Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.

The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News from the Underwire: Highlights of the Underreported

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the joyous outpouring at Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 10,000 for the first time since 1999, the United Nations Food Program announced this month an enormous lack of food aid to hungry people all around the world. International food aid, both from public funds and private donations, will meet massive shortfalls in the next year largely due to the effects of the global economic downturn.

A Sept. 16 Reuters story, http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLG270557 quotes UN World Food Program (UNWFP) executive director Josette Sheeran detailing the inexorable increase in famine resulting from cuts to food aid by the world's wealthiest nations and the relationship of this crisis to the current international financial crisis.

Sharon Lindores writes for Reuters, "The number of hungry people passed 1 billion this year for the first time, [Sheeran] said, adding the WFP has barely a third of the funding it needs to feed 108 million people this year. To date the WFP has confirmed $2.6 billion in funding towards its $6.7 billion budget for 2009. It would take less than 0.01 percent of the global financial crisis bailout package to solve the hunger crisis, [Sheeran] said.

Following Sheeran's comments by a month, major news channels trumpeted the Wall Street achievement while the story was reported only by the fringes of the business press.


Still many on and off Wall Street consider genuine indicators of recovery--for instance reduction of monthly job losses, the re-issuing of loans to small business and decrease in monthly home foreclosures--to follow strength in consumer confidence.


Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch reporter Greg Robb writes on Oct. 27, "U.S. consumers doubt that the much-touted economic recovery is under way, according to the latest report on consumer confidence released by the Conference Board on Tuesday. The consumer confidence index was much weaker than expected, falling for the second straight month as the assessment of present-day conditions fell to its lowest level in 26 years."

Analysis: Monitoring economic indicators that tell you only about the daily lives of a specific range of citizens can only provide false readings on recovery or any kinds of stability trends. Current economics, under the constant influence of Wall Street culture, do not look at the lives of the poor in the US and elsewhere to tell them about the health of financial institutions, which is most often the health analysts and investors are concerned about. People all around the world with no access to regulation of banks (or lack thereof entirely) are not facing the repair of central financial institutions like it is something we all caused and haven't the expertise to fix, but monitoring the usual media outlets we don't get that impression. Instead, powerful individuals who knew precisely what would happen and what to ask for when it did happen are looking at the rest of the world's literate population trying to interpret the current financial crisis as a routine system crash that seemingly caused itself and only our patience and adherence to the notion we're dealing with forces we can't understand without a masters degree in economics. There are perpetrators here with names and families and lives who, unlike Bernard Madoff, are getting away. They have been getting away since December of 2007 while the rest of us tried to make sense of what happened to the financial sector. They are not absconding to a secret island in the South Pacific or a mountain redoubt in the far reaches of the Swiss Alps. They are retreating into the rhetoric created by so many people who have worked so hard to obfuscate justice in economic crime, to make the situation appear so complicated that not only is it impossible to bring the culprits to a fair hearing and ultimately to justice, but also to construe this as the impossibility of even defining what justice is, therefore rendering it unattainable. What this allows is not only the exoneration of those who knew what the consequences of their enormously reckless acts would be. This prevarication also creates the possibility to commit these crimes again on the same order of magnitude, arguably by the same names and faces now running to safety behind a flimsy wall of "financial might makes financial right."

For a more critical look at the financial crisis, don't miss Jeff Madrick's piece on financial regulation in the Nov. 5 issue of the New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=23323 (online content is premium with three pay options available; newsstand copy runs about $6 and can be found at many bookstores)

Also, the action group Showdown in Chicago rallied just this weekend to raise awareness about banking and decisions being made right now by financial institutions. Under the "What's Broken" tab on their site are both html and pdf versions of a sensible prognosis in the woe that is our current financial predicament. http://www.showdowninchicago.org/whatsbroken.html

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