we crane our necks,
past the slow
unfolding in Homs.
to marvel at
the elegant arc of
a mortar shell
the twilight to
find its fruitful
In the now
to the arrest
of beating hearts,
to the pop
of rifle cracks,
we behold the
urgent arrivals of
The Friends of Syria
and 4 Star
room service at a
and under new
a clique of
movers and shakers,
rouges gallery of
prelates, Emirs and
of the globe.
of formal charges for
in the fascination
to deliver the bad news
to Bashar al-Assad
and his soulless
are to be
Yes, the diplomats
are busy meeting
in closed rooms.
In hushed circles
into aroused ears,
boast of the
of tipping points
and the moving poetry
of self serving tales,
weighing the impact
of stern sanctions
amidst the historical
confusion of the
of civil war.
of Arab League
envoys roll up
in silver Bentleys,
with hand held
eager to offload
on the ground
their recent soirées
a quick fix,
the triage of a
to bleed their
release from a
the unnerving paradox
with the sanctioned
of their respective
from a steady diet
in continuous loop;
spewing the raw feeds
of real time misery;
piles of smashed
concrete that were
of the world?
My hair already
singed by the
sweeping the prairies
of the world.
How can we survive
the trampling hoards,
plagues of acrimony
fed by a voracious
blood lust aspiring to
victimize the people
of Homs and a
From my safe
window I stand in witness
to the state execution of
refugees fleeing the
of Baba Amr.
The murder of innocents,
today’s newly minted martyrs,
women and children
on treacherous roads,
defiled in death
to mark the lesson
of a ruthless master
enthralled with the
power of his
I cannot avert my eyes
of pleading women
begging for the
lives of their children
in exchange for
of a sadists
on the sharp
down with the
jeeps of laughing
to my knees
in lakes of
image of myself.
My eyes have
murdered my soul.
The ghastly images
of Homs have chased
away my Holy Ghost
to the safety of a child’s
sandbox hidden away
in a long forgotten
From my safe window
I seethe with anger
debating how to rise
to meet the obscenity of
the Butcher of Damascus.
The sword of Damocles
dangles so tantalizingly close
to this tyrants throat.
The covered women
of Homs scream prayers
“may Allah bring Bashar to ruin”
Dare I pray
that Allah trip the
that holds the
sword at bay?
Do I pick up
a wield it
Am I the
of our time?
Do I organize
a Lincoln Brigade
and join the growing
leagues of jihadists
amassing at the
Gates of Damascus?
Will my righteous
indignation fit well
in a confederacy
with Hamas and
al-Qaeda as my
comrades in arms?
Do I succumb to
the passion of hate
and become just
partisan, or do I
commend the power
of love and marshal
truth to speak with
the force of
I lift a fervent prayer
to claim the justice
of Allah’s ear,
“may the knowing one
lift the veil of foolishness
that covers my heart in
cloaks of resent, cure
my blindness that ignores
my raging disease of
ravaging the body politic
physician heal thyself.
I run to embrace my
I pine to understand it.
I undertake the
of a cure to eradicate
the terrible affliction.
of a shared
is a cunning
the unity of
the holy spirit.
The bell from
the toppled steeples
still tolls, echoing
across the space of
continents and eons
of temporal time.
The faithful chimes
gently chides us
to remove the wedge
of perception that
Time has come
apply the balm
that salves the
so common to
The power of prayer
is the joining of hands
with others racked
with the common
affliction of humanness.
My eyes are wide open,
my sacred heart revealed,
my sleeves are rolled up,
my memory is stocked,
my soul filled with resolve,
my hand is lifted
extended to all
brothers and sisters.
From the safe
we live within
symphony of terror.
fill with the
lifting from the
Our eyes spark
from the night
The deadly jinn
into the veins
of the city
lavish in their
feast on the
corpses of their kill,
the stench of bloated
bodies drying in the
sun is the perfume
that fills their nostrils.
we discern the
silhouettes of militants
still boldly standing
mounting rubble of an
raising pumped fists,
the revelation of
be coward by
whips of a
my tongue laps
teats of mothers
who cannot cry
for their dying
to well from
my heart stirs
to the muezzin
from the toppled
rubble of dashed
shut our ears
to the adhan
voices that echo
the blatant injustice
of a people under siege.
Homage to Homs
and call brothers
and sisters to rise
From my safe
manifest as a
from the rubble
of ravaged streets.
the scattered bricks
of the desecrated
It is the
a New Adam
to be formed
we peer into
the perfect image of
of disheveled beds.
our voices are silenced,
our words mock urgency
our thoughts betray comprehension
our senses fail to illicit empathy
our action is the only worthy prayer
I hear the
my little palace,
of a sniper
the wiz of a
my palms scoop
the rich soil
of the flower boxes
perched on my sill.
I anoint the tender
green shoots of the
with an incessant flow
of bittersweet tears.
A Love Supreme
Every once a while an event happens that shifts the prevailing scheme of things. Julian Assange’s dump and release of US State Department cables (CableGate) for global distribution on WikiLeaks is such an event. It radically alters existing convention and the public’s general perception of normalcy, acceptability and protocol. It brings into question the motives and interests of nations and their leaders. It squarely plops an 800 pound gorilla on the sofa in everyone’s living room and provokes questions that naggingly insist answers. Asking leaders about duplicity, conflicts of interest, distortions, fabrications, fibs and outright lies all done in the national interest. It is how a new Weltanschauung is cast and forged to conform to the needs a new world order. The sun has set on the American Century. Blessedly, America’s days as a self righteous post Cold War marauding superpower are coming to a close. The WikiLeaks disclosures gives us some insights into the thinking and banter world leaders engage as they move the Chess pieces across the board on the great global game of new world order.
There are moral considerations and ethical arguments to be made on each side of Mr. Assange’s incendiary action. CableGate raises complex multidimensional issues of national security, informed citizenry, the protection of information, its public disclosure and citizens right to know. The natural tension between the simultaneous need for confidentiality and transparency is a reality of our complex and interconnected world. The management of these issues have escalated to become a preeminent dilemma of our time. This raises significant challenges to democratic societies and the governance structures of both public and private institutions. It threatens institutional sustainability and undermines institutional capability to function in highly interdependent stakeholder ecosystems. The risk of seeking pathways to safely navigate the virtual minefields of a digitized global world is great and continues to grow.
The most impassioned issue raised by CableGate is the ethical violation of stolen property. The cables were not Mr. Assange’s property and what gives him the right to publish and violate diplomats right to confidentiality and privacy? His actions could endanger diplomatic relationships, compromise government initiatives or derail delicate negotiations. Do governments have a right to privacy? If so, what information needs to be classified as secret and confidential? If all documents are secret then the designation is meaningless and government nothing more then a ruthless leviathan lording over a clueless citizenry.
