Archive for September, 2008

Pakistan, The Next Victim?

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

We have to consider that there is a bit of a disagreement among the policy wonks in Washington, DC over whether to attack Iran or Pakistan next. Although one is an ally of the United States and the other is part of President Bush’s imaginary Axis of evil, there is little doubt that Pakistan is key to Al Qaeda, where as Iran is key to Iraq.
Iraq is a mistaken policy, an attempt to grab a base in the Middle East and get access to free oil. It could have been a brilliant move if the United States succeeded. But because of the bumbling nature of the attack, and the false assumptions of how the people in Iraq would perceive the American Army, not as liberators but as occupiers, and because of Rumsfeld’s crack pot ideas that modern wars could be fought on the cheap with the use of technology and brain power, not the traditional boots on the ground. It led to a prolonged disaster, a slow motion train wreck if you will.
On the other hand you have the Pakistan situation. There we have a government that has played both the Taliban hand and the American hand, with a good dose of Saudi and Chinese influence to complicate the mix. Here again American policy was miss handled. There were wonks who said we only had to suppress the Taliban as a government entity and what was left would be merely a collection of easily handled tribal players.
As I have said in the past these are the descendents of the people who played Alexander the Great, parlaying their influence into marriage into the largest empire in the world were they would potentially become descendants to the throne of the former Persian Empire. But these simple tribal people who have played the Russians and British for fools in their so called “Great Game”, who ended up both, being played by their pawns who kicked the British out through the Khyber Pass and the Russians back over the Oxus River. In either case it was these tribal people, the Pashtuns who came out a head. They are the people of the North West Territories who have never submitted to any out side rule, short of Tamerlane the Great who built a pyramid of human skulls outside of Delhi when he was raiding India.
The Democrats seem to want to take over Afghanistan and correct the Pakistan government in its misguided policies. The Republicans under McCain would seem to want to first continue their “victorious policy in Iraq” and then apply those same victorious methods in Afghanistan avoiding Pakistan, as it is our good friend and ally.
In either case the “surge” in Iraq has not been responsible for a decrease in violence, what has been is a truce on the part of the Shiites and the fact that the Sunnis have been put on the payroll of the US government, Iranian moves to dampen the violence and the perception on the part of the insurgents that the Americans are about to leave and all they want is a perceived decline in the force of the fighters so the US can leave with honor, sort of a repeat of the Nixon plan, declare victory and get the hell out.
There are still a few who have illusions that they will still be able to steal the oil, but that is more of a pipe dream than anything else, these are not primitive Ecuadorian tribal people who live in a primitive reality where oil is meaningless. These are some of the most sophisticated people in the world, the inheritors of ancient Mesopotamia.
On the other hand we have those who feel that Afghanistan is the new door way to the oil of Kazakhstan and central Asia. They want a pipe line that ends up in Karachi, cheap oil for Japan, India and the west. It ain’t about to happen. Again there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the people in this part of the world. They are not stupid, ignorant tribesmen, goat and sheep herders. They may herd goats, but they also grow opium and supply Europe’s addicts with their fixes. They well understand what the Americans want and they are not going to sell cheap. Not when they understand the stakes involved the solvency of the west. All they have to do is hold out in their caves, come down and blow up the pipe lines and create the same havoc as has been seen in Nigeria, Iraq and Columbia. They will have to be bought if possible, but if they are hard line ideologues, then there will be a much higher price to pay, it will be in the blood of American youth, they will not be bought cheaply, and if Americans think they can, well, that is simply hubris and foolish thinking.
The people of the world do not want to be little Americas, they want to be who they are, and they want to be respected for that, not for being able to emulate some USAID CIA plan to pacify the primitives with a few trinkets and promises of trickle down Western style consumerism. No, China is the model they look to, a nation that beat the imperialists at their own game, by their own terms and now are walking in space in their own space ships. That is the future…
And a little story for your entertainment from the AP.

“Official: Pakistan militants conscripted sons
By NAHAL TOOSI – 12 hours ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Militants battling security forces in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan have forced families to give up sons to fight alongside Islamist extremists, a Pakistani military official said.

New violence in the Bajur tribal region Saturday reportedly killed 16 insurgents, while police said they caught 35 militant suspects on the outskirts of the northwest city of Peshawar.

Overall, more than 1,000 alleged militants have died since Pakistan launched a military offensive in Bajur in early August, officials said. The effort has won praise from U.S. officials, who say al-Qaida and Taliban fighters involved in attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan use Bajur and neighboring tribal regions as a safe haven.

The offensive, which could last up to two more months, proceeds as Pakistan struggles with economic problems, power shortages, and violence throughout the country, including a massive attack that devastated the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad a week ago.

Insurgents had a stranglehold on Bajur prior to the offensive, officials said. The militants converted schools into Islamic courts, set up a traffic control system, and imposed taxes on the timber and marble industries, the region’s two main industries.

On Friday, a Pakistani military commander accused insurgents of forced conscription.

“All families were asked to give their one male child to this (militant) movement, and this was done forcibly, and if somebody doesn’t do it, his house would be destroyed,” said Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

It is nearly impossible to independently confirm the details provided by Khan and others in the military. Journalists’ access to Bajur is restricted, and the area is remote and dangerous. The government has traditionally had limited authority in the area, allowing tribes to wield tremendous influence, although that has suffered as militants have grown in power.

In a briefing to reporters visiting the region Friday on a special army-organized trip, Khan showed photos of militant tunnel systems and trenches and said Bajur had become a “center of gravity” for all sorts of insurgents from throughout the region.

Khan expressed “respect” for the militant fighters, saying they had good communications and command and control systems, as well as “top of the line” tactical understanding of the terrain.

“They are not people who are just picked up from the streets and haven’t gone through any kind of formal training,” Khan said. “I would have liked to have two or three of these people taken to our infantry school and teach some of our officers.”

“My timeframe for Bajur is anything from between one and a half to two months to bring about stability,” Khan added.

Government official Iqbal Khattak said security forces backed by helicopter gunships killed 16 insurgents and wounded another 20 in Bajur on Saturday.

Pakistan’s military effort in Bajur has not kept the U.S. from launching its own operations, including missile strikes, in the tribal areas, prompting Pakistani protests.

On Thursday, a murky five-minute firefight between U.S. and Pakistani forces along the often-contested border further deepened tensions, though officials have since urged calm.

Violence in Pakistan’s northwest has seeped well beyond the tribal areas, even encroaching on Peshawar, a major hub in the region.

Peshawar police Chief Mohammad Suleman said Saturday that authorities imposed a daylong curfew on several villages on the city’s outskirts. Police and paramilitary forces destroyed 14 houses allegedly used by militants and arrested 35 suspected insurgents, he said.

“We did this operation to purge these areas from anti-state elements,” said Suleman, who listed no specific allegations against the detained.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for a string of recent suicide bombings they called revenge for the Bajur offensive and other military crackdowns in the northwest.

Analysts say the Pakistani Taliban or al-Qaida could have been behind the Marriott blast in Islamabad as well, though the top Pakistani Taliban commander has denied any role.

So far, only a little-known group calling itself Fedayeen al-Islam, or Islam Commandos, has claimed credit, warning Pakistan to stop cooperating with the U.S. war on terrorism.

Khadim Hussain, an Islamabad police official, said Saturday the latest death toll in the hotel blast was 54. It wounded nearly 270 people.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad, Inam Ur Rehman, Riaz Khan and Asif Shahzad contributed to this report.”

Enjoy…..

National Anarchist Federation Forming?

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

The people who brought you the protests against the conventions want to become an institution. Is this desirable? It should be, but this is a big place and these are really only a few thousand people at most. It will take hundreds of thousands to really make a difference and who has time for the kind of commitment being a full time anarchist takes, students maybe…. for the rest of us we need something that allows us to plug in when we have time, but knowing that there are a dedicated delegated few who are there all the time.
That is the flaw in most anarchist movements, they demand the kind of dedication that most people simply don’t have. If they were viable they would attract the kind of people who are interested in power that the Democrats and Republicans attract. But for an anarchist movement to be more than a fringe group that “fucks shit up”. It will have to become a lot more organized, and grow up. Unfortunately it has become a home for the perpetually juvenile idealists, people like me who never have come to terms with the world as it is, and the youth who still dream of what the world could be.
Nice idea, but I give it about a 10% chance. Here it is for you to ponder and pontificate upon.

“Unconventional Futures: A Proposal for Building Decentralized, Nationwide Anarchist Momentum
Posted by apoc September 27, 2008

Over a year ago, a group of anarchists hoping to initiate nationwide anti-authoritarian organizing against the DNC and RNC formed a project called Unconventional Action. Their vision of catalyzing organizing on the local level to promote coordinated resistance to the conventions yielded success, as over 20 different collectives in various cities and regions took on the UA banner and began preparations for plugging into the convention protests. The informal network of UA groups from coast to coast, working in conjunction with local projects and organizers in Denver and the Twin Cities, successfully mobilized hundreds of anarchists to attend the DNC and RNC protests. Now that the conventions have come and gone, let’s continue to build on the infrastructure we’ve created for this single event. Rather than simply letting that energy and organization evaporate with the conventions done and gone, what sorts of uses can we create for these active, interconnected nodes of direct action-oriented radicals?

Anarchist organizing in the post-Bush political situation

If Obama becomes president, many anarchists and other radicals predict, the euphoria on the part of liberals and progressives will quickly give way to disillusionment as the shining star of the Democrats fails to follow through on his empty promises of hope and change. It’s extremely unlikely that an Obama administration will end the occupation in Iraq, threats against Iran, police repression, anti-immigrant crackdowns, escalating poverty, oil dependence, or any of the other crises facing the US; given this, how will the country respond? One possibility is that the vast liberal/progressive base of Obama’s campaign and the new Democratic Party followers will find themselves disaffected from the two-party path and open to new, increasingly radical directions. In this case, anarchists should be ready to seize the moment with consistent, visible, exciting actions and propaganda, and provide accessible points of entry for people to become involved in anti-political organizing and direct action. On the other hand, another possibility is that large sectors of the US population will respond to the failure of the hope/change rhetoric by moving in a more overtly fascist direction (supporting heavily authoritarian leadership, accelerating imprisonment and police repression, intensified scapegoating of immigrants, etc). In this instance, a solidly functioning network of communication and action will be crucial to anarchist self-defense, to oppose right-wing reaction from the community level and promoting anti-authoritarian analyses of the situation.

It’s also possible that McCain will become president, in which case two distinct trends may emerge with possibilities for anarchists. For one, military involvement abroad and border militarization at home will likely increase even more swiftly, along with social conservative attacks on reproductive rights and queer and transgender people. In all of these areas, direct action will be crucially necessary to stem the tide of militarism and oppression, and the haphazard, disconnected, and sporadic undertakings of these past years won’t be enough. Also, the massive grassroots swell behind Obama will find their hopes frustrated, and many will seek new political outlets for their disappointment. Anarchists demonstrating alternatives in practice to the electoral system can provide a path for this energy away from the two-party black hole and towards direct action.

In any of these scenarios, anarchists in the US will need ways to effectively mobilize ourselves to respond to the political situation. In recent years, the fantastic variety of projects, networks, actions, and culture that constitutes anarchism in the US rarely comes together in a coordinated way except around specific mass mobilizations. This can result in an effective but woefully brief fighting force that coalesces sporadically at the expense of local organizing and projects, and at great cost in terms of time and resources invested with little lasting momentum beyond the mobilization in question. How can we harness the collective power that we have, but in a way that sustains rather than depletes it and expands beyond mass mobilizations to everyday and local resistance?

What we’re proposing is to use the infrastructure we’ve created through these Unconventional Action chapters in different cities and regions, and expand them into a network that can plan, coordinate, and carry out anarchist action and resistance on a variety of fronts.

As we see it, here are some of the potential strengths of using the foundation of Unconventional Action organizing to create a national anarchist action network:

It already exists. UA collectives exist in over 20 cities and regions around the country, and with the context for them already established, can be easily founded anywhere. The UA framework has successfully mobilized people to attend the protests, to create and circulate propaganda, to gather and disseminate information, to initiate and carry out local organizing and solidarity actions, and more. Since we’ve seen that this loose network of collectives in different places works effectively, it is the most promising starting point for national and regional anarchist organizing.

