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Archive for the ‘Federal Reserve’ Category
The Federal Reserve says that everything is going to be okay. The Fed says that unemployment is going to go down, inflation is going to remain low and economic growth is going to steadily increase. Do you believe them this time? As you will see later in this article, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been dead wrong about the economy over and over again. But the mainstream media and many Americans still seem to have a lot of faith in the Federal Reserve. It doesn’t seem to matter that Bernanke and other Fed officials have been telling the American people lies for years. As I always say, most people believe what they want to believe, and many people seem to want to have blind faith in the Federal Reserve even when logic and reason would dictate otherwise. The truth is that things are not going to be getting much better than they are right now. When the next wave of the financial crisis hits, the U.S. economy is going to fall back into recession, financial markets are going to crash and unemployment is going to absolutely skyrocket. But you will never hear any of that from the Federal Reserve.
The following are 5 new lies that the Federal Reserve is telling the American people. After each lie I have posted what The Economic Collapse Blog thinks is actually going to happen….
read more at: http://www.blacklistednews.com
Eighty percent (80%) of Americans now agree with Congress that auditing the Federal Reserve Board is a good idea, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Just nine percent (9%) oppose an audit of the Fed, and 12% more are not sure.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has consistently opposed such an audit of the Fed’s monetary policies, but it’s included in the major financial regulatory legislation now being pushed through Congress. Forty-six percent (46%) of Americans oppose more government regulation of the U.S. financial system, but 37% are in favor of it. Just 27% favor giving the Fed more regulatory control over the financial system.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. Adults was conducted on May 21-22, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Investors support an audit of the Fed even more strongly than non-investors.
Republicans and adults not affiliated with either major party also favor an audit more than Democrats do, but support for auditing the Fed is high across all demographic groups.
Congressional supporters of the audit see it in part as a way to check how much the Fed’s actions are influenced by political pressure. Sixty percent (60%) of Americans believe the Fed chairman is influenced by the president in his decision-marking. Just 20% say the chairman acts independently.
Americans were evenly divided over whether Bernanke should stay or go just before the Senate confirmed the president’s nomination of him to a second term as Fed chairman.
Source: Rasmussen Reports
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I finally watched From Freedom to Fascism, made by the producer of movies such as Trading Places, Wise Guys, and The Rose.
The film includes interesting interviews with the former IRS Commissioner and chief IRS counsel, former IRS agents, and a juror on a tax evasion case.
I am interested in whether or not the claims made in the film regarding income tax are true. If you have expertise in income tax issues, please comment below.
I am also interested in whether Ron Paul’s view on income tax is right. Paul says that there not be a legal duty for salaried employees to pay income tax, but since the government has force on its side, so we will probably still get in trouble if we don’t pay.
What do you think?
Source: Washington’s Blog
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Greenspan just said that the current credit crunch is “by far the greatest financial crisis, globally, ever” – including the 1930s Great Depression.
Greenspan said that while the economy was in worse shape in the Great Depression, the recent financial crisis was potentially more harmful than that in the 1930s because “never had short-term credit literally withdrawn.”
Greenspan also said “fiscal affairs are threatening this outlook” for recovery.
As I pointed out last May:
The following experts have said that the economic crisis could be worse than the Great Depression:
- Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke
- Investment advisor, risk expert and “Black Swan” author Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker
- Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz
- Economics scholar and former Federal Reserve Governor Frederic Mishkin
- Well-known PhD economist Marc Faber
- Former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead
- Morgan Stanley’s UK equity strategist Graham Secker
- Former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae Edward J. Pinto
- Billionaire investor George Sorors
- Senior British minister Ed Balls
The same is true of most other governments.
In the understatement of the day, Greenspan also called the recovery “extremely unbalanced,” driven largely by high earners benefiting from recovering stock markets and large corporations.
Source: Washington’s Blog
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The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, during its $180 billion bailout of American International Group, Inc., instructed AIG to omit details of its purchase of certain toxic assets from a December 24, 2008, Securities and Exchange Commission filing, according to e-mails between the company and the Fed released Thursday.
Using bailout money provided by the Fed, AIG paid a number of banks 100 percent of the face value of credit-default swaps, contracts tied to subprime home loans, at a time when other institutions were negotiating deep discounts for the paper. The names of the banks were also omitted from the SEC filing.