Another critical question CableGate raises is who is served by the publication of these cables? Certainly American citizens in whose interest the State Department purportedly acts benefits from the added transparency. US citizens must admit there is a certain level of comfort in being able to track the satchel of an Afghanistan Vice President stuffed $52 million of taxpayers money through the U.A.E. Customs.
Detractors of CableGate assert that the leaks are a danger to America and its citizens. If so why is the public aggrieved and who exactly is the “aggrieved public”? Soldiers and servicemen fighting in Afghanistan? Does State Department Cables provide tactical and strategic information on troop deployments? Highly doubtful. More likely it is the special interests enriching themselves at the public troughs by cutting deals to shamelessly engorge themselves as insidious war profiteers. Better to ask why our country has placed our young servicemen and woman at risk in wars that makes little sense and accomplishes nothing.
Another set of critical questions CableGate raises are “Do citizens have a right to truth? Is access to information meaningful? Does the information help citizens of democratic societies understand the actions and motivations of their government? Why do diplomats pursue certain course of action and who is profiting from the course of action pursued? These are critical tenants citizens require to make informed decisions in a democratic society and CableGate certainly supports the notion of information empowerment for citizens.
Arguing the contrary one must ask “is it better to be mislead and be lied too in the name of propriety and protocol then to be victimized by the truth? I’ll take conviction in a court of truth and pray for a life sentence every time.
If you believe that the public can’t handle the truth or needs protection from it; imagine yourself living near a nuclear power plant and it was leaking radiation into your drinking water. Would you like to know about it? What if disclosure led to wide spread panic? I believe that truth and transparency always serves to discover and determine the best course of action to pursue.
CableGate has also shed damaging light on the power exercised by private corporations and the commercial control and open access and free availability of information. Amazon’s cloud computing service had no silver lining for WikiLeaks. After the WikiLeak dump it shut down access to the cables due to the unacceptable risk posed by denial of service attacks mounted by computer hackers. This was followed by PayPal’s closure of WikiLeaks donation solicitation account. Was PayPal’s motive purely patriotic? Where they just pissed at WikiLeaks or were they at risk of aiding and abetting a subversive organization that risked prosecution under certain provisions of THE USA PATRIOT ACT?
Academic freedom also seems to have taken a blow due to CableGate. This weekend, Columbia University warned its students not to download or distribute WikiLeak cables because it may affect future employment opportunities with the State Department. Government employees were also warned not to read or access the cables because they had no security clearance to do so. If they were caught accessing the leaked cables it could cost them their jobs. Even though the cables are published in great detail everyday by newspapers throughout the world, government employees must be careful not to notice for risk of losing their employment. This is truly a Kafkaesque dilemma for some, a divine comedy for others and a growing political drama for everyone.
I’m still not sure that Cablegate is what it purports to be. As the old saying goes and the cables affirm nothing is ever as it seems. I find it most improbable that a Private First Class sitting at a PC in Baghdad could download the Iraq War Logs and throw a great superpower into a first class crisis of the new world order. I liken the leaks to the past practice of “special unnamed high placed sources” leaking inside information to the liberal mainstream media outlets. Its done to float trial balloons about new government directions. They do it to test the waters of public sentiment to new ideas, or change in policy course or potentially damaging information to see how the public reacts. Not one to be of a conspiratorial mindset, I perceive CableGate in this light. As expected the public reaction thus far has elevated our collective sense of outrage to a heightened level of ambivalence.
In many respects Iraq War Logs supports the construction of a new narrative about an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan. The revelations of wastefulness, corruption and back room deal making with a full caste of sordid characters reinforces the public perception about the uselessness of these wasteful and expensive misadventures. The cables may prove to be the documentary evidence of America’s Waterloo and CableGate may be seen by future generations as the historical high watermark of an expired global empire.
As the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs helped to prepare the public psyche for an exit strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq; CableGate helps construct a narrative surrounding the need to “cut off the head of the snake in Iran”. These cables implicate Arab States in a desire to undermine the apostate Persians and abrogates Israeli culpability as the driving force behind an attack on Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the cables psychological warfare. I don’t doubt for a second that atomic weapons in the hands of Iran is a dangerous development that needs to be mitigated. That does not mean that we should employ bombers to destroy Iranian nuclear processing facilities. This would only create an environmental disaster and political crisis that further destabilizes the region. It would secure the enmity of new generations of Muslims and no doubt stoke the escalation of the Crusade against Islam.
In the Far East,China’s growth as a world super power and ascending rival to US dominance makes for compelling reading. Here its no surprise that cables assess a strengthening China, its growing nationalism and military readiness. Reading these cables against the backdrop of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, China’s complicity in helping North Korea ship nuclear materials to Iran and the changing sentiment in the US concerning the largest note holder of government bonds may prove to carry grave consequences for harmonious US/China relations. The cable revealing China’s ambivalence toward its North Korean surrogate state is laid bare as long as it can secure preferred trade agreements with a unified Korea.
The revelations offered by Pakistan’s leaders about support for the Taliban and a growing concern about the safety of their nuclear arsenals raised the possibility of a US military move to quarantine or neutralize Pakistani weapon systems. Though so far India seems to come off unscathed by the cables it must be heartening for India’s leaders to know that its budding friendship with the US may encourage a move to disarm the nuclear capability of its northern antagonist and the worlds sole Islamic atomic state.
These WikiLeaks offer up a brand new narrative for an emerging new world order. The damaging realization of the spillage of confidential proprietary discussions and dialogs between world governments and the mishandling of those documents diminishes the stature of US federalism. The undermining of federalism and its suitability as a governance structure for the new millennium foreshadows the growing antagonism of global corporate entities like Google and the nationalistic government of the People’s Republic of China augers an era of conflict between statism and corporatism.
CableGate is a deliberate attempt to have institutions open up with greater transparency and construct a democratic narrative that force governments to change. Mr. Assange’s avowed goal is to, “allow governments and institutions to become more transparent or force them to become more opaque” Depending on the what side of the fence your sitting on, openness and transparency benefits the public interest. The struggle for democracy requires the open access and the free flow of information.
In the digital age denial of free, open and equal access to information is tantamount to fascism. Withheld, it will encourage people to rise up demanding the means to pursue conscious enlightenment. This may spur political activism that demands institutional accountability, and the practice of democratic governance based on constitutional principles. Failing that once free citizens will be forced to accept the meager lies and obfuscations of leaders and power elites whose self interest is the sole interest of government.
So as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to plug the leaks in a failing dike system, we cannot content ourselves to live with our heads buried in the sand, filling our minds with reality TV reruns of Jack Ass Three and Bristol Palin bustin a move on Dance Fever. I’ve heard it said that the best way to influence the future is to invent it. Mr. Assange has given us a world of insights and a basic tool set to start constructing a foundation for a new world order.
You Tube Music Video: REM, End of the World As We Know It
Risk: diplomacy, international relations, governance
Louisiana has declared an emergency shrimping season for the off shore beds at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The emergency harvest of shrimp, oysters and stone crabs is a desperate attempt to grab a final yield from a once bountiful aquaculture that sustained and defined the regional Cajun identity for many generations. The spreading oil slick gushing from a toppled offshore oil platform threatens to bury that life as it covers the delicate ecology with a toxic cloak that may spell a death blow to a regions way of life.
