Almost Marx on Detroit Bankruptcy and The Economist

Not one mention of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick or his co-conspirators UBS Bank and Bank of America in the wholesale looting of the city of Detroit? Congratulation to V.V.B for carefully eliding from the essay the important political actors except for the political/legal and judicial technocrats whose main function was to engage in unstinting self-praise about ‘compromise’. Unsurprisingly, V.V. B. hews to the current political orthodoxy.
When have we not seen the false dawn of Neo-Liberalism praised to the skies in these pages? The Free Market was another name for theft and a culture steeped in self-serving mendacity. At all costs save the floundering Neo-Liberal paradigm from any taint- a fools errand and what a demonstrable failure!
For an alternative viewpoint see The World Socialist Web Site, sure to raise the hackles of all those true believers at the Economist, readers and writers:

Some telling quotes from this are instructive:
‘US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes approved a settlement Thursday handing $85 million to the banks that swindled the city of Detroit out of hundreds of millions of dollars in an interest rate swap deal. UBS Bank and Bank of America will receive a flat sum to unwind the agreements entered into by the city in 2005-06.
The agreement was the third attempt by the banks to extract millions of dollars from the city from financial arrangements negotiated by the administration of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Judge Rhodes rejected two earlier proposals involving higher payouts, evidently concerned that they were too nakedly one-sided.
The judge called the deal an example of “the very spirit of negotiation and compromise.” In reality the agreement represents the continued looting of Detroit by financial institutions that enticed the city into complex and highly risky deals in violation of state statutes. Both Judge Rhodes and Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr have acknowledged that the two banks likely broke the law when they negotiated the swaps, which were a bet that interest rates would rise, when in fact they fell to nearly zero following the financial crisis of 2008.’
‘In 2009 the city of Detroit pledged its casino tax revenue as collateral for the swaps. Judge Rhodes said this likely violated provisions of the Michigan Gaming Act, which stipulates that casino revenue must be used for “socially beneficial” purposes.
The swaps also violated Michigan’s Revised Municipal Finance Act of 2001, which was enacted to protect cities from predatory deals. An attorney representing insurer Ambac Assurance testified during the bankruptcy hearings that “This deal should have the swap counterparties (i.e. the banks) paying the city, not the city paying the swap counterparties.”
Despite this, Judge Rhodes called the deal “entirely reasonable,” claiming a lawsuit against the banks would be too long and costly. With the agreement UBS and Bank of America have agreed to vote in favor of the restructuring plan advanced by Orr. Rhodes said the deal sets the stage for a potential “cram down,” in which a restructuring plan can be imposed on creditors.
The agreement to pay the banks follows the announcement of a deal Tuesday to pay major creditors 74 cents on the dollar for debts owed by the city. This represents a huge increase over earlier proposals, some of which were as low as 15 cents on the dollar. Among the creditors affected are wealthy bond insurers such as Assured Guaranty Ltd, Ambac Assurance Corp and National Public Finance Guaranty Corp (NPFG). In the wake of the deal bondholders, including major banks that hold Detroit debt are being told they will continue to receive “timely payment of principle in interest” in full.’
‘The proposal is contingent on the full payment by all parties signing on to the so-called Grand Bargain involving the state of Michigan, wealthy private foundations and the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). To this date the Michigan legislature has not voted approval of the money pledged by the administration of Republican Governor Rick Snyder as part of the agreement.
Orr is also proposing that city pension funds be managed by a five-person board, with two additional non-voting members. The plan requires that union representatives be excluded from the board.
The threat to exclude the unions from the management of the pension boards is meant to put pressure on the leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other unions to drop their opposition to Orr’s proposed plan of adjustment. For their part the unions are more than willing to sign off on pension cuts as long as their control of the multi-billion dollar retiree investment funds remains intact.
At the same timeg the unions are supporting a reactionary scheme promoted by wealthy creditors to force the city to sell off artwork from the Detroit Institute of Arts. The creditors say they have lined up a group of investors who have made bids on portions of the museum’s priceless collection.
The payoff to Bank of America and UBS highlights the thoroughly undemocratic character of the bankruptcy proceedings. The banks can violate the law with impunity while pensions are slashed in violation of the state constitution and the art at the DIA is held to ransom.’

True to Neo-Liberal form, save the co-conspirators Bank of America and UBS , but for the pensioners let them experience the insecurity celebrated by Alan Greenspan.

