Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Torrid Affair with Annette Bening

Today is Tuesday, 31 March 2009.

Mark-to-market accounting means that an asset must be carried on a company’s books at the price for which it would currently sell.

In many cases, this price is easy to determine. For example, shares of IBM are bought and sold every day the New York Stock Exchange is trading. One need only ascertain the closing price on a specified day, multiply by the number of shares held, and voila!

Determination of value becomes difficult if the asset is illiquid, that is, seldom is bought and sold. In the case of certain financial products, for example, only a small number of units may exist, and may change hands very infrequently. The difficulty is compounded if the market for the particular asset, or markets in general, are suffering serious distortions. In a panic, for example, shares in a company whose book value (the net value remaining if all assets of the company were liquidated and all debts paid) is $100 per share may be selling for only $75. One may argue then that the “market”, in which the “invisible hand” (cf. Adam Smith) should always correctly determine valuation, is temporarily deranged.

Should one then ignore the current market price, and rely instead on mark-to-model accounting?

Mark-to-model accounting makes use of a mathematical model (always either developed by or developed for the company valuing itself) to determine what the value of the asset should be, were the “market” in its right mind. This accounting approach is naturally favoured by companies whose assets have taken a hit.

In the instant case, financial industry companies argue they are being unfairly harmed by the rules that force them to use mark-to-market accounting, and have fiercely lobbied and pressured the Federal executive and legislative branches to force the Financial Accounting Standards Board to allow them to use mark-to-model accounting during the current economic unpleasantness. A vote in the FASB is scheduled for 2 April.

Mark-to-model accounting is, of course, in its essence, intimately prey to corruption and manipulation. One might name it “Oz Accounting”: If only … I had a brain, a heart, the noive … and, at some possible future point in time, the right market.

The Museum of the Bourgeois floats a solution. Allow companies to present two valuations, one labeled “real” and one labeled “imaginary”. Accompanying the latter would be a mandated and strictly regulated statement explaining the nature of the model, how it diverges from current reality, how fantasy and reality might converge, etc.

As to my torrid affair with Annette Bening. While it has not yet been technically consummated under current market conditions, proprietary relationship models demonstrate it’s a sure thing.

Eat your heart out, Warren.

Monday, March 30, 2009

In Memory: Nuclear Power Victims

Today is Saturday, 28 March 2009.

On this date in 1979, the Unit 2 reactor of the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania suffered a catastrophic failure and began dispersing radiation into the atmosphere.

The nuclear power industry would have us believe that only 43,000 curies of radiation were discharged, and that the disaster was a model of containment. However, any such figure represents only the amount discharged when the relevant sensors reached the top of their scale and stuck there. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission admits to 10,000,000 curies. Independent studies indicate that some 150,000,000 curies of radiation were released.

The tragic fact is that rates for lung cancer and leukemia were 2 to 10 times higher for those exposed in the radiation plume downwind from Three Mile Island, than for those unexposed upwind. (Peer-reviewed study by Dr. Steven Wing, University of North Carolina, 1997)

The containment domes of most nuclear power reactors were built on the cheap, and neither designed nor constructed to withstand the impact of an airplane. “Who would have ever thunk of that before 9-11?” To accept that rationalization of the nuclear power industry, one must assume that no airplane had ever anywhere struck a human-made structure before 11 September 2009.

Much radioactive waste necessarily and continually created by nuclear power generation is stored on-site under relatively primitive and vulnerable conditions. One can only assume that it is due only to the lack of imagination and/or incompetence of “terrorists” that no storage facility has been compromised.

Yes, the human population requires more energy. Yes, it is folly to acquire it from inherently homicidal and suicidal sources.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Memory: Dr. John Hope Franklin

Today is Thursday, 26 March 2009.

It is with great sorrow that the Museum of the Bourgeois mourns the death yesterday of Dr. John Hope Franklin, the greatest historian of the African-American experience.

Dr. Franklin's 1947 book, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, is as fine a classic of American writing as exists.

While living in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a child, Franklin witnessed what is usually termed the "Tulsa Race Riot" in 1921. The latter was in actuality a crime against humanity, a planned paramilitary operation which resulted in the murders of 300 to 3,000 Blacks of all ages, the burning of some 2,000 homes and businesses, and property destruction of ca. $25,000,000 (current equivalent).

