Red Eye on the News

Below are excerpts from mainstream newspapers that may be of use for our readers.
Abbreviations: NYT=New York Times, GW=Guardian Weekly, LAT=Los Angeles Times

Rich/poor gap hits 1928 record
NYT, 10/29 — …the vast majority of Americans will be condemned to a lower standard of living for themselves and their children. The top 1 percent now takes home about 20 percent of total national income…. The last time the top 1 percent took home 20 percent of national income, not incidentally, was 1928.
Nervous Brits in a gold rush
GW, 10/10 — British… national calm — whatever you do, don’t panic — has dissolved somewhat… Last week the discreet London premises of ATS Bullion had a [line] outside, waiting to buy gold coins and bars…. The world’s smelters are casting the things 24/7 but stocks still dwindle. Don’t all rush at once; it’s a very small shop.
Read Lenin, fight capitalism
GW, 10/3—The notion that there might be alternatives to rapacious capitalism have been all but banished from the public square. That limited discourse leaves us with limited options…. Good sense demands a thoroughgoing reappraisal of a system that’s in a state of collapse…. “Capitalists can buy themselves out of any crisis, so long as they make the workers pay,” said Lenin. It is rarely regarded as common sense to quote him in polite company. Yet… it is the most sense I’ve heard in a long time.
Russia’s poor: Capitalism = death
NYT, 10/12 — There they were: the demonstrators…. They wore cheap, polyester suits in the blues, grays and browns that clothed generations of Soviets. Elderly women wore bows in their hair and black socks under their pumps. Their aging leaders rode on a truck, shouting through tinny megaphones.
Their faces registered grief: They had lost Russia. They were dying off themselves. On the sidewalk, Valentina Ivanova, 56, was wiping away tears. “We once were a great country,” she said. “Now we are divided into the rich and poor.”
They were poor, the people marching in front of us. The posters read, “No more increase in the price of food!” and “Revolution will return!” and “Capitalism = Death.” Igor Mishenev, marching at the end of the procession, described Russia’s post-Soviet history as a long heartbreak: The life expectancy for men is 59; the birth rate is half what it was in the late 1980s.
A small portion may have become wealthy, he said, but millions suffer. “All our slogans,” he said. “They all came true.”
Though he did not mention it, Russia’s new capitalism was experiencing its worst week in 10 years. Stocks were down 53.2 percent since
Jan. 1.
Old quotes suggest new trouble
NYT, 10/12 — In the summer of 1929…. Here’s what some leading politicians, economists and business leaders had to say in the months before and after the crash. Sound familiar?
Bernard Baruch, financier and presidential adviser, in The American Magazine, June 1929:
“The economic condition of the world seems on the verge of a great forward movement.”
The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 23, 1929:
“The outlook for the fall months seems brighter than at any time.”
The Harvard Economic Society, November 1929:
“A severe depression like that of 1920-21 is outside the range of probability. We are not facing protracted liquidation.”
Bernard Baruch, cablegram to Winston Churchill, Nov. 15, 1929:
“Financial storm definitely passed.”
Smile, and keep on overspending
NYT, 10/7 — For advertising agencies, the challenge is how to write ads that soothe consumers who are alarmed by billion-dollar losses at their banks.
ERs don’t solve workers’ health
NYT, 8/29 — An influential figure… explained that we shouldn’t worry about the growing number of Americans without health insurance, because there’s no such thing as being uninsured. After all, you can always get treatment at an emergency room…. The truth, of course, is that visiting the emergency room in a medical crisis is no substitute for regular care. Furthermore, while a hospital will treat you whether or not you can pay, it will also bill you—and the bill won’t be waived unless you’re destitute. As a result, uninsured working Americans avoid visiting emergency rooms if at all possible, because they’re terrified by the potential cost: …personal bankruptcy.
Russia prepares for a big war
GW, 10/3 — Dmitry Medvedev, the president, said Russia would build a space defence system and a fleet of nuclear submarines by 2020…. The armed forces had to be prepared for “various political and military scenarios”…. “This Russian leadership believes that a war with Nato is very much possible,” said… a Moscow-based defence analyst…. Russia wants to divide the world into spheres of influence. If not, we will prepare for nuclear war.”

People lose faith, tighten belts
NYT, 10/12—Based on interviews around the country last week as the market continued its steep slide, many people say they are sensing losses beyond… hits to their portfolios. Some feel a loss of faith in the United States and its government. Others are lowering their sights for the kinds of lives they expect to lead in coming years…. “I’ve kind of resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to be working for the rest of my life”…. Matthew Ehrlich, 23, a second-year law student at Wayne State University in Detroit, is…. still debating what type of law to specialize in…. “The way things are going, bankruptcy law seems to be pretty hot,” he said.

Blame capitalism, not US greed

NYT, 10/13 — A week ago, European leaders said they knew who was responsible for the global credit crisis.
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, blamed a “capitalism of adventurers” in the United States…. British prime minister, Gordon Brown, pointedly noted that the crisis had “come from America.”
But now, after problems at European banks helped set off a global stock market… experts say lenders here all too willingly embraced many of the riskiest practices of their American counterparts…. “The same mechanisms that led to the crisis in the United States were operating here,” said Arnoud Boot, a professor of finance and banking at the University of Amsterdam.

‘Humanitarian’ war usually isn’t
NYT, 8/31 — “Freedom’s battle” is.… a lively narrative history of a string of European efforts to stop various massacres in the 19th century…. But although these interventions undoubtedly saved lives, Bass… [makes] clear that the motives behind them were not entirely humanitarian…. Tell that to the Latin Americans, who’ve already endured more than a hundred years of United States interventions, seldom, if ever, for any humanitarian purpose…. In a supposedly postcolonial age, interventions will almost always be promoted as humanitarian. And in a world running short of fossil fuels, most of them, like the one in Iraq, are ultimately likely to be about oil.

Market shows dialectical truths
NYT, 10/1 — Economists still try to understand markets by using ideas from traditional economics, especially so-called equilibrium theory. This theory views markets as reflecting a balance of forces…. Really understanding what’s going on means going beyond equilibrium thinking…. Pioneers… are building computer models able to mimic market dynamics by simulating their workings from the bottom up…. But the model also shows something that is not at all obvious. The instability doesn’t grow in the market gradually, but arrives suddenly. Beyond a certain threshold the virtual market abruptly loses its stability in a “phase transition”… the way ice abruptly melts into liquid water. Beyond this point, collective financial meltdown becomes effectively certain. This is the kind of possibility that equilibrium thinking cannot even entertain…. The model offers a potential explanation of…. Why we’re not likely to avoid future crises with a little fiddling of the regulations.

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