Seize the post-convention momentum, with an eye towards the future. As a first step, this emerging UA network can take on organizing election day and inauguration day actions. For November 4th, UA collectives can offer each other strategies, talking points, messages, propaganda, and our collective wisdom; conversations between chapters could produce a few themes or tactical innovations to make our efforts coherent. Unlike previous election years, in which either scattered acts of consciousness-raising or resistance went unnoticed in their isolation, or focused solely on the elections without connection to previous or subsequent actions (i.e. the Don’t Just Vote campaign), actions from a UA network will allow us to make connections between resistance against the conventions, the elections, the inauguration, and more. Coordinating actions by UA chapters and through UA networks has the triple advantage of tapping into an existing, effective network [increasing participation]; having an explicitly anarchist/anti-authoritarian “brand” [making our perspectives clear and avoiding simply having to participate in liberal or communist front-group actions]; and using the common UA theme to link them [building coherent connections in the media and public consciousness around the interconnectedness of anarchist resistance to politics, capitalism, and all systems of oppression]. After the election and dialogue about whether a national mobilization in DC or coordinated local actions makes the most sense, we can apply the same reasoning to the inauguration on January 20th. Looking even further ahead, we can anticipate immigrant and worker solidarity actions on May 1st; resistance to police brutality on the US day of action October 22nd and/or the Canadian date, March 15th; opposition to the occupation of Iraq on March 20th, the war’s anniversary; and other coordinated days of action that we can decide regionally and nationally. These coordinated days can combine with our own locally-focused organizing to create vibrant, active, and nationally linked momentum of anarchist resistance in the US.

Organization for specific action, not for organization’s sake. By basing the foundation of regional and national anarchist networking in an existing web of interconnected nodes that came together for a specific purpose, we can avoid the pitfalls that come from attempting to create an artificial organizational structure for a general purpose anticipating future actions. Learning from the mistakes of regional efforts such as the Southeast Anarchist Network, where such an artificial framework for general purposes never got off the ground in spite of considerable enthusiasm, we can ensure that the network always has a basis in shared actions, and that organizational structure can be adopted or scrapped on an ad-hoc basis as necessity demands. Anarchists and others will join or found collectives for the UA network out of a desire to work on a specific action or campaign, so it won’t get abstract and overly formal.

Accessible points of entry beyond the cookie-cutter projects. One part of the stagnation of anarchist resistance over the past years is that of the “cookie-cutter” project. Many types of common community anarchist projects – Food not Bombs, Indymedia, etc – that once held fresh and vital roles as a part of broader anarchist resistance often now provide the only local entry points into anarchist action, and become bogged down in inertia and internal politics. Because they frequently exist in isolation both within communities (detached from other radical projects in the same area) and between communities (little or no regional and national discussion, gathering, or organizing amongst different chapters), these groups often putter along without genuinely engaging participants, threatening the status quo, or assessing how to build towards long-term success. Local UA chapters can avoid this stagnation by staying rooted in organizing for particular actions (election day, the inauguration, and beyond), with the energizing effect and multiplied support and resources of a national network behind them. At the same time, chapters can provide an entry point for new anarchists and radicals, pathways into various projects and a catalyst for broad, integrated anarchist resistance.

Harmony through diversity. UA collectives are not homogenous or uniform. Not all are comprised solely of self-described anarchists; some focused exclusively on the convention organizing, while others organized a variety of events around different themes; their sizes, styles, and methods of functioning varied greatly. This is one of the network’s strengths, and can continue to be as it expands past the specific focus of the conventions. Continuing and new UA groups can range from tight-knit anarchist collectives who undertake numerous specific local projects together, to a loose coalition of radicals who agree to come together to organize non-hierarchically around particular events or issues in a broad region. Some collectives take the name “UA-city/region,” while others have entirely different names; ultimately what’s important isn’t the title but the commitment to forming a tight-knit network of mutual aid, solidarity, and coordinated action. We don’t need to strive for unity and identical ideological lines, but for harmony and mutual interests, goals, and tactics. The conventions showed that we can do this, so let’s take it further.

Connect capitalism, the state, and oppression coherently through harmonized anarchist resistance. When the UA network takes on coordinated active resistance not just to the political conventions, but diverse manifestations of the oppressive power of capitalism and the state, we will demonstrate concretely the links between these struggles. For example, currently anarchists who search for a visible militant response to a police murder in one city or an ecologically destructive building project in another have few ways of tapping into our collective power other than resorting to an empty “call to action” posted on Infoshop or Indymedia. What if instead we could count on a national network to turn out solidarity actions in 20 different cities under a common UA theme? Our power to respond as anarchists would expand exponentially, and the coherence of our critique of all power and domination would increase along with it, as people witness UA resistance to various manifestations of domination culture. It will take consistent and coordinated anarchist action to begin to demonstrate anarchism and direct action as viable alternatives to government and voting, and a network rooted in UA organizing can build our capacity to deliver it.

Decentralization with coordination. Because UA chapters take diverse forms, and since regional and national networking need only involve as much formality as the moment demands, there’s no risk of creating some central anarchist directive whose commands we’ll slavishly obey, or risk excommunication from anarchist circles. As St. Paul showed, our decentralization is one of our strengths: pre-emptive arrests of the Welcoming Committee “leaders” couldn’t stop four days of actions from different groups and individuals. But in the absence of effective coordination, our power and effectiveness remains a fraction of what it could be. Based off of the model of different UA collectives tackling different sectors, actions, and tasks, we can extend this decentralized but coordinated approach to a wide variety of campaigns and days of action across the country using the UA network.

Capitalizing on renewed anarchist visibility. One success of the convention protests is renewed anarchist visibility: journalists, politicians, and pundits across the country used the terms “anarchist” and “anarchism” consistently in association with radical or “violent” protestors, to an extent unprecedented in recent history. So now that anarchists have entered the popular consciousness as the militant opposition to the political order, it’s up to us to continue that process by showing more and more examples of anarchist action as a viable alternative to the futility of politics. An expanded UA network can provide the basis for consistent coordinated anarchist action that can keep up that visibility, demonstrating alternatives to the two-party dead end that will come increasingly under scrutiny as disillusionment with Obama intensifies.

The consulta model works. Regionally and nationally, Unconventional Action chapters organized consultas to share information and skills, develop links between cities and regions, and make decisions about strategies and planning actions. From these gatherings emerged concrete plans for actions such as the blockades strategy and the map of sectors, as well as new and strengthened links between collectives and individuals and also broadened bases of skills and knowledge. We can continue this model of consultas on a regular or infrequent basis, as we plan for future coordinated actions, set themes for giving coherence to local projects and campaigns, and continue to teach each other skills and analysis. Of course, for a decentralized network to work, local collectives shouldn’t be dependent on consultas to authorize their actions or set their priorities for them. Instead, consultas can convene only as they’re needed to address issues of collective concern.

Now is the time. With a national network of anarchists organizing diverse local projects and actions under a common theme, we can offer an accessible route for disaffected ex-Obamaites to tap into resistance to politics and capitalism. At the same time, we can offer cohesive resistance to any right-wing backlash, with a network for efficient communication and to mobilize support and coordinated action. There hasn’t been any national anarchist organizing network beyond event-specific coordination since the Love and Rage Federation, which disintegrated before Seattle. Building off of the UA framework, we can create the strongest foundation for collective anarchist resistance that has existed for a very long time.

Conclusion – Where do we go from here?

To summarize, we believe that the network of Unconventional Action collectives contains the seed of a vibrant, nationwide, decentralized network for anarchist action and resistance. It currently exists and has demonstrated its capacity, and its concrete purpose and orientation towards action avoids the pitfalls of organization for its own sake and the staleness of cookie-cutter projects. We can take advantage of the diversity of different UA chapters to create a decentralized but coordinated framework for anarchist resistance, using the successful consulta model to move forward collectively. Our actions through the network can capitalize on renewed anarchist visibility and demonstrate clear links between capitalism, politics, and oppression, advancing anarchist analysis and providing crucial accessible points of entry. Using this network, we can use the momentum from the conventions to flow into election day, inauguration, and more actions, and effectively respond to this pivotal moment of political change in the US.

So how can we make this vision into a reality? We propose that over the next two months, local UA collectives meet, debrief their experiences at the convention, and set local priorities for action based on their own local circumstances and capacities. One of the key functions of the UA network can be to support the initiatives of local collectives, so at home with our crews we can focus on planning creative new directions for action and assessing how a broader network can support us in those. On regional and national levels, we can direct our efforts towards prisoner and legal support from the conventions and continuing the conversations about the future. Specifically, we can discuss possibilities for coordinated election day actions on November 4th: what themes should we focus on? What kinds of writing, propaganda, and information should we share and distribute? How can we link together our actions in different areas? What are our goals, targets, and tactics? And in the aftermath of the election, we should immediately begin discussing plans for responding to the inauguration. Should we collectively mobilize in Washington, or focus on local action? Depending on who’s elected, what themes are most important to emphasize? Over the winter, different UA chapters can consider hosting regional consultas to plan for these days of action and discuss possibilities for the future. Above all, let’s keep talking, planning, and resisting, with an eye towards building our capacity to fuck their shit up and create other worlds.

This statement was created through the collaboration of members from UA collectives in several cities. You can reach us at unconventionalfutures@riseup.net.”

Like I said, nice idea, but not likely unless they get serious, even the green party, which is more or less serious has an almost Herculean task in front of it and will probably make no difference unless one of the two majors splits into factions.

More Bullshit, Debates

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Well they had the debate. I guess it seems to me that I have heard all this before. They are both dead wrong about Afghanistan, Obama is more right about Iraq. There is no way that either of them knows what to do about the economy. The only thing they can do is fiddle about around the edges.
The biggest disaster would be to build more nuclear reactors. That road leads to a French style security state, where they have to be on top of what everyone is doing, not to would be suicidal for a small place with as many potential targets as they have.
What we need is to start conserving, forcing industry to build energy efficient appliances, energy efficient cars, and real mass transit.
So I guess I am in favor of Barak Obama. I mean he wants to do things that I agree with, national health plan for all, taxes on the rich, but the problem is, the economy is on fire, the country has been mismanaged so badly over the last 8 years that I don’t believe anyone has quite gathered how much this is going to cramp the style of whomever is elected.
The problem is that the country has this albatross, capitalism, it has dragged us into these wars over control of resources, it has distorted the economy making a fetish of the so called free market that is only a free market in the sense that the mafia is. You have armed thugs waiting in the next room, when someone gets out of line they get the shit kicked out of them, and everybody gets shaken down for 35% of their wealth if you are single. Interest rates of 20% and more are legal, it is a system that is absolutely corrupt and it is unfortunate that neither candidate was capable of confronting it. Ralph Nader has, and he has a few hard won victories for the people. Obama might want to, but I think he is too beholden to the elites to really challenge the root cause of America’s problems. McCain is part of the problem, he is the system personified, as is Bush, so there is no chance for change there.
I don’t know what it will take, all over the country people are against the bailout of the financiers, but the politicians want to pass this give away of $700 billion. There is an obvious disconnect here. People want to break away from this corrupt system, but what do we have, confusion, not answers, because nobody wants to deal with that 900lb gorilla of bad ass capitalism.
But over all if you have to choose one of these guys, it has to be Obama, he represents more of the mainstream of the American peoples wishes and desires. I just wish there was someone up there with a radical perspective who could blow these establishment views away.

Paki Bashing Time?

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

It is a term from the Brits, used back in the back old days to describe what skin head nazi youth did to immigrants from Pakistan. Now they just bash any Moslem they can find. A real advance, I am sure. Brings up fond memories does it not, cracked skulls, blood and bits of bone flying in the night, a right bloody good mess. That is not our subject, not tonight. We are writing about the recent events in Pakistan.
The recent blast in the Marriott hotel in Pakistan, should remind any American that there is no place like home. Especially if it is in central Kansas, about as far away from a border as one could get. At least there are no potential terrorists.
But think again, didn’t Timothy McVey stock up on Fertilizer for his truck bomb in Kansas. And Oklahoma City is not exactly a foreign country, especially if you are in Dodge City. And what about those meat packing plant protests over there in Nebraska, 300 Moslem employees walk off the job to protest religious discrimination… They really are coming to get you… even in Kansas.
Seriously folks, lets look at what Tarqi Ali, famous Pakistani expatriate living in Britain has to say about the recent bombing in Pakistan.

