Sunday, July 27, 2008
The Big Bailout: America as a Full-Spectrum Kleptocracy
Where this is headed: Eventually the thieves will turn on each other. In fact, it's happening right now.
Its name somewhat anachronistically means "assembly of old men." George Washington famously -- and, it must now be admitted, with excessive optimism -- characterized it as an institutional saucer intended to cool legislation passed in the intemperate heat of the moment. Its members demand, with entirely unwarranted self-approval, to be called, collectively, the World's Greatest Deliberative Body.
Sober observers understand it to be the most corrupt legislative assembly in human history. To those characterizations of the United States Senate we must now add another, perhaps the final one: Gravedigger of the republic.
With the Senate's passage of the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout last Saturday (July 26), the United States of America has now become the world's first full-service kleptocracy, a form of government described earlier in this space as a government of, by, and for the robbers.
We are supposed to pretend to believe that the Senate, so great was its anxiety over the nation's economically distressed homeowners, met in a rare Saturday session for the sole purpose of administering the balm of Gilead on hardworking families who confront the bleak prospect of foreclosure.
There may be people who believe such a thing, or at least profess to do so. They are pretty much the kind of people who believe that peace, prosperity, and progress will magically ensue after next January 20, when the Holy One, Barack Obama (peace be upon him) ascends to the presidency, not astride a White Horse, but rather mounted upon a flying unicorn that emits healing rainbows from its butt.
No, it's not the travails of the productive that would earn such attention from the Senate. When the Senate sacrifices so much as a minute of its down time, it does so not to relieve our burdens, but to add to them in the interest of their fellow parasites.
Thieves in suits, the private sector version....
When Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1913, it did so in a lame-duck session. The Fed's proponents described its handiwork as an independent entity that would prevent "panics" and maintain the integrity of our currency and financial system.
The Fed was presented to the public in pseudo-populist drag: It was supposedly the bane of the big banking interests. This was, in every particular, a conscious inversion of the truth. The Fed was, is, and every shall be a product and protector of those interests. It has practically destroyed the value of US currency, and engineered numerous financial crises, including the one currently unfolding.
The measure passed last Saturday is being described to the public as a "homeowner" bailout. It is nothing of the sort. It supposedly creates an independent oversight mechanism to rein in the excesses of Fannie and Freddie. This, too, is an unalloyed falsehood.
Let us disambiguate the key issue right now. This is a measure to nationalize Fannie and Freddie, plundering the population at large -- through direct taxation, the more insidious tax called inflation, or both -- to bail out two fascist entities that have been used to enrich the politically connected super-rich through the most corrupt means imaginable.
Furthermore, this measure prefigures the eventual nationalization of the entire financial system under the supervision of an executive branch official with practically unlimited power to appropriate and allocate funds without congressional action. OK, sure, he has to file a report with Congress regarding his expenditures. But this takes place after the fact, and Congress will be able to do nothing but complain, if it can bestir itself even to that extent.
Thieves in more expensive suits, the public sector version: The Senate Democratic leadership. The Republicans, of course, are just as bad, if not worse.
Congress has yielded its war powers to the executive branch. It has now effectively surrendered the power of the purse, as well. What, then, remains by way of the legislative branch's ability to check the executive?
Nobody responsible for this is willing to admit that truth; they're too busy taking refuge in contrived ambiguities.
The figure sent out to pollute headlines and palliate a nervous public last week was that fixing Fannie and Freddie will cost "at least" $25 billion. That's a bit like saying there are "at least" 25 gallons of water in Lake Michigan.
The Congressional Budget Office, in an artful display of tactical equivocation, said that the bailout could cost anything from $100 billion down to "nothing." That latter estimate would be dismissed as magic thinking were it not a transparent and cynical effort to propagate such delusion among that part of the public paying attention to the ongoing economic collapse.
As the Wall Street Journal summarized, the $25 billion figure was arrived by following a time-honored government accounting algorithm: Some accountant at the CBO threw a dart at the wall. In fact, the bailout measure places in the hands of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson the discretionary authority to pour as much money into Fannie and Freddie as he deems necessary. He can extend an unlimited credit line to either or both of those government-chartered companies; he can use federal funds to buy shares in either, or both.