Almost Marx


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Stephens, Rachman, Mardini and Luce on ISIL: a comment by Political Observer

Philip Stephens, Gideon Rachman, Ramzy Mardini and Edward Luce express in varying tonalities, in The Financial Times over the last few weeks, the political schizophrenia of the moment: in response to the latest fear mongering about ISIL, their murderous brutality, and a gift for enacting grisly political theater. Terror and fear their most potent weapons. That the Western Media and imperial governments have found useful in reviving ‘The War on Terror’. President Obama has reluctantly admitted that the Menendez/Feinstein/Clinton coterie is correct, and/or that he was wrong, misinformed by bad intelligence?
The political destiny of the American Empire is perpetual war to defend ‘Western Values’ i.e. keep the flow of oil and defend our allies/clients, in their order of importance: apartheid Israel, Wahhabi Saudi Arabia etc., etc.

Here is a tantalizing  excerpt of Mr. Juan Cole’s September 11, 2014 essay titled ‘Obama’s ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense’ that sounds notes not even considered by the The Financial Times collection of policy scribblers, and quite refreshing is his voice, his arguments!

‘Analysts will focus on his four-step program of fighting ISIL, but it is in the president’s analogies to his present battle that we find clues to what he really expects to happen. He says that this is not a war as Iraq and Afghanistan were wars, i.e. with the commitment of several divisions of conventional US ground troops. He cautioned:

“But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

Invoking Yemen and Somalia is a signal of minimalism in every way. On MSNBC, veteran, experienced and brilliant correspondent Richard Engel took apart this analogy. He pointed out that Yemen and Somalia are holding actions but that in Iraq the US and its allies would have to take territory.’

Political Observer



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@FinancialTimes: On Susan Glasser’s essay ‘Putin profits politically from wars and western apologists’: a comment by Political Observer

Not at all surprised that your Susan Glasser essay is absent a comments section:
‘Putin profits politically from wars and western apologists’

Even the Edward Luce essay of August 17, 2014:’Obama’s Hippocratic oath enfeebles his diplomacy’ was a more convincing and better written piece of propaganda, although it was in it’s own way quite a feeble effort to harness the power of political conformity.

Ms. Glasser has excellent credentials: once editor in chief of Foreign Policy and now at Politico where she heads the Long Form Journalism and Opinions Division. Should we credit Ms. Glasser as the party responsible for the recent Strobe Talbott essay The Making of Vladimir Putin?

An eight page essay, as it printed out, completely devoid of footnotes, and mysteriously unattributed quotes. Perhaps Politico is above such mundane considerations and practices? Mr. Talbott’s essay was an exercise in historical revisionism, the self-exculpatory and hysteria mongering. He is better at that hysteria mongering than Ms. Glasser, she points simply to those ‘Left Wing coddlers’ of Mr. Putin, a category of unnamed persons, i.e. Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation Magazine, but true to form, as an incurious political conformist ignores Mr. Paul Craig Roberts and his regular reporting/opinionating on the Ukrainian Coup and it’s aftermath.

Ms. Glasser’s essay seems not quite up to the standard that Luce and Talbott set, even as that standard is low, to say the least. She repeats this bit of American/E.U. approved history without  a hint of irony: she and Ms. Clinton both continue to use the accusation that MH17 was shot down by ‘rebels’ i.e. Russian agents.  Again  the incurious Ms. Glasser and Ms. Clinton have both missed an important component of the shooting down of MH17, or are willfully ignorant of information that refutes their own belief:

A Thursday article in the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s flagship English-language newspaper, charged the US- and European-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev with shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 in east Ukraine last month. Given the tightly controlled character of the Malaysian media, it appears that the accusation that Kiev shot down MH17 has the imprimatur of the Malaysian state.

The US and European media have buried this remarkable report, which refutes the wave of allegations planted by the CIA in international media claiming that Russian president Vladimir Putin was responsible for the destruction of MH17, without presenting any evidence to back up this charge.

The New Straits Times article, titled “US analysts conclude MH17 downed by aircraft,” lays out evidence that Ukrainian fighter aircraft attacked the jetliner with first a missile, then with bursts of 30-millimeter machine gun fire from both sides of MH17. The Russian army has already presented detailed radar and satellite data showing a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet tailing MH17 shortly before the jetliner crashed. The Kiev regime denied that its fighters were airborne in the area, however.

The New Straits Times article began, “Intelligence analysts in the United States have already concluded that Malaysia flight MH17 was shot down by an air-to-air missile, and that the Ukrainian government had had something to do with it. This corroborates an emerging theory postulated by local investigators that the Boeing 777-200 was crippled by an air-to-air missile and finished off with cannon fire from a jet that had been shadowing it as it plummeted to earth.”

The MH17 story has disappeared from the respectable bourgeois press: one can speculate that the reality didn’t conform to that of the American/E.U. narrative of a Russian/Putin manufactured culpability. But Ms. Clinton and Ms. Glasser repeat it as if it were an historical fact. The guilt of the rebels, and by extension Mr. Putin and his American ‘Left political allies’ attain the status of self-serving myth, that echos in a real way the McCarthyite Myth of  the traitors among us, as essential to a rationale for The New Cold War. And as a political correlate the fusion of Neo-Conservatives,Neo-Liberals  and their R2P fellow travelers, into a conformist centrism located to right of anything we have ever known in American/E.U. politics.