“The Deadly Blast in Islamabad
Why was the Marriott Targeted?
By TARIQ ALI

23/09/08 “Counterpunch” — - The deadly blast in Islamabad was a revenge attack for what has been going on over the past few weeks in the badlands of the North-West Frontier. It highlighted the crisis confronting the new government in the wake of intensified US strikes in the tribal areas on the Afghan border.

Hellfire missiles, drones, special operation raids inside Pakistan and the resulting deaths of innocents have fuelled Pashtun nationalism. It is this spillage from the war in Afghanistan that is now destabilizing Pakistan.

The de facto prime minister of the country, an unelected crony of President Zardari and now his chief adviser, Rehman Malik, said, “our enemies don’t want to see democracy flourishing in the country”. This was rich coming from him, but in reality it has little to do with all that. It is the consequence of a supposedly “good war” in Afghanistan that has now gone badly wrong. The director of US National Intelligence, Michael McConnell, admits as much, saying the Afghan leadership must deal with the “endemic corruption and pervasive poppy cultivation and drug trafficking” that is to blame for the rise of the neo-Taliban.

The majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the US presence in the region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace. Why, then, has the US decided to destabilize a crucial ally? Within Pakistan, some analysts argue this is a carefully coordinated move to weaken the Pakistani state by creating a crisis that extends way beyond the frontier with Afghanistan. Its ultimate aim, they claim, would be the extraction of the Pakistani military’s nuclear fangs. If this were the case, it would imply Washington was determined to break up Pakistan, since the country would not survive a disaster on that scale.

In my view, however, the expansion of the war relates far more to the Bush administration’s disastrous occupation in Afghanistan. It is hardly a secret that President Karzai’s regime is becoming more isolated each passing day, as Taliban guerrillas move ever closer to Kabul.
When in doubt, escalate the war, is an old imperial motto. The strikes against Pakistan represent - like the decisions of President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, to bomb and then invade Cambodia - a desperate bid to salvage a war that was never good, but has now gone badly wrong.

It is true that those resisting the Nato occupation cross the Pakistan-Afghan border with ease. However, the US has often engaged in quiet negotiations with them. Several feelers have been put out to the Taliban in Pakistan, while US intelligence experts regularly check into the Serena hotel in Swat to meet Maulana Fazlullah, a local pro-Taliban leader.

Pashtuns in Peshawar, hitherto regarded as secular liberals, told the BBC only last week that they had lost all faith in the west. The decision to violate the country’s sovereignty at will had sent them in the direction of the insurgents.

While there is much grieving for the Marriott hotel casualties, some ask why the lives of those killed by Predator drones or missile attacks are considered to be of less value. In recent weeks almost 100 innocent people have died in this fashion. No outrage and global media coverage for them.

Why was the Marriot targeted? Two explanations have surfaced in the media. The first is that there was a planned dinner for the president and his cabinet there that night, which was cancelled at the last moment.

The second, reported in the respected Pakistani English-language newspaper, Dawn, is that “a top secret operation of the US Marines [was] going on inside the Marriott when it was attacked”. According to the paper: “Well-equipped security officers from the US embassy were seen on the spot soon after the explosions. However, they left the scene shortly afterwards.”

The country’s largest newspaper, the News, also reported on Sunday that witnesses had seen US embassy steel boxes being carried into the Marriott at night on September 17. According to the paper, the steel boxes were permitted to circumvent security scanners stationed at the hotel entrance.

Mumtaz Alam, a member of parliament, witnessed this. He wanted to leave the hotel but, owing to the heavy security, he was not permitted to leave at the time and is threatening to raise the issue in parliament.

These may be the motivations for this particular attack, but behind it all is the shadow of an expanding war.

Tariq Ali’s latest book is ‘The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.’”

I picked this up from the Information Clearing House and they got it from Counterpunch.
I heard Tariq Ali on Pacifica the other day talking about his new book about the USA and Pakistan and from his perspective there is nothing good coming from this new regime where corruption is number one on the list of government services.
Jinnah (first leader of Pakistan) was cursed by Gandhi (or so it would seem in the movie version) when he decided to pursue a separate path to independence and made separation from India the only basis under which he would agree to the deal that was signed back in the late 40’s when Great Britain was having that Colony Clearance Sale. Everything must go!!! The best places, India and more dubiously Palestine are on sale now!
As I have said before the British policy of dividing up the sub continent does not seem to have been the best long term one for peace in the region. But it would seem that the Moslems wanted it and in a round about way it may have been a form of balancing out the terror, give Israel independence in the Middle East and send thousands of Arabs off to refugee camps there, and give Moslems their own country in the Indian Subcontinent and send millions of Hindus to refugee camps in India. If it was meant to be a place for displaced Arabs from Palestine to go, it was not a good idea. But I can see how some chess playing bureaucrat in London might think it made jolly good sense. Sort of how the same sort of mental giants in Washington, DC thought that since Arabs attacked the USA on 911, that meant the USA could go to war with Iraq, it all sort of balances out, if you see the world as a giant set of scales, with whomever you call the bad guys on one side and the good guys on the other, or whatever, it doesn’t make much sense, especially to the people whose lives are affected by the so called great game.
And now we see a repeat of the disaster in Afghanistan. Only this time it is the USA not the Russians on the receiving end. When will we learn to stay out of other peoples affairs? Probably never for as long as the people in power think that America has the divine right to intervene whenever and wherever we want. At least the Romans were straight up about what they were doing. They were conquering, although they did like to use a few legalisms to justify their entry into the world to battle for the spoils, once they got in there, they set up camp and civilized the world. What the USA does is not so clear. We have not come to grips with what we are. Americans want to be seen as the nice guy who is forced to confront the bad guys at high noon. We don’t like to see ourselves as the big bully just spoiling for a fight like the rest of the world sees us.
Well maybe we will get rid of this Republic nonsense and reestablish the empire and just go for it. That or maybe live up to our original virtues and leave the rest of the world alone as George Washington wished.

Draft Text Of New Finance Bailout Law

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Text of Draft Proposal for Bailout Plan

Published: September 20, 2008
LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL FOR TREASURY AUTHORITY

TO PURCHASE MORTGAGE-RELATED ASSETS

Section 1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as ____________________.

Sec. 2. Purchases of Mortgage-Related Assets.

(a) Authority to Purchase.–The Secretary is authorized to purchase, and to make and fund commitments to purchase, on such terms and conditions as determined by the Secretary, mortgage-related assets from any financial institution having its headquarters in the United States.

(b) Necessary Actions.–The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation:

(1) appointing such employees as may be required to carry out the authorities in this Act and defining their duties;

(2) entering into contracts, including contracts for services authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts;

(3) designating financial institutions as financial agents of the Government, and they shall perform all such reasonable duties related to this Act as financial agents of the Government as may be required of them;

(4) establishing vehicles that are authorized, subject to supervision by the Secretary, to purchase mortgage-related assets and issue obligations; and

(5) issuing such regulations and other guidance as may be necessary or appropriate to define terms or carry out the authorities of this Act.

Sec. 3. Considerations.

In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for–

(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and

(2) protecting the taxpayer.

Sec. 4. Reports to Congress.

Within three months of the first exercise of the authority granted in section 2(a), and semiannually thereafter, the Secretary shall report to the Committees on the Budget, Financial Services, and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committees on the Budget, Finance, and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate with respect to the authorities exercised under this Act and the considerations required by section 3.

Sec. 5. Rights; Management; Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.

(a) Exercise of Rights.–The Secretary may, at any time, exercise any rights received in connection with mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act.

(b) Management of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary shall have authority to manage mortgage-related assets purchased under this Act, including revenues and portfolio risks therefrom.

(c) Sale of Mortgage-Related Assets.–The Secretary may, at any time, upon terms and conditions and at prices determined by the Secretary, sell, or enter into securities loans, repurchase transactions or other financial transactions in regard to, any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act.

(d) Application of Sunset to Mortgage-Related Assets.–The authority of the Secretary to hold any mortgage-related asset purchased under this Act before the termination date in section 9, or to purchase or fund the purchase of a mortgage-related asset under a commitment entered into before the termination date in section 9, is not subject to the provisions of section 9.

Sec. 6. Maximum Amount of Authorized Purchases.

The Secretary’s authority to purchase mortgage-related assets under this Act shall be limited to $700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time

Sec. 7. Funding.

For the purpose of the authorities granted in this Act, and for the costs of administering those authorities, the Secretary may use the proceeds of the sale of any securities issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, and the purposes for which securities may be issued under chapter 31 of title 31, United States Code, are extended to include actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses. Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure.

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Sec. 9. Termination of Authority.

The authorities under this Act, with the exception of authorities granted in sections 2(b)(5), 5 and 7, shall terminate two years from the date of enactment of this Act.

Sec. 10. Increase in Statutory Limit on the Public Debt.

Subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking out the dollar limitation contained in such subsection and inserting in lieu thereof $11,315,000,000,000.

Sec. 11. Credit Reform.

The costs of purchases of mortgage-related assets made under section 2(a) of this Act shall be determined as provided under the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, as applicable.

Sec. 12. Definitions.

For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Mortgage-Related Assets.–The term “mortgage-related assets” means residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before September 17, 2008.

(2) Secretary.–The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of the Treasury.

(3) United States.–The term “United States” means the States, territories, and possessions of the United States and the District of Columbia.

This is reprinted from the New York Times. No review except a semi annual House and Senate budget and finance committee review. No judicial review, no judicial challenge. It is pretty sweeping and draconian in its vagueness. This is an American version of the Committee for Public Safety, the notorious clique that started the Terror in France during the revolution.
What I don’t see is any proposals that will benefit the average American in all this. It will benefit Wall Street, they will no longer have to carry all that bad debt they incurred, but we the citizenry will be stuck with it for no good reason other than to benefit those who still believe in the uh state guaranteed free market, an oxymoron if there ever was one.
Time for a general strike people. We need to refuse to cooperate with this welfare for the rich. This has been going on ever since the government bailed out Chrysler and it keeps getting worse. We need to either cut the losses or have real socialism that works for the people not the rich.
What we need it to see national health care, a revitalized infrastructure and a mass transit system to get us off of dependency on oil and to stop destroying the environment.
To hell with the derivatives dealers. Let them rot in some dark place for a while. Time for us to rise up and demand government for the people.

Rightists Protest Moslems In Germany

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Rightists protests are luckily still outnumbered by the left in Germany but elsewhere in Europe it may not be boding so well for those who believe in a world where civil society prevails.