It is estimated that 210,000 gallons of crude oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day following the explosion and collapse of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform that killed 11 workers. The Transocean rig was reportedly not equipped with a special safety devise that should have capped the well with the collapse of the oil platform. This assertion is being denied by Transocean stating that the well was equipped with the devise but unfortunately it failed to work. The use of the safety devise is a regulatory requirement for any offshore drill platforms in Europe but in the United States this safety devise is not required and is considered an optional operational risk devise. Like the recent coal miner disaster at Massey Mines, and word today that two more miners have died in Kentucky, occupational wages sometimes result in death. We need to understand that preservation of life and environmental safety are critical components of a cost of doing business that must be factored into ROI calculations and risk assessment scenarios.
The Coast Guard is in charge of emergency response to this growing disaster. The Coast Guard is skimming surface oil and using containment booms to control the growing oil slick. The Coast Guard is also considering igniting controlled burns of the surface oil which would release toxicity into the air. Another strategy being considered is the injection of chemicals into the spill to coagulate the oil. This strategy has never been attempted at such an extreme 5,000 foot depth and would also release additional toxins into the water. Technological solutions like the drilling of a relief well or the construction of a containment vessel would take months to accomplish. Man made solutions to cap the environmental disasters of their making always seem to pale in comparison to the scale and fury unleashed by the unrestrained power of nature.
This event marks yet another example of making an honest assessment of the true costs of our behavior and choices. Like the global economic meltdown that was the result of the unfettered credit orgy the bill for risky behavior always comes due. The continued focus on the exploitation and extraction of fossil fuels at the expense of alternative sources of energy comes at a great cost. This disaster may indeed be the death blow to an aqua industry that nurtured a region for many generations and informed a cuisine and culture respected and treasured by throughout the world. And like any excursion to a fine NOLA restaurant, someones always got to pick up the tab.
The bill always comes due. We want to gorge ourselves at the well of cheap energy only to discover how dear the price of this devil’s bargain really is. Environmental degradation is the most obvious tip of a precarious iceberg that threatens to tip as it melts into an ocean of unsustainability. A destroyed eco-culture of marshlands and animals, abandoned hamlets and townships no longer able to extract a living from the land are the immediate visible signs of the cost of this deal with the devil gone bad. We must begin to realize that the cost of cheap energy also requires our nation to continually engage in wars and military actions to protect this vital resource.
Cheap oil has badly skewed our economic infrastructure. It has encouraged our businesses to produce inefficient cars that led to the decline of a strategic industry and destruction of cities like Detroit and Gary Indiana. It caused the terrible moniker of rust belt cities to be pinned on a region of our country that was once the source of our nations wealth. Cheap energy help turn our prized manufacturing centers into economic anachronisms. Cheap oil has forestalled commitment to developing innovative green technologies that continues us to cede our position as a global manufacturing power. As we watch China and Brazil march forward with massive commitments to the development of energy innovation industries that will serve future needs of an energy dependent global economy, America is engaged in a bloody rear guard action to defend the ways of an old dying world too protect depleting trickles of oil.
Tonight as Americans go to sleep in their energy inefficient homes it is hoped that they may pause to consider that drill baby drill is a rallying cry for an unsustainable dying future. Think of the villages along the Louisiana bayous and how their way of life is coming to an end. Its time to consider the real costs of a Drill Baby Drill economy and begin to chart a course to a sustainable future.
You tube Music Video: Cajun Music: DL Menard and Louisiana Aces, Out My Backdoor
Risk: economic, environmental, culture
The following research paper on The Hamilton Plan was written by Deepak Verma, a business student at Baruch College. To our knowledge it is the first scholarly research that incorporates the Hamilton Plans theme of a focus on SME manufacturing.
ISSUES MANAGEMENT PROJECT
Prof. Michael Kirk Stauffer
The Societal and Governmental Environment of Business
Baruch College, the City University of New York
December 16, 2009
Table of Content
Topic Page No
1. Executive Summary 2
2. The Issue: Shrinking Manufacturing Base 3-4
3. The Origin of the Issue and Solution 4-5
4. Small & Medium Enterprises; Catalyst of Sustainable Growth 6
5. Initiative for Development of SMEs 7-8
6. Future of SME and SMEs in USA 9
7. Appendix : References 10
Living beyond means is not sustainable. One of the primary reasons of prolonged Economic and Credit Crisis in United States is its low manufacturing base and American way of consuming more than what is produced. This research paper will examine issue of shrinking manufacturing base of USA, unfair and unethical business practices adopted by countries such as China to boost export thereby causing trade deficit to USA, reasons for low manufacturing base and role of small and medium enterprise (SME) manufacturers in developing a sustainable manufacturing base of the US economy.
Prior to coming at Baruch College for pursuing MBA in finance and investments, I worked for over 10 years with Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), an apex financial institution of India engaged in the development and financing of SMEs and micro financial institutions. Having worked with this financial institution, I realized the importance of SMEs in bringing sustainable economic development and employment creation, particularly in a mixed economy like India.
The paper will discuss on public-private initiative in USA for development of SMEs, their efforts and capital investment for empowerment and financing of SMEs. Various initiatives taken by private and public sector will be analyzed. Efforts have been made to forecast future of SMEs vis a vis manufacturing sector, role of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and flow of commercial bank credit and private equity investment in SMEs in the United States.
THE ISSUE: SHRINKING MANUFACTURING BASE
Why should shrinking manufacturing base be an issue in a market driven service oriented economy like US? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated on Feb. 28, 2007, “I would say that our economy needs machines and new factories and new buildings and so forth in order for us to have a strong and growing economy.” Strong Manufacturing base is the only solution to rising trade deficit and industrial job loss. Manufacturing promotes innovation which leads to investments in equipment and people, research and development, improved products and processes and increase in productivity and higher standards of living. Increase in manufacturing leads to increase in demand for raw materials and other commercial services.
United States has transitioned from an agricultural economy to Industrial economy to a service economy. Over a period of this transition US has lost its manufacturing base substantially and has been importing goods from around the world which has resulted into huge trade deficit and industrial job losses. IMF has categorized the US current account deficit as unsustainable. Warren Buffet also once commented “The U.S trade deficit is a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt and could lead to political turmoil… Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion more of us than we own of them.”
Since the United States joined the WTO, US trade deficit has risen from $150.6 billion in 1994 to $817.3 billion in 2006. US reliance on imports ranges from electronic items to apparels and other consumables. For example, electronic items sold in United States are developed by companies such as Philips, Toshiba, Sony, Hitachi, Samsung and Sharp. We have lost significant market share in Auto Industry also. Toyota has surpassed General Motors to become leading auto manufacturer in terms of global sales. Ironically, items such as clothing and apparel where USA had its dominance are also being imported from foreign countries. Over 90 percent of clothing and shoes sold in the United States are made in foreign countries. US economy has thrived on consumerism which has led to increase in demand for goods over the years but production of domestically manufactured goods has been declining, thereby giving rise to imports from foreign countries and loss of industrial jobs.
