Monday, April 20, 2009

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

No, 16, er 11 and 10 years too. On the 17th of April in 1989 the Solidarity trade union was given legal status and allowed to contest parliamentary elections here in Poland. This small victory in the decade long struggle by the movement helped bring about the end of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and ultimately helped precipitate the crumbling of the USSR. Today, Poland is held up as an economic miracle, having made the transfer from state control to market economy swifter than most of the other former Soviet satellites. Today, the streets are increasingly filled with newer model god cars, shopping malls keep springing up in the suburbs and there are banks on every corner. So why is it that I can't get this nagging feeling out of my head that the Poles have gotten to the democracy capitalism party too late?

It's impossible not to argue that Poland has fared better than another country abandoned 20 years ago by the Soviets. While Afghanistan is perpetually mired in warfare, last week (April 17th) Poland announced they would increase their troop contribution there to 2000. Poland's economic success didn't come without a price, it was a guinea pig in the so called "shock therapy" transition to a market economy. This meant some pain, but not that of the last Soviet puppet leader between the Hindu Kush, puppet, no, Ox, Najibullah. Whereas General Jaruzelski, the last communist leader in Poland, is sometimes forced to shuttle to court from his state pension home to defend himself against whatever charges to present day government thinks up, Najib was hung by the Taleban in the centre of Kabul. Najib managed to hold onto power for a couple of years after the Russians pulled out, Mujaheddin waiting and shelling from the mountains of Pakistan as they tried to divy up the country, with money pouring in, then slowing to a dribble from America. Many Poles look upon Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II as their saviours from the red menace. In Afghan reality, Reagan's Mujaheddin morphed into the Taleban as American support slowly withered after the Russians left.

The United States they have been for getting on 233 years if my reckoning's right. Well, wrong grammar, but they declared independence in 1776 and welcomed Hawaii and Alaska rounding out the number of states at 50 in 1956. The last war of succession was the Civil War from 1861-1865, marking a low that they bounced back from to become the world's dominate power. The corporate/government monster has grown, a couple world wars have been fought, the banksters have taken over, now an 'internal' leaked document from the Department of homeland security warning that "The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalisation and recruitment". Becomes especially relevant (well in the whole coincidence way) when you consider timing of events - today, April 20th marks the ten year tragedy at Columbine, April 19th 1993 was Waco, oh and the Oklahoma bombing was the same date 1998, now 16 and 11 years away from us! Time flies when you've got other terrorist threats to worry about. Of course this same department was created in response to the 9/11 attacks, used as justification for attacking those same Taleban in the 'good war' started over 7 years ago, now been ramped up in numbers and intensity. At least they provided training grounds for some of those responsible for the 2001 Bin Laden organized craziness making them somewhat more responsible than Saddam Hussein, who many Americans still believe played a part. Throw in a governor of a large state, say Texas, alluding to secession and you've got trouble.

Instead of worrying about American threats of extremist movements, as this is somehow unamerican, we can always count on the right wing sideshow to wind up the masses. Well, at least enough to admit to being teabaggers in thousands of events across America last week. Every propaganda trick criticized by the right over the last few (well 8 to a million it feels like) years when the anti-war people mentioned that war might be a bad idea was used by 'Faux' News and friends for anti-tax demonstrations. From what I can tell, there were a few legitimate libertarians at these teabagging events, but most of the attendees consisted of Ted Nugent fans, octogenarians and deluded mechanics (get to the 1:50 mark). I always find it strange that people get angry now when they live in a country that has been the richest in the world for a century yet still can't pay to care for or educated its people. Well now that the banks are truly getting all the money to start again it'll be easier to keep the people stupid.

Makes it all the easier for people like Hitler, born 120 years ago today (oh yeah April 20th), to control the people. Propaganda works best with stupid people in times of financial stress which helps make conspiracies ring true to many. Well, maybe not the fascist part, but it really seems surreal. The bankster give aways giving the Federal Reserve a bigger and bigger balance sheet, lowering the value of dollars held by the tax payers footing the bill can look like a Bernanke Bildeburg plot. Maintaining a world where the 18 and 17 year-old boys who planned on blowing up the cafeteria, killing early lunch eaters and hopefully bring down the library (where the ultimate carnage took place after the explosives failed to detonate) were and still are popularly portrayed as oppressed geeks taking a vendetta on jocks and Christians. If they had survived the first wave of carnage, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of those 13 Littleton deaths (12 students and a teacher) hoped to bring the death toll up to 2000 by ramming their cars filled with propane explosions into the arriving cops and Denver press. Glamourized violence, access to guns, weak minds...

Fitting the leaked administration profile perfectly, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both disgruntled army vets. Of course there are millions of army vets, both disgruntled and non-disgruntled (merry?) who don't blow up buildings killing 168 and injure over 800. Um, well, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't blow up people either, however they're being profiled. Unfortunately, many view it as unamerican to mention the real threat posed by the thousands of returning war veterans, veterans who fought in a racially motivated war. Any kind of self-questioning in America, from gun control to religion, is portrayed as hating the US. When torture victims are waterboarded, they freak out. When a winner-take-all economy tortures society, should we be shocked that a few lunatics go over the edge? Spring has arrived in Poland but a chill is being felt from the corporatist world that it so wants to emulate. Many here cling to an ideal image of Reagan, Thatcher and JP2 bringing down an evil empire 20 years ago but it had as much or more to do with the Solidarity movement. In a world of dwindling resources, it is inevitable that some countries will win and some will lose, especially if we don't change our conception of what winning is, and soon.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Say You Want a Revolution?

