Elizabeth Warren speaking on a walking tour, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many UK and Dutch small investors. But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalised, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.
Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution. But only after much pain.
Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures. The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.
Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros. This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.
What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.
Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country. As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF. The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North. But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)
In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its loan. But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.
But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money. (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)
To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.
Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.
They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.
Normally Congress passes a budget and then raises the debt ceiling to accommodate it. George Bush did it seven times. But this time, the Republicans, spurred on by the religious right, are refusing to raise it unless they get certain concessions. They are holding the debt ceiling, and the ability of the government to function, hostage.
Without raising the debt ceiling, the government cannot pay it’s bills and the U.S. will lose its triple A credit rating. So why would anyone contemplate not raising it?
There is a movement on the extremist right which has an underlying belief that government is a bad thing. They hate the government. These groups, one of which is The Tea Party, have become more active in the face of a black president and gay rights. And they don’t care about reason since they are driven by faith. They actually want to bring the hated government down. They believe that this is what Jesus wanted — no government — everything run for profit. They also don’t care much for evolution and global warming. The latter is considered to be a left-wing plot to take away our freedom despite every scientist’s opposite opinion.
The religious evangelical right wants to overthrow our government. And they have enough power in Congress to allow the debt ceiling and our country to fail. This is such an absurd concept that the stock market hasn’t even responded to it yet, but if it happens, Wall Street will plummet.
Most intelligent people believe it can’t happen — it’s that insane. But as we get closer, the country is wondering. Has our economy been hijacked by religion — which many people believe should have nothing to do with politics? Remember the separation of church and state? This is why it’s is a bad combination. This type of religious belief doesn’t care about your social security check, treasury bonds, military salaries — all federal government workers for that matter. If you are not a member of this crazed movement, call the White House (202 456-1111) or your representatives in Congress. This is about you. And if this happens, your life will change on August 2nd.
If you’re unhappy with our government, support Campaign Finance Reform and allow ordinary citizens to run for office.
I’m writing a book, YOUR BODY IS YOUR BILLBOARD, about how astrology and dieting can work together. We all have a message. And the way we look tells people something about how we want to be perceived. And if we quit caring about how we look, have we quit caring about people? Are we isolating ourselves from society? Are we giving up? Is this the real end of civilization? Are fat Americans epidemic of a culture that doesn’t care about each other or themselves?
When you view this amazing video, think about your message and if it says what you want it to say. Oprah was talking about this yesterday on her last show. You have a purpose. You have a mission.
Don’t you just get sick of someone who has it all going on? Katy Perry with her progressed Venus sitting right on her natal Jupiter is the “It Girl.” All is right in her world. Besides all the goodies that Jupiter brings, she’s got that Venus (love) thing, too. I want to be Katy Perry.
Her Sun is in the sign of Scorpio along with her Moon, Mercury, Saturn and Pluto. Kind of Scorpio I would say. And a 10th House/Career Sun, Mercury, Pluto. Things are currently running quite smoothly. And will continue for some time. Her negative aspects happening during Jupiter so, oh, well.
ARIES: With Jupiter & Uranus in your sign this year, there is a surprise waiting for you which brings great happiness in the form of money or something you value. You won’t see it coming.
TAURUS: With Neptune moving out of Aquarius this year, you will feel a great weight lifted. Your creativity soars in areas you never dreamed were compatible with you.
GEMINI: Your year is two-fold, just like you! You will find money and all things Internet much more available, but you also will find someone is withholding information you need.
CANCER: This year will find you being challenged. But in your thoughtful and deliberate way, you will surmount any problems by letting the universe teach you about money and the value of friendship.
LEO: Of all the signs, your path is clear of obstacles. There also help from the universe. So it’s up to you to decide the path you want to take. You ability to suceed is tremendous.
VIRGO: Where restrictions found you last year, you will find the green light this year. Progress will be made in moving forward to translate the mundane into the magnificent. You will not be the servant but the served this year.
LIBRA: Saturn, the teacher, is in your sign this year. Some of you will feel restricted, but the more enlightened will notice that once the lesson is learned, the reward is great and can transform you into the greater you.
SCORPIO: That part of you that people often don’t see, the ability to imagine and make it happen will come through in 2011 when Neptune moves into the sign of Pisces. You’ve been waiting for this, and now it’s here.
SAGITTARIUS: Always optimistic, you will get some of the same benefit as Aries when Jupiter and Uranus change to those signs. Moving forward will be easy on every level. But do watch for an unanticipated betrayal.
CAPRICORN: With Pluto in your sign, you will get to know the ups and downs of your life very clearly. And even if some of the time is spent sorting it all out, you will grow greatly in your ability to know what you want and how to get it.
AQUARIUS: Three of the five outer planets are in air signs like you so you will be thinking a lot about the future — where you live anyway. Always the one to be there before anyone else, you will stumble on a secret and put it to use.
PISCES: With Neptune moving into its ruler, Pisces, and where it operates at the optimum, you will see some of those dreams you have dreamed become reality. Just pick which one and focus.
This video was made in 1948. Watch it if you have any doubts about voting — Tuesday, November 2. In most states, if you are disabled, you can vote curbside in your car. They will come out to you. There are people who will pick you up — call your party Democrat or Republican. You can also get paid around $100 if you help at your precinct, and it’s not too late to call. They will still need help tomorrow. In California, the precinct inspector can hire you right there in person at your polling place if he/she needs more help. No excuses. You have no business complaining if you don’t vote.
The most famous of all comets, Comet Halley is noted for producing spectacular displays when it passes near Earth on its 76-year trip around the sun. However, you don’t have to wait until 2061 to see a piece of the comet — you can do it this very week!
Halley’s Comet leaves bits of itself behind — in the form of small conglomerates of dust and ice called meteoroids — as it moves in its orbit, which the Earth approaches in early May and mid-October. When it does, it collides with these bits of ice and dust, producing a meteor shower as the particles ablate — or burn up — many miles above our heads. The May shower is called the Eta Aquarids, as the meteors appear to come from the constellation Aquarius. The October shower has meteors that appear to come from the well-known constellation of Orion the Hunter, hence the name: Orionids.
Orionids move very fast, at a speed of 147,300 miles per hour. At such an enormous speed, the meteors don’t last long, burning up very high in the atmosphere. Last year, the NASA allsky cameras at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and in Chickamauga, Ga., recorded 43 definite Orionid meteors. Most of these appeared at an altitude of 68 miles and completely burned up by the time they were 60 miles above the ground, seen in the graph at right.
Even though the peak isn’t until October 21, the shower is going on now. The NASA camera systems saw their first Orionid on Oct. 15. Unfortunately, the light from the nearly full moon will wash out the fainter meteors, so expect to see fewer than the 30-per-hour rate you might see under completely dark skies.
The good news is that watching Orionids is easy. Go out into a clear, dark sky after 11 p.m. at night — your local time — and lie on a sleeping bag or lawn chair. Look straight up. After a few minutes, your eyes will become dark-adapted, you’ll start to see meteors. Any of these that appear to come from Orion will be an Orionid, and therefore represent a piece of Halley’s Comet doing its death dive into our atmosphere.
Most folks would consider seeing one or two of these a fair exchange for an hour or so of time.
Thanks to your tax dollars at nasa.gov. The video is from 2009.