“I have struggled to understand, how it is that we could fight for independence and, at the very same time, use that newly won independence to enslave many who had joined in the fight for independence."

“As a student of history, I have attempted to explain it historically, but that explanation has not been all that satisfactory. That has left me no alternative but to use my knowledge of history, and whatever other knowledge and skills I have, to present the case for change in keeping with the express purpose of attaining the promised goals of equality for all peoples.”

Quotation above from obituary in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/us/26franklin.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hpw

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Reasonable" Official Sexual Assault?

Today is Wednesday, 25 March 2009.

In 2003, Savana Redding was an eighth grader and 13, in Safford, Arizona. An assistant principal believed she possessed prescription-strength Ibuprofen. So, she was strip-searched.

School officials forced Ms. Redding to strip to her underwear, then “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side. They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

So far as is known, none of the three school officials who participated in the assault were members of the Taliban or registered sex offenders.

A lawsuit regarding the assault is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting in San Francisco, ruled 2-1 that the assault was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches. Judge Kim M. Wardlaw wrote: “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights. More than that, it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

The dissenting proponent of sexual-assault-disguised-as-discipline, Judge Michael D. Hawkins, wrote: “I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith [sic!], to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”

In an interview, Ms. Redding, now a psychology student at Easter Arizona College, said, “I was a good kid.” In a brief, the school district responded: “Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules, only that she was never caught.”

In other words, absence of proof of guilt is absolute proof of guilt.

Asked to comment, a teacher of sociology and education at New York University, Richard Aron, said: “Do we really want to encourage cases, where students and parents are seeking monetary damages against educators in such school-specific matters where reasonable people can disagree about what is appropriate under the circumstances?”

Would these “reasonable people” be of the same ilk who believe that it is permissible to beat children, so long as no permanent mark remains?

The responsible school officials should be fired and prosecuted. The Supreme Court must rule that nude searches of children are crimes under the Constitution. The ball's in your court, Mr. "Chief Justice" Roberts. At long last, summon a shred of decency, and write such a majority opinion.

If not, have the courage to publicly abdicate control of schools and courts to the Taliban.

After your cavity search, of course.

Quotations and other information used in this column may be found in an article reported by Adam Liptak at:

On this date in 1911, 148 female seamstresses at The Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Greenwich Village, New York City, were murdered in a fire of unknown origins, unable to flee because exits to emergency stairs were locked (to prevent infiltration by union organizers) and the Fire Department had no ladders capable of reaching beyond the sixth floor. (“Shirtwaist” was then the term for “blouse”.) The owners fled, and were later acquitted in the killings.

A memorial gathering is still held each year. At the minute corresponding to the beginning of the fire, an NYCFD truck raises a ladder to the sixth floor. It is deeply moving.

On this date in 1881, Bela Bartok, the great Hungarian composer, was born.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"To Infinity, and Beyond!"

Today is Tuesday, 24 March 2009.

On this date in 1965, also a Tuesday, lunar probe Ranger 9 reached the moon.

Ranger 9’s two predecessors had been designed to take thousands of photographs on lunar approach, before crashing into the surface. (Ranger 8 photos were used to determine the Apollo 11 landing site in the Sea of Tranquility.) Ranger 9 was equipped with television cameras which transmitted photos which were immediately broadcast live on network television.

The photo sequence began 1,468 miles above the lunar surface. The final photo was taken 15 minutes later, at 1/3rd mile and 2/10ths second above the crash site.

I was in 7th grade, and recall watching in wonder and hope.

A selection of photos here (note that final photo is truncated by crash): http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/ranger/catalog/9/B/.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Perfect Poem

Today remains Sunday, 22 March 2009.

My very dear friend and guru Ms. NMI some time ago turned me on to daily reading of G. Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.(http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/)

Today’s poem thereon is one everyone in their right mind will wish they had written.

"Introduction to Poetry"

by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

"Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins, from The Apple That Astonished Paris. © University of Arkansas Press, 1996.

"Commonly Meretricious"

Today is Sunday, 22 March 2009.

The following was sent to me by Hari, my dear friend since ancient times who created the MoB website as a birthday gift. It's from a favourite political philosopher and economist, Thorstein Veblen, and is drawn from The Theory of Business Enterprise (1915). I'll probably have comment later, but, for the moment, savour.