There is no limit to what can be spent on the bailout, or the extent of government involvement it will entail. In his efforts to lobby congressional Republicans on behalf of the bailout, Paulson reportedly assured them that he has "no intention" of using those extraordinary powers. This means, of course, that they will be used immediately. It also means, inevitably, that Fannie and Freddie will be nationalized, and that taxpayers will pay the full burden of the bailout.
Senate Republicans -- clap-torn whores, every one of them -- put up a show of reluctance, perhaps because the White House likes a little role-playing action of that sort. This meant that Treasury Secretary Paulson had to convene several meetings with Republicans in order to pretend to overcome their reluctance to support a measure that will impecuniate their constituents in order to pay off the imponderably huge bad debts assumed by politically protected thieves.
The Fannie/Freddie bailout is another example of the familiar equation behind corporatism (or, to use the more loaded synonym, fascism): The risks are subsidized, the losses are socialized, and the profits are privatized.
There are former corporate executives who spend their days looking at striped sunlight and showing with their backs to the wall for crimes identical to those of former Fannie CEO Franklin D. Raines and his comrades. But because Raines and his posse used a Government-Sponsored Entity to commit their crimes, they're free to enjoy nearly all the fruits of their fraud.
The Great Poker Face, he ain't: Paulson looks on in visible alarm as his dimwitted boss pontificates on the supposed health of the US economy.
I find it remarkable that next to nothing has been said by way of condemning Raines and his fellow corporatist thieves.
Doing so is nearly as unthinkable as permitting those two government-sponsored companies to fail, as they should.
According to former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, the bailout wouldn't be necessary if people were willing to do their part by throwing their money away without the government forcing them to do so: "Emergency legislation was necessary because market participants were unwilling to buy Fannie and Freddie's debt; investors doubted that the government-sponsored enterprises were healthy enough to repay it and did not draw sufficient reassurance from the implicit guarantee of federal support." This is why, according to Summers, "Anyone who cares about the health of the US economy should welcome the ... rescue plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...."
Quick quiz: What's the difference between a common armed robber (such as this convenience store bandit), and the Federal Reserve? The first steals money from the cash register; the second steals the value of the money in the cash register.
Imagine an armed robber lecturing his victim that it wouldn't have been "necessary" to threaten the victim's life, and the lives of his family, if they had simply handed over their money on demand, and you'll have a suitable moral parallel to the statement above. Eventually -- and for that, read "pretty damn soon" -- the entire daisy-chain of fraud we call our financial system will devolve into a scene of violent chaos akin to the denouement of Reservoir Dogs, only immeasurably bigger and unimaginably bloodier.
Already, the robber's pact holding the system together is starting to fray, as fractional reserve banks start gagging on each other's IOUs. Witness the fact that cashier's checks being issued by California's newly federalized IndyMac bank aren't being honored by other banks: Customers who cash out of IndyMac are finding that they won't be able to access their funds for up to two months. It's not difficult to imagine the impact this will have on households who expected to use those funds to make mortgage or tax payments, or have other irrepressible financial needs.
It took roughly a tithe of FDIC's deposit insurance fund to bail out IndyMac. Last week's bank failures -- First National Bank of Nevada and Arizona's First Heritage Bank -- involved combined assets of about $3.6 billion.
With Wachovia, Washington Mutual, and many other major banks primed to blow, the day will soon come when -- in the words of James Kunstler -- the FDIC will simply "choke and croak on this wad of losses.... When American depositors get screwed out of their deposits" -- as they already are; vide the observation above regarding IndyMac's dodgy cashier's checks -- "the full force of the fiasco will drag the dollar underwater like the legendary Kraken of old preying on a babe thrown overboard. Then the forces of darkness will really be loosed."
Last week, Congress went on record regarding its priorities: With a handful of noble exceptions (conspicuous among them the stalwart Rep. Ron Paul of Texas), they demonstrated a willingness to ruin what remains of the dollar and destroy the Middle Class in order to rescue -- temporarily -- the uber-rich Robber Class.
The people responsible for this betrayal will be campaigning in their districts during the coming weeks. It would be instructive to them, and may be heartening to their victims, to see at least a few of them on the receiving end of timely and forceful rebukes, delivered in language -- and other expressive conduct -- appropriate to the occasion, and prevailing security environment.