The information was finally disclosed in March 2009 after the SEC challenged AIG’s filing, prompting lawmakers and analysts to call the transactions a “backdoor bailout” of the banks. Topping the list of banks which benefited from the backdoor bailout of their toxic paper were Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale SA.
The e-mails, released Thursday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, show the Fed wanted a number of other details about the AIG bailout withheld or their disclosures delayed.
The coverage from Bloomberg News has all the gory details, including a non-denial denial that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was then chairman of the New York Fed, had anything to do with the cover-up.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has called the disclosure “troubling” and plans to hold hearingson the issue, though he publicly maintains full confidence in Geithner.
“The new details revealed today regarding AIG’s bailout in 2008 come as no surprise to those of us who believe that the American people deserve full transparency from the Federal Reserve,” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said in a statement. “My strong suspicion is that secret arrangements between cronies like this are not an anomaly, but the norm.”
The Fed, as you’ll recall, fought disclosure of the information, claiming that it would erode market confidence. No such thing happened, of course.
If dollar investors aren’t already spooked enough to run like hell, it’s hard to see what would convince them that the dollar isn’t nearly as safe as they seem to think.
“The status quo has made it entirely too easy and too tempting to behave recklessly with public funds in total secrecy,” Paul said. “The system needs radical change, but we should start with honesty, transparency and accountability to the American people about how their money is being handled.”
Update: TheNew York Times reported Friday that the Treasury department explicitly denied Geithner had anything to do with it. TheTimes quoted Treasury spokeswoman Meg Reilly as saying Geithner “played no role in these decisions and indeed, by Nov. 24, he was recused from working on issues involving specific companies, including A.I.G.”
Source: Homeland Stupidity
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Is the Fed manipulating the stock market? TrimTabs CEO Charles Biderman seems to think so, and he makes a strong case for his theory in an article atzerohedge.com.
Biderman focuses his attention on the mystery surrounding the stock market’s 9-month rally and asks, “Where is the money coming from?” After all, the market cap has increased by more than $6 trillion since March 9. That amount of money should be fairly easy to trace; right?
Biderman: “The most positive economic development in 2009 was the stock market rally. (But) We cannot identify the source of the new money that pushed stock prices up so far so fast. For the most part, the money did not from the traditional players that provided money in the past.”
Huh? So, this vast infusion of liquidity–which helped the banks to avoid painful deleveraging–did not come from the usual suspects?
That’s right. According to Biderman, the money did not come from (a) companies (”which were a huge net seller”) (b) retail investor funds, (c) retail investors, (d) foreign investors, or (e) pension funds.
What about the hedge funds?
Biderman: “We have no way to track in real time what hedge funds do, and they may well have shifted some assets into U.S. equities. But we doubt their buying power was enormous because they posted an outflow of $12 billion from April through November.”
Okay; so we’re back to Square One. Where did the money come from?
Biderman again: “As far as we know, it is not illegal for the Federal Reserve or the U.S. Treasury to buy S&P 500 futures. Moreover, several officials have suggested the government should support stock prices. For example, former Fed board member Robert Heller opined in the Wall Street Journal in 1989, “Instead of flooding the entire economy with liquidity, and thereby increasing the danger of inflation, the Fed could support the stock market directly by buying market averages in the futures market, thereby stabilizing the market as a whole.” In a Financial Times article in 2002, an unidentified Fed official was quoted as acknowledging that policymakers had considered buying U.S. equities directly, not just futures. The official mentioned that the Fed could “theoretically buy anything to pump money into the system.”
Biderman is referring to the Plunge Protection Team. Here’s a clip from an article I wrote in 2007 which helps to clarify the PPT’s origins:
“The Working Group on Financial Markets, also know as the Plunge Protection Team, was created by Ronald Reagan to prevent a repeat of the Wall Street meltdown of October 1987. Its members include the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Chairman of the SEC and the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Recently, (2007) the team has been put on high alert because of increased market volatility and, what Hank Paulson calls, the systemic risk posed by hedge funds and derivatives….
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the UK Telegraph notes, “Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson has called for the PPT to meet with greater frequency and set up a command centre at the US Treasury that will track global markets and serve as an operations base in the next crisis. The top brass will meet every six weeks, combining the heads of Treasury, Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and key exchanges.”
