Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

March 6, 2009



Dean Baker, Prospect -
The Post implies that the slowdown in non-residential construction in the United States is due to a lack of financing. While there has undoubtedly been a tightening of credit, this should not be surprising in an environment where vacancy rates are soaring and rents are falling. Builders look like extremely poor risks at present, since new buildings are likely to sit largely empty for many years after completion. Under such circumstances, lenders would be very hesitant to make loans even if the financial system were rock solid.

CNN - Tony-award winning actress Jane Alexander says giving money to the arts will save and create jobs. She was chairman of the agency from 1993 through 1997 when arts funding was cut sharply by the Republican-led Congress, which questioned whether it was an appropriate way to use government money. . . Alexander spoke to CNN.com last week. Alexander: What people forget is that there are over 2 million people in the United States of America who are professional artists. Those are jobs like any other jobs. The artists have families, they have people for whom they're responsible and they give to their communities. . .


Washington Times -
President Obama's newly named Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the real-world Americans being asked to help solve the nation's financial crisis, includes a union executive who took the Fifth in a federal probe, a billionaire whose failed bank pioneered the subprime mortgage market, and deep-pocket donors who gave or gathered nearly $1.2 million for the president's campaign. In all, 11 of the 16 board members donated or raised money for Democrats in the last election, according to a Washington Times review of campaign finance records. They include the president and chief operating officer of the American arm of UBS Investment Bank, the Swiss-based bank now at the center of a widening tax evasion probe by the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

NY Times - President Obama on Wednesday ordered his administration to change how government contracts are awarded to private businesses, saying he intended to reverse some practices of the Bush administration and do away with no-bid contracts that have cost billions and led to corruption investigations. . . . He said guidelines being drafted could save up to $40 billion a year, largely from military-related contracts.


Chicago's chief of police
has been held in contempt by a federal judge for refusing to release the names of officers with repeated abuse complaints.


Wikileaks -
Senator Joseph Lieberman has called for all Congressional Research Service reports to be made public following Wikileaks' release of 6,780 of the reports last month. The Congressional Research Service, or "Congresses' Brain", produces several thousand reports per year on everything from backgrounders on torture policy and impeachment to up to the minute analysis of controversial legislation before Congress. CRS reports are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. They top the list of the government documents "most wanted" by activists and policy wonks, according to an on-going survey by the Washington based Center for Democracy and Technology.




Technology Expert -
The three traditional practices of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Today, some people also give up a vice of theirs, and thus, the Roman Catholic Church in Italy has asked its followers to give up --- texting. Lent is the 40-day period following Fat Tuesday and proceeding to Easter. The Roman Catholic church has added a technological twist, by asking that its followers foreswear text messaging, social-networking Web sites, iPods, cell phones, computer games, and all sorts of tech trappings on Fridays, and more days if possible. Generally people give up things like meat, alcohol, and the like. This is probably going to prove far more difficult.


Guardian, UK -
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four comes top in a poll of the UK's guilty reading secrets. Asked if they had ever claimed to read a book when they had not, 65% of respondents said yes and 42% said they had falsely claimed to have read Orwell's classic in order to impress. This is followed by Tolstoy's War and Peace (31%), James Joyce's Ulysses (25%) and the Bible (24. . . When asked to name the writers they really enjoyed, 61% of people ticked JK Rowling and 32% John Grisham. . . . . . 62% of people in the poll admitted they turn the corner of the page to keep their place.


reports a large portion of the southern Plains, the Southeast and the West remain abnormally dry. While some precipitation has visited parts of the Southeast and the West of late, precipitation has avoided and may continue to avoid a large part of the Plains in the coming days, weeks and months. . . . . . With such extremely dry conditions across the southern Plains, periods of gusty winds through next week will keep the threat for wildfires elevated. The weather pattern has some similarities to that of the 1930's and given the state of the economy these days make it quite sobering. While modern farming practices and technological advances should prevent a 1930's style dust bowl over the southern Plains, indeed some hardship lies ahead unless the current pattern breaks. The spring planting season begins this month in the region and crops need moisture to sprout and grow.


NY Times -
Assisted suicide becomes legal in Washington, but dozens of hospitals are not expected to participate, and even supporters of the law say they do not foresee a rush of requests for lethal drugs. Washington's law is essentially identical to the one in Oregon, the only other state that allows doctors to prescribe lethal medications. It is the first in the country since the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that states had a right to adopt such measures.


Army Times
- A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money. VA officials acknowledge further credibility problems based on a new report of a previously undisclosed 2007 incident in which workers at a Detroit regional office turned in 16,000 pieces of unprocessed mail and 717 documents turned up in New York in December during amnesty periods in which workers were promised no one would be penalized



Russia Today - The Ministry of Economic Development in Georgia announced that it would sell three military ships that Russian troops allegedly sank in the Georgian port of Poti during the 5-day war in August.
But there is a catch. The buyer has to raise the ships from the sea bottom and remove them from the harbor waters. Salvaging a ship is an expensive business and that is why the price of each ship has been set at a symbolic US $10 dollars.

New Census data finds that abut one quarter of the nation's kindergarteners are latino.



Anonymous robbie said...

When did the Washington Times discover investigative journalism? Did they do any in-depth analysis on Bush's picks for various posts? Something tells me....no.