Critics of the argument say it is the increase in production efficiencies, resulted from technological innovation and advancement that has resulted in loss of jobs. Additionally, it is the increase in consumption which is the root cause of import deficit rather than shrinking manufacturing base. Undoubtedly long term data indicates an increase in US manufacturing, but the way we are loosing our manufacturing share from last 2 decades and if we continue shrinking, we will soon have no choice but to consume whatever is dumped in our market and will be on the mercy of foreign imported goods. Increase in manufacturing has not kept pace with global growth in manufacturing in USA. Since 2000 global manufacturing growth has been 47%, whereas USA has recorded a growth rate of only 19%.
ORIGIN OF THE ISSUE & SOLUTION
What is causing shrinking manufacturing base in the United States? Is it purely competitive and cheaper products manufactured in Asia and Europe or some other factors are also responsible? Undoubtedly competitive global business environment has severely affected domestic production in the United States, this crisis in large arises due to unfair and unethical business practices adopted by its trading partners mainly China. Some of those practices are significant government subsidies, currency manipulation, large-scale dumping in the U.S. market, and other market-distorting practices. Additionally, unfavorable govt. policies, tax structure, increase in cost involved in healthcare, litigation, and regulation has significantly affected the bottom line. Increase in cost and strict regulation forced manufacturing units to move their facilities to other countries where companies do not face those kinds of impediments. Companies operating in the U.S. started outsourcing low-value tasks like simple assembly or circuit-board stuffing, but lower cost of outsourcing and shrinking margin lured them to continue outsourcing sophisticated engineering and manufacturing capabilities that are crucial for innovation in a wide range of products. As a result, the U.S. has lost or is in the process of losing the knowledge, skilled people, and supplier infrastructure needed to manufacture many of the cutting-edge products it invented.
Is there any way to bring back our manufacturing base? The view that the U.S. should focus on R&D and services is completely flawed. Manufacturing is part of the innovation process and United States has to expand its manufacturing base to remain a world leader.
Following may be suggested to address the issue:
(1) Increase the tariffs on foreign goods so that they are more expensive than domestic goods.
(2) Demand the same level of quality in all foreign goods as American goods.
(3) Diplomatic measures should be taken to create pressure on foreign countries particularly China to stop manipulating their currencies.
Efforts should be made to open up foreign consumption markets adequately to U.S. producers so as to increase export and minimize trade deficit and should endeavor to combat predatory foreign trade practices aimed at undermining U.S. producers in their home market. Next big step is to promote small and medium enterprises to set-up manufacturing units.
SMALL & MEDIUM ENTERPRISES (SMEs); CATALYST OF SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
The issue of shrinking manufacturing base in the United States has been discussed by economist, policymakers, industrialists, and think tanks since economic integration and various measures to improve domestic manufacturing base have been suggested. But considering our free market dominance no sincere efforts were made to expand manufacturing base. Alarming rise in trade deficit and current economic and credit crisis which resulted in to massive industrial job loss has called for immediate intervention of private-public participation to protect and develop domestic manufacturing base for long term sustainable economic growth of United States. It is this time only that the role of SME manufacturers was felt inevitable to address this alarming issue.
President Obama during an interview said “We’ve got to make sure that we’re cultivating small businesses and entrepreneurs who are going to be driving employment growth,” the President said, “so that 20 years from now we can look back and we can say, ‘This was the pivot point, this is where we started to turn the corner.”
US need to change course at this point of time and need to develop a network of small and medium enterprises focusing on cleaner and green technology. The U.S. can explore strategies used in emerging markets for development of SMEs. According to Hau L. Lee, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, “America needs large industrial zones devoted to specific industries–similar to zones in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and much of China. Such areas offer tax breaks, cheap or free land, workforce training, plenty of water and power, and agencies that serve as one-stop shops for all of the necessary permits and regulatory approvals.” A national level specialized financial institution may be created to provide low cost credit to newly setup SMEs in the manufacturing sector. US strength lies in high end technology, innovation, R&D, robust infrastructure, and know-how.
INITIATIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OF SMEs
US govt. runs a number of programs for providing technological know-how, contracting opportunities, counseling and assistance, financing, and R&D facilities to small and medium enterprises. Some of the prominent programs run by US department of commerce are Manufacturing Extension Program, Advanced Technology Program, Technology Transfer, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. State govt. and number of govt. agencies are deployed for implementation of these schemes across the United States. SBA provides technical and financial assistance to SMEs through its partner lending institutions.
On November 17, 2009 The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. launched 10,000 Small Businesses — a $500 million initiative for development of 10,000 small businesses across the United States. The plan envisaged to provide greater access to business education, mentors and networks, and financial capital to small businesses. Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs quoted “Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and growth in America’s economy.” Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway also mentioned “Our recovery is dependent on hard working small business owners across America who will create the jobs that America needs. I’m proud to be a part of this innovative program which provides greater access to know-how and capital – two ingredients critical to success.”
Sum2 LLC, a firm which assists SMEs in implementing sound business practices by offering a series of programs and products, announced The Hamilton Plan on Labor Day. The Hamilton Plan is a ten point program to foster the development of manufacturing in the United States by tapping the entrepreneurial energy of small and mid-size enterprises (SME). The Hamilton Plan requires concerted focus of investment capital to fund development and establishment of an SME Development Bank (SDB) which will focus, manage and administer capital formation initiatives to incubate and develop SME manufactures.
I contacted James McCallum, CEO of Sum2llc to discuss the issue of shrinking manufacturing base and how SMEs can help in restoring manufacturing base in the United States. In response to my comment here is what he stated “It is pretty amazing that the United States has not done more to specifically encourage and address the unique needs of this critical economic driver. Many Asian countries are miles ahead of the US in SME banking and capital formation. These banks have extensive portfolios of finance products and technical assistance they provide to SME’s. The reasons that the US lacks focus in this area are many. US commitment to free market forces has badly warped our economic infrastructure. SMEs in the US have primarily relied on community banks for financing. Most of which went for real estate and construction projects. SME manufactures have just about disappeared from the economic landscape of the US. The credit crash and the economic malaise are awakening our understanding of the critical nature of SMEs and our need to manufacture products. Goldman’s 10,000 Businesses Initiative coalesces nicely with the Hamilton Plan we developed in 2008.”
