Archive for March, 2011

Some on the Left have begun to make useful contributions to a productive debate about the principles and perils of the ongoing U.S.-led, UN-sponsored military intervention in Libya.

Juan Cole has published an “Open Letter to the Left” in which he explains why he is “unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed.”

I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya. If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness). It is now easy to forget that Winston Churchill held absolutely odious positions from a Left point of view and was an insufferable colonialist who opposed letting India go in 1947. His writings are full of racial stereotypes that are deeply offensive when read today. Some of his interventions were nevertheless noble and were almost universally supported by the Left of his day. The UN allies now rolling back Qaddafi are doing a good thing, whatever you think of some of their individual leaders.

The Editors of the venerable Middle East Research and Information Project, for their part, are much more suspicious of the intervention, arguing that “it would be naïve to assert that the West chooses to intervene merely because it can. The West steps in because it can and because it wants to.”

Oil-rich and strategically located, Libya is not Western Sahara or the Ivory Coast. The reiterations by Obama and his British and French counterparts that “Qaddafi must go” put Western prestige on the line. So, say events proceed as the West appears to hope and the rebels somehow manage to dislodge the colonel. Or say the US-British-French troika deals the death blow itself. What then? Who will emerge to reconstruct a strong, central state? Who will the West back from among the rebels’ disparate ranks? As the veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn contends, it is likely to be those “who speak the best English” and are “prepared to go before Congress to express fulsome gratitude for America’s actions.” One might add that they are apt to be the most willing to give favorable terms to Western oil firms for invigorated exploration and exploitation of the country’s hydrocarbon deposits. Whether scions of the royal family deposed by Qaddafi in 1969 or renegades from the colonel’s subsequent regime, these elements are sure to be heavier on opportunism than on popular legitimacy. This Libya would look nothing like the democratic state of liberal interventionist dreams, and quite a bit like post-Saddam Iraq.

We’re #3!

Posted: 31 March 2011 in Uncategorized
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Chicago is third on the list of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas [ht: mfa] of over 500,000 people.

In Chicago, white counter-protesters attacked open housing marchers, hitting Martin Luther King in the head with a brick. He later said that he had “never seen as much hatred and hostility on the part of so many people.”

“It’s been segregated since before significant black migration to Chicago started in about 1915,” says Lincoln Quillian, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University who researches segregation. “It increased especially after World War II, with the Great Migration of blacks from the South to northern factories. There were only certain parts of the town, on the South Side, open to blacks at the time.”

Like all migrants, blacks often settled among relatives and friends. But once settled, they were barred from moving into neighboring white communities, creating what historian Arnold Hirsch called Chicago’s “second ghetto.” Later on, the relocation of industry was a long-term economic catastrophe for working-class blacks in the city, converting poor neighborhoods on the South and West sides into what Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson calls “jobless ghettos.”

“Segregation was the result of organized white opposition to the expansion of blacks, including steps to eliminate them as serious competitors for residential areas and jobs,” says Wilson, the author of numerous books on segregation and poverty in Chicago. Later on, white people moved to the suburbs — and took the jobs with them. “Since 1980, over two-thirds of employment growth has occurred outside the central city.”

Here is the complete list:

  1. Milwaukee
  2. New York
  3. CHICAGO
  4. Detroit
  5. Cleveland
  6. Buffalo
  7. St. Louis
  8. Cincinnati
  9. Philadelphia
  10. Los Angeles

Today, Irish banks are facing another one of those “notably rare exceptions.”

According to Bloomberg, Irish regulators instructed four banks to raise 24 billion euros ($34 billion) in additional capital following stress tests on the nation’s lenders.

“Banks will be capitalized as the additional capital requirements announced today provide for future loan losses over the course of the three years on a scale that is unlikely to occur and an additional buffer for subsequent events,” Governor Patrick Honohan said in the statement.

Here is a timeline of events leading up to today’s announcement of the results of the Irish bank stress tests:

Sept. 30, 2008 – Just days after becoming the first euro zone country to slide into recession, Ireland becomes one of the first to respond to the Lehman Brothers collapse, guaranteeing 440 billion euros of liabilities at six Irish-owned institutions and a foreign-owned bank. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan boasts a month later it would be “the cheapest bailout in the world” and it prompts similar moves across Europe to prevent capital flooding to Ireland.

Dec. 21 – The government says it will inject 5.5 billion euros into the country’s three main lenders and will also underwrite Bank of Ireland (BKIR.I) and Allied Irish Banks (ALBK.I) plans to raise 1 billion euros each.

Jan. 15, 2009 – Ireland abandons plans to inject 1.5 billion euros into third largest bank Anglo Irish Bank [ANGIB.UL] and nationalises the commercial lender amid fears it could collapse.