"The current periodical press, whether ephemeral or other, is a vehicle for advertisements. This is its raison d'etre as a business proposition and this decides the lines of its management without material qualification. Exceptions to the rule are official and minor propagandist periodicals, and in an uncertain measure, scientific journals. The profits of publication come from the sale of advertising space. The direct returns from sales and subscriptions are now a matter of wholly secondary consequence. Publishers of periodicals, of all grades of transiency, aim to make their product as salable as may be, in order to pass their advertising pages under the eyes of as many readers as may be. The larger the circulation the greater, other things equal, the market value of the advertising space. The highest product of this development is the class of American newspapers called "independent." These in particular -- and they are followed at no great interval by the rest -- edit all items of news comment or gossip with a view to what the news ought to be and what opinions ought to be expressed on passing events.

The first duty of an editor is to gauge the sentiments of his readers and then tell them what they like to believe. By this means he maintains or increases the circulation. His second duty is to see that nothing is said in the news items or editorials which may discountenance any claims or announcements made by his advertisers, discredit their standing or good faith, or expose any weakness or deception in any business venture that is or may become a valuable advertiser. By this means he increases the advertising value of his circulation. The net result is that both the news columns and the editorial columns are commonly meretricious in a high degree.

Systematic insincerity on the part of the ostensible purveyors of information and leaders of opinion may be deplored by persons who stickle for truth and pin their hopes of social salvation on the spread of accurate information. But the ulterior cultural effect of the insincerity which is in this way required by the business situation, may of course, as well be salutary as the reverse. Indeed the effect is quite as likely to be salutary, if "salutary" be taken to mean favorable to the maintenance of the established order, since the insincerity is guided by a wish to avoid any lesion of the received preconceptions and prejudices. The insincerity of the newspapers and magazines seems on the whole to be of a conservative trend."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Saturday

Today remains Saturday, 21 March 2009.

On this date in 1685 , Johann Sebastian Bach was born.

On this date in 1960 Blacks in South Africa rallied peacefully against the pass laws, which required them to carry identity and travel documents at all times, under threat of imprisonment. At Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, white police assassinated 56 and wounded 162. The result was a civil disobedience campaign and, eventually, armed resistance to the white racist dictatorship.

Real Medicine for Financial Products

Today is Saturday, 21 March 2009.

Before medicine can be legally sold in this country, it must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as effective and safe.

Almost any financial product can be concocted and sold, and regulation comes only after pockets are lined, the product proves toxic, and savings disappear.

Would Americans tolerate the equivalent sales of “medicines”, which could be forcibly withdrawn only after a suitable number of corpses had appeared in evidence?

The Obama regime and Congressional Republicans and Democrats should stop posing for the cameras in mock outrage over executive compensation, and require long and rigorous vetting of all financial products before introduction.

On 11 March, this column asked readers to write Obama and demand that he extend the Temporary Protected Status of Liberian refugees. He has signed an executive order extending this status to 31 March 2010. Note that the last extension signed by W. Bush was for 18 months, not 12. Hmmmm.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Called Human?

Today is Friday, 20 March 2009.

On this date in 2003, the Bush-Cheney regime and the Republican Party launched the criminal war of aggression to conquer and annex Iraq.

While the USA/USE doesn’t keep anything approaching accurate records of the Iraqi dead (do exterminators compile a life total of rats and other vermin?), independent sampling and statistical extrapolation indicate the number of Iraqi dead is approximately 1,000,000, overwhelmingly civilians.

For the purpose of illustration, I assign the value of 5 feet as the average height of Iraqis. (Thus taking into rough account babies, toddlers, adolescents, shrunken elderly, dismembered corpses, etc.)

Placed end-to-end, the number of Iraqi corpses manufactured by the Bush-Cheney-Republican war-of-aggression machine would extend from Washington, D.C. to 112 miles west of Saint Louis, Missouri.

The Persian poet Saadi, of the 13th Century C.E., wrote this poem:

“Bani A’dam”

The children of Adam are the limbs of one body
That share an origin in their creation
When one limb passes its days in pain
The other limbs cannot remain easy
You who feel no pain at the suffering of others
It is not fitting for you to be called human.

(Translation by Marizeh Ghiasi, a Montreal student born in Tehran. Find it, with the original Persian script, at http://ghiasi.org/2008/02/the-children-of-adam/. I discovered it today in “The Lede” blog of The New York Times.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Iraq Conquest Anniversary

Today remains Thursday, 19 March 2009.