USA MANUFACTURING & SMEs IN YEAR 2030
With the concerted government efforts for promotion and development of SMEs and private sector initiatives such as “10,000 Small Businesses plan” by Goldman, SMEs will be largely benefited having access to innovative financial products and services from a network of financial institutions. Ten point program suggested in Hamilton plan, if implemented, will bring cluster based development of SME manufacturers. Cleaner and green technology will drive long term sustainable growth, increase national income and result in employment creation. Healthy SMEs will be focusing on export of goods thereby reducing the trade deficit and offer a new market for commercial banking sector. High-tech growth oriented SMEs will also have access to private equity investments and will offer a new avenue of diversification to private equity industry.
But the task of SME development is a challenging task and requires strong will on the part of different stakeholders. SMEs are considered to be the riskiest segment of borrowers from a financial institution’s perspective and thus struggle for timely and adequate credit. Access to technical and market information, financial assistance and trained and educated workers is the biggest challenge for SMEs. Future SMEs require sound business practices such as corporate governance, risk management, stakeholder communications and regulatory compliance.
I believe that SMEs are sine qua non for manufacturing sector & I can foresee a bigger space for SMEs in next 20 years from now. I am so intrigued with the idea of SMEs development and their contribution in the economic growth that in the long run I wish to work as a freelancer offering consultancy and advisory services on financial and strategic matters to SMEs. I would work with a network of financial institutions, venture capitalists, engineers, environmentalists, social workers, suppliers, and policy makers so as to offer SMEs a comprehensive set of services.
U.S. Needs to Return to Its Manufacturing Base
Securing America’s Future: The Case for a Strong Manufacturing Base, A Study by Joel Popkin and Company, Washington, D.C. June 2003, Prepared for the NAM Council of Manufacturing Associations
President predicts it will take decades to revive declining U.S. manufacturing base?
Manufacturing & Investment Around The World: An International Survey Of Factors Affecting Growth & Performance, ISR Publications, revised 2nd edition, 2002. ISBN 978-0-906321-25-6.
Economy Watch: Economy, Investment & Finance Report
USA Manufacturing output continues to increase (over the long run), Curious cat, Investing and economics blog
Alliance for American Manufacturers http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/issues/manufacturing/the-us-manufacturing-crisis-and-its-disproportionate-effects-on-minorities/
Can the future be built in America? http://proquest.umi.com.remote.baruch.cuny.edu/pqdweb?index=28&did=1860761601&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1259505905&clientId=8851
TO SAVE AMERICAN MANUFACTURING: USBIC’S PLAN FOR AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL RENEWAL BY Kevin L. Kearns, Alan Tonelson, and William Hawkins
Goldman Sachs Launches 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative
Goldman Sachs as Social Entrepreneur http://sum2llc.wordpress.com/
Hamilton Plan by Sum2llc http://sum2llc.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/sme-development-bank/
You Tube Video: Isley Brothers, Work to Do
Risk: SME, manufacturing, economic revitalization, social wealth
As we start the second decade of the new millennium, innovation is understood as a critical driver to overcome the economic malaise plaguing the global economy. Economic stasis and political factionalism has made it increasingly evident that faltering economic and social institutions cry out for sweeping reform. These reforms can only be achieved with innovative approaches in policy and practice. Innovation is realized by giving flight to uninhibited thought and the clear application of ideas with decisive action. Though most agree that we badly need reform, we remain at painful odds as to what those reforms should be and how to implement them. The destructive legislative debates on health care and the ugly political theater of town meetings that occurred in the United States over the summer accomplished little in regards to meaningful reform. The exercises only served to drive a deepening wedge into the ability of a democratic culture to form a transformative consensus.
Our society is a complex ecosystem comprised of many competing interests. The classic definition of politics, “the means to decide how limited resources are allocated to disparate interests” is clearly a truism that must be applied if we are to realize the reform that we desperately need. In a post scarcity society that definition may seem a bit crude or antiquated. America’s history is marked by a culture of innovation and the incubation of industry. Innovation and its commercial expression in entrepreneurialism is a national asset that tempers the hard edges of stringent allocation or resources and has been the source of our great social wealth. Democracies continually require citizens to arbitrate how competing interests are reconciled and converge. As a self professed democracy the United States must break down the barriers that inhibit innovation by confronting the challenges posed by convergence.
Convergence has been the watch word in the tech industry for the past few years. Convergence aggregates, joins and aligns discreet trends, competencies, technologies and missions to spawn innovation and progress. Masters of business innovation understand that a precondition of convergence is the ability to collaborate. Collaboration requires extended conversations and dialog to understand how competing interests can be reconciled and brought together so that innovation and progress can be achieved. Marketeers invent neologisms like coopetition to brand the idea and lend heft to its thrust. We believe that innovation borne from convergence is the path to rebuild our economy, heal cultural wounds and take a step toward political maturity the United States needs to sustain the great experiment of our democratic republic.
With that in mind we offer a list that outlines the inhibitors to innovation. It is hoped that our nations leaders and people can begin an earnest conversation to address these barriers to growth. Maybe I’m wrong with offering this modest list but I remain willing to discuss it, hopeful that people of good will with a different viewpoint will be open to correct my thinking and contribute to my enlightenment.
1. War: War is inherently wasteful. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are grievous examples of waste and national distraction that hampers the United States economic recovery. At an Ecumenical Memorial Service held at Yankee Stadium following the 9/11 terror attacks a Buddhist Monk stated that he believed “it was wiser to drop refrigerators on Afghanistan then bombs”. Almost a decade later and two wars on I can’t help but to think what a meager $100 billion investment in Afghanistan would have returned to the United States tax payers. More importantly it would have shown the world that above all else America values the sanctity and preservation of life. It would have also minimized the rising toll of casualties of both citizens and soldiers. We developed some great bunker buster bombs but we can’t figure out a way to stop a suicide bomber with exploding underpants. We succeeded in stirring up a hornets nest of angry insurgents and failed to build innovative pathways to peace with steadfast bridges to secure allies and pacify combatants.
2. Politics: To be sure politics is omnipresent but the politicization of faith institutions and government functions is a great separator of people. When politics infects faith institutions their ability to breach the social divide and join people together is seriously compromised or downright destructive. The Catholic Church’s practice of denying the Eucharist to parishioners based on political biases of the communicant places politics at the center of the Lords alter. The recent occurrences of radical Islamists burning down Christian Churches in Malaysia is tragically ironic. The violence, a response to the Christians appropriation of the word Allah as a name for God; is a violent rejection of language convergence of two great faith traditions. It would seem that unity is a threat that God cannot abide and is a growing threat that must be abolished. In the secular world government agencies were instructed to withhold scientific climate change research of the National Science Foundation because it did not conform with the politics of the party in power. The extent of the politicization of the judicial branch of government under the Bush Administration was a seditious move worthy of dictatorships. Innovative application of constitutional law in defense of civil liberties is one of the greatest challenges the war on terror poses to this country. The creation of kangaroo courts to support the politics of the ruling party would undermine our system of justice. It would transform our judiciary into a repressive apparatus of the state, our laws into stale dogmas ill suited to meet the legal challenges of our time and a justice system that is indistinguishable from the justice offered by our opponents.