My new favourite member of the US Congress is Michele Bachmann. This chick is actually insane, no wait, she's batshit crazy (don't look in her eyes, three classic examples of the way her mind works). As my blog approaches it's first birthday, I have to admit that I'm experiencing the worst writer's block that I've ever experienced due to this whole financial crisis. There's just so much to say, so many things happening, so many conspiracies that I just can't decide what to focus on. I've started more posts in the past week than in the past couple of months; not one of them finished. Finally, something simple to write about, a crazy Republican Congresswoman! Maybe I'll also talk about Glenn Beck too. He's just as nuts. First, why the block?

Yes, the US Federal Reserve system was created by the richest men in the world to control the money supply. Too much to say. Sure, the three main causes of the current mess, lightweight regulation, cheap money and the promotion of home ownership all benefited the financial sector of the economy. So, read about it here. Yes, those folks in charge of cleaning up the mess are the same ones who created it and have profited from it. Don't believe me? Here, read. Maybe it's easy to disregard the rantings of Hugo Chavez about a oil-backed currency, but there's something important to read here. Perhaps quantitative easing isn't really just printing money. You can read about that here. Is hyperinflation next, like here? Should we all buy gold? Here. Or will the government outlaw it's ownership? Could be here. The Khaleeji might wind up being a dud. Again, here. Putin could be bluffing. Here anyone? However, by the time the Chinese dragon began blowing smoke, questioning the US dollar as the international reserve currency I was convinced that everyone holding US dollars should start running for cover, fast. Read here. Then came the G20 meeting which taught me there is something better better than paper dollars - paper gold, or Special Drawing Rights (SDRs).

Now, what is an SDR? As described on the IMF site, it is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement the existing official reserves of member countries. SDRs are allocated to member countries in proportion to their IMF quotas. The SDR also serves as the unit of account of the IMF and some other international organizations. Its value is based on a basket of key international currencies. Essentially they are a substitution account at the International Monetary Fund through which unwanted dollars can be converted; a synthetic currency whose value is determined as a weighted average of the dollar, euro, yen and pound. The SDR was created in 1969, during the Bretton Woods fixed exchange-rate system, because of concerns that there was insufficient liquidity to support global economic activity. It was originally intended as a reserve currency, but is now mainly used in the accounts for the IMF’s transactions with member countries. SDRs are allocated to IMF members on the basis of their contribution to the fund. Sounds like a reasonable way to allow for a soft landing instead of a stampede as countries drop their dollar reserves. Ask where their value comes from and you get the same answer as the US buck - nowhere but faith.

The hope is that member nation's will take this credit and use it as needed. Another hope is that with fewer strings attached, the stigma of going hat in hand to the IMF will be reduced; seems to be working, Mexico already signed up. Here's where Bachmann finally comes in. Along with folks like Glenn Beck, the right wing loons are trying to stir the pot to the point of fermenting a revolution. Don't believe me? Just look at the spike in FBI background checks for gun registration in the past few months. Take a listen here (Just try to bear with her propagandist rhetoric, constitution, ceding sovereignty... at least to the point where she says "Kazakastan" a country presumably somewhere over there next to Whatsitcalledastan). Her belief seems to rest on the fact that other nations shouldn't have the choice as to what reserve currency to hold. And of course, by creating any kind of supranational reserve currency, the US buck will be sullied by the likes of Zimbabwe. Maybe this would explain why the US would then have to stop using the dollar. Or listen to her with another "great American" Sean Hannity calling for revolution. This follows her call for Americans to be "armed and dangerous" over Obama's plan to fight climate change.

And Glen Beck. This guy makes me want to use words worse than batshit. What do I expect, he's on "Faux" News, but really, I have to ask once again if people like this deserve freedom of speech. He stated as many times as possible that he wanted to debunk a made up story of FEMA concentration camps that Obama is trying to set up before talking about them. Of course the camps will be used soon for mass imprisonment of American citizens with right-leaning political views. Because he can't disprove they exist, that means they do, sounds familiar. Even profiling modern militias is a bad thing as right wing nut cases would never want to harm Americans. Never mind about those three police officers gunned down in Pittsburgh this weekend, fear mongering is a good thing.

Ok, ok, I know, Bachman and Beck aren't so bad, especially when people like Sean Hannity exist. I won't even get into the Cheney gong show. Fact is however, Beck et al can maybe be excused a bit by the fact they are just looking for ratings, but Bachmann, she was actually elected by the voters of Minnesota to represent them. Somehow, if you don't support everything that represents only America, you are labelled bad (socialist, terrorist sympathizer, etc...) by these right wing nutters. I've pointed out before that there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal in reference to the Republican party, but what happens when that half of the country are convinced that everything they believe in is about to be taken away by the red menace? The past week has been a particularly violent one in American, seems to be a new shooting everyday - I'm almost afraid to think that the Oklahoma City bombing and Waco anniversaries are coming up April 19th. According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year. That’s 5.5 million requests altogether over that period; more than the number of people living in Bachmann’s Minnesota. Annie, get your gun.