Monday, December 22, 2008

Kristallnacht Two (At Least)

What does it mean for a civilization when the logical consequences of policies gone-wild, ensuring unbridled capitalism and massive deregulation, lead to a world where there is historically high (and largely unreported) unemployment among the young (and for many of the old), and good jobs with benefits, and the expectation of personal and professional growth as well as some type of stability of employment, cease to be the norm? Greece is currently letting the world know how its youth feel about this climate of hopelessness, and if reports prove true, the German, French and Spanish students will soon be joining the fray. (Emphasis marks and some editing were inserted - Ed.)

Writing for the Associated Press, a similar appraisal was made by Paul Haven, who stated that the “authorities in Europe worry conditions are ripe for the contagion to spread” as the continent “plunges into recession.” Most tellingly, the Scotsman newspaper drew attention to the response of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the Greek events. Rejecting budget proposals from his own party that he considered too obviously biased toward the wealthy, he remarked, “Look what is going on in Greece.” Sarkozy expressed concern that unrest could spread to France, the Scotsman reported. “The French love it when I’m in a carriage with Carla, but at the same time they’ve guillotined a king,” he said. The citations above are drawn from leading financial journals, newspapers with a distinctly right-wing colouration and organs generally designated as newspapers “of record.” They are serious appraisals made of a growing threat to the capitalist system posed by a generation of young people, often educated, highly intelligent and articulate, who are living on next to nothing. Told for years that an education was all that was required to succeed, they have no prospects for the future despite their sacrifices and those of their parents. Faced with governments of the official left and right seeking to make working people shoulder the full weight of the economic crisis, and opposition parties that offer no real opposition to this agenda, young people in Greece have taken to the streets in a mass display of anger and frustration. But make no mistake. We are witnessing the beginning of a profound social shift that must assume political forms that will not be confined to the compromised and discredited trade unions and organisations of the official left.
As our happy-go-lucky boy President "W" jauntily sports about the world on his farewell tour (feigning ignorance or indifference to criticism), we learn from a CNN poll that "George W. Bush has the lowest approval rating of any US president since modern polling began." Yes, it seems that the 83% of those polled who say that things are worse now than they were during the end of the Bush I reign, surpass the figures of those who thought things were worse at the end of Carter's misnamed "malaise" period and even worse than the figures for the end of Richard Nixon's Watergate break-in and corruption spree. Urantian Sojourn puts this spin on it:
Nevertheless, Bush is still presumably more popular than cholera, rabies, the Black Plague, and the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 that killed between 20-100 million people. Presumably.
____________________________ I knew as soon as I saw the lips moving on the "get me a" Hankie Paulson cardboard cutout that this was only the first shoe to drop (after all, how could such smart guys make such dumb (and serious dumb) mistakes?). When I read the fine print detailing the lack of requirements for reporting, I was repelled (and enlightened) even further. So it was no big surprise to read that not only were Paulson's mob not going to actually tell the taxpayers where their money had gone, but they offered no apologies - as a matter of fact, the looks on their faces were almost incredulous when presented with the possibility that someone might want to know. You get what you pay for, huh? There is a word to describe this kind of public acceptance of unbelievably bad economic policy, but in my current stupefaction (not really holiday-induced), I hesitate to use it. And after getting over this bit of bad news for your future, can you sympathize with how the (formerly) rich people felt who had already lost millions in the derivatives con game and then found out that their personal (and charity's) money had been entrusted and then lost by another con(fidence) - institutional bankster - man, who had once been the NASDAQ Chairman? Are you feeling even a little bit sorry for them?
In terms of financial and psychological impact, Bernard Madoff's $50 billion heist certainly ranks as a major ethnic cleansing here in America, a hugely traumatic event for American Jewry. Of course Madoff had clients of every creed and nation, but he made a specialty of trolling for Jewish money. I asked a Jewish woman I know here in California if any in her circle had taken a hit. She looked at me tremulously, shaking her head, on the edge of tears. Though no one was in immediate earshot, she whispered, “They kept telling me to put my money with Madoff. At that time the entry level was $250,000. I dodged the bullet. Some of my friends didn’t. They’ve lost everything. This is Kristallnacht Two.” Her fear and horror would scarcely have been diminished if she’d heard what a perfectly nice young person had remarked to me earlier, apropos the Madoff affair: “Now the rich people will know what it’s like.” "‘It’s an atomic bomb in the world of Jewish philanthropy,’ Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, told Anthony Weiss and Gabrielle Birkner of The Forward newspaper. ‘There’s going to be fallout from this for years to come.’ The collapse of the investment firm of Bernard Madoff has opened a black hole at the center of the tight knit circles of wealthy Jews who socialize and do business together, and who, year after year, support Jewish causes. . . .” Among those apparently taking serious and even financially fatal hits: Yeshiva University in New York; Senator Frank Lautenberg, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, real estate and media mogul Mortimer Zuckerman (“significantly hurt”), GMAC Financial Services chairman J. Ezra Merkin (who ran a hedge fund, Ascot Partners, which reinvested many charities’ funds with Madoff), the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, Steven Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation, Jeff Katzenberg, the Boston-based Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation (which has closed its doors), Eliot Spitzer’s family, the Chais Family Foundation, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Foundation, Hadassah (the Women’s Zionist Organization of America), the United Jewish Endowment Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington , the Los Angeles’ Jewish Community Foundation’s $238 million Common Investment Pool, the American Jewish Congress, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. It’s a savage body blow to the commercial real estate market in New York. Christine Haughney in Friday’s New York Times quotes Robert J. Ivanhoe, a lawyer who is representing 10 developers and investors who lost $5 million to $50 million each, as saying “The level of devastation, both financial and on a human level, is astounding,” Haughney cites a Manhattan psychotherapist who counsels real estate leaders and bankers as saying “most of the patients he has seen this week have close friends and relatives who lost money with Mr. Madoff. The victims include executives at the global commercial brokerage CB Richard Ellis, most prominently Stephen Siegel, a major Bronx landlord who is chairman of worldwide operations at the brokerage.” A huge problem is that many developers were using their investments with Madoff as collateral on projects and now banks are saying, “Show us the money.” Residential real estate will take a hit too as people back out of purchases because they’ve lost their money , or abandon coops because they can longer afford the annual fees and mortgage payments.
Pour yourself some holiday cheer and read the rest of this (at least) twice-told tale here. Are you also wondering where the rest of the money went (assuming that he/they quit paying out when he/they saw the end of the good times coming into view back in September (or before))? (not really too) Happy Holidays! Suzan ___________________________


Beach Bum said...

Just wanted to stop by real quick and say thanks for dropping by my site. I'm going to add you to my bloglist tomorrow. Just got home for yet another required by crappy Christmas event and I called it and early night.

As far as Bush is concerned whats the old saying about being careful what you wish for? Bush wanted to go down in history and IF this country can get back on its feet Bush will go down as the worst president in history.

Unknown said...

Thanks for everything, Beach Bum (a name I aspire to)!

There is no doubt that he will go down in history as




What is in doubt is whether the lack of consequences insisted on by the U.S. public will label the rest of the country