3. Ideology: Only good ideas need apply. Deng Xiaoping said it best “does it matter if its a communist or capitalist mouse trap. The question is, does it catch mice?” Seeing this as a threat, Mao Zedong unleashed the cultural revolution and routed the capitalist roaders as a threat to the Great Proletarian Revolution. After the death of Mao, Deng would be rehabilitated and play a key role in China’s adoption of a market economy and its current ascendancy as a world economic power. In my mind there is a striking resemblance to the debate about heath care. Socialized medicine is bad. Do you want to turn into France? Canadian health care is too expensive. UK heath care system is overloaded and can’t cope with demand. These problems would be solved however after the death panels had a chance to meet and decide who shall live and who must walk the plank.
4. Entrenched Commercial Interests: Though we are ardent believers in capitalism as an engine of innovation the dictatorship of ROI, entrenched concentrations of capital and an unwillingness or inability to adopt longer term investment horizons hamper innovation. The failure of the United States automobile industry to develop fuel efficient vehicles is a good example of market intransigence. The development of junk bonds by Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert dismantled the manufacturing base of the US economy accelerated the countries decline as a net exporter of products creating the foundation of a debtor nation. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House. The succeeding administration had them removed. Imagine where the alternative energy industry would be today had it developed this leading edge idea and capitalized on this first mover advantage.
5. Unbridled free markets: The economic carnage of the banking meltdown is a startling example of the excesses the pursuit of profit will create. The boom in commercial and residential real estate construction created massive stocks of unused inventories that misdirected and wasted enormous resource. The energy and capital expended on these wasteful endeavors misdirected funds and created huge social hazards that requires massive amounts of capital to mitigate. Also worth mention is the development of video gaming. Lots of energy and creativity is being expended on the best techno music to use while your Mafia Avatar bashes open the head of your opponent with a baseball bat. We are not suggesting censorship or a prohibition of video games nor centralized economic planning. Its a compensation and social value issue. Perhaps a communicants denial of participation at the Lord’s Table lead them to leave the church and miss the message about social values.
6. Technology: It may seem odd to include technology as an inhibitor to innovation but technology for technology sake may inhibit the development of innovative applications solutions that are not technological in nature. The technorati of the world is transforming technology into a religion. Deprived of its human dimension it can become a dogma that grows in an antagonistic relationship with its human masters. The United States continues to trumpet its technological prowess as the deciding factors in its war in Afghanistan. But that paradigm was explored during the war in Viet Nam where pungi sticks ultimately trumped napalm bombs. The power of an idea and how it connects and motivates people is force that is mightier then the sword.
7. Fundamentalism: The Pharisees once asked Jesus, “is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” Jesus answered that it was always the right time to heal those who are sick. The world recoils in horror at the capacity for destruction fundamentalism regularly visits upon the world. The denial of equal civil rights to LGBT people creates a bifurcated system of citizenship. It is an ugly stain on our democratic heritage. The gravest peril to democracy is the abridgment and denial of civil rights to any group of citizens. Democracy necessitates that all republicans enjoy equal access and rights in order for it to function. The denial of that right based on a fundamentalist reading of religious scriptures makes it particularly abhorrent because civil rights of citizens in a secular democracy is not an issue that is decided by theologians or the adherents to a particular theology.
Tolerance and consensus are both antithetical to the precepts of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is not the sole province of religion. It has its secular and ideological adherents as well. Fundamentalism is a pillar of dictatorship; either of a political or theocratic nature both are enemies of secular democracy. Secular democracies require tolerance to respect the diverse ideas and competing viewpoints require in the democratic process. Secular democracies require the trust to converse and hash out the best ideas that serve the greatest good. This is only possible if consensus can be achieved. It is how “out of many becomes one”. It is the true genius of America. It is a worthy innovation of governance that every freedom loving citizen should jealously guard and consciously pursue.
8. Public Education: The public education system that the United States built is the true arsenal of democracy and the nations source of wealth and its many contributions it has made to the world. Without the vast network of learning institutions built and supported by successive generations of Americans the worlds great experiment in representative democracy would have long ago perished. The public schools sole charter is to create an enlightened citizenship with the skills to discuss, discern and decide in a civil and constructive manner the ever evolving dialectic of a democratic consensus placed at the service of the republic. It is one of the true geniuses of America and remains her enduring strength.
Today public schools are under attack by forces whose agendas are the pursuit of parochial goals that first and foremost seek their enrichment and interests at the expense of the greatest good of the republic. The charter school movement is a trend that threatens the public school system by privatizing some of the systems assets and draining away much needed resource and financial support. It forces public schools to dispense with curriculum offerings like music and arts, sports programs and civic excursions that will convey an understanding of how institutions interact and support the greater social good. This aspect of the educational experience is supplanted by an exacting examination regime that destroys the love of learning. Secular learning is also being threatened through the introduction of theological precepts like creationism into the science curriculum of public schools. Religion and faith are important precepts to offer in a public educational curriculum; however theology that masquerades as science is an ideological stricture that has no place in public schools. These trends are pose great challenges to the public schools mission to form enlightened citizens free to think and free to act in the sole service of liberty and participatory democracy. Innovation and progress is in danger of becoming a secular sin a disease of the soul that needs to be eradicated from the public schools as its threatens to infect the greater body politic.
You Tube Music Video: Louis Armstrong, I Get Ideas
Risk: innovation, convergence, progress, tolerance
Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!”
The Ballad of the King’s Jest
The irony of President Obama’s selection as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2009 was not lost on the recipient. In one of the receptions held to honor him, Mr. Obama spoke about Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite and its use as a weapon of war as the source of wealth that funds the prestigious peace prize. Earlier in the day during his acceptance speech, Mr. Obama spoke eloquently on the motives for his decision to continue the prosecution and escalation of the Afghan war. As a war time President, Mr. Obama sees war as a tool to bend the will of history toward justice and good. He believes the greatest global good will be served by the pursuit of the Afghan conflict. I respectfully disagree.
The greater irony in Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech for a peace prize is that it was essentially a discourse of war apologetics. Mr. Obama delivered a speech void of any contrition and never once equivocated as he outlined his commitment and reasoning why a nation should engage in war. To be fair to Mr. Obama, his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan is not a surprise. Throughout his Presidential election campaign, Mr. Obama was explicitly clear that he intended to pursue Osama bin Laden and his band of murderous terrorists to the Gates of Hell. Even if those gates led to a protected compound in downtown Karachi, Mr. Obama’s resolve to check mate al-Qaeda remains steadfast.