Feb. 11 – Ireland says it will inject 7 billion euros into Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish in return for guarantees on lending, executive pay and mortgage arrears. It gets a 25 percent indirect stake in both banks.

April 7 – Lenihan announces the creation of a “bad bank” to deal with the risky property loans of financial institutions. The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is established six months later, ready to take assets worth a nominal 77 billion euros at an average discount of 30 percent.

May 29 – Ireland is forced to inject up to 4 billion euros into Anglo after its loan book sours and drags the bank to a half-year loss of 4.1 billion euros, at the time the worst loss in Irish bank history. It manages to more than treble that record within two years.

The problem is that regulators, and for that matter everyone else, can never get more than a glimpse at the internal workings of the simplest of modern financial systems. Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.

Alan Greenspan, “Dodd-Frank fails to meet test of our times”

See, in addition, the responses by Yves Smith, Michael Hudson, and Peter Radford.

Broken bank bailout

Posted: 31 March 2011 in Uncategorized
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Straight from the horse’s mouth. . .

Neil M. Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program from 2008 until yesterday, explains what went wrong with the bank bailout.

Two and a half years ago, Congress passed the legislation that bailed out the country’s banks. The government has declared its mission accomplished, calling the program remarkably effective “by any objective measure.” On my last day as the special inspector general of the bailout program, I regret to say that I strongly disagree. The bank bailout, more formally called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, failed to meet some of its most important goals.

From the perspective of the largest financial institutions, the glowing assessment is warranted: billions of dollars in taxpayer money allowed institutions that were on the brink of collapse not only to survive but even to flourish. These banks now enjoy record profits and the seemingly permanent competitive advantage that accompanies being deemed “too big to fail.”

Though there is no question that the country benefited by avoiding a meltdown of the financial system, this cannot be the only yardstick by which TARP’s legacy is measured. The legislation that created TARP, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, had far broader goals, including protecting home values and preserving homeownership. . .

In the final analysis, it has been Treasury’s broken promises that have turned TARP — which was instrumental in saving the financial system at a relatively modest cost to taxpayers — into a program commonly viewed as little more than a giveaway to Wall Street executives.

Giveaway, indeed. We didn’t get adequate regulatory reform or the promised number of mortgage modifications. But the Too Big to Fail banks got their bailout, with no strings attached, in order to continue business as usual.

Rethinking Gramsci

Posted: 31 March 2011 in Uncategorized
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Marcus Green’s edited volume, Rethinking Gramsci, has just been published.

Here is the complete table of contents of this remarkable collection:

Marcus E. Green, Rethinking Marxism and Rethinking Gramsci

>Culture and Criticism
1. Stuart Hall, Race, Culture, and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies
2. Paul Bové, Dante, Gramsci and Cultural Criticism
3. Daniel O’Connell, Bloom and Babbitt: A Gramscian View
4. Marcia Landy, Socialist Education Today: Pessimism or optimism of the intellect?

>Hegemony, Subalternity, Common Sense
5. Derek Boothman, The Sources for Gramsci’s Concept of Hegemony
6. Marcus E. Green, Gramsci Cannot Speak: Presentations and Interpretations of Gramsci’s Concept of the Subaltern
7. Cosimo Zene, Self-consciousness of the Dalits as ‘subalterns:’ Reflections on Gramsci in South Asia
8. Evan Watkins, Gramscian Politics and Capitalist Common Sense
9. Frank R. Annunziato, Gramsci’s Theory of Trade Unionism
10. Nelson Moe, Production and Its Others
11. Adam David Morton, Social Forces in the Struggle over Hegemony: Neo-Gramscian Perspectives in International Political Economy
12. Richard Howson, From Ethico-Political Hegemony to Post-Marxism

>Political Philosophy
13. Richard D. Wolff, Gramsci, Marxism and Philosophy
14. Carlos Nelson Coutinho, General Will and Democracy in Rousseau, Hegel, and Gramsci
15. Wolfgang Fritz Haug, From Marx to Gramsci, from Gramsci to Marx: Historical Materialism and the Philosophy of Praxis
15. Steven R. Mansfield, Gramsci and the Dialectic
17. Esteve Morera, Gramsci’s Critical Modernity

>On Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks
18. David F. Ruccio, Unfinished Business: Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks
19. Joseph W. Childers, Of Prison Notebooks and the Restoration of an Archive
20. Peter Ives, The Mammoth Task of Translating Gramsci
21. William V. Spanos, Cuvier’s Little Bone: Joseph Buttigieg’s English Edition of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks
22. Joseph A. Buttigieg, The Prison Notebooks: Antonio Gramsci’s Work in Progress