From a German News Source DW
“German police Saturday canceled an anti-Islam congress organized by a far-right group on safety grounds in Cologne after the venue was blocked by opponents. Radical leftists also fought riot police on the streets.
A far-right group Pro-Cologne had called the rally to oppose a decision by local authorities in Cologne to allow the construction of a mosque with a high dome and minarets.
It invited nationalist groups from around Europe to join the “Stop Islam” rally to fight what it called the “Islamisation and immigration invasion” of Germany and Europe.
But only 50 supporters of the anti-immigrant group Pro Cologne managed to reach a city square for the scheduled rally against plans to construct a grand mosque in the German city.
An anti-right sit-down by 5,000 mostly peaceful demonstrators had blocked every entrance to the square. At the same time, police were fighting pitched battles with extreme leftists who tried to occupy the square.
The “Stop Islam” rally did start briefly, with more reporters than rightists attending but then city police declared the event illegal on public-safety grounds.
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Left-wing protesters dressed as clowns faced off against police on Saturday
“The rally has been cancelled,” a police spokesman said. The announcement sparked cheers from many protesters.
“The safety of our Cologne people has priority,” said a police spokesman after ugly clashes between far-leftists and riot police.
The leftists, who were bent on occupying a city square set aside for the rightists to use, assaulted police and tried to snatch their pistols. Riot police advanced against them, swinging batons.
At Heumarkt, the square set aside for the rightists, the far left attacked roadblocks at several places and scuffled with riot police, but were repulsed.
“We had to crack down hard to avoid something worse happening,” a police spokesman said. Reporters saw two men being detained. A police officer was hurt in the face when a firecracker was thrown at him.
Expecting trouble, riot police kept water-cannon trucks that can knock a man to the ground at 30 meters at the ready.
A police spokesman said the leftists were no longer attacking in small groups but in large formations.
Television images showed that only about 50 rightists managed to pass the blockade and enter the city square, where “no mosque” banners were hanging.
Rally inflames passions in Muslim nations
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Cologne Mayor Schramma vocally opposed the far-rightists
About a kilometer away, several thousand peaceful demonstrators listened as Cologne’s mayor Fritz Schramma stood up outside the city’s great cathedral to denounce the far-right rally.
City and national German authorities detest the rightists, but say they must allow them the right of free speech.
Schramma described those who bent on holding the far-right rally as “racists in bourgeois dress” and “the moldy clique of Euro-Fascism,” adding: “I say, there is the door. Go home!”
The planned anti-mosque demonstration had not only inflamed passions in Germany, but in Muslim nations. Iran demanded that Germany prohibit it. But German police and lawyers said it could not be banned purely because of the opinions to be expressed.
The mayhem also hit rail links. A signal box on the edge of town was set on fire in the early morning by persons unknown, forcing the closure of a main line for several hours and the diversion of 12 national express trains.
The line was re-opened after hasty repairs.
Rightist group formed to oppose “Islamification” of Cologne
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The small group of nationalists who turned up for the event were turned away
Pro Cologne, a local group which won 5 per cent of votes at the last city-council elections, said Saturday it was outraged by the decision to cancel the congress.
Its secretary, Markus Wiener, said, “It’s typical of the Cologne police leadership that they can’t enforce freedom of assembly and that they cave in to street terrorism.”
Wiener said his group had had 1,000 supporters trying to attend the rally.
A city councillor for the group said he would challenge the ban in court.
“We’ll repeat the event later,” Manfred Rouhs told WDR television.
Police had banned Pro Cologne from marching Friday evening to multi-ethnic neighborhoods, saying that riot police would not be able to keep order.
There was no sign in the city of prominent far-rightists from abroad who had been invited, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front in France.
“A victory for democracy”
Cologne Mayor Schramma, who has personally backed the mosque project, welcomed the rally ban.
“It’s a victory for the city of Cologne and a victory by the democratic forces in this city,” he told Dpa news agency.
Armin Laschet, minister for minorities in North Rhine-Westphalia state, went further, telling the Tagesspiegel newspaper it was the first time an entire German city “stood up to protect its Muslims.”
The German Interior Ministry spoke out Friday against the rally, saying the planned gathering of “populists and extremists harms the co-existence that the city and Muslim citizens have striven for.”
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Demonstrators set fire to trash cans during clashes with police
The mosque, close to a soaring telecommunications tower in a district on the edge of town, is to have a dome 37 meters high and two minarets stretching up 55 meters. It will serve Turkish-speakers whose current mosque is too small for the congregations.
Ditib, an Ankara-funded organization that builds mosques all over Germany, says the current mosque at its national headquarters in Cologne is too small for congregations.”

So there is still a resistance to the mistreatment of Moslems, but will it last? Look at what has happened here? Moslems are in camps. Let us hope the rest of the world does not follow the American example.

The New Face Of The Capitalist Beast-Derivatives

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

This is a long article on the nature of the Finance markets. It starts out with basics, and moves to a beginning analysis. The conclusion, that in the third digree of separation, in derivatives is the actual beast of Capital, the real enemy exposed in all its glory, is an interesting proposition. I am an anti capitalist, and have been all my life, not because of any strong Marxist critique, but more because of a moral repulsion that may be more based in my class background than any intellectual pretensions.
I grew up on the last farm in a suburb of workers for the corporations in NYC. We were only a 45 minute train ride to downtown Manhattan. Yet we had a farm, raised horses and lived a life that could be called pre-industrial when I was growing up. The contradictions caused me to think long and hard about the world I lived in, and at an early age determined that there was something structurally wrong.
But this is not another tale of my personal life but an introduction to an article that has an interesting and critique of capital that may provide a springboard to consider what a radical anti-capitalist might hope to do in this time of financial instability.
If finance basics is not what you need then you might want to skip to the last part on Derivatives, which is where the author really begins to flex his intellectual brawn.

“Anarkismo.net: Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction by Paul Bowman (a-infos-en@ainfos.ca)

Introduction
This is the first part of a series of articles investigating the capitalist
financial markets from a critical perspective. With such a large topic it is
tricky finding a route into the subject and a plan of enquiry. The chosen road
is to start with a look at the financial markets, particularly focusing on the
mechanics of some of the instruments that have led to a momentous transformation
of the workings of global financial markets in the most recent decades.

At first sight, this approach may seem odd, perverse even, like examining the
internal workings of a clock as a prelude to discussion the social relations of
time. However this “inside-out” approach is justified by the fact that as well
as a system of social relations, capitalism is also a system with internal
mechanics. Those mechanics evolve in response to the historical development of
struggles over exploitation, but what new directions the new mechanics make
possible in terms of capitalist strategies, in turn, shape the new struggles of
today and tomorrow. The next article in the series will place these market
mechanics in their fuller historical context. But for now let’s start by
investigating the mechanics of capitalist financial markets.
Mechanics of the Markets
Commodity Markets
Commodity markets are the most direct descendants of the markets for physical
goods that long pre-existed the rise of capitalism. Capitalist commodity markets
are not, however, markets for all produced goods, but more specifically for
either food and agricultural products or industrial raw materials. These are
products that must be “commodifiable” in capitalist terms - i.e. the volume of
different batches of the same good must be interchangeable in usefulness and
value for all practical purposes. Such that one barrel of a particular grade of
crude oil is substitutable by any other barrel available in the market.
Similarly for bushels of wheat, tonnes of iron ore, coal or soybeans.
Commodities are traded in Commodity exchanges, historically physically located
at the major transport hubs where agricultural or raw materials were brought for
onward shipment. In modern times these physical located exchanges, with their
trading pits and shouting traders employing arcane hand-signals have been mostly
supplanted by electronic trading systems linking office-based traders around the
globe.
Capital Markets
Stocks and Shares

Capital markets are where capitalist joint-stock corporations go to raise funds
for investing in their business. To do so they sell equities or stocks in their
business. This is different from raising money by getting a loan in that the
sale price of the equities sold does not need repaying and does not enter the
company accounts as a debt - instead it is recorded as part of the company’s
capitalisation. In return for the money the buyer of company stock gets a part
of the ownership of the company and a periodic share of the operating profits
(what’s left over after all costs and loan debt repayments have been made) and
(usually) voting rights in the company’s annual general meeting which elects the
board and chief executives. There are many different types of stock which may
differ a bit from the above description, but the details are not important to
our investigation.

Generally speaking, buyers of stocks do so for one of three reasons. First to
get income from the shares of profit regularly paid out as dividends to
shareholders. Second, more rarely, as part of an attempt to get enough of the
companies shares to either take it over (by getting 51% or more of all available
shares) or to get enough to become a serious player in the big shareholders who
get to influence the direction of the company. Finally, and the most usual
motive for a lot of the day to day trading that goes on in stock exchanges, as
part of a speculation of the short-term future moves of the stock price up or down.

Leaving aside speculation, which we will return to later, and governance
matters, the feature of stock which most interests those long-term investors
aiming to own the stock for the income from dividends, is something called the
P/E ratio. This stands for the Price/Earnings ratio which is calculated by
dividing the price of the share by the annual earnings its owner is entitled to.
For example a share worth 100 euros which pays a annual dividend of 10 euros has
a P/E ratio of 100/10 = 10, that is it will take 10 years to get back its face
value in earnings. P/E ratios, also known as the “earnings multiple” or just
plain “the multiple”, can vary between different industries e.g. finance vs.
coal mining, due to the different periods investments take to deliver a return
for practical reasons, however the average P/E ratio across all stocks in a
given market is monitored closely by market watchers. If you’ve ever heard an
analyst or news reporter talking about a marker being “overvalued”, what that
means is that they reckon that speculative trading on the face values of stocks
has driven the price relative to earnings up to an unrealistic level. In this
case they will be looking at P/E ratios much higher than the average rate
predominant in the rest of the worlds markets. For example some over-exuberant
speculation in East Asian markets in the 1990’s drove some P/E ratios as high as
over 100 - i.e. it would have taken over a hundred years to earn back the face
value of the stock through dividends. Sure enough those markets crashed - or
went through a “market correction” in the panglossian jargon of the uncritical
market-fundamentalists. Currently the “rule of thumb” level for “correct” P/E
accepted by the commentators is 18, substantially higher than the 10 it used to
be in the 1980s.

Bonds

However a company does not necessarily want to issue more equity every time it
needs a bit of extra cash. For one thing every time it issues extra equity it
dilutes the share of profit due to holders of existing shares as well as pushing
their face value down - a good way to piss off all your shareholders if you do
it too often. For another reason, needs for extra money can often be for
temporary measures, ranging from sums needed for a few extra months to cover,
for e.g. temporary increase in operating costs due to rise in input costs, to a
few years for projects like opening a branch in a new company or whatever.

One option for credit is to go to a bank or other financial lender and take out
an overdraft or loan like an ordinary punter. However, another option that large
and established companies have, one certainly not open to the ordinary
individual, is to issue debt securities or bonds. These are effectively IOUs due
to be redeemed in full at some fixed point in the future, called the “maturity”
date for the full amount of the face value or “principal”. The company who
issues the bond is the borrower, the buyer of the bond is the lender. In
addition to the promise to repay the principal on maturity the issuer also
agrees to pay regular interest payments to the bondholder. Bonds are freely
tradeable securities and their value relates to their face value, modified by
how much interest is still due to be paid before maturity (compared to other
rates of interest available) modified by any estimate that the issuer may
default on the bond. As well as corporations, bonds are also issued by
governments, both local and national, as well as supra-national bodies such as
the European Investment Bank for e.g.

The long and short of it

Having introduced our two basic categories of securities we need to look at the
way traders operate in the financial markets to make money from speculating on
the changes of the face-value of securities, be they stocks or bonds.

The first strategy is if a trader thinks the price of stock is going to rise
over the next period, he can buy at the current spot price and wait to see if
the price goes up. If the price rises, he picks a good time to sell and sells
the stock for the new, higher price, taking a profit from buying cheap and
selling dear. This strategy, in some ways analogous to backing a winner in
betting terms, is called “going long” or taking a “long” position on a stock,
for reasons that will become clearer in a minute. What are the potential losses
and gains with this strategy? The maximum possible loss is the loss of all money
invested if the stock should suddenly become worthless due to some catastrophe.
On the other hand, unlike in betting where the maximum win is fixed at the
outset, the maximum win on this strategy has no defined limit. Nothing prevents
the value of the stock tripling, expanding a hundred-fold or more. It’s rare but
there’s nothing preventing it from happening.

Similarly, just as in betting you can “pick a loser” and lay a bet - i.e. take
the other end of someone backing a horse (or whatever) to win, so in market
trading of stocks, a trader can “short sell” (or just “short”) a stock. To do
this he obtains some stock, usually by borrowing it for a limited period, (for
which he pays a small loaning fee), sells it in the market, waits for the price
to fall and “covers the position” by buying it back at the lower price, in time
to give it back to its rightful owner. If the stock has fallen in price then the
trader pockets the difference in price as profit. Of course, the other side is
that if the price unexpectedly rises rather than falling, the trader suddenly
needs to find additional money to that gained by the sell, to buy back the now
more expensive stock in order to return it to the lender. An important feature
of this strategy must be pointed out. Because “shorting” is the inverse or
“inside out” of going long on stock, the maximum loss and the maximum gain
position is reversed. The maximum a trader can gain on shorting a stock is
limited by the face value of the stock. However, the maximum he can lose on a
short sell, is unlimited. I’ll repeat that because it’s important. The maximum
amount of money you can lose on a short sell is unlimited.