This suggests that the PPT could, in fact, be the driving-force behind the ongoing stock market rally.
Biderman: “This type of intervention could explain some of the unusual market action in recent months, with stock prices grinding higher on low volume even as companies sold huge amounts of new shares and retail investors stayed on the sidelines. For example, Tyler Durden of ZeroHedge has pointed out that virtually all of the market’s upside since mid-September has come from after-hours S&P 500 futures activity.”
True. The market has been behaving erratically for some time now. Could it be the “invisible hand” of Fed chair Ben Bernanke nudging equities ever-higher?
Consider the comments of former Clinton advisor George Stephanopoulos who verified the existence of the PPT in an appearance on Good Morning America onSept 17, 2000. He said:
“What I wanted to talk about for a few minutes is the various efforts that are going on in public and behind the scenes by the Fed and other government officials to guard against a free-fall in the markets . . . perhaps the most important the Fed in 1989 created what is called the Plunge Protection Team, which is the Federal Reserve, big major banks, representatives of the New York Stock Exchange and the other exchanges and they have been meeting informally so far, and they have a kind of an informal agreement among major banks to come in and start to buy stock if there appears to be a problem. They have in the past acted more formally . . . I don’t know if you remember but in 1998, there was a crisis called the Long term Capital Crisis. It was a major currency trader and there was a global currency crisis. And they, with the guidance of the Fed, all of the banks got together when it started to collapse and propped up the currency markets. And, they have plans in place to consider that if the markets start to fall.”
If there was ever a time that warranted government intervention, it was right after Lehman Bros blew up and global markets went into freefall. The whole system was teetering and about to collapse. It’s likely that the Fed recognized the danger and made a last-ditch effort to avoid another Great Depression. That means that Bernanke probably used his surrogates at the banks and brokerages to strategically purchase futures and equities that had the best chance of reversing the downward trend. What else could he do—sit on his hands and wait for Armageddon?
The problem is, no steps have been taken to prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring in the future. The same lethal debt-instruments that triggered the crisis are in play today; over $1 trillion in toxic assets still remain on the banks balance sheets, and nothing has been done to reduce financial sector debt. In fact, according to the Fed, total debt for the financial sector was $16.5 trillion in the second quarter 2009, the same as it was a year earlier. Nothing has changed.
Financial institutions are re-levering and taking on greater risks knowing that the government will bail them out if they get into trouble. At the same time, the Fed’s lending programs have kept markets from fully-correcting by keeping asset prices artificially high. This has helped the banks to conceal their losses and appear healthier than they really are. The question is; how long can the charade go on before something gives?
Policymakers seem to believe that blanket government guarantees and stock market manipulation are enough to forestall another disaster. But critics think that a day of reckoning is fast approaching.
Source: Global Research
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Legislation intended to reform Wall Street and protect consumers is currently waddling along in the House of Representatives, moving as best a 1,200-page document can. Bloomberg columnist David Reilly decided to read all of HR 4173 (the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act”) and found plenty of “gristle” among its provisions that could make any taxpayer ill.
For instance, the bill authorizes the Federal Reserve to provide up to $4 trillion in emergency funding if the financial sector collapses again. Representing more than twice as much that the federal government spent on the current crisis, the money would not be released unless “there is at least a 99% likelihood that all funds and interest will be paid back.”
Also, the legislation does not address the issue of institutions that have become “too big to fail,” although it does reference the issue of forbidding bonuses for Wall Street leaders.
“Best of all,” writes Reilly, “the bill contains a provision that, in the event of another government request for emergency aid to prop up the financial system, debate in Congress be limited to just 10 hours. Anything that can get Congress to shut up can’t be all bad.”
Bankers Get $4 Trillion Gift From Barney Frank (by David Reilly, Bloomberg)
Source: Blacklisted News
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Did America slip into a semiliterate, polarized, pre-fascist state over the past decade or so, allowing greedy oligarchs and corporate elites to run the government? Two books I recently read offer reasonably persuasive evidence and arguments that the country did, and a third suggests that dictatorial mindsets could besiege Americans, with an assist from the Internet, if they don’t come to their more deliberative senses. Each of the books offers an informed diagnosis of the dangers that widespread ignorance and ideological polarization pose for American democracy, though none offers a comprehensive treatment for the malaise.