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!
at 11:55 PM
Labels: Economic apocalypse.
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By way of second introduction the global movement which the readers of this blog are called to relate more constructively to is most closely aligned with Mexican Zapatistan, who believe in autonomous small& direct community liberty from both oppressive state control AND Wall Mart&Co big corporate influence [the unholy duopoly].
Basically power to the human scale community, direct democracy primarily through collective action and a slow, deliberate and human attitude to decision making [non-hierarchical], and not simplistic, crude democracy through voting. A tempered refinement of the weapon of people power and a judo throw to the state
But on a more personal note probably I believe in more of an important place for private property (the right wing libertarian insight) in appropriate balance with collective sovereignty over common assets (the left wing libertarian insight) than other Zapatista influenecd activists do: although I cannot speak for others about this, and am not sure about their exact position.
I believe in a new balance (and not a romantic reversion to previous forms which were also inadequate and based on bourgious / racist colonialism) that will allow direct democratic decison making for ALL the local people together as stewards over their shared geographic area, taking the political power wielding agenda AWAY from the top down facist corporate / big state system, peacefully challenging state control nation/western world, world wide so as to eventually vest executive power at the bottom (decentralised, and non sectarian) in at least one modern secular western state and from there, hopefuly others..) while still guaranteeing the individual liberty of private property [but not big monopolies] through a lightly regulating and (this is essential) a fully accountable centre.
To expand on this last point: once the principles of local human scale sovereignty become more established there will need to be some kind of delegate and representative constitutional channel set up (towards a new, directly democratic political structure built from below, not top down fiat) so eventually the new grassroots 'executive' can fully oversee the administrative structure above (and prevent it becoming imperial which - the law of accumulating power being as it is - will always be the case if the people of the below are not vigilant and (egain, this bit is essential) fully empowered by an appropriate non-oppressive political structure ie the ultimate 'check and balance'. This is still to be created (but to quote Oscar about the Bionic Man, we have the technology!)
True religion is about coming together with others in your community [and not just of the exact same religious background or affiliation] to share, learn, grow and where possible worship together in ways that are acceptable to all. And essentially - to take resposibility for the plot of shared land that God has bequeathed thee, and the system with which he has furnished your country, for better or for worse WE are the stewardsl for the true caliphate look up the meaning of khilafa] comes from below with humanity in every locality in common cause!
Eco wipeout is part of the plan. The serfs are not gonna accept the North American union and new funny money without it. And don't waste time hoping the clique of corporate criminal cocksuckers that run this fading banana republik are gonna see any justice, they will just move on to the next country for fresh pillage.
Anonymous/Mr. Give Peas A Chance seems to be obsessed with indoctrinating at the Grigg blog. I wonder why? Aren't there other blogs more akin to the communistic philosophy of the anonymous hippy from the UK? Very puzzling.
Having already reduced us to
chattel for countless generations
to come, any further thefts
committed by our fedgov are a
blessing in our favor as they work
to hasten our day of jubilee.
As Mr.Grigg's illustration points
out, the kleptocrats are now being
reduced to stealing from each other.
"Look up, for your redemption
draweth nigh." -Jesus Christ
great piece! you get a virtual cuban cigar (our bureaucrats will find some way to prohibit those in due time). :-)
Jesus made a prediction a long time ago that we would have a one world govt, satanically run. some things must happen in order for his prophesy to be fulfilled. i believe this economic recklessness is part of it.
Augustus, to the inconvenience of every citizen in the known world, ordered a census...so that a prophesy could be fulfilled. Herod wanted all children 2 and under killed, so that 2! prophesies could be fulfilled. and the list goes on.
i'm not saying to suck this up and give in. there is but so much that each of us can do in our circumstance. great, so now you know about "X" and how wrong it is. you know how far it is off from God's word and how the results will be tragic. so how are you preparing for this? yes, we have responsibilities as citizens, but as Christians, i believe God is saying, "I'm not turning this off. you can complain all you want, but I'm, not turning this off. I needed the caesers, I needed the caliphs, I needed the barbarians, I needed napolean, I needed the WWI, I needed hitler, I needed stalin, etc. I needed them all to do what they did....and I will always have a remnant." but let me back off for an instance.
what does a guy who's Christian, and paraplegic do when his country embarks on an illegal war? can he stop the invasion? nope. can he keep the ships from sailing? nope? can he keep the planes from flying? nope. can he stop the appropriations? nope. so what is God telling him to do?
will's entry before the SWAT team was about palace prophets. in that example we have a prophet who could not stop a war. all he could do was say what God had him to say (and then get thrown into prison).
