Paul Craig Roberts: American Hegemony Bites The Dust

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com
_________________________________________________________________________

The Defanging of America:  Reality-Based Community Overthrows History’s Actors

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Bush White House aide explaining the New Reality

The New American Century lasted a decade. Financial crisis and defeated objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Georgia brought the neoconservative project for American world hegemony crashing to a close in the autumn of 2008.

The American neoconservatives are the heirs of Leon Trotsky. Their dream of American “Full Spectrum Dominance”–US military and economic superiority over any possible combination of states–is matched in ambition only by the early 20th century Trotskyite dream of world Communist revolution.

The neocons used September 11, 2001, as a “new Pearl Harbor” to give power precedence over law domestically and internationally. The executive branch no longer had to obey federal statutes, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or honor international treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions. An asserted “terrorist threat” to national security became the cloak which hid US imperial interests as the Bush Regime set about dismantling US civil liberties and the existing order of international law constructed by previous governments during the post-war era.

Perhaps the neoconservative project for world hegemony would have lasted a bit longer had the neocons possessed intellectual competence.

On the war front, the incompetent neocons predicted that the Iraq war would be a six-week cakewalk, whose $70 billion cost would be paid out of Iraqi oil revenues. President Bush fired White House economist Larry Lindsey for estimating that the war would cost $200 billion. The current estimate by experts is that the Iraq war has cost American taxpayers between two and three trillion dollars. And the six-week war is now the six-year war.

Read morePaul Craig Roberts: American Hegemony Bites The Dust

Federal Reserve Cuts Rate to 1% to Avert Prolonged Recession

Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to 1 percent, matching a half-century low, in an effort to avert the worst U.S. economic downturn in the postwar era.

“Downside risks to growth remain,” the Federal Open Market Committee said today in a statement in Washington. “Recent policy actions, including today’s rate reduction, coordinated interest-rate cuts by central banks, extraordinary liquidity measures, and official steps to strengthen financial systems, should help over time to improve credit conditions and promote a return to moderate economic growth.”

Central bankers worldwide are trying to revive credit and stop a self-reinforcing downturn in consumer spending and bank lending from triggering a global recession. Today’s decision follows the half-point reduction the Fed coordinated with the European Central Bank and four other central banks on Oct. 8. Borrowing costs were pared today in Norway and China.

Read moreFederal Reserve Cuts Rate to 1% to Avert Prolonged Recession

China vows penalties as melamine eggs scare spreads


Eggs from mainland China are seen at a wholesale market in Hong Kong Monday. Wal-Mart pulled all the eggs from its store shelves Tuesday across the country over melamine fears.
Bobby Yip/Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – Authorities in a northeastern Chinese city on Wednesday vowed severe punishment for those responsible for melamine-tainted eggs turning up in Hong Kong, as the health scare spread to another city in eastern China.

At least four children have died and tens of thousands were made ill amid the melamine scandal, the latest in a series of health scares to sully the “made in China” label.

Chinese products ranging from chocolate to milk powder have been recalled throughout the world due to contamination fears. Melamine, used in making plastic chairs among other things, is often added to cheat nutrition tests.

Chinese eggs have now come under the spotlight, after Hong Kong food safety authorities over the weekend found melamine-tainted eggs produced by Hanwei Group in the northeastern port city of Dalian on local shelves.

Problem eggs have now been found in Hangzhou, capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday, citing quality authorities there who had ordered a city-wide recall of all “Ciyunxiang”-brand eggs.

Read moreChina vows penalties as melamine eggs scare spreads

Chaos in Congo as Rebels Draw Near


Congolese refugees fled from the city of Kibati towards Goma on Wednesday.

GOMA, Congo – The exodus has begun.

Women with babies on their backs. Families crammed into cars with coolers and suitcases stuffed to the windows. United Nations trucks. Aid workers. Businessmen. Congolese government troops literally running for their lives.