March 7, 2009 9:02 AM  
Anonymous All Too Sober said...

On the "financial crisis" (which is in fact a wealthgap crisis), I'm wondering if anyone else has seen this report from GEAB.

On this page:


You’ll find this article listed first


and this one listed second


Here are some snips:

Back in February 2006, LEAP/E2020 estimated that the global systemic crisis would unfold in 4 main structural phases: trigger, acceleration, impact and decanting phases. This process enabled us to properly anticipate events until now. However our team has now come to the conclusion that, due to the global leaders’ incapacity to fully realise the scope of the ongoing crisis (made obvious by their determination to cure the consequences rather than the causes of this crisis), the global systemic crisis will enter a fifth phase in the fourth quarter of 2009, a phase of global geopolitical dislocation.

According to LEAP/E2020, this new stage of the crisis will be shaped by two major processes happening in two parallel sequences:

A. Two major processes:
1. Disappearance of the financial base (Dollar & Debt) all over the world
2. Fragmentation of the interests of the global system’s big players and blocks

B. Two parallel sequences:
1. Quick disintegration of the current international system altogether
2. Strategic dislocation of big global players.

We had hoped that the decanting phase would give the world’s leaders the opportunity to draw the proper conclusions from the collapse of the global system prevailing since WWII. Alas, at this stage, it is no longer possible to be optimistic in this regard (1). In the United States, as in Europe, China and Japan, leaders persist in reacting as if the global system has only fallen victim to some temporary breakdown, merely requiring loads of fuel (liquidities) and other ingredients (rate drops, repurchase of toxic assets, bailouts of semi-bankrupt industries,…) to reboot it. In fact (and this is what LEAP/E2020 means ever since February 2006 using the expression « global systemic crisis"), the global system is simply out of order; a new one needs to be built instead of striving to save what can no longer be saved.

History is not known to be patient, therefore the fifth phase of the crisis will ignite this required process of reconstruction, but in a harsh manner: by means of a complete dislocation of the present system, with particularly tragic consequences in the case of several big global players, as described in this 32nd issue of the GEAB (see the two parallel sequences).

According to LEAP/E2020, there is only one very small launch window left to prevent this scenario from shaping up: the next four months, before summer 2009. Practically speaking, the April 2009 G20 Summit is probably the last chance to put on the right tracks the forces at play, i.e. before the sequence of UK and then US defaults begin (2). Failing which, they will lose their capacity to control events (3), including those in their own countries for many of them; and the world will enter this phase of geopolitical dislocation like a “drunken boat”. At the end of this phase of geopolitical dislocation, the world will look more like Europe in 1913 rather than our world in 2007.

Because they persisted in bearing the ever-increasing weight of the ongoing crisis, most states, including the most powerful ones, failed to realise that they were planning their own trampling under the weight of History, forgetting that they were merely man-made organisations, only surviving because they matched the interest of a large majority. In this 32nd edition of the GEAB, LEAP/E2020 has chosen to anticipate the fallout of this phase of geopolitical dislocation so far as it affects the United-States, EU, China and Russia.

It is high time for the general population and socio-political players to get ready to face very hard times during which whole segments of our societies will be modified (4), temporarily disappear or even permanently vanish. For instance, the breakdown of the global monetary system we anticipated for summer 2009 will indeed entail the collapse of the US dollar (and all USD-denominated assets), but it will also induce, out of psychological contagion, a general loss of confidence in paper money altogether (these consequences give rise to a number of recommendations in this issue of the GEAB).

Last but not least, our team now estimates that the most monolithic, the most « imperialistic » political entities (5) will suffer the most from this fifth phase of the crisis. Some states will indeed experience a strategic dislocation undermining their territorial integrity and their influence worldwide. As a consequence, other states will suddenly lose their protected situations and be thrust into regional chaos.

From the second article – and you should go see the charts there:

The global financial crisis, which went through a major tipping point in September 2008 as anticipated by LEAP/E2020 last February (1), is only the detonator of the global systemic crisis. The financial and monetary chaos of the past months were only the triggers of a series of economic, social and political crises that will from now on give the pace to the last phase of this global systemic crisis. The most severe consequences - in human, social, economic and political terms - are still ahead of us, not behind. In this October edition of the GEAB (N°28), we therefore chose to establish the anticipatory schedule of the so-called « decanting phase », i.e. a phase along which the outcome of the crisis begins reshaping the global system (2). Our studies thus enabled us to make anticipations for the 2008-2013 period and for 6 groups of countries differently impacted by the 4 specific sequences of this phase: financial crisis, economic crisis, social crisis and political crisis.

Indeed, if the first three phases of the crisis were common to the whole planet because they affected the same global system inherited from 1945 and 1989, the fourth phase takes place very differently according to the country and to the specific impact of the crisis for each country. The shock was common, but the trajectories will be different from now on. In fact they constitute the process of reorganisation of the global system and prefigure the new equilibriums that will appear in the coming decade.

March 7, 2009 9:07 AM  
Anonymous wellbasically said...

I was several minutes into a conversation on "The Wasteland" before I even figured out what we were talking about. I still haven't got through it.

March 7, 2009 2:08 PM  

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