The problem with the continued prosecution of the Afghan War is that our enemies are not a nation state nor do they occupy a single geography. Al-Qaeda and their confederates are stationed throughout the globe. They exist in underground sleeper cells waiting to be summoned by unconscionable puppet masters. They are guided by an ideology of hate neatly disguised and wrapped in a hajab of religious orthodoxy. They use asymmetric strategies and tactics to wage war on citizens and soldiers alike. A conventional army garrisoned in a provincial hamlet is ill suited to fight an enemy that knows no bounds in territories and tactics and is prepared to conduct a military operation that spans multiple generations.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda’s access and control of Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade forms the socio-economic base that allows them to leverage considerable political power to pursue their terrorist agenda. The opium trade is weaved into a complex tribal culture whose power and prominence supersedes a weak and corrupt central government that derives its right to govern by the tepid consent of friendly tribal leaders and the military might of foreign armies. Afghanistan like other narco dependent states will remain politically unstable and continue as a terroristic threat to the United States until the opium trade is supplanted as the countries principal source of economic and political power.
Afghanistan is not the world’s sole narco-terrorist state. A number exist in the Western Hemisphere and one need look no further then across the Rio Grande to witness the growing power of a narco-dollar financed state subversion. Mexico’s difficulties serve as a reminder that the risks to the stability of our republic lie much closer to home and is in fact in full residence within our borders. Engaging a war in Afghanistan is a clear and present distraction from addressing the pressing issues that undermine our national security.
True al-Qaeda’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon conjures up many unimaginable and terrifying scenarios. Unfriendly regimes that are hostile to the United States like North Korea and Iran control nuclear capabilities. But we have no armies attacking them. Perhaps the solution is to remove nuclear weapons and uranium devises beyond the reach of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other avowed enemies of our republic. If this is the major threat, its mitigation can be achieved without the prolonged deployment of 130,000 troops. It can be accomplished by having an international force guard and quarantine Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Certainly the Bush Doctrine allows for this type of intervention. Some will object to this course of action on the grounds that we must respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. But Mr. Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War will require unilateral incursions into Pakistan. This action to eliminate the ultimate horror of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is the surest way to mitigate this pressing threat.
The multifaceted omnipresent dangers to the United States transcend nuclear terrorism. Economic degradation is compounding social problems and creating deep political fissures within the country. Our countries fractured culture is being exploited by powerful self serving interests. A cabal of corporate elites equate national security with their economic well being. They employ armies of lobbyists and ply multi-channel media platforms to stoke fear and division to advance their narrow interests. Usually at the expense of supporting initiatives that address the complex threats that weigh on the security of the country. These special interests attack programs that stabilize social safety nets. They finance expensive media campaigns condemning aid for local government fiscal stability, universal health care, meaningful environmental policy, expanded funding for public education, infrastructure improvements, support for trade unions, job creation programs and social assistance programs. The well being of our people is the basis of our national prosperity. The sources of social instability remain strong and continue to grow. The recession, a jobless rate of 10%, 4 million foreclosed homes, 30 million citizens unable to have access to affordable health care, failing school systems, bulging prison systems and environmental degradation represent a greater threat to national security then 100 al-Qaeda fighters holed up in an ice cave in the Tora Bora tribal regions.
No doubt the United States was attacked by terrorists enjoying protection of a friendly regime in Afghanistan. On 9/11 I witnessed first hand the horror of fellow countrymen jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center. Moments later as I stood in front of Trinity Church I escaped the pyroclastic cloud of the falling South Tower through a revolving door on Wall Street. I understand the irrational hatred terrorists harbor in their hearts and the devastating consequences of their insane acts. They are a cancer that must be eradicated.
Mr. Obama, has stated that the Afghan insurgency enjoys no popular support. Afghanistan has a long memory and a longer history of a people subjected to the designs of imperial powers and foreign invaders since the time of Genghis Khan. The resistance to foreign occupation by the Afghani’s is legendary. From the massacre of Elphinstone’s Army trying to escape blood thirsty tribes through the Khyber Pass, to the Soviets disgraceful retreat from the hail of Stinger Missiles supplied by the United States; it now may be our time for a ride in this horrible wheel barrel.
Afghanistan is a region of the globe where the great powers and trends of history clash. It is a vortex of a turbulent maelstrom that brings the powers of China, Russia, India and Islam into a volatile mix. The forces of national interests and modernity is held at bay by tribesmen toting WWII rifles, expedient tribal allegiances and ancient codes of honor. Why doesn’t China and India have a more prominent role in ending this conflict? It is in their geopolitical interest. Better let the United States send its nations finest young people to chase phantoms and fight in the endless canyons of the Hindu Kush; while Chindia builds their economies at home and forge new alliances abroad. Perhaps they hope that this war could be the Pax Americana’s Waterloo?
Mr. Obama quoted from Dr. Martin Luther Kings Nobel acceptance speech, stating, “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” This above all else may prove to be the most prophetic and ironic truth to Mr. Obama’s war.
The United States cannot afford this war. It is a distraction. It weakens us. National security is more then a well provisioned and gallant army. A nations strength and its ultimate security is based on an enlightened, well fed, healthy and industrious people.
Mr. Obama acknowledged his indebtedness to those that went before him. He stated that, Mahatma Gandhi, George Marshall, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are worthy figures that we should emulate. Their greatness showed us that a better path must be chosen if we are to progress as a people. Their choices and examples of leadership were not based on expediency and some came at terrible cost. The pathway of war is worn and old. The world is much too weary from the familiar journey. Its time to choose a better path. End the war now Mr. Obama. Bring the troops home.
You Tube Music Video: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Battle Hymn of the Republic
Risk: war, peace
For participating in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Survey I received The Pocket World In Figures for 2009. Its filled with all kinds of interesting statistics to measure, compare and contrast economic and social indicators for countries of the world. Included in this useful little tome is the usual mundane statistical econometric measures like GDP, income levels, life expectancy, agricultural output and similar macroeconomic indicators. The Survey also includes many other quality of life statistical measures and one that immediately grabbed my attention were the entries concerning Crime and Punishment.
The Survey tabulates Crime and Punishment statistics in four areas; murders, death row inmates, total prisoner count and prisoners per 100,000 of a country’s population. Sadly the EIU Survey reports that the United States leads the list in two out of the four categories. Those include prisoner population and prisoners per 100,000 of total country population. The US holds the dubious distinction of the number two spot behind Pakistan in the number of death row inmates.
I find these telling statistical measures most perplexing and equally disturbing. The United States prison population of 2.253,000 is 30% higher then second place China with 1,566,000 inmates and third place Russia with 885,000 inmates. These numbers become more significant when measured as a percent of 100,000 of the country’s population. The United States again occupies the top spot with 751 inmates per 100,000 followed by Russia with 627 per 100,000. As a percent of total population the US incarceration rate is 17% higher then that of Russia. China which occupied the number two spot in total prison population falls off the list of the top 23 nations with the highest level of incarceration due to its large overall population.
One needs to ask what is it in the cultural, social, political and economic DNA that places the United States as the world leading gulag?
It has been long known that people of color comprise the majority of death row and prison inmates in the United States. The glaring racial and social class dimensions of imprisonment and how it is disproportionally borne by minorities and the working poor is a direct causal effect of the dismantling of the manufacturing base of the US economy. This has exacerbated the inequality of wealth distribution in the US economy. It has accelerated the deterioration of our urban economic zones thereby fostering the growth of illegal underground economic activities and petty economic crime.