Esther did one thing in her lifetime--go into the king's court and say, "save my people". that was her purpose, and she prepared for it for at least a year.
So what is God telling you to do in all of this? James Wesley Rawles wrote a book called "Patriots" that told of an impending economic collapse and two subsequent wars. the main characters in the book saw this from a way off and started to prepare. they prepared for 9-10 years. when TSHTF, they were prepared. Noah warned for 120 years that it was going to rain and that God was going to flood the earth, and that everyone should prepare as he was preparing. nobody listened....so everybody but Noah and his family died. starting with Charles Lindberg Sr. back in 1913, we have been hearing for years that the economy is tanking and that somehow, some folks are manipulating the market. the same group (and we believe them to be true) have been harping that when this thing can no longer be put off, that the economic collapse will, in my words, be first like a supernova in its impact, and be like the largest black hole as to how many victims it will draw in.
we gotta start preparing. we need to better learn how the current system works, and how to operate in it, and how the new system will work...and how to operate in it. i don't think we're turning this one off, but we do have an obligation to not only resist this thing (someone's gotta be the voice in the wilderness), but also to prepare for it.
with that being said, king Hezekiah had king Sennecharib come up against him with a massive army. God sent an angel and killed 185,000 of the invading army......in one night. it had to happen. (as if things could not get any worse) with the poor choices we now have for president, keep this story in mind as both wish to attack iran. and while they do this...how will you prepare for it?
Will, not only are you an injspiring and wonderful writer, you are also funny...a scream, in fact:
"...peace, prosperity, and progress will magically ensue after next January 20, when the Holy One, Barack Obama (peace be upon him)..."
I couldn't stop laughing! Keep it up!
Love the Obama Unicorn :-)
About the satanic government - don't we already have that???
Last week I went to an excellent meeting in Southgate where I live, namely the local Council of Christians and Jews AGM at the local Methodist Church. The meeting was reported in a letter in this week's local paper: "it was stimulating and refreshing to be with people of different religions, some of them realising for the first time that they can work together - regardless of religious background for one common goal, namely world peace"
The reason it was so excellent, IMO is that on this day was brought together (in the form of invited guests Mr Omer Faruk Aykol, Mr Fatih Kahraman, Mr Ali Kilic and partners from the Dialogue Society) members of the third great Abrahamic faith, Islam.
The Dialogue Society is part of the influential Muslim Gulen Movement originating in Turkey. At this meeting we discussed the differences, but also the many amazing, and essential similarities of the three faiths. A number of us were moved by the experience, and by the hope that we might work together more closely in the future.
Anyway, I thought to post this today because I saw reference in the London Times to an unprecedented speech to the Lambeth Conference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks last night. The speech was about the perils of our age, and referred positively to the same Council (of Christians and Jews), now more than 60 years old. A link to the article in question is given below, alongside a personal view (on the matter of religion) followed by an article on Gulen in this months Prospect magazine.
You can read more about the Dialogue Society at www.dialoguesociety.org
and of course Gulen by a quick google search.
"Sack's Laments Loss of Faith
Today, more than 60 years after an Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, met a Chief Rabbi, J. H. Hertz, to found the Council of Christians and Jews, the two faith groups could meet as "beloved friends". That friendship now had to be extended more wide..
Almost all of Britain's social problems are caused by a loss of religion, the Chief Rabbi told Anglican bishops.. Societies without religion disintegrated and people succumbed to depression, stress, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse, Sir Jon athan Sacks told 650 bishops and their spouses in Canterbury. Sir Jonathan, the first Chief Rabbi to address the Lambeth Conference, said that a society that lost its religion lost "graciousness". "Relationships break down. Marriage grows weak. Families become fragile. Communities atrophy. And the result is that people feel vulnerable and alone." He continued: "That is where we are." He said that mankind was "living through one of the most fateful ages of change since Homo sapiens first set foot on Earth".
Rest of article at London Times
Re Rabbi Sack's speech and the path to peace.. (Mark's personal view):
"No Justice No Peace!" is a common chant at demonstrations. But do we really believe it? IMO the same idea is echoed in Matthew's Jesus: "Fix your mind on God's Kingdom and His Justice above all else" [6.33]. But what do we have to do to secure it? And could this be the time..?
Personally I believe that true religion is simply this: wherever you live, work together constructively with your neighbours and friends in the locality you share to make it a place of warmth, justice and peace where none need feel left out or taken advnatge of. Regardless of age, cultural background, personal interests or other sectarian religious affiliation. Of course there is a time and a place for these affiliations but is there not a more important task at hand? And can it not only start with us, whoever and wherever we are, people of good will?
For me then the one true religion is the capacity for human beings to join themselves together and work top take stewardship of one other, and of the plot of earth we share, and of the natural world that strives to inhabit it..
But what about the justice bit?
Here's then is the unavoidable rub, as illustrated by Jesus in the temple with a whip out to the money lenders, and his subsequent execution.
In [Abrahamic] religious terms, with gentleness and compassion we must then do our 'jihad'. We must not be afraid to stand up to the Satanic (abusive, exploitative, selfish) traditions that continue to this day. While at the same time we must be willing to uphold the Michaelic ones (loving, compassionate, just, humane) that already exist. And where there is a vacuum that needs filling, are we not also called to invent new, Michaelic ones wherever necessary, too? IMO for those who truly believe, this is the only way to truly worship God, to fight Satan as God commands this world, and Heaven above. In common cause with Michael and his legion of Angels.
For those of non-religious persuasion, you might prefer to say it differently, although IMO it comes to the same thing..
Namely : standing up to, refusing to comply with all the reactionary social and political traditions (based on cruelty, exploitation etc) and upholding all the progressive traditions (+ initiating new ones where necessary), ie those based on love, mutual support, inclusion, humanity, responsible freedom and equality. IMO Dr Martin Luther King put it very well indeed when he defined 'Justice' as:
'Love, correcting all that which revolts against Love'
So let's do it. In the hope that these words stimulate in a positive way.
A Modern Ottoman (from Prospect Magazine on the Gulen movement)
Is it possible to be a true religious believer and at the same time enjoy good relations with people of other faiths or none? Moreover, can you remain open to new ideas and new ways of thinking?
Fethullah Gülen, a 67-year-old Turkish Sufi cleric, author and theoretician, has dedicated much of his life to resolving these questions. From his sick bed in exile just outside Philadelphia, he leads a global movement inspired by Sufi ideas. He promotes an open brand of Islamic thought and, like the Iran-born Islamic philosophers Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Abdolkarim Soroush, he is preoccupied with modern science (he publishes an English-language science magazine called the Fountain). But Gülen, unlike these western-trained Iranians, has spent most of his life within the religious and political institutions of Turkey, a Muslim country, albeit a secular one since the foundation of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's republic after the first world war.
Unusually for a pious intellectual, he and his movement are at home with technology, markets and multinational business, and especially with modern communications and public relations—which, like a modern televangelist, he uses to attract converts. Like a western celebrity, he carefully manages his public exposure—mostly by restricting interviews to those he can trust.
Many of his converts come from Turkey's aspirational middle class. As religious freedom comes, falteringly, to Turkey, Gülen reassures his followers that they can combine the statist-nationalist beliefs of Atatürk's republic with a traditional but flexible Islamic faith. He also reconnects the provincial middle class with the Ottoman traditions that had been caricatured as theocratic by Atatürk and his "Kemalist" heirs. Oliver Leaman, a leading scholar of Islamic philosophy, says that Gülen's ideas are a product of Turkish history, especially the end of the Ottoman empire and the birth of the republic. He calls Gülen's approach "Islam-lite."
Millions of people inside and outside Turkey have been inspired by Gülen's more than 60 books and the tapes and videos of his talks. Why? A combination of charisma, good organisation and an attractive message. What Gülen says is that you can be at home in the modern world while also embracing traditional values like faith in God and community responsibility—a message which resonates strongly in Turkey.
Gülen (pictured, right) insists that he is not a Sufi leader, but his thinking is certainly influenced by Sufi ideas: he says, for example, that a reader who wants to truly understand the Koran needs to invest his heart as well as his intellect. Another belief he shares with Sufism is the idea that God, humanity and the natural world are all linked, and might even be part of a single entity, a sort of cosmic trinity. This idea has practical consequences. For example, it suggests that a believer will love and respect humanity and the natural world as they would God. It also means that no one should be seen as an outsider. Hence Gülen's insistence on friendship among people of all faiths and none.
Hakan Yavuz, co-editor of Turkish Islam and the Secular State: the Gülen Movement (Syracuse), describes the Gülen movement as comprising a small inner cabinet along with a network of perhaps 5m like-minded volunteers and sympathisers, rather than an organisation with a hierarchy or formal membership. Others say it is more like a cult, with no deviation from Gülen's word allowed. The network's largesse has meant that the movement now boasts newspapers and magazines, television and radio stations, private hospitals and, by some estimates, more than 500 fee-paying elite schools in dozens of countries. These schools are mostly in Turkey and the Turkic-speaking ex-Soviet republics like Azerbaijan, but a few can also be found in Africa, China and the US.
The Gülen movement sponsors international conferences to debate his ideas. (The most recent one in Britain was held at the House of Lords.) These ideas cover three main areas: Gülen's attempts to marry science and religion; his large body of work on interpreting Islam for the modern age; and his role in Turkish politics through his influence on the governing Justice and Development (AK) party.
Fethullah Gülen was born in 1941 in a village near Erzurum in eastern Anatolia, near the border with Iran and Armenia. After a period of Islamic education, in 1959 he began work for the religious ministry as an imam—imams in Turkey are public servants—a post he held until 1981 when, shortly after a military coup, he struck out on his own. The life of a government imam will not have suited someone with his creativity and charisma—those who have heard his sermons say he frequently reduces audiences to tears—and Gülen did well to last over 20 years.
While still an imam, Gülen joined the Light movement, a Sufi-inspired network for followers of the Turkish thinker Said Nursi, who died in 1960. Gülen later broke away, but continued to be influenced by Nursi's ideas on accommodating Islam to modernity and finding harmony between scientific reason and religious revelation.
Science and technology are important to Gülen for two reasons. First, he attributes the underdevelopment of many Muslim nations to a neglect of modern knowledge. For Gülen, a failure to study science is a dereliction of Islamic duty, as learning is repeatedly emphasised in the Koran. More controversially, he says there can be no conflict between reason and revelation, and that science should be used as a tool to understand the miracle of the Koran.
Gülen does not follow those Muslims who believe the Koran contains all that is necessary for scientific understanding. He knows that scientific discoveries are mostly provisional and that science is an incremental business. But he also believes that as researchers refine their understanding of physics or biology, they get closer to revealed Koranic truths, such as the existence of a creator. His approach has a parallel in the west in the Templeton Foundation, with its generous grants and prizes to scientists sympathetic to religion.
Sufism is integral to Ottoman as well as wider Islamic history, and in spite of attempts at repression, it remains popular and powerful in many Muslim countries. In its most traditional sense, it is marked by a master-disciple relationship in which a Sufi master is linked through a chain of living and dead Sufi masters to Muhammad himself. These days, however, Sufi leaders are more mentors than svengalis, particularly in the west.
Two of Turkey's leading Sufi networks are the Mevlevis and the Naqshbandis. The Mevlevis were founded by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, and they include among their network the famous whirling dervishes. The Naqshbandis, founded in 1389 in central Asia, retain Sufism's hierarchical structure but adhere to a more orthodox brand of Islam. The Naqshbandis were the leading Sufi order in the Ottoman empire's last years. Many in the ruling AK party are members of Naqshbandi lodges. Some, however, have a higher regard for Gülen than for their Naqshbandi co-religionists.
Gülen has not involved himself directly in Turkish politics, and has always set his face against political Islam. Religion for him is about private piety, not political ideology. He was a stern and public critic of Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Welfare party—the forerunner to AK—who in the late 1990s briefly led a coalition government with the conservative True Path party. Gülen even backed the army's "soft coup" of 28th February 1997, which forced Erbakan to resign.