So why is “long” called long and “short” called short? Well, because of the
activities of traders (and computer programs called “bots”) speculating on share
price make the face value fluctuate up and down a fair amount within the trading
day and over the week, people who are confident that the performance of the
company or the state of the surrounding global economy, is such that their share
price will rise on average over time, need to have a little patience in holding
that stock for that growth to happen. They’re in that position for the long
haul. On the other hand, traders looking to make some money over a temporary
fall in share price due to a planned company announcement expected to contain
bad news, may take a short position for only a few hours, until they reckon the
share price is going to start bouncing back. Having said that, the short in
short selling is commonly understood to refer to the fact that the seller is in
deficit to the owner of the stock, rather than the length of the time period
involved. Often short sellers are actually borrowing the stocks they are
shorting from people holding them as part of a long position (or for the
earnings, as many institutional investors like pension funds do). At first sight
this seems crazy. Why would someone owning stock that they want to rise, lend it
to someone trying to make money from the price going down? Because of the
different time-frames of the different positions. The holder doesn’t care if the
share price goes down temporarily today, as long as it has risen by the amount
they’re hoping for in six months time. Also the short seller has to pay them a
fee for the loan, so you’re earning additional income from your shares above the
dividends.

One important consequence of this is that the naive hope that watching stock
market crashes on the news means that capitalists in general are losing money,
is sadly mistaken. Sure some individual capitalists may be taking a bath, but
that downward line on the graph is the effect of other capitalists making a
killing. Which ever way the market goes capitalists continue to make money and
capitalism is as healthy in a crash as it is in a boom. The same, unfortunately,
cannot be said for the working class, but I’m getting ahead of myself. However,
for this reason, short sellers are often singled out for particular ire during
market crashes as the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. This “good capitalist,
bad capitalist” dichotomy is completely baseless and is often cynical hypocrisy
on the part of those who wish to defend capitalism in general - by implying that
capitalism has an acceptable face, for example - by deflecting popular anger
onto an ill-defined set of “nasty capitalists”. Short selling is simply the
inverse operation of taking long positions on stock, to impute a difference of
moral reprehensibility on one and not the other is spurious.

Double or quits? The use (and abuse) of “leverage”

One of the effects of the gains from short selling being relatively limited, is
to encourage the use of what’s called leverage. Financial leverage is analogous
to physical leverage. You’re trying to set up a mechanism to magnify a given
movement by a order of magnitude or so. This can be achieved in financial
trading by a number of different means, some of which we’ll look at later in the
section on derivatives. One method is to borrow money to buy the shares you are
planning to go long or short on. This means you may be able to multiply the
shares you buy by, say, ten times what you could have afforded with your
original stake. So if things go the way you predicted you multiply your gains by
ten. However, if things go wrong, and bear in mind that they can go wrong by
many multiples of your shares original face value in a short position gone
wrong, the size of the yawning void is also ten times as bad.

Consider you start the day having spotted a stock in some third-world groundnut
co-operative that got overvalued last year due to being briefly the pet project
of some Hollywood starlet. Their quarterly results are due today and you’re damn
sure that the cold light of reality will bring their stock down from its current
100 per share. With your current stake (say half a million) you could afford to
just short 5000 shares (500,000 + 100) but that only gives you a lousy 50,000
return on a 10% drop (minus equity loan charges, brokerage, capital gains, etc.)
for your brilliant insight. BOoring! So you leverage your stake by ten times to
short 500,000 shares. Nice one! Time for a long lunch with your fellow “masters
of the universe”, something involving lobster, champagne and generous helpings
of Columbia’s finest. You return at 3:30pm to find that during its quarterly
results the groundnut people revealed that their attempts to cultivate peanuts
are not going as well as hoped, but let slip that in the process of trying to
plough their land they have unexpectedly struck oil. The share price has gone
crazy and now sits at 600 per share. You have to cover your position by 5pm
tonight, that’s 50,000 shares at 600, that’s, er, 30,000,000 you need to find,
or 25 million (minus the 5,000,000 you made selling the 50,000 shares at a 100
apiece this morning). Uh oh…

Of course real life trading doesn’t work like quite like this. For one thing
there are things called stop-loss orders which will try and set a level of
things going wrong that will automatically try an liquidate your position to
limit your losses. Also, given the risk of unlimited losses with shorts, they
are rarely taken out on their own. They’re more usually part of a hedge or
straddle or a component of more complicated instrument which we will look at
later in derivatives. Nonetheless numerous traders have demonstrated over the
years that its possible to lose a whole lot more than 25 million euros when the
game goes bad. Self-styled “Rogue Trader” Nick Leeson managed to land Barings
bank with $1.4 billion in debt it didn’t know it owed until the discovery of
that particular financial black hole killed it.
Currency Markets
Trade & balance of payments

It should always be remembered that the joint stock company, the origin of
stocks and bonds, were first created to service international trade.
Specifically, England invented the joint-stock company to finance its Virginia
colony in America and for the British East India Company, royally chartered to
manage the trade with India and the spice islands. The evolution of financial
markets then has always been alongside international trade.

International trade requires changing money from one national currency to
another, this was carried out in the past by money-changers in markets and
temples (religious centres have always been strategically placed on trade
routes) throughout the pre-capitalist world. In the modern financial order,
money-changing is carried out in an electronic, de-centred global market that
never sleeps and operates 24 hours a day, every day. The full story of the
historical development of the successive regimes of global financial orders will
be covered in more detail in the article to follow this one, but for now we want
to look at one recent feature of international currency and financial flows, the
rise of the Eurodollar.

Stateless Money - the rise of the Eurodollar

A Eurodollar is a US dollar that is deposited in a bank outside of US control.
In finance the prefix euro- to a currency means deposits of that currency
outside of the control of the regulation or control of the state or central bank
that issues that currency. It has nothing to do with Europe or the Euro
currency. As well as Eurodollars there are now Eurosterling, Euroyen and even,
since 1999 and the introduction of the Euro currency, the linguistically
abominable, Euroeuro.

The Eurodollar has its origins in the cold war. Due to import and export
business, the Soviet Union had stocks of US dollars. In the aftermath of their
invasion of Hungary in 1956 they were terrified that their deposits of dollars
in the states might be seized or embargoed in retribution. To avoid this they
moved all of their dollars out of US jurisdiction and into European registered
banks that they controlled. At this time banks around the world would only take
deposits in the national currency of the country they were registered in. The
Soviet-owned banks in Europe decided that they may as well put these dollar
deposits to work to earn some interest, so started offering them for loan to
corporations on an anonymous, no questions asked as long as you pay the interest
basis. The Moscow Narodny Bank, a soviet-owned British registered bank was one
of the main players in this activity and its telex address was “Eurbank” - hence
the name Eurodollars. Given the amount of US dollars outside the states due to
the Marshall Plan and a negative balance of payments (i.e. the US was paying
more dollars out for imports than it was receiving back in for exports), the
market, once established grew explosively.

The main activity in Eurodollar trading was inter-bank loans. Given the
volatility of these Over-The-Counter (OTC) loans, interest rates for individual
loans varied by the hour and the minute. Eventually there was a need for an
average interest rate measurement and this was set up by the biggest traders of
Eurodollars, who were based in London, and is known as the London Inter-Bank
Offer Rate or LIBOR. More on which later.

The importance of this Eurodollar, or more generically, Eurofinance market, was
that although based on currencies issued by state national banks, they were
outside the jurisdiction of any state monetary body. In other words they were
stateless money. The role of this state-control free money market in undermining
and helping the bring down the Keynesian Bretton Woods system will be told
properly in the article that follows this one. Our interest is in the impact the
Eurodollar money market had on the development of financial, as opposed to
commodity, derivatives. The first entirely cash-settled futures exchange was
opened in Chicago by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) to trade interest
rate futures in Eurodollars in 1982. Eurodollar futures are used to hedge
interest rate swaps, the first of which had taken place between the World Bank
and IBM in August 1981. As Eurodollar deposits are time deposits that cannot be
traded, Eurodollar futures were of necessity the first futures intended never to
result in actual delivery of the underlying asset.

The futures rates were set in relation to the LIBOR which has continued to this
day to be the main international reference interest rate. As national currencies
have their interest rate which is set by the national banks, so the stateless
currencies have their interest rates in the LIBOR, set by market trading.
Derivatives and Hedges
The future is unwritten - Risk

The warning on the adverts for investment trusts always say “remember that the
value of your investment may go down as well as up”. This is true of all
financial dealings so the twin to the capitalist obsession with profit is an
obsession with risk. Risk is always linked to time, so any financial contract
that involves an element of time (and they all do, otherwise there would be no
need for a contract, an immediate transaction would suffice) must, of necessity,
also involve an element of risk. The estimation of the probabilities of those
risks and their possible size is a continuing necessity for capitalists. What’s
more, the search for ways to guard against those risks and putting in place
damage-limitation measures to limit the impact of negative events, if they
occur, is an important, and these days profitable, part of financial activity.
Hedging is the process of putting in place damage-limitation instruments in case
the future moves of the market turn out to be against your best hopes. Hedging
is widely seen as one of those “good capitalist” or “legitimate” operations. It
is usually opposed to its evil twin, “speculation” carried out by those “bad
capitalists” who are motivated solely by seeking profit at the expense of
anything else. In fact, both the “good” capitalists seeking to hedge risk and
the “bad” capitalists seeking to make money through “speculation” are operating
in the same market, using exactly the same financial instruments and carrying
out the same operations. It is also the starting point of this article that in
fact all capitalists are motivated above all else by the drive for profit. But
before we can discuss sensibly on the validity or otherwise of the
hedging/speculating dichotomy, we must first look at the financial instruments
they use to trade in future profits and risk.

The derivatives revolution

Up until the 1970s derivatives were a marginal part of capitalist financial
activity, being limited mainly to guard against the risk of movements in future
prices of commodities. However from the late 70s and through the 1980s a radical
transformation came about. Derivatives moved out of being an adjunct to the
commodities market and proliferated in every area of financial trading. Further
the volume swelled enormously until it has now become by far the largest part of
financial trading activity. What was a marginal activity at the periphery has
moved into the very centre of the capitalist world financial system. What was a
side dish has now become the main course. This rapid and radical transformation
took place against the background of, and was driven by, the transformation of
the regime of global financial governance from the “Bretton Woods” or Keynesian
order, to the new order that we live in today, which has attracted various names
such as “neo-liberalism” or even globalism. But before we can look at the
meaning of the derivatives revolution and its relation to the big picture of
changes in regimes of global financial governance, we must first look at the
mechanics of derivatives.

Forwards

Derivatives originated from the need to protect against the risk of
unpredictable rise or fall of prices of commodities, particularly agricultural
commodities whose annual production and price are at the mercy of the weather
and other unpredictable factors.

Consider the wheat farmer and the miller. Before sowing his fields with wheat
the farmer is faced with an uncomfortable risk, what if after all his work, he
finds at harvest time that the price of wheat has fallen so low that selling his
wheat will not cover his overheads and cost of living? On the other side, the
miller, who consumes wheat as an impute wants to protect himself against the
risk of the price of wheat rising.

The solution is what’s called a forward contract. At the beginning of the year
the farmer and the miller make a contract for a transaction of an agreed amount
of wheat at a agreed price, come harvest time. If at that later time the actual
current market price (called the spot price) of wheat is lower than the forward
contract then the miller is paying more for that amount of wheat, but at least
he has protected himself against the risk of the price rising and, more
long-term, he knows that the same farmer is going to be around to grow more
wheat next year. If the price goes up then the farmer has lost the difference
between the forward contract price and the spot price, but this is a small price
to pay for being able to plan your annual income and have certainty of still
having a farm next year.

Futures

These forward contracts have two disadvantages. First if the spot price moves
substantially away from the forward price, one side of the contract is always
tempted to break the contract. Secondly, there is the disadvantage of being to
tied to a direct relation between the buyer and seller, tied to particular
place, etc. This forces the seller to locate an individual end user before he
can fix a price.

By standardising amounts, quality and places for delivery, forward contracts can
be replaced by futures contracts. Futures can be bought by producers/sellers
without having to worry about who the eventual consumer/buyer will be. They can
be freely circulated and traded - that is to say they have “liquidity”. Further,
as they are a means of protecting the difference between the desired future
price and the actual spot price, they can be redeemed for the cash value of that
difference, independently of the actual transaction of ownership from seller to
ultimate buyer.

Historically the first futures to be settled by cash rather than physical
delivery of the underlyings, were the Eurodollar futures first traded in 1975 at
the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. These were also the first futures on financial
instruments rather than physical commodities. Chicago has played a central role
in developing the new futures and other financial derivatives based on their
historic role at the nexus between the agricultural produce of the mid-west and
the rest of the USA and the world. The first traders in eurodollar futures had
previously cut their teeth on trading pork bellies, mid-western grain and Great
Plains beef.

In our example above, the farmer buys a “put” future to sell his grain at
harvest time for a given price. The miller buys a “call” future to buy grain at
a given price come harvest time. When that later time comes, the farmer sells
his grain on the open market at whatever the current spot price is and, if the
spot price is lower than his future, gets cash payment from the holder of the
other side of the future for the difference (on the contracted volume of wheat).
Similarly for the miller, from the other perspective.

There are other technical differences between a forward contract and a future
(futures are “rebalanced” daily to stop large potential losses growing up
between start and finish time, also they are guaranteed by the exchange, rather
than having to seek costly redress through the courts in the case of a default
on a forward contract), but the separation of the ownership of the underlying
asset from the future-proofing against the risk of price change is what makes a
future specifically a derivative, as we will look at later.

Options

Another disadvantage of forwards that also applies to swaps, is that both sides
are bound into the transaction. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a contract
that would fix a future price for either selling or buying that would protect
you against movements in price that would hurt you, but that you had the option
not to go through with if the eventual spot price turned out to be better than
the one you had fixed at the time you bought the contract. No surprises then
that financial markets came up with a forward-type contract with this optional
get-out clause called, perhaps inevitably, options. There are two types of
options - “call” options which allow you the option of buying in the future at
the agreed “strike” price, or “put” options which allow you to sell at the
strike price. Note, however, that for these contracts to work, one side must be
under an obligation to buy or sell at the agreed price if the buyer of the
optional side decides to exercise his option. So in our original example above,
the farmer could, at the start of the growing season, buy a put option for a
price he can live with. The cost of this option is a very small fraction of the
“principal” - i.e. the full amount to be paid if he exercises the put option at
harvest time. That initial price is not refundable. So if the farmer gets to
harvest time and finds that the spot price is now considerably higher than the
strike price for his put option, he has lost the price he paid for that option,
but counts it a small price not to have to sell his produce at a pre-agreed
price well below the current market rate. Should the spot rate turn out to be
lower than the strike price the writer of the farmer’s put option or the current
holder of the other end of it, if it has been traded in the meantime, is forced
to buy the agreed amount of grain at the strike price and take the loss.
Similarly for the Miller buying a call option.

Swaps

The other main derivative is something called a swap. Unlike futures and
options, swaps did not originate from dealing in physical commodities, they are
specific to financial assets. Conceptually a swap is two cash-settled futures
contracts in succession. The first to set up the swap, the second to swap back
to the original status quo. What is swapped here is not rare stamps, football
cards or other collectors bric-a-brac, nor yet commodities, but cash payment and
income streams. Swaps started in the foreign exchange markets.

For example let’s take a US multi-national corporation wanting to set a branch
in a new South Asian country. It needs to raise finance in the currency of the
new country to hire premises, employ staff, etc. So it needs to borrow the local
currency. But it has no reserves of that local currency to repay the interest on
the loan. Now it could import dollars to the foreign market and buy the local
currency in a forex transaction, but if that country has exchange controls
stopping foreigners buying large volumes of their currency at market rates (or
is trying to impose some kind of Tobin tax) then this is inconvenient. If the US
company can find a company in the South Asian country that has similar but
opposite needs (i.e. it wants to get a loan in the US but has no dollars for
repayment) then they can set up an arrangement between themselves to each pay
the other’s loan repayments. Here both companies are not actually transferring
ownership of anything so no forex transaction costs occur and any exchange
controls or Tobin tax are evaded.

Following on from this, it’s no prizes for guessing that swaps were first set up
for the very purpose of multinationals evading the exchange controls under the
Bretton Woods system of global governance in place until the 1970s. From these
semi-clandestine origins, the abolition of Keynesian currency controls started
by Margaret Thatcher in 1979, allowed the first public swap to take place in
August 1981 between IBM and the World Bank, organised by Salomon Brothers.

To go through this first transaction as an example, the World Bank (which is
Swiss-based) wanted to borrow a sum in Swiss francs (Sfr) and IBM wanted to
borrow a similar value in US dollars (USD). They were both going to do this by
issuing bonds. At home in the US IBM would have had to pay a fairly poor base
rate plus 45 basis points (US treasury interest rate + 0.45%), but due to the
rarity of IBM bonds in Swiss markets, was able to issue bonds there for the Sfr
base rate. The World Bank could issue bonds at base rate plus 20 basis points (+
0.20%) in Switzerland and base rate plus 40 in the States. So IBM could borrow
SFr cheaper than the WB and the WB could borrow USD cheaper than IBM could. IBM
issued the bonds in Switzerland and the WB in the US. IBM loaned the WB the SFr
at Swiss base + 10 and the WB loaned the USD to IBM at US base + 30 bp - result
being, IBM gained 15 bp and the WB 10. The net repayment was transferred between
them for the life of the loans (and Salomon was paid an undisclosed amount for
setting it all up).

However, despite their origins, once concocted, swaps proved to be altogether
more potent than anyone initially could have suspected. The types of swaps have
proliferated greatly from the simple fixed-fixed interest swaps like the above
into a vast diversity of instruments.

Once again, like futures and options, swaps do not require any transfer of
ownership of the underlying assets they are deriving their payment flows from.

Swaps, however, bring something entirely new to the toolkit. Forwards, futures
and options, particularly in the commodity markets they originated in, each
remained tied to markets segregated by the underlying instrument. Futures or
options in pork bellies, could only really be compared against the spot market
for pork bellies. Of course you could liquidate - i.e. sell for money - you
position in pork bellies and invest in futures for grain, but you couldn’t rate
your pork belly future against the grain spot market directly. Similarly, the
old world, bonds were bonds, stocks were stocks and forex contracts were forex
contracts. Now, thanks to the power of swaps, all these segregating divisions
are dissolved. Swaps have the werewolf DNA that allow one type of financial
security to be mutated into another directly - or have the option to swap nature
by means of a “swaption”, combining an option and a swap. They allow direct
comparison of rates of risk, volatility and any other generic attribute to be
competitively compared across markets that, until now, had no means of directly
comparing themselves. Swaps are the philosopher’s stone of finance capitalism
that allows the direct transmutation of lead futures into gold options.

Proliferation

The four derivatives mentioned above are what’s called plain or “vanilla”
derivatives. In practice they are the basic building blocks which are assembled
into complicated arrangements linking different derivatives in different
underlyings to make more complicated instruments. There are a large menagerie of
different species of these compound or “exotic” derivatives in the modern
financial markets. However they can all be derived from these three basic types
of derivatives and the powers they embody - the time-fixing of futures, the
contingency of options and the mutability of swaps. Together the bestiary of
derivatives these three have spawned have broken out of their original pens in
the commodity and foreign exchange markets and spread across all financial
markets. These basic tools have created a strategies going by the names of Bear
Spreads, Naked Puts, Collars, Straddles, Strangles, Butterflies and even Vanilla
Options, a veritable explosion of polymorphous perversity creating a new Kama
sutra of financial positions.

Transformations

The transformations that have taken place from the era of derivatives as a
marginal, commodity market-based phenomena, to its current role in transforming
capitalism’s international financial order can be looked at in the following areas:

* Volume
* OTC, State control and Market visibility
* Price setting
* Dis-assembling

Volume

The volume of derivatives trading has exploded by factors of 50 and more in the
last 15 years. From the position in the 1970s where derivative volumes were
completely marginal to total world trading, derivatives now account for a large
majority of the total volume of global financial trading. The largest global
financial market by far, is the foreign exchange market which, at the last
reckoning, does over 3 trillion dollars worth of trading every single day. Two
thirds of that is derivatives. To give you some idea of scale, the total value
of global international trade in goods and services in a whole year barely
reaches 6 trillion dollars - a mere two days of forex trading. The entire
aggregate gross national product of the Irish Republic amounts to 200 billion
dollars - that’s every single cent made by every man, woman and child in this
country, from the richest to the poorest, in a whole year - amounts to little
more than an hour and a half’s worth of trading on the global forex market.

Over The Counter - Under The Radar…

In our discussion of swaps above, there was one additional difference between
swap and futures and options that we have not so far mentioned. That is that
swaps are overwhelmingly not exchange-traded instruments like futures and
options. They are nearly exclusively arranged as what’s called “Over The
Counter” trades - that is, direct arrangements between the two counter-parties.
Naturally this was the only way to operate in the early days of clandestine
currency swaps undertaken to bypass currency controls. However, as the
instrument is for transforming the payment/income stream for an agreed period,
rather than hedging against (or taking a punt on) the future price movements in
an underlying, it has continued to be arranged almost exclusively by direct,
bi-lateral and customised agreements. Nearly 80% of all derivatives trades are
OTC swaps, 75% of them being interest rate swaps. In addition to this we have to
add the “off-balance sheet” nature of these arrangements. That is, that as no
actual exchange of ownership is taking place, no evidence of it need appear on
the companies audited balance sheets.

All of this has added up to a huge increase in the opacity of financial markets.
Far from increasing transparency and perfecting “market intelligence” (a
contradiction in terms, if ever there was one), the explosive growth of OTC
derivatives has meant that increasingly governments, regulators, risk assessors
and all market participants have less and less idea what the real exposures of
other players is. This is one of the major factors in the current international
banking crisis sparked by the sub-prime mortgage fiasco in the US. The actual
size of the sum at risk from bad sub-prime loans is relatively small, the fear
in the financial markets is a fear of the dark - no-one can see where the actual
bad debt is, they just know it’s out there somewhere.

Price Setting - The cart before the horse

One of the effects of derivatives trading that has been observed empirically has
been the apparent inversion of the price setting relationship between spot
market prices and futures prices. The conventional relationship is that the spot
market ultimately determines the value of futures at expiration time. However in
more and more markets the tendency is for the futures market to determine the
spot market price. The causation for this role reversal has yet to be determined
exactly but it appears to be an effect of the shift from physically settled
futures to cash-settled ones. With the dominance of cash-settled derivatives,
the ratio of volumes of physically delivered futures contracts to “paper”
derivatives, where no physical delivery of the underlying asset is ever
intended, has in many cases evolved to where the paper trades outweigh physical
trades by ten to one or more. The amount of trading going on creates a situation
similar to that of “if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go
to the mountain”. In other words the force of derivative markets is determining
the price over the struggle over the cost for production. This represents a
major shift in the power of competition over future costs of production.
Interpretations
A deafening silence
Considering the scale and importance of the transformation that has taken place
in the last couple of decades, there have been surprisingly few attempts to
analyse its wider social implications. This becomes a little easier to
understand if we look at the groups that we might have expected to carry out
this analysis. On the one hand, the people with the most knowledge of the new
developments in derivatives are the professional traders and dealers in these
instruments. However, the interests of this group are limited to the narrow
perspective of the implications for the search for profits in capitalist
markets. So despite the proliferation of textbooks and courses on how to
understand, price and use derivatives, virtually none of this sector have any
interest in the wider social implications. The horizon of profit is a narrow one
relative to the full scope of the human drama.

The academic and professional economist sectors, who from the outside, could
have been expected to be interested in this question, are in practice crippled
by zealous adherence to the dominant economic dogmas. According to the dominant
neoclassical “perfect market” dogma, the entirety of derivatives trading amounts
to a zero-sum game which has no overall value. Further that with the increasing
perfection of markets, the need or opportunities for hedging or speculation will
increasingly disappear. In any case neoclassical economism tends to have a
knee-jerk reaction against any analysis containing the word “social” unless it’s
a Panglossian paean to markets delivering the best of all possible worlds. The
marginalised economist critics of such pro-capitalist positivism, are equally
blinkered by a slavish adherence to an orthodox Marxist dogma (not to be
confused with Marx’s actual contribution to the critique of capitalism which
still has useful material) which states that, as exploitation can only occur in
the sphere of production, the entirety of financial market operations, including
derivatives trading, is in the sphere of circulation and thus can be safely
ignored as either having no impact on “real” capitalist relations or being
“unproductive” - an orthodox Marxist swear word meaning “something bad that
should be got rid of”. If the Neoclassical’s position is a denial of reality on
a par with the man who sailed round the world preaching that the earth was flat
(true story), then the orthodox Marxist position is akin to closing your eyes,
sticking your fingers in your ears and loudly proclaiming “Nya, nya, nya, I’m
not listening!”. In between the dominant Neoclassicals and the marginalised
orthodox Marxists are the (neo)Keynesians. While not explicitly anti-capitalist,
like the ortho Marxists, they are advocates of the need for state intervention
and regulation to make capitalism run efficiently and with some vague concession
to popular needs. However, the Keynesians have no more idea what to make of
derivatives than their neoclassical or Marxist economist colleagues. If
anything, they tend to follow Keynes’ distinction between the “real economy” and
speculative market trading, thus siding with the Marxists.
Breaking the silence
Given the lack of interest or dogmatic inability of the bulk of professional
market traders and the partisans of the various economic orthodoxies, the work
of trying to analyse the social implications has been left to those few
economists critical or sceptical of capitalism as a force for good, but not
bound by the blinkers of orthodox Marxism. Among these contributions is last
years book by two Australian academics Bryan and Rafferty, referenced in the
acknowledgements below, and on which a lot of the following is heavily reliant.
Ownership & Competition
Bryan and Rafferty and a number of other authors they reference, liken the
recent takeover of financial markets by derivatives to the impact of the
introduction of the joint-stock company in the mid-nineteenth century.

Like the current rise of derivatives, the introduction of the joint-stock
company was seen by many commentators of the time as threatening the productive
economy with the disruptive and parasitic effects of speculators and bringing
with it the threat of volatility and new crises of instability. It was also an
innovation that transformed the scale that it was possible to do business on,
both in terms of capital and labour employed and distances covered, while
changing profoundly the relationship between the directing of production, its
ownership and the distribution of its profits. Corresponding to this was an
extension and intensification of the relations of competition between businesses
and between capitalists and labour.

In a similar fashion these commentators claim that the derivatives revolution is
introducing a similarly epochal change in these three aspects of capitalism. B&R
label this “Three Degrees of Separation”.

The first degree of separation is the separation of people from the land and the
means of self-sufficiency to create a class society of individual
owner-capitalists, rural or industrial, and a dispossessed class of
wage-labourers. In this stage of separation, control over production and
ownership of the means of production are united in the body of the “masters”.
Competition is primarily the direct conflict between master and “hands” over
profit versus survival.

The introduction of the joint stock corporation transforms this network of
relationships. The process of incorporation gives a degree of legal recognition
of the business as a legal entity having rights. Ownership is now spread amongst
the shareholders who have no individual rights to the property of the
corporation. The direction of production is entrusted to a person demoted from
the condition of being a “master” into being a mere “boss”, themself an employee
capable of being fired by the concerted will of the shareholders. While the
conflicts between bosses and workers are equally capable of ferocity, the effect
of ownership by stockholders who can compare the return of their shares in a
given company, to that of a competing firm in the same industry and, if
profitable, transfer funds to find the most profitable, means that competition
now extends between firms within a given industry. The conflict between boss and
workers is mediated by the conflicts and conditions of production in all the
competing firms in that industry. Much has also been written about the possible
conflicts of interests between bosses and shareholders. Shareholders may often
find short-term gain in courses of action that may be damaging to the firm or
even lead to its premature extinction. Similarly bosses may find to enrich
themselves at the expense of the shareholders and workers. But both, to some
extent, find their freedom of movement and power over the enterprise constrained
by the legal recognition of the corporation as an entity with rights and the
intensified conditions of competition with other players in the market.

The third degree of separation through derivatives involves a further loss of
power and autonomy by both bosses and shareholders in the face of a third body,
the derivatives dealers who derive profit from the performance of their
corporations without having or needing any legal ownership claims at all.
Further the ability of derivative instruments to relate and compare performance
across different industries. The joint-stock corporation had made it easy to
compare productivity and profitability between different firms in a given
industry (in a given currency area) but difficult to relate the productivity of,
say chalk miners with cheese-makers without selling out of the chalk mining
industry and investing in the cheese business. Derivatives have evolved
specifically to relate previously incommensurable activities directly, without
any need for change of ownership in underlying stocks. With derivatives chalk
and cheese can be compared directly and the achievements in advancing
productivity in one industry can be set competitively against the other.

At this stage it must be mentioned that B&R are not proposing that these be seen
as “stages” in the sense that one gives rise to, and is replaced by, the next.
Although each has provided the basis for evolving the next level, each prior
level continues to co-exist with the later ones. Along with the 21st century
“third degree of separation” of derivatives-dominated financial capitalism, the
east Asian “enterprise zone” clothing factory owners whose sweated workforce
make the sportswear for the post-industrial workers of the west, are operating
very clearly in the framework of the first degree. Derivatives feed off the
multinational joint stock corporations they evolved to serve.
Implications for the class struggle
The Left Bereft
Ever since the fracturing of the nascent socialist movement in the late 19th
century, the non-anarchist fractions of the left, despite other agreements on
doctrine and methods, have been united by a common belief in the nation state as
the indispensable tool for delivering socialism.

This fervent belief in the nation state as the sole possible means of our
collective deliverance has given the state socialist left an huge emotional
investment in denying the possibility that the power of the state to
substantially limit or manage the flows of contemporary capitalism has been
fatally undermined by the developments of the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them
still cling to the belief that the deconstruction of the Keynesian international
financial order that took place in that period was entirely the result of a
purely political “neoliberal” conspiracy or coup that can simply be rolled back
when truly social-democratic governments come back into power.

As we have seen in the section on interpretations above, most of these state
socialists or social democrats are aided and abetted in this position in a
Keynesian or Marxist (the two are in practice much closer bed-fellows than
either would care to admit) economic dogmas which prevent them from even looking
at the mechanics of the systemic changes that have taken place, never mind
trying to analyse them.

The fact is that the Eurodollar money markets and clandestine currency swaps of
the 1970s were not just attempts to get around the regulatory architecture of
the Keynesian world order, they were successful attempts. Today’s proponents of
measures like the Tobin tax have yet to explain how they will tax operations
like currency swaps or other derivatives based operations which achieve the same
end as foreign currency transactions but without any actual taxable exchanges
taking place. The same logic applies to the arguments of those who propose the
re-imposition of Keynesian exchange controls - how to prevent them being
bypassed by the very mechanisms that evolved specifically for that purpose? The
state socialist dream of using the power of the capitalist state to discipline
and control capitalism for the benefit of workers is definitively dead. They are
a Left bereft.

But more importantly, from an anti-capitalist point of view, is that the “lost
paradise” of Keynesian social-democracy that these nostalgics long to regain,
was a deal based on workers accepting their place within capitalism and
submitting to wage-restraint deals. It was worker’s smashing of these wage
restraint deals in the late 60’s and 70’s that drove the inflation that in turn
pushed up the interest rates in Europe that sucked dollars out of the US and
into the Eurodollar market. Keynesianism was not simply undermined by capitalist
innovation in the area of derivatives, but by worker’s struggles in Western
Europe and, on a global level, by the heroic resistance of the Vietnamese people
to US imperialism. We will cover this history in the next article in the series,
but the point remains - will the state socialists in their turn adopt the
position taken by the Western European Communist Parties in the 60s and 70s that
workers must accept wage restraint “in order to build the productive forces”, in
the Marxist jargon? This line has nothing to offer the struggle for the
break-out from the prison of capitalist social relations.
Beyond Industrial Unionism
Under the first two degrees of separation the class enemy directly visible to
the struggling masses were first the masters and then the corporations with
their bosses and shareholders. Even today in the anti-globalisation movement,
the majority of the non-communist activists see the “bad guys” as the loathed
MNCs - the Multi-National Corporations. From the beginning the analytical
communist tendency was able to say that the ultimate enemy was neither the
masters, the bosses, the shareholders or the corporations, but capital. Yet
capital remained a theoretical abstraction only, inferred as an emergent
tendency of the collective action of the actual, visible class enemies. Now with
the rise of the financial derivatives capital markets, before which the
corporations, even the multi-national ones, are expendable pawns, a new
situation has arisen. As people witness the increasingly visible power of this
new actor, they will ask us, “What is it?”. We will finally be able to respond,
“It is the enemy of whom we have long spoken. It is Capital made flesh”. No
longer an abstraction, the rise of the third power makes capital a concrete,
directly visible enemy. And an enemy we can see directly, we can fight directly.
The outlook for the future of the class war
So in summary, while the state socialists may either mourn or remain in denial
about the passing of the nation state as a platform for reforms to mitigate the
evils of capitalism, we communists see the developments for what they are. We
see that we will need increasingly to link our struggles across industries,
across borders and across identities. That with the increasing impossibility of
fighting for reforms and half-measures, we will be forced more and more to
confront a newly visible capitalism itself directly. Then we must say, without
under-estimating the likely savagery of some of the struggles to come, that this
is a most excellent development.
Acknowledgements & References
To try and properly footnote and reference the above text would have been too
intrusive for what is, after all, not an academic text. Nonetheless some
acknowledgements and references are both proper and handy as guides for further
reading.

For general “unpolitical” reference material on financial markets (and much of
the glossary) I have made extensive use of the open source Wikipedia
(en.wikipedia.org/wiki). In the category of copyrighted but freely available on
the web material, I must also mention the extremely well-informed and lucid
www.riskglossary.com. For pure statistics the Bank for Internation Settlements
(BIS) produce the best available estimates of derivative volumes (www.bis.org)
and the OECD (www.oecd.org) are good for general global financial statistics.

In the category of works contributing to a critical and political perspective,
as already mentioned above, the best book available is “Capitalism with
Derivatives”, Dick Bryan & Michael Rafferty, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. I would
particularly also like to acknowledge the influence of the work and generous aid
of my comrades Dave Harvie and Massimo de Angelis, many of whose texts on this
and related topics are freely available at www.thecommoner.org.

Some Figures and Statistics

Global equity capital $51.2 trillion (wikipedia: Reuters March 2007) $165
trillion “total traded securities” (Economist, 19/01/2008)

Global physical trade
Daily ForEx trade volume $3.2 Trillion (BIS 2007)
Total Derivatives Nominal $516 trillion (BIS 2007)
Total Derivatives Value $11.1 trillion (BIS 2007)
Total Swaps Nominal $408 trillion, 79% of all derivatives
% Interest Rate Swaps 75 (BIS 2007)”

Ok if you are still reading, then you are a dedicated soul indeed. I would appreciate any comments you might make. I am not an expert on economics by any means, but I am interested in understanding the nature of the beast and that requires some theoretical overview. We must understand the beast if we are to prevail.

War Between Scientists And ALF

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

The ALF it a species rights group that places the rights of all species over the merely human. It iis a noble gesture, taking some of the finest minds away from the scientific establishment, even if only for a short time. It is better than having them serve the machine from the start. Some of them will be caught and have records. They will be offered deals, just like hackers, work for us or do the time. How many are brave enough to maintain resistance is to be seen.
Here is a story about the recent bust at the Long Haul in Berkeley.

“Cyber-Stalking of UC Animal Researcher Cited As Rationale for Raid
By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 18, 2008
UC Berkeley police, joined by federal and county law enforcement, raided the Long Haul Infoshop Aug. 27 in search of the source of threats to university researchers who experiment on animals.

The affidavit filed with Alameda County Superior Court Judge Judith Ford on Sept. 8 revealed that the search resulted from e-mails reportedly sent from the Infoshop’s computers in March and June.

Two civil liberties organizations are working with the Long Haul to challenge the warrant: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild.

The search warrant affidavit, written by UCPD Detective Bill Kasiske and signed the day before the raid, followed previous warrants served on Santa Rosa-based Internet provider Sonic.net by fax on March 20 and July 22 and on e-mail provider Google on June 16.

According to Kasiske’s affidavit, many of the e-mails targeted Yang Dan, a professor of neurobiology specializing in the study of brain circuits used in the processing of visual information.

Her research figures in one website targeting 27 campus faculty involved in animal research, while a second website identifies her as the first among the six faculty members included in the “UC Berkeley Hall of Shame” for “stupid research on animals.”