On Wednesday afternoon, countless people of all kinds poured out of Goma, a strategic Congolese city on the border of Rwanda, fleeing the advancing rebel forces massing on the outskirts of town.

This was a place that was supposed to be safe, a town full of war-weary, displaced people who had come here for shelter, a town that the United Nations peacekeepers had defended against the very same rebels before.

But this time may be different.

“The Congolese army has abandoned most of their positions,” said United Nations spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai. “The road to Goma is now open to the rebels.”

Eastern Congo has been torn by conflict for more than a decade. But if Goma falls, it will be the first time in years that rebels have snatched a major city – and a particularly important one because it is a staging ground for United Nations aid efforts that help keep millions alive.

Read moreChaos in Congo as Rebels Draw Near

Volkswagen shares halve as funds lose billions


Volkswagen (VW) shares continued their rollercoaster ride today when they nearly halved in value after the German authorities took action to prevent the volatility in the carmaker’s stock from destabilising the German market.

VW briefly became the world’s most valuable company yesterday, worth £238 billion, following panic share buying by hedge fund chiefs.

The hedge funds were trying to cover potential losses after placing huge bets that Volkswagen shares would fall.

But Porsche, the sports car giant, had been secretly building a 74 per cent stake in its rival, the world’s third-largest carmaker. Porsche said this morning that it would take steps to smooth VW’s soaring share price by settling hedging transactions, equivalent to 5 per cent of the company’s stock, but the move has come too late for some of the world’s most aggressive hedge funds, which are facing losses that could amount to between €20 billion (£15.9 billion) and €30 billion.

Today the shares fell €416.9 to €528.09 in morning trade.

Hedge fund experts believe the losses could even bring down some smaller funds, which have been caught out by the sudden price move.

Two days of frantic trading have led to what is thought to be one of the heaviest losses on a single company’s shares taken by hedge funds.

“This is without question the biggest single loss on a single stock in the history of hedge funds. It’s a bloodbath,” Laurie Pinto, a broker at North Square Capital, said.

Other shareholders in VW rounded on Porsche, saying that it had manipulated VW shares in an irresponsible manner. Porsche vehemently rejected the accusation of share-price manipulation.

Read moreVolkswagen shares halve as funds lose billions

Ron Paul: Spending the Economy into Oblivion

With news this week that Congress is poised to consider a new stimulus package, I am forced to again ask a question that seems silly in Washington: How will we pay for this?

While a few Members of Congress have raised the issue, it certainly was not the primary concern of the House Budget Committee when they interviewed Ben Bernanke on Monday. And, when they did direct this question to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, his answer was the standard rhetoric about how Congress needed to make tough choices. Needless to say, not many specifics were discussed.

Read moreRon Paul: Spending the Economy into Oblivion

PM Putin suggests Russia, China ditch dollar in trade deals

MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed on Tuesday that Russia and China gradually switch over to national currency payments in bilateral trade, expected to total $50 billion in 2008.

“We should consider improving the payment system for bilateral trade, including by gradually adopting a broader use of national currencies,” Putin told a bilateral economic forum.

He admitted the task would be tough, but said it was necessary amid the current problems with the dollar-based global economy.

Read morePM Putin suggests Russia, China ditch dollar in trade deals

Volkswagen shares soar again, up 93 percent

FRANKFURT, Germany

Shares of Volkswagen AG jumped an eye-popping 93 percent on Tuesday after a similar surge the day before. Speculation on the reason centered on hedge funds needing to unwind bad bets on the share’s direction.

The immediate rise in VW share value — at one point, its market capitalization made it more valuable than Exxon Corp. — prompted German regulators to declare they were looking into the reasons for the explosive growth.

The surge came amid reports that hedge funds had been forced to buy scarce shares at high prices after mistakenly betting the shares would fall.

But with Porsche now holding nearly 43 percent of the company, and options to reach 75 percent by next year, that left a shortage of shares. If investors had shorted the stock by selling borrowed shares, they would need to buy shares in order to complete the deal.