After the tense period of the 1980s and 1990s, Gülen and the AK leaders have now become closer, although they have different social bases: AK's base is the urban poor, Gülen's the provincial middle class. Encouraged by Gülen, the AK party has softened its Koranic literalism, embraced the idea of human rights and given up dreams of introducing sharia or re-establishing the Ottoman caliphate. Its abandonment of Islamism has in turn emboldened Gülen to become more critical of the Turkish military. Gülen's media outlets, above all the popular newspaper Zaman, give their backing to the AK government.
And the government needs all the backing it can get. Despite winning a landslide election victory last year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, President Abdullah Gül and many AK parliamentarians are fighting for their political lives in a battle with the Kemalists over, among other things, the wearing of headscarves in universities.
About 32 per cent of Turkish boys and 43 per cent of girls leave education after primary school. Polls indicate that five in ten women cover their hair, and the government argues that girls are put off staying on in education by hijab bans. In February, parliament voted by a large majority to amend the constitution and repeal the headscarf ban in universities, which had been in place since 1989. Yet on 5th June, this decision was annulled by Turkey's constitutional court. (Turkey has a grand tradition of legislating for headwear: the turban was outlawed in 1829 and the fez introduced, only to be banned in turn by Atatürk in 1925).
Separate, but related, is the recent decision by the constitutional court to hear an application from the chief prosecutor to have AK shut down on the grounds that party members have violated the constitutional principles of secularism. The case could last eight months, during which time what little progress has been made on EU accession will effectively grind to a halt.
The banning of political parties is not new in Turkey—26 have been dissolved since 1960. AK was created from the embers of the Virtue party (banned in 2001), which itself was formed by former members of the Welfare party (banned 1998). Anticipating such a move for the third time, the chief prosecutor has asked for any AK members found guilty to be banned from politics for five years. If that happens, Turkey is headed for years of political unrest.
Many Kemalists see the repeal of the headscarf ban as just the first step towards an Iranian-style revolution. "Khomeini is alive and well in Ankara and being supported by the EU," a senior member of the nationalist Republican People's party told me. (And Michael Rubin, a leading American neoconservative, recently predicted that as political tensions in the country become unbearable, Gülen would make a triumphant return to Turkey, Khomeini-style, and trigger an Islamic coup.)
Yet Gülen himself is in favour of compromise on the headscarf ban. And outside the Ankara political village, the issue is not such a big deal. One poll found that in 2006, proportionately fewer women were wearing headscarves than in 1999. And just 3.7 per cent of respondents said it was one of Turkey's most pressing issues.
The AK party is a sophisticated organisation surrounded by a cluster of think tanks and thinkers—men such as Ibrahim Kalin, a philosopher of science who heads the SETA think tank, and Ahmet Davutoglu, a former international relations professor, now Erdogan's chief foreign policy strategist.
AK leaders, and Gülen too, have been pushing hard for EU membership for Turkey, partly to entrench religious freedom. (The Kemalists want membership for the opposite reason—to put a secular brake on the religious parties.) But now that Turkey's prospects of accession are receding, some AK thinkers are downplaying the economic benefits of membership, and Davutoglu talks about a global, rather than just a European, role for Turkey.
Even in the event of EU-enthusiasm returning in Turkey, there remain many objections in Brussels to Turkey's political norms. One of them, of course, is the continuing involvement of the military in politics. There is also the issue of minority rights, only now being tackled. The republic has hitherto functioned on the basis that all Turks are Turkish-speaking Sunni Muslims. All other expressions of faith, language and culture have been suppressed. Even AK, in favour of more religious freedom, has been slow to promote the rights of Turkey's Kurdish and Alevi minorities.
Gülen has always publicly supported the establishment and its organs of state, including the National Security Council. He has had the backing of both former centre-right president Süleyman Demirel and Bülent Ecevit, hero of the Turkish left in the 1970s. However, many Kemalists do not trust him, and see his support for the AK government as vindication of their stance that he is a Trojan horse for political Islam. Gülen has been indicted on anti-secularism charges, but was acquitted in 2006.