Political Observer













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Further Thoughts on Mr. Strobe Talbott, by Political Cynic

I posted this on August 21, 2014:

Political Cynic on Strobe Talbott

Mr. Strobe Talbott is an historian who writes history made to self-serving ideological
measure. His long paraphrases of the war mongering William Safire, in his opening paragraph serves two purposes, one the appeal to the more conservative readership at Politico and to rhetorically frame his casting of Putin as the New Stalin, in the New Cold War. Identifying Putin’s rapprochement with China and protecting his borders from American political adventurism, just like that of Black Widow Victoria Nuland and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Ukraine, allied with Right Sector and Svoboda! Mr, Talbott confects out of this ‘Putin’s Evil Plan’: nothing sells like fear mongering and political melodrama, after all Mr. Talbott is an experienced Cold Warrior.
On the question of ‘spheres of influence’ American can take no backseat to any other country in our ruthless exercise of our self-given permission of hemispheric hegemony i.e. The Monroe Doctrine, forgive the alliteration!
‘Putin’s aggression’ is a mirror of that exercised by America in this hemisphere, but that fact escapes Mr. Talbott’s attention due to a pressing ideological agenda, again that New Cold War set the standard for his historical revisionism: the twin virtues of concision and brevity are cast aside in favor of an historical re-write that challenges the readers patience and if you are old enough your own memory of the ‘historical facts/examples’ he very carefully cites as corroboration of his fear mongering propaganda/historical revisionism. And I’m only at the first two words of the third paragraph: so much more to say, yet I fear I’ll commit the same error that Mr. Talbott commits, although I don’t need to rescue my lost credibility as a one time Kremlinologist by a self-serving re-write of history.
Political Cynic

Having finally reached the end of Mr. Talbott’s essay. It took some time and a great deal of patience to read through this ‘history’ of Putin and the end of the first Cold War: Gorbachev and the ill fated transition of the former Soviet Union’s command economy to the ‘Free Market’ Neo-Liberal model, the rise of Yeltsin and of the evil doer Putin: Mr. Talbott is enamored of political melodrama, with a penchant for repeating the propaganda of the American National Security State,  as if it were true/actual. No wonder Mr. Talbott has managed to assume the leadership of a major America think tank, the prerequisite being a slavish conformity to that ever shifting party line.

A good deal of time is spent tracing the implosion of the Soviet state, the rise of Putin and a self-laudatory description of the part Mr. Talbott played in various negotiations with the Soviets. Under the title, not exactly a title but typeface in bold letters, of The backstory begins in the late 1980′s which takes up almost two full pages. One gets the distinct impression that this essay was destined for Foreign Policy or Foreign Affairs  or another specialist periodical but was adapted to fit the looser standards of Politico.A glaring example of this is this long quote, unattributed, on page 5(page 4 of internet post) of my printed copy of the essay:

Just before flying back to Washington, Clinton paid a call on Yeltsin at his retirement dacha. “Boris,” Clinton said, “you’ve got democracy in your heart. You’ve got the trust of the people in your bones. You’ve got the fire in your belly of a real democrat and a real reformer.  I’m not sure Putin has that. Maybe he does. I don’t know. You’ll have to keep an eye on him and use your influence to make sure that he stays on the right path. Putin needs you. Whether he knows it or not, he really needs you, Boris. Russia needs you. You really changed this country, Boris. Not every leader can say that about the country he’s led. You changed Russia. Russia was lucky to have you. The world was lucky you were where you were. I was lucky to have you.  We did a lot of stuff together, you and I. We got through some tough times. We never let it all come apart. We did some good things. They’ll last. It took guts on your part. A lot of that stuff was harder for you than it was for me. I know that.”

Yeltsin was now clutching Clinton by the hand, leaning into him. “Thank you, Bill,” he said. “I understand.”

The re-working of the essay is glaringly obvious, at least to these eyes. Also Mr. Talbott mentions but two American political intellectuals in his essay, William Safire, a Neo-Conservative in all but name, and Richard Pipes a rather notorious member of that political coterie. In the ever shifting American political landscape, one is tempted to view Neo-Conservatism, Neo-Liberalism and it’s R2P ‘humanitarian’ allies as part of a political whole rather than as separate, they all share core beliefs, the points of contention are about means and methodology, not about a debate on the core principles of American hegemony, and it’s moral rightness.
Political Cynic 





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Aaron David Miller : Failed Policy Intellectual Opines on Gaza Blitzkrieg, a comment by Political Realist

The failure of America’s policy intellectuals that inhabit both government and various ‘think tanks’ and front organizations is surly a phenomenon that defies….

