "national solution" to protect the nation's waterways, especially in Georgia, the Carolinas and the Delmarva Peninsula states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

No wonder they don't want any impact statements on that planned chicken operation in Tennessee.

The following is from WSMV in Nashville.

Residents Plan To Protest Chicken Operation

LAFAYETTE, Tenn. -- Macon County residents are planning to protest a new chicken research and hatchery operation in Lafayette.

The protesters plan to picket city hall and the county courthouse on Monday night to show their concern.

They said the city of Lafayette sold nearly 10 acres to a subsidiary of Tyson Foods, which is apparently looking to build more than 60 poultry houses.

There is concern that the buildings will produce unpleasant odors and that poultry trucks will run through residential roads.