For the past several years, he has lived in self-exile in the US, where he has not been in good health. Rumours persist that he is ready to return to Turkey, though in the current climate, with talk of political bans in the air, this seems unlikely. Meanwhile, he has used his time abroad to build his overseas support and his network of schools—the latest has just opened in Pakistan.
Traditional Sufi leaders anoint a successor before they die. Gülen has not done so. Perhaps there is no need, as his ideas will live on through his books, DVDs, MP3 recordings and websites in 21 languages. Whether or not he returns to the country of his birth, Gülen's legacy as a thoroughly modern Sufi is secure.
whoops i meant econ. but I'm sure sharp readers and site admin got the gist. While were at it the enviro scam is almost as big as the shell game known as the "service"(you want fries with that?) economy. Shhh we won't tell the new agers that worshipping gaia is in fact a religion. We also won't tell them new age has been around since mid 1800s and all the ideas are stolen from Hinduism. Abstractions like carbon footprint have been spoken into reality. Well Bob looks like you exceeded your carbon footprint for this year were gonna have to tax ya bend over now Bob, wider. It's the new American way bend over and take it.
By way of second introduction the global movement which the readers of this blog are called to relate more constructively to is most closely aligned with Mexican Zapatistan, who believe in autonomous small& direct community liberty from both oppressive state control AND Wall Mart&Co big corporate influence [the unholy duopoly].
another ecumenical tapestry of B.S. or is it U.S from the unicorn.
WNG,you are definitely on the list.
Though I'm sure maintaining your steady stream of articles is more demanding than you make it appear - you certainly are not lacking for subject matter.
I often wonder if the people of this pathetic country will even find enough backbone to throw off the tyranny that this gov't has become when they start loading people into cattle cars. My guess is they won't.
We thought we were free too . . . ironic isn't it?
Sic Semper Tyrannis
was listening to ray charles today and came across this gem from the song 'Greenback':
"on a greenback, greenback dollar bill! just a little piece of paper...coated with...chlorophyll."
I think most readers of Will Grigg's blog are growing weary with the anonymous UK blogger, aka 'Mark', and his attempt to create a mini Hegelian synthesis between "right wing" and "left wing" libertarian thought for a collectivist Zapatistan
"paradise". He won't find acceptance here. The best way to discourage his lengthy collectivist utopian, quasi-Muslim diatribe is to shun and ignore him -Claire Wolfe style, which I promise to do after this. That's the true libertarian response. Hopefully he'll move on to the Huffington Post blog or something.
Pre-2010: The Federal Reserve
Post-2010: The North American
Pre-2010: The Federal Reserve Note
aka "The Dollar"
Post-2010: The North American
aka "The Amero"
Excellent Post, I enjoy hearing you on Dr. Monteith's program. Keep up the good work and may Christ continue to use you.
Does anyone know if the mega-banks line of credit from the secret window is tied to the prime? If it is not, they are free to raise the prime now and crush us.
Good stuff, great blog. I added you to my blogroll.
After reading some of Curt Maynard's blogs, I'm not so sure it's a good thing to have his endorsement.
Bob, your point is well taken. It shouldn't be necessary to point out that endorsements aren't necessarily reciprocal.
STOP SAYING ITS FASCISM. IT AIN'T FASCISM.IN THE LONG RUN, THE FASCISTS WILL HAVE TO STRAIGTEN IT OUT LIKE IN ITALY AND GERMANY IN THE TWENTIES AND THIRTIES. THIS IS JUST A MONEY GRAB BY THE BANKING AND BUSINESS INTERESTS.AGAIN I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU CAN CALL THEM. THESE PEOPLE ARE GLOBALISTS AND INTERNATIONALISTS BUT NOT FASCISTS.
i dont know who is worse, the courts or insurance companies, they are the greatest evil
Got chills reading this post. Very scary stuff, keep up the good work.
WHOAH! Griggsy, I used to read you occasionally via our left-wing friend JurassicPork. And today I find a link to you via a Ron Paul rightist blog, Mish's Global Economic Analysis. (I read him because he's spot-on with forecasting the economic implosion that's going to destroy the United States.) Odd to see the left AND the right coming together around you.
Excellent analysis. With you on everything but the religious claptrap.
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