Political Cynic

Mr. Aaron David Miller is a man and Policy Intellectual who represents American failure in the pressing matter of Israel/Palestine. Or should intellectual honesty demand the exercise of more accurate appraisal of  his dismal record, of a very particular kind of Zionist apologetics, allied and anchored in the hegemonic claims of the American National Security State? His record of twenty years of government service is very impressive, yet as we approach the Third Intifada, pending the cessation of Israel’s blitzkrieg on the open-air prison of Gaza, are we at all bothered that Mr. Miller hardly mentions the carnage that Israel has wrought on a civilian population, with nowhere to go. A vicious, bloody re-enactment of the Warsaw Ghetto? Here is his mention of that human cost:

I understand the US determination to do it all – the death toll is rising, a crisis is escalating-…

But the rest of the paragraph is utterly revealing:

but Kerry is out of sync, both in trying (and failing) for ceasefire after ceasefire and in trying (and flailing) to make peace between Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. “It’s crazy just to be sitting around,” he said on a hot mic Sunday. But is it?

Out of sync with what? The imperatives of the Netnayahu government, a supine American President and a Senate that redefines the obsequious? Continue reading

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Douthat on Ryan’s Poverty Proposal: a comment by Political Cynic

Let’s file this Ryan poverty proposal with his infamous Budget Proposals, that Mr. Douthat dubbed ‘policy entrepreneurship’, a grotesque euphemism for propaganda! The White Male Ethos, a la Mitt Romney, that currently rules the Modern Republican Party, asks in the person of Rep. Ryan, that the ‘poor’ write a business plan/proposal to receive their pittance. Predicated,proposed as a block grant to the states. The question arises: how will the states evaluate these business plans/proposals, except by means of a bureaucracy who will read and evaluate each of these documents? The block grant is the way that Free Marketeers shift the burden of evaluation to the states: this is utterly transparent manipulation, as described by Mr. Douthat.

The desperation of the Republican Party, to somehow appear as if they cared about the ‘poor’ is amply demonstrated, in another failed attempt to demonstrate a non-existent concern for the ‘poor’. What happened to all those savvy propaganda specialist from the Reagan era? Or even the master manipulator Karl Rove, who could produce at the least a plausible alternative to this very weak sauce. It’s very hard to think of Rep. Ryan as the new Jack Kemp, he lacks that glad handing bonhomie.

Political Cynic

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Mr. Rogin, General Dempsey and The New Cold War: a comment by Almost Marx

Neo-Con scribbler Mr. Rogin reports on General Dempsey utterly hypocritical, mendacious assertion:

It does change the situation. You’ve got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives. It’s the first time since 1939 or so that that’s been the case,” Dempsey said. “They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States.

Inside this paragraph you have this tawdry, self-exculpatory fiction , call it what it is a lie:

‘You’ve got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives.’

This, the purest expression of self-serving political myopia. An American, of any kind, making this assertion is utterly grotesque! What about just our immediate history of Afghanistan and Iraq, or all the countries that America subjects to drone attack. Or the collection of NGO’s used to undermine/subvert governments we don’t like i.e. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Nor the inconvenient fact that Americans Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt acted as midwives to the Ukrainian Coup, the leaders of which have resigned. See these web sites for further information:
The New Cold War is in full swing, if you doubt this assertion, see this essay from the usually staid Economist for confirmation of that reality:
Mr. Rogin can’t resist, in fact he nearly salivates over the quotable General Dempsey, especially when it confirms his propaganda needs:

This is very clearly Putin, the man himself, with a vision for Europe as he sees it, what he considers to be an effort to redress grievances that we burdened upon Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and also to appeal to ethnic Russian enclaves across Eastern Europe,” he said. “He’s very aggressive about it, he’s got a playbook he’s been successful with two or three times, and he will continue.

Putin is The New Stalin!
The next quote is from State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf:

‘State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Thursday that U.S. intelligence showed that the Russian military had now fired artillery from Russia into Ukraine, but she declined to provide any details about the source of the intelligence.’

Here is the exchange between Ms. Harf and AP reporter Matt Lee on the ‘settled question’ of Russian guilt:

‘In a testy exchange between AP reporter Matt Lee and U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, Lee virtually corners Harf into admitting that the “evidence” presented by the U.S. to blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 amounts to nothing more than YouTube videos and social media posts.
Lee begins by asking Harf how the U.S. plans to produce “forensic evidence” proving Russian-backed rebels were behind the attack, to which Hard responds by reeling off talking points before stating, “we know, we saw in social media afterwards….of the pro-Russian separatists bragging about shooting down an aircraft.” ‘

See the video of the exchange here:
My apologies for the length of my comment but Mr. Rogin’s propagandizing needs an empirically based reply.
Almost Marx

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