Police seized six computers from the Infoshop Internet room and nine other computers from offices in the building, including several taken from padlocked rooms, including one used by the nonprofit East Bay Prisoner Support.

Also taken were two freestanding hard drives—including one that belonged to Berkeley Liberation Radio—as well as an assortment of CDs and cassettes and one plug-in flash drive.

According to the warrant, “Since September 2007, UCPD has documented at least nine separate incidents when animal rights activists have targeted” Dan’s home.

Kasiske’s affidavit cited one specific incident of vandalism at the residence on March 10, when city and campus police were called to her home in the Berkeley hills at 9:17 p.m. after a garbage can lid was thrown onto her roof and a window was broken.

Investigators found chalked messages and stickers “relating to animal rights,” Kasiske declared.

According to campus police records, a second incident of vandalism against another researcher had been reported four minutes earlier at the home of Professor Stephen Glickman, targeted because of his research involving female hyenas.

At 8:30 p.m. that same evening, police had been called to the home of a third targeted researcher, Professor Jack Gallant, who has conducted research using Macaque monkeys.

Dan had also been the target of one of two animal rights demonstrations held on Jan. 27, where Kasiske stated he had heard one of the protesters warn, “We are the friendly, above-ground activists. The next visit may not be so pretty.”

The detective also said that protesters invoked the initials ALF, or Animal Liberation Front, a leaderless international organization that has raided labs to free animals and has targeted researchers with protests and graffiti.

The group’s initial were painted on the walls of the UC Davis John E. Thurman Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in 1987 after a $4.5 million blaze demolished the building. No arrests were ever made in the incident.

In the 12 months ending in July 2008, UC Berkeley officially reported “more than 20” incidents of damage to the homes and cars of campus researchers.

A UCLA researcher’s home was firebombed on Feb. 7, less than four months after the house had been flooded with a garden hose, and a van used to transport faculty was burned June 3, with the ALF taking credit in that incident.

The most recent acts of violence aimed at California academics doing animal research came in Santa Cruz on Aug. 2, when a firebombing destroyed one researcher’s car followed by a second incendiary attack on the home of another, which forced the family to flee the house through a second floor window. The ALF claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The ALF website lists incidents for which affiliates have claimed responsibility. See www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/ for details.

For more on the UC system’s approach to animal research protests and violence, see www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/animalresearch.

E-mails

According to Kasiske’s affidavit, several researchers were sent abusive e-mails between March 19 and 25, using fake accounts set up in the researchers’ own names.

“The messages had subject lines such as, ‘Hey animal killer,’ and ‘Why do you torture and kill animals?’” Kasiske wrote. He cited one example of what he described as the “obscene comments” contained in the e-mail texts: “The blood is on your hands you speciesist scum. They die. You profit. Sick motherfucker.”

Kasiske traced the source of the message to an Internet address assigned to Sonic.net, and the subsequent warrant identified the source as the Infoshop.

In his affidavit, the detective said he knew that the Long Haul “is a resource and meeting center for radical activists. I know that animal rights activists have held meetings at the Long Haul.”

On June 15, Dan forwarded six more e-mails to the detective, sent to her the day before between 6:10 and 7:16 p.m.

According to the affidavit, the first declared “im a crazy fuck and im watching YOU … YOU HAD BETTER STOP KILLING THOSE FUCKING ANIMALS OR I WILL SHOW YOU WHAT I HAVE IN STORE [redacted] AND IT AIN’T FUCKING PRETTY.”

The subsequent e-mails warned that the sender knew her credit cards numbers, the movies she had rented, and where she shopped.

The fourth message asked “havent you been paying fucking attention to the news and what is happening at UCLA … quit torturing animals or you’re next to receive that and MUCH worse you fucking murderous scum.”

The final message demanded she publicly renounce animal experiments: “EITHER YOU DO THAT OR I WILL FUCK YOUR LIFE UP,” the anonymous sender declared.

Kasiske cited the e-mail texts as the basis of his determination that the sender had violated section 646.9(a) of the state Penal Code, which declares: “Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.”

Personaly I have my sympathies with those who would use such energy to overthrow capitalism not science, but I am kind of old school in that regard.

Bolivian Bloodbath

Monday, September 15th, 2008

From Al Jeezera, news of Bolivia, it seems that the rebel governers are responcible for the deaths of 18 peasants who were demonstrating in favor of the Morales government.
This is another one of those complex situations where the good guys are not the rebels but the government. It is unusual. In most circumstances there is not the final taste of death, but the still acrid smell of shit, people who out of fear had shit in their pants, it is a biological reaction.
Perhaps this will clear it up a little. But again we must understand that the United States Government is out to discredit any and all governments or social bodies that oppose US policy.

“Leaders gather for Bolivia summit
Bolivians are counting the cost after last week’s protests and clashes [Reuters]
South American leaders have begun an emergency summit in Chile in an attempt to resolve the political turmoil in Bolivia that has left at least 18 people dead in clashes between government supporters and opponents.

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president, has accused rebel state governors who are demanding greater autonomy of attempting a “coup” against him.

“I have come here … to explain to the presidents of South America the civic coup d’etat by governors in some Bolivian states in recent days,” Morales said before heading to the talks at the La Moneda government palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

“We’ve seen looting, the ransacking of institutions, attempts to assault the police and the armed forces.”

The gathering, which includes Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean president, and the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, was expected to continue until late on Monday.

The violence has also sparked a diplomatic standoff between Bolivia and Venezuela on the one side, and the US on the other, with Morales and Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, expelling Washington’s ambassadors to their countries, accusing them of backing the opposition.

Washington responded by ordering the Bolivian and Venezuelan envoys to the US to leave.

“They are trying to overthrow president Evo Morales and the conspiracy has been born of, financed by and supported by the United States empire,” Chavez said on arrival in Chile.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, is seen as being influential at the talks as Brazil is Bolivia’s top foreign investor and is heavily dependent on its natural gas exports.

The group of South American leaders hopes to repeat the success of a similar summit in March that managed to stop violence erupting between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador after a Colombian raid on a rebel base inside Ecuador.

Bolivia arrests

Before heading to Chile, Morales and one of the rebel governors met to discuss potential steps to end the violence and agreed to resume the talks when Morales returned.

Last week’s protests were the latest in a series that have rocked Bolivia [Reuters]

Violence between pro- and anti-government protesters last week left at least 18 people dead and 100 wounded in the northeastern regions.

The army has arrested 10 people accused of organising anti-government protests in Cobija, the capital of Pando province.

The government declared martial law in Pando on Friday, saying opposition groups had massacred pro-Morales peasants.

Officials have said 16 to 28 people died in that incident in rural Pando, as well as two more in Cobija.

The government also has accused Leopoldo Fernandez, the governor of Pando, of involvement in the deaths, alleging the peasants were gunned down in an ambush.

South America’s poorest nation has been in the grip of political turmoil for months.

Last month, Morales convincingly won a referendum on his rule but in the rebel states, voters also returned most of the governors forming the opposition coalition.

After failed negotiations to find a compromise solution, Morales announced a new referendum to take place in December.

The new vote would be on his rewritten constitution, which would redistribute land and national revenues to give more to the indigenous population.

Source: Agencies

Feedback Number of comments : 1

Marco Arnez
Bolivia 16/09/2008

Genocide in Bolivia

What really happened wasn’t “clashes between government supporter and opponents” but a massacre, a cruel genocide ordered by the rebel governor of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandes. The outcome of that massacre was almost 30 peasants died. Fernandez contracted mercenaries to kill innocent people. ‘

I have left one comment, it is pretty direct. It puts all the blame on the provinces. It is ultimatly a story of the old elite trying to destroy a popular government by using dirty tactics and trying to force the popular government to do the same in an attempt to discredit it. The US embassy has no Ambassador because he was kicked out in a quid pro quo involving Venesuela. It gets complicated, but it is not that tough. The CIA has its hands all over this.

Another Tale From India

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Don’t get me wrong, I like India, I spend a few weeks there on the Krishna tour back in the early 90’s and was impressed with how much of the cultural integrity remained in the country. People who spoke English were genuinely concerned with the effect western materialism and violence would have on Indian culture. Movies in India are about singing and dancing. They are tales of love and romance. Violence is not the subject, even choreographed violence like in China.
India back in the long distant past on 1993 was the sort of place where you could hand out your walkman to a stranger and that stranger would pass it to another one, and then they would pass in down to the next car and so on until 3 hours later it came back to me, having been listened to unknown dozens of men and boys who had an interest in Hare Krishna tapes. Women and men were segregated at that time, on the trains, only interacting in the family class cars, where I usually rode because the seats flattened into beds. At $10 for a ticket from Calcutta to New Delhi it was a deal. Tourist class was $50 and air conditioned, but then I would not be able to travel with average Indians. I had not gone to India to be with other Americans, although at the Krishna temples I met plenty of westerners.
But I am not talking about India of 15 years ago. I am interested in India now. Back then there was trouble in Kashmir, but not in Orissa. I went to Puri, and there I saw the great Jagannath temple that westerners were not allowed to enter. But now there is a problem. It seems that Christian Missionaries have been up to their usual no good. They have been trying to convert the under classes, very similar to what they did in ancient Rome, going after the slaves and women, to convert the disaffected and those at the bottom of the pagan system. India is the last remnant of the world that the Romans knew. China was lost when the British destroyed the empire, and created a dependency on the west, ripe for revolution. Egypt had long ago been lost when Christianity came in. Mesopotamia went at about the same time, destroyed by the onslaught of Christianity. Rome and Greece went a little earlier, and the African pagans were destroyed by slavers from the west Christians and the east Moslems. Only India and a few tribal regions have survived intact to modern times As much as I do not like what has happened to India with its support of Bush and its repression of Moslems, they represent the last major home of the worlds original religion and to the extent that it is still true, it deserves to exist.
Here is a report about the Indians and Christians in Orissa province.

“BHUBANESWAR, India (AFP) — Security forces killed two Hindu rioters in eastern India where violence between Hindus and Christians claimed 18 lives last month, police said Sunday.

Tensions between the two communities in Orissa state have simmered for weeks over alleged forced conversions of Hindus by the minority Christian community.

Late Saturday, paramilitary troops in the troubled Kandhamal district — the focus of the recent religious violence — clashed with about 50 Hindus.

The Hindus, who were trying to attack a church and the nearby house of a Christian villager, fired on the troops, injuring one of them, police said.

Two rioters were killed and 11 injured when the troops retaliated, Orissa police chief Gopal Nanda said Sunday.

Hindu-Christian clashes erupt periodically in India, where 2.3 percent of the country’s population of more than 1.1 billion are Christians.

Hardline Hindus accuse missionaries of “bribing” poor tribals and low-caste Hindus, who often face strong discrimination, to convert to Christianity by offering free education and health care.

The latest clash comes in the wake of bloody riots after the murder of a revered Hindu priest and four followers on August 23.

Thousands of people, mainly Christians, are still living in government camps or in the surrounding jungles following the torching of their homes.

In southern Karnataka state, which is governed by the Hindu nationalists, 10 small churches and prayer halls were ransacked Sunday by Hindu activists, police said.

At least eight people including two pastors were injured, police said, adding that the attacks appeared to be in protest over the alleged forced conversions of Hindus.

In New Delhi, a spokesman for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had “asked the state chief minister to ensure communal harmony at all costs.”

Not much of an article, but I am sure Christian Blogs are trying to rally the troops to help fight the battle for Christ and the Hindu fundamentalists are doing the same in India and among the Diaspora around the world.
India is now no longer a poor third world country, although it still has large numbers of poor it also has wealth and a middle class that is as large as the middle class in America. That is about 200 million there 1/5th of the population of India and perhaps 150 million here or about half the population. India has a lot more population and as its wealth grows so will its power and influence. Soon it will be the other super power, along with China, as the dominant economic powerhouse in the world.
The US, Russia and the other G8 countries are simply trying to hold back the tide of the future and sooner or later there will be no USA.
These religious fundamentalists understand that the future is in the numbers. The more they have in their churches the more they have what they want, which is control of the world. Each religion represents an elite who want to be the world leaders. Religious traditions aside, they want to win and the last religion standing is by default the winner, even if they only have a nuclear waste land and a few bunkers to claim for their god or gods. Makes you want to become an atheist doesn’t it?


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