The economic and social factors that contribute to crime and imprisonment are usually the central topics that take center stage in the debate between conservatives and liberals. Ironically this debate obfuscates underlying causal factors that can be ascribed to the political culture in the US. The preponderance of law and order candidates running for public office, the political clout of police and public safety unions, the emergence of industry sectors that build and manage prisons, the vibrant security and protection industries, the use of cheap prison labor and dramatic wealth disparity creates powerful market and cultural forces that incubate and sustain the growth of penal industries and the political sentiment that supports it.
Since 9/11 our political culture has been saturated with messages of fear, suspicion , demonization of “the other” and the pervasiveness of terrorism. This political climate has spawned two wars, the dramatic growth of prison privatization, suspension of some basic rights of privacy with the passage of FISA and the creation of special rendition prison camps like Gitmo that suspend habeas corpus and other internationally recognized standards of basic prisoner rights. The revelations about the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib has shamefully placed torture at the forefront in the political debate concerning appropriate practices and acceptable tools interogators can use in the fight against terrorism. The US is clearly in danger of losing the moral high ground in its self proclaimed defense of human rights as it continues to extol the righteousness of its law and order society by building and populating an ever expanding network of gulags.
Sadly our penal culture creates some horrific abominations. The US taxpayer conveys its eager willingness to pay up to $40,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner; while claiming that its good fiscal policy to balk at paying anything over $8,000 to educate a child in a public school.
This Sunday we will be marching in Newark NJ in Support of Solidarity Sunday. Our mission will be to join forces with those who are dedicated to ending violence and crime in our communities. We believe this objective can only be realized if we respond with unity, love, peace, hope and help.
Information on Solidarity Sunday can be found here.
It is our fondest hope and most fervent prayer that we will build more schools and factories and less prisons. We also pray that our fellow citizens and elected officials will find mercy in their hearts and proclaim 2009 as a Jubilee Year and grant amnesty and set free those who are worthy of freedom and have paid the price for their crime. We also pray that those who imprison others will recognize the humanity of their captives.
You Tube Music Video: The Midnight Special, Odetta
You Tube Music Video: Gil Scott Heron, Angola Louisiana
Risk: civil liberties, rule of law, Bill of Rights, social justice
On the night John Kerry ceded the election to Bush’s second term, I can still see W smirking while his smiling brain, Karl Rove looked on with smug satisfaction. Opined Bush, “I earned some political capital and I’m gonna spend it.” Spend it he did and his administration has nearly bankrupted the trust, treasure and security of this country.
As the United States limps to the blessed close of 8 years of the Bush Administration and the rule of a party that professes a disdain for government while demonstrating a striking ineptitude for governance; American’s are left holding a massive bag of bad debts reaping the painful yields of much squandered political and economic capital.
The regime that has refused to govern has left the door unguarded. Making it possible for a clique of collective interests that has the will, intelligence, verisimilitude and motive to take the reigns of state and to guide it in a dire hour of need.
Paulson’s bank bailout might just be a bloodless putsch of financial elites led by an alumni of investment and merchant bankers and their well placed confederates. The monied interests who have enriched themselves by gorging at the public troughs creating unfathomable pools of wealth for themselves are now trying to seize the country as their grandest prize. To be sure they remain hungry for returns, crave capital preservation and see the crisis as a great investment play to enlarge their riches. They smell the stench from the stinking corpse of the US banking system and are looking to claim the opportunity of a lifetime. They will go to great lengths to achieve their objectives. They are ready to employ economic blackmail to extort a massive tribute from multiple generations of US taxpayers to finance a takeover of the banking system.
This is the triumph of state capitalism. It is a similar model utilized by China, the EU, OPEC and other countries practicing the fine art of a state managed economy. This is not socialism. If this where socialism, all American’s would be receiving stock certificates and purchase warrants in the companies the Treasury is looking to finance. That is not in the cards. China is managed by a class of technocrats embedded in a centralized political party. America will now be ruled by a class of managers employed by Americas financial services whose sole goal is to maximize shareholder returns.
Is this a grand fleecing of America? The powerful and well placed are raiding the public treasury to fix past mistakes of their making and to bankroll their next bold move. When the state assets of the former Soviet Union were privatized, a class of oligarch’s arose out of the depths of the CCCP to seize control of them. The bank bailout is an event that bears similar characteristics. In Russia the private sector took control of state assets expropriating state ownership. Our bank rescue plan will provide US Treasury assets to the private sector so they can recapitalize and buy distressed bank assets on the cheap. No doubt sometime in the future, these privateers will be lauded by our elected officials as capital market heroes who single handedly rescued America by rationalizing the banking system.
Under normal circumstances the public trust would be secured by the social compact we have entered into with our Federal Government. Tragically, our three branches of government have all failed in their fiduciary duty to protect and serve the interests of American citizens. Special interests, ideologies, privilege and the rights of the stronger has trumped and crushed the will and interest of “We the People.” We are a representative democracy; republicans all, who believe in the democratic ideal who freely give our informed consent to be governed in exchange for the protection of public interest. This trust has been grievously violated. Our consent needs to be revoked.
Chris Dodd the Senator from Connecticut emerged from a weekend meeting with his head shaking. Said Dodd on the need to bail out the banks, “they painted a picture that was absolutely frightening and devastating for America. We must do this deal.”
The monied interests are holding the promise of America hostage. They say if we don’t comply with their demands, we will not be able to send our children to school, our retirement system and social security program will collapse, interest rates will go to double digits causing a cascade of mortgage defaults and bank failures. There will be anarchy in the streets. Sovereign Wealth Funds and other well heeled global investors will liquidate their holdings in US Treasuries and place the Federal Government in default. We’ll be no better then a banana republic.
It all looks very suspicious. Hank Paulson fully in control at the US Treasury making major moves to drastically alter our nations books and ledgers. Robert Rubin, former GS Chair and current well placed executive at Citicorp is now seen escorting Barack Obama no doubt offering real time sage advice. Jon Corzine, Mike Bloomberg and Governor Paterson are all bewailing the pending doom state and city budgets will suffer. State governments all over the country are growing more concerned each day as tax revenues fall, expenditures increase and the angst of American’s grow.
I’m having a hard time with this one. If its only about writing that $1 Trillion check to acquire a bunch of worthless assets I’m down with it. It’s only funny money anyway. Whats another $1T on a Federal debt of $11T. But this rescue plan serves a special interest more then it serves the general good of the common polity. As Alexander Hamilton taught us, debtor nations cede political liberty. It is unconscionable to saddle our country with this debt burden. Doing this deal will bind future generations to cover an obligation that condemns them to a life of indentured servitude.
This is not the way of free people. There is a better way.
Music: Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song Performed by The Doors
Risk: Democracy, Federalism, Free Markets, Debt, managed economy, state capitalism