The USA/USE conquest of Iraq began, for W. Bush, at 9.34pm EST on this date. It was 5.34am on 20 March in Baghdad.

Therefore, MoB reflections on the 6th anniversary of this criminal war of aggression will appear tomorrow. However, feel free to throw shoes both days.


Today is Thursday, 19 March 2009.

The teapot tempest surrounding the AIG bonuses is a clever fan dance, a strip-tease, a diversion to obscure from the economically-ignorant masses the reality that The System isn’t broken and hasn’t failed: The System has worked and is working precisely according to design.

The whole point, goal, and raison d’etre of predatory capitalism is that wealth is must flow to the top of the food chain, that the meek must not inherit the earth, that lambs must be led to slaughter, that the devil must take the hindmost, and that the richer must steal from the poorer and hoard and waste.

The problem confronting The System, from the standpoint of the foxes guarding the henhouse, is to refrain from becoming too greedy, to refrain from killing geese laying golden eggs, to refrain from allowing a homicidal system to become suicidal, and to keep greed within bounds.

Last autumn, licking their chops, our masters imagined they could slay Lehman Brothers and feast on the corpse. Instead, their blinding greed almost collapsed the global financial system, which would have resulted in a calamity making the Great Depression seem like the best Christmas ever.

Apologists for The System bleat: it wasn’t the fault of The System, but of faulty individuals within it. Reality: those individuals were nurtured, molded, and programmed by The System --- "merely" pursuing the nature they were given.

As always: the problem isn't the symptom, the problem is the disease.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Beginning in El Salvador?

Today is Wednesday, 18 March 2009.

Until Sunday past, every president of El Salvador elected beginning in 1989 was a member of the neo-fascist Nationalist Republican Alliance party, or ARENA, which serves as the latest front for the oligarchs who have dominated the country since its independence from Spain, and have long been coddled by USA/USE regimes.

(In the spirit of FDR, who said of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, military dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961: “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”.)

ARENA was founded in 1981 by former army intelligence major Roberto D’Aubuisson, who had previously served the oligarchs by creating and running death squads responsible for the torture and extermination of tens of thousands of Salvadoran civilians. His victims included Archbishop Oscar Romero, whom he assassinated while saying Mass.

D’Aubuisson was known as “Blowtorch Bob”, for his favoured instrument of interrogation and argumentation. A typical quote: "You Germans were very intelligent. You realized that the Jews were responsible for the spread of Communism, and you began to kill them." D’Aubuisson was a darling of the Reagan regime and the American right.

On Sunday past, a majority of Salvadorans repudiated ARENA, electing as president Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena, of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (F.M.L.N.). Funes is a journalist, a moderate leftist, and will take office on 1 June.

The Museum of the Bourgeois congratulates the people of El Salvador and Sr. Funes, and hopes that this victory will mark the beginning of the birth of a just and peaceful Salvadoran society.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG, etc.

Today is Tuesday, 17 March 2009.

What is a credit default swap?

“A credit default swap (CDS) is a credit derivative contract between two counterparties. The buyer makes periodic payments to the seller, and in return receives a payoff if an underlying financial instrument defaults.” (Wikipedia)

Currently, many political figures are raising cain over the fact that billions of taxpayer dollars provided to stabilize (“bail out”) the insurance giant AIG have gone to make good on credit default swap contracts with major banks and various American state governments. This is at best ignorant foolishness, and at worst destructive cynicism.

Unless one has a practical roadmap to replace the current global monopoly capitalism structure with socialism at one fell swoop, the CDS contracts must be honoured.(Though a good case can be made that payouts should contractually be at less than 100%.) Were the contracts cancelled or be allowed to fail, they would severely damage or bankrupt banks all over the world, leading at best to chaos and depression, and at worst to the outright collapse of the global financial system.

As a democratic socialist, I despise and condemn in the strongest possible terms such inherently toxic financial constructs as credit default swaps. However, the fact remains that, unless one intends to plunge the world into nihilism and widespread civil disorder, resulting in pandemic violence and famine, there must be an orderly, and costly, unwinding of such contracts. This is the poisoned legacy that predatory monopoly capitalism has bequeathed. The whiners should have thought long ago about the consequences of allowing financial institutions to create exotic financial instruments without stringent oversight and regulation.

The same holds true for the $165 million in AIG bonuses. Again, I'd vastly prefer that these had never been contracted, however ... do we really wish to confer upon the President and his myrmidons the power to extra-legally cancel contracts? For example: cancel the contracts between 401(K) owners and financial companies, and annex the holdings to the U.S. Treasury? (Something similar happened recently in Argentina.)

The sad fact is that most of those who praise monopoly capitalism to the skies are either woefully ignorant of the realities of the system, or grossly misinformed. Until the majority of citizens educate themselves in those realities, and act on knowledge, not emotion or false ideologies, we will continue to struggle in a shit storm of our own artifice.

Monday, March 16, 2009

In Memory: My Lai

Today is Monday, 16 March 2009.

On this date in 1968, U.S. Army units assassinated more than 500 civilians in and in the vicinity of the hamlet of My Lai in the Republic of Vietnam, acting on direct orders of their task force commander and conditioned by ideological and racist hate.

"Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant." "They have made a desert, and called it peace." (Tacitus)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ides of March

Today is Sunday, 15 March 2009.

On this date in 44 B.C.E., Caius Iulius Caii filius Caii nepos Caesar Imperator ("Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius, grandson of Gaius, Imperator") was assassinated at Rome.

Don't you love that moment, at twilight, when the birds gather in the top tree branches, and begin the day's concluding song? What are they saying? Celebration? Do they speak of the tasks of the day, of worms and bugs, of berries and hawks? Are they girding their courage, for they must sleep, and perhaps fall victim to the clever creatures of the night? Are they saying, if i'm not here at dawn, so long, been good to know you?

And what did Caesar think as he fell?

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Today is Saturday, 14 March 2009.

Albert Einstein was born on this date in 1879.

Karl Marx died on this date in 1883.

Here's a great Italian peasant recipe for mashed potatoes and greens I tried this week: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/dining/111mrex.html?_r=1&ref=dining . Had some left-over shredded mozzerella from pizza making, so I gilded the lily by adding a layer before the topping of breadcrumbs. YUM!

Why We Fight 2

Today is Friday, 13 March 2009.

Why We Fight was a series of Hollywood-manufactured propaganda films produced by the USA/USE government to promote its political line regarding the reasons for fighting World War Two.

We fight in Iraq so that the regime of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can imprison an Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, for the crime of throwing his shoes at W. Bush, protesting the latter’s creation of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi widows and orphans. Mr. al-Zaidi has already been tortured while awaiting trial, and can expect more of the same.

Mr. al-Maliki’s regime is best known, of course, for stratospheric levels of corruption, the refusal to deliver the most basic of public services, and the operation of numerous death squads from government ministries.

We fight in Afghanistan so reactionary cleric-dominated courts can sentence Parwiz Kambakhsh to twenty years in prison for downloading an Internet article containing “blasphemous” views on the role of females in Islam. Mr. Kambakhsh was fortunate: in his original trial, lasting minutes, at which he was refused the right to defend himself, he was sentenced to death.

The Afghan regime of President Hamid Karzai is best known, of course, for stratospheric levels of corruption, facilitation of the opium poppy and heroin industries (Karzai’s younger brother runs the family business in that sector), the refusal to deliver the most basic of public services, and brutal military incompetence.

On a related subject: the Museum of the Bourgeois proposes the immediate cessation of use of the term, “Islamo-fascism”, and its replacement with “Islamo-bushism”.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rush's 2nd Favourite "N" Word

Today is Thursday, 12 March 2009.


Nationalization of banks, however temporary, would, the fantasy contends, lead inevitably and instantly to the conquest of the USA/USE by “socialism”, the destruction of all freedom, and, for all I know, increased fluoridation of water supplies and thus the triumph of Soviet-style Communism.

Do OxyContin, Rush, and chill. Nationalization of banks has been around for decades.

What happens when an FDIC-insured bank fails? The bank is seized by the FDIC (gasp: nationalized!). Then, in most cases, some assets are sold to a sound bank, the remainder sold off by FDIC, depositors reimbursed, and the failed bank fades into the sunset.

Come, now, Rush: did even St. Ronnie Reagan advocate a return to the Good Old Days, when depositors were simply wiped out?

The entire “nationalization” pseudo-furor is just a curtain to hide the man behind: the banks were done in by greed, unregulated by the Republican foxes who left open the door to the henhouse. (Say, don’t conservatives believe in things such as Original Sin, which means all persons require the unsparing rod of the law to keep them on the straight and narrow?)

Another indicator of why Rampant Capitalism is sucking dry the bones of humanity and the planet.

Check out the Laundry Alert page at the University of Virginia at: http://www.laundryalert.com/cgi-bin/uva2571/LMPage?Login=True .

Gosh, wouldn’t want the little scholars to lug that laundry and find all the machines in use. So the natural and human resources are wasted forever to hook sensors in the washers and dryers to the campus mainframe. And the little darlings can even receive an e-mail alert when their laundry is done! (Gosh, ya think people in Liberia would love to have that service? No, they'd prefer water that won't give them fatal diseases.)

I say to the little scholars: “There’s the river; those are the washing stones; get yer butt on line”.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Help Liberian Refugees!

Today is Wednesday, 11 March 2009.

The sufferings of Nigerians since independence are largely the direct result of British colonialism. The sufferings of Congolese since independence are largely the direct result of Belgian colonialism. The sufferings of Liberians since independence are largely the direct result of USA/USE colonialism.

By the early 1800s, one of the major problems which confronted the white government of the USA/USE was that of free Blacks (both those born free and freed slaves). The latter were increasing in number, and were seen by most whites as a source of moral dissolution and possibly as an incipient internal subversion threat. One “solution” was deportation to Africa. For this purpose, the American Colonization Society was formed and, in 1822, began shipping free Blacks to the section of West Africa now known as Liberia. Under ACS rule, the Americo-Liberians, as they called themselves, began the subjugation of the local population, whom they labeled “Natives”, and whom they regarded as savages.

The Americo-Liberians have never numbered more than 5% of the population, and are currently 2.5%.

In 1847, the elite of the Americo-Liberians declared independence from the ACS, established the Republic of Liberia, and continued the subjugation and exploitation of the locals. The Americo-Liberian dictatorship continued until 1980, when it was overthrown by “Native” elements within the army, led by Sgt. Samuel Doe, which established their own dictatorship. Doe was assassinated in 1990, and succeeded by the regime of Charles Taylor, which was ousted after a civil war lasting from 1999 to 2003. To the extent that Liberia is ruled today, it is ruled by a more-or-less democratically elected oligarchy of “Native” origins.

More than 200,000 people were slaughtered in the civil wars of 1989 to 2003. The nation’s physical infrastructure is still largely shattered. Diseases caused by poor sanitation are rampant. Unemployment among those not engaged in subsistence agriculture is 85%. The economy is heavily dependent on remittances from Liberians living abroad. Current life expectancy at birth is 41 years.

During the 1990s, some 14,000 Liberians were given “Temporary Protected Status” in the USA/USE. They’ve had children, built careers and businesses, and contributed to the welfare of this country. Unless Obama acts to continue their Deferred Enforced Departure status by 31 March, they will be forcibly deported to lives of squalor in a Liberia which can’t offer a humane life even to its current population.

I feel a particular burden in this situation, having known a few of the 1,000 Liberian refugees who lived in my neighborhood when I lived on Staten Island.

I beg you to join me in writing Obama to extend the Deferred Enforced Departure date, and to ask others to write also. (Sample letter follows. The address is: president@whitehouse.gov)

Thank you.

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:

I write to implore you to extend the Deferred Enforced Departure date of Liberians currently under Temporary Protected Status past the current deadline of 31 March.

Liberia’s economy and infrastructure remain shattered after years of civil war in which more than 200,000 died. To deport these refugees to lives of squalor, disease, and early death would be criminally inhumane as well as pointless.

For the sake of humanity, theirs and ours, you must extend the Deferred Enforced Departure date.


Monday, March 09, 2009

International Women's Day!

Today is Sunday, 8 March 2009.

Since the last column, the HH household played host to family guests, and, immediately after their departure, to a ferocious and tenacious virus of unknown origin which left us sick as, well, dogs (fortunately the canine and feline members were immune, and did a fine job of nursing). This is the first day I’ve felt like writing.

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated on 28 February 1909, responding to a call by the Socialist Party of America. In 1913, on World War One’s eve, a series of peace rallies and marches were led by women in many European countries, and IWD began to be celebrated on 8 March. It was proclaimed as an official global holiday by the United Nations in 1975.

As we liked to say in the Sixties: Women hold up half the sky! (At least!)