I read the three books in less than two weeks; friends ask how that was possible. The trick is to avoid not only Facebook and Twitter but also: celebrity news, cable news, Oprah, Jerry Springer, American Idol, The Swan, other reality-TV shows, professional wrestling, violent pornography, positive psychology and right-wing Christian fundamentalism.
The latter list includes some of the spectacularly mind-numbing American pursuits that Chris Hedges examines in Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. Hedges submits that while they mesmerized large portions of the American citizenry, CEOs being paid millions of dollars a year to run companies that feed on taxpayer money usurped our government — with the help of elected officials bought by campaign contributions and tens of thousands of corporate lobbyists who now write many of the nation’s laws.
“Those captivated by the cult of celebrity do not examine voting records or compare verbal claims with written and published facts and reports,” Hedges writes. “The reality of their world is whatever the latest cable news show, political leader, advertiser, or loan officer says is reality. The illiterate, semiliterate, and those who live as though they are illiterate are effectively cut off from the past. They live in an eternal present. They do not understand the predatory loan deals that drive them into foreclosure and bankruptcy. They cannot decipher the fine print on credit card agreements that plunge them into unmanageable debt. They repeat thought-terminating clichés and slogans. They seek refuge in familiar brands and labels. … Life is a state of permanent amnesia, a world in search of new forms of escapism and quick, sensual gratification.”
Of course, they did not get into this clueless state by themselves. They were manipulated by “agents, publicists, marketing departments, promoters, script writers, television and movie producers, advertisers, video technicians, photographers, bodyguards, wardrobe consultants, fitness trainers, pollsters, public announcers, and television news personalities who create the vast stage for illusion,” Hedges continues. “They are the puppet masters. … The techniques of theater have leeched into politics, religion, education, literature, news, commerce, warfare, and crime.”
I know those fools are out there — many millions of them. I might even be one. But what is absolutely maddening about this book is Hedges’ penchant for stating sweeping, generalized claims as absolutes. And yet this master of divinity turned New York Times war correspondent become sociological scholar often bolsters his summations with just enough research, statistical data and anecdotal evidence to make them plausible. The book takes readers to Madison Square Garden for an exegesis of professional wrestling; to the Adult Video News Expo in Las Vegas for lengthy interviews with porn actors and producers and an inflatable doll vendor; and to Claremont Graduate University in California for a seminar on positive psychology, which Hedges terms a “quack science” that “is to the corporate state what eugenics was for the Nazis.”
As a resident of Miami Beach, where the pornographic sensibility is a way of life, I wasn’t shocked to read that annual porn sales in the United States “are estimated at $10 billion or higher” or that DIRECTV distributes “more than 40 million streams of porn into American homes every month.” But I shuddered when Hedges documented not just a growing appetite for violent forms of porn in America but their remarkable visual similarity to photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. “Porn reflects the endemic cruelty of our society,” he writes. “The violence, cruelty, and degradation of porn are expressions of a society that has lost the capacity for empathy. … The Abu Ghraib images that were released, and the hundreds more disturbing images that remain classified, could be stills from porn films.”
Unfortunately, Empire of Illusion won’t enlighten or offend the large swaths of functionally illiterate Americans transfixed by smut, pro wrestling, reality TV or celebrity gossip, because those people won’t read the book. But this scholarly 193-page diatribe, which draws from a 100-author bibliography ranging from the late neo-Marxist Frankfurt School icon Theodor Adorno(The Culture Industry) to Princeton professor emeritus Sheldon Wolin (Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism), would surely madden many proud affiliates and alumni of America’s elite university system.
Hedges, who attended New England prep schools, Colgate and Harvard as a young man, and later taught at Princeton, Columbia and New York University, asserts in Chapter 3, “The Illusion of Wisdom,” that Harvard, Yale, Princeton and most elite schools “do only a mediocre job of teaching students to question and think.” Elite universities are in the business of producing “hordes of competent systems managers” not critical thinkers. Those statements strike me as generally accurate. But I’d expect some fierce academic blowback from this notion: “The elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent, and often subversive.” And Hedