… the heavens fall.

You got a problem with that.

You got a problem with that.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. (Napoleon)

The global financial crisis is set to get worse, with a large US bank likely to collapse in the next few months, a former IMF chief economist has warned.

Kenneth Rogoff’s comments came as shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sank on a report that the home lenders would, in effect, be nationalised.

Despite hopes that the US economy had turned the corner, Mr Rogoff claimed it was “not out of the woods”.

“I would even go further to say ‘the worst is to come’,” he said.

“We’re not just going to see mid-sized banks go under in the next few months,” said Mr Rogoff, who held the IMF role between 2001 and 2004.

“We’re going to see a whopper, we’re going to see a big one, one of the big investment banks or big banks.”

BBC

———–

Meet the rich
The gap between rich and poor is wider than ever. But that doesn’t seem to bother Britain’s wealthiest earners. In an extract from their new book, Polly Toynbee and David Walker describe the jaw-dropping arrogance they encountered when they asked some of the fat cats to justify their lives of luxury.

From the marbled 20th floor of a glass tower in Canary Wharf the view of the river is breathtaking. It snakes down to the Thames barrier, glinting in the sunset. Close to the new city lie the serried ranks of East End estate blocks. The view is typical of London: glossy new wealth nestling close to old and persisting penury. Precious little money has trickled down from this gilded new town in the sky to its neighbours below.

Unjust Rewards

The view is a reminder of the widening gap. History, many like to believe, is a Whiggish tale of wealth, social progress and fairer distribution, an onward march: we all wear the same clothes, meet on equal terms on Facebook. Yet background predicts who will run the banks and who will clean their floors. It’s not happenstance; it is largely pre-programmed. General mobility is a myth. The top 10% of income earners get 27.3% of the cake, while the bottom 10% get just 2.6%. Twenty years ago the average chief executive of a FTSE 100 company earned 17 times the average employee’s pay; now it is more than 75 times.

———-

Not Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class

by Nan Mooney

From Publishers Weekly
Young people who were raised to believe that a college education guarantees them a spot in the middle class are instead grappling with rising levels of debt, stagnant wages and ballooning basic expenses, argues Mooney, [who] suggests that college graduates who choose creative or service professions, such as journalism, teaching and social work, generally find themselves in low-paying jobs that, paradoxically, require high-priced educations and even graduate degrees. The struggle to pay off student loans sets off a spiral of financial insecurity, as these educated professionals face escalating costs for housing, health insurance and child care.

Idiots from Hell

Global Warming Skeptics Insist Humans Not at Fault

   

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2008; Page A16

When Christopher Monckton, who served as a special adviser to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, ponders the current political push to curb greenhouse gases linked to climate change, he thinks of King Canute.

According to Monckton, Canute — the Viking who ruled England along with much of Scandinavia nearly a thousand years ago — took his courtiers to the ocean’s edge one day, set down his throne and ordered the tide not to come in. The tide, of course, came in, and the king got his feet wet.

The lesson? The king taught his advisers “humility,” Monckton said, by showing them that even he, a king, could not control nature. In the same way, he argued, modern-day politicians should not fool themselves into thinking that humanity is having a big impact on climate.

Monckton, along with other high-profile global warming skeptics such as University of Virginia professor emeritus S. Fred Singer and Virginia state climatologist Patrick J. Michaels, are gathered in New York this week for a conference aimed at challenging the idea that a scientific consensus exists on climate change. Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank funded by energy and health-care corporations as well as conservative foundations and individuals, the 2 1/2 -day session poses a stark contrast to the near-unanimous chorus of concern expressed by top U.S. politicians and most of the scientific mainstream.

The Open Society: Irony Rises, Feels Much Better

Not so fearless, apparently

I admire George Soros. He passes as a philosopher among businessmen and his Open Society Institute has done great good in the world.

In college, I avidly read Karl Popper’s masterful work on The Open Society and Its Enemies. In brief, an open society sustains a free market for ideas and their unfettered expression. A closed society tries to stifle same for reasons religious, political and/or ideological.

We are an open society on good days. China is not. The USSR was not. And neither, apparently, is the Huffington Post, where the following item appeared the other day:

Dept. of Misdirection: With Iraq a Disaster, GOP Goes Crazy Over a Newspaper Ad

I attempted to reply in their house blog that Soros had seen fascism up close in his youth — and that perhaps this early scarring had something to do with the ad targeting Petraeus, which was remarkably tone deaf and tellingly juvenile.

I argued, quietly and calmly, that to call the Iraq war a disaster does not make it so. That, to fill a bubble with the refrain does not make it so, though it may deafen us to what we might otherwise hear.

I stated that the left had acted to balance the right, that our soldiers were coming home, that we can all take a measure of comfort in the implications.

That the war is over, that it ended the moment Al Qaeda began to attack the Iraqis. (Would that all our enemies were so stupid.)

I reminded that the Iraqis, their neighbors and the rest of the world are now free of Saddam & Sons. That Iraq has held elections, forged a constitution, and created a fledgling democracy.

It was too much. They didn’t want to hear it. They refused to air it. They declined to give a reason why. (I asked.)

None of which is important. Except insofar as it highlights a larger picture, wherein the left & right continue to shout past one another, neither hearing what the other has to say — and so unwittingly limiting their audiences, preaching to the choir, filling their echo chambers with sound and fury that comes to stand in for original thought and authentic emotion.

We all suffered a major trauma six years ago. The word, ‘trauma,’ is related to the German traum, meaning ‘dream.’ Those who have been traumatized behave as though they continue to relive a nightmare wherefrom they cannot awaken, often thrashing about in an effort to call attention to their plight.

I want to wake both houses and alert them to the dangers within and without. While we squabble among ourselves, the world moves on.

Israel has just now bombed Syria, on suspicion of nuclear activity abetted by N Korea.

France is talking about war with Iran.

The political structure of Pakistan is wobbling.

The polar ice caps are crumbling.

Our economy gives evidence of another meltdown.

Our people are putting on lard like they expect an extended privation.

Our homeless children are showing up on porn sites everywhere.

Millions more have no health insurance and meanwhile a billion dollars no longer qualifies you at Forbes.

Wake up.


Al Jazeera (English)

 Al J logo

 “Let the winds of doctrine blow me.” (Milton)

Conservatism is not, strictly speaking, synonymous with stupidity. Nor is liberalism, properly understood, a metaphor for perversion.

Edmund Burke was a conservative and he was no dummy. Gandhi liberated an entire people and he is no doubt on a fast track at the Vatican.

Conservatives wish to preserve that which is best in our traditions, including freedom of speech — which was once a radically liberal cause.

Liberals want to enlarge the sphere of our best traditions, to afford the protection of law to those whom conservatives would prefer to exploit, if not own outright. In order to do so, they are perfectly willing to shout you down.

I was watching a liberal program last night. It was all about the burgeoning Arab media, a field wherein Al Jazeera is clearly out in front. I learned that a conservative “think tank” had succeeded in banning Al Jazeera from US airwaves.

“Brilliant!” I thought. “Surely peace and understanding between our peoples can only be served by fostering ignorance of them on our side. Those consultants are worth their weight in gold. Surely the framers of our Constitution did not intend for freedom of speech to be extended to the heathen, who have no understanding of the liberties enshrined in that document.”

Satisfied with my analysis, I turned to Fox News, where I learned the most recent wrinkle surrounding the death of a prominent bimbo with remarkable knockers.

“How could the story become more sordid?” I wondered, though not for long.

Iraq: My Brain

I was watching a local cable program the other day. An author was in town, reading from his new book. He was bright, funny, amiable — the sort of guy many might enjoy having over for a beer.

His works were all political in one way or another, he said, adding that what Americans fear is the cost of health care, not terrorists. “I mean, come on,” he said.

His entire argument consisted of that one ad hominem.

The next day the news broke about the FBI arresting a nest of bad guys in Florida, who appear to have been planning on blowing up the Sears Tower.

Coincidentally, the men in custody are poor, dark and disenfranchised — akin to their foreign counterparts, they appear to be buffoons in search of explosives.

That got me thinking. About how much I love Bruce Springsteen, George Clooney, PBS, the BBC and all my friends who oppose the war. And how much I don’t want them running the Pentagon. But how their hearts are ultimately in the right place.

Then I got to thinking about the differences in temper between those on the right and those on the left. And how those differences often seem to come down to the division between the hard-headed and the soft-hearted, as explicated by William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience, specifically Lectures XIV and XV, where he writes about the value of saintliness:

We must frankly confess, then, using our empirical common sense and ordinary practical prejudices, that in the world that actually is, the virtues of sympathy, charity, and non-resistance may be, and often have been, manifested in excess.

The powers of darkness have systematically taken advantage of them. The whole modern scientific organization of charity is a consequence of the failure of simply giving alms. The whole history of constitutional government is a commentary on the excellence of resisting evil, and when one cheek is smitten, of smiting back and not turning the other cheek also.

You will agree to this in general, for in spite of the Gospel, in spite of Quakerism, in spite of Tolstoi, you believe in fighting fire with fire, in shooting down usurpers, locking up thieves, and freezing out vagabonds and swindlers.

And yet you are sure, as I am sure, that were the world confined to these hard-headed, hard-hearted, and hard-fisted methods exclusively, were there no one prompt to help a brother first, and find out afterwards whether he were worthy; no one willing to drown his private wrongs in pity for the wronger’s person; no one ready to be duped many a time rather than live always on suspicion; no one glad to treat individuals passionately and impulsively rather than by general rules of prudence; the world would be an infinitely worse place than it is now to live in. The tender grace, not of a day that is dead, but of a day yet to be born somehow, with the golden rule grown natural, would be cut out from the perspective of our imaginations.

The saints, existing in this way, may, with their extravagances of human tenderness, be prophetic. Nay, innumerable times they have proved themselves prophetic. Treating those whom they met, in spite of the past, in spite of all appearances, as worthy, they have stimulated them to BE worthy, miraculously transformed them by their radiant example and by the challenge of their expectation.

[…]

World of light from which all brightness shines
You have that world’s illuminating eyes.

These sad eyes in which you always dance
These eyes are agitated eyes.

sufi-mystic.net/index4.htm

O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.