On Sunday, Porsche Automobile Holding SE, which owns the company that makes the 911, Cayenne and upcoming Panamera sedan, said it increased its stake in VW to nearly 43 percent plus options, with an eye toward 50 percent by the end of 2008.

That started pushing VW shares into the stratosphere. On Monday, they were up nearly 147 percent to close at 520 euros ($651.35) compared with Friday’s closing price of 210.85 euros ($264.41).

On Tuesday, Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen’s shares spiked as high as 1,005 euros ($1,256) in Frankfurt trading Tuesday, nearly doubling Monday’s close. At that level, Volkswagen was worth some 296 billion euros ($370.8 billion), greater than Exxon’s market cap of $343 billion.

They later settled back to close at 945 euros ($1,183.70) — a gain of 81.7 percent. Some 12.3 million shares traded hands Tuesday.

Read moreVolkswagen shares soar again, up 93 percent

Dow’s 2nd best day ever

Dow rises 11% on big rally, but October is still shaping up to be one of the worst months in Wall Street history.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The Dow rallied as much as 906 points during Tuesday’s session, as investors dove back into stocks near the end of one of the worst months in Wall Street history.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 889 points after having risen as much as 906 points earlier in the session. It was the Dow’s second-biggest one-day point gain ever, following a 936-point rally two weeks ago. The advance of 10.9% was the sixth-biggest ever.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) index gained 91.6 points or 10.8%, its second-biggest one-day point gain ever and its fifth-best one-day percentage gain.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) rose 143.6 points or 9.5%. On a percentage basis, it was the fourth-best one-day gain ever for the tech-fueled Nasdaq. But on a point basis, it didn’t crack the top 10.

The broad advance occurred as the two-day Federal Reserve meeting got underway, with a decision on interest rates expected Wednesday afternoon. Policymakers are widely expected to cut a key short-term interest rate.

Stocks ended Monday’s session at the worst levels in more than five years, with the major gauges down more than 25% for October. Global markets had fallen too, as investors worldwide bailed out of stocks amid the credit crisis and weak economy.

Read moreDow’s 2nd best day ever

IMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads

The International Monetary Fund may soon lack the money to bail out an ever growing list of countries crumbling across Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, raising concerns that it will have to tap taxpayers in Western countries for a capital infusion or resort to the nuclear option of printing its own money.

IMF's work in countries such as Turkey is only just beginning
IMF’s work in countries such as Turkey is only just beginning

The Fund is already close to committing a quarter of its $200bn (£130bn) reserve chest, with a loans to Iceland ($2bn), Ukraine ($16.5bn), and talks underway with Pakistan ($14.5bn), Hungary ($10bn), as well as Belarus and Serbia.

Neil Schering, emerging market strategist at Capital Economics, said the IMF’s work in the great arc of countries from the Baltic states to Turkey is only just beginning.

“When you tot up the countries across the region with external funding needs, you get to $500bn or $600bn very quickly, and that blows the IMF out of the water. The Fund may soon have to start calling on the West for additional funds,” he said.

Brad Setser, an expert on capital flows at the Council for Foreign Relations, said Russia, Mexico, Brazil and India have together spent $75bn of their reserves defending their currencies this month, and South Korea is grappling with a serious banking crisis.

“Right now the IMF is too small to meet the foreign currency liquidity needs of the larger emerging economies. We’re in a dangerous situation and there is the risk of extreme moves in the markets, as we have seen with the Brazilian real. I hope policy-makers understand how serious this is,” he said.

The IMF, led by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has the power to raise money on the capital markets by issuing `AAA’ bonds under its own name. It has never resorted to this option, preferring to tap members states for deposits.

The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in effect acting as if it were the world’s central bank. This was done briefly after the fall of the Soviet Union but has never been used as systematic tool of policy to head off a global financial crisis.

“The IMF can in theory create liquidity like a central bank,” said an informed source. “There are a lot of ideas kicking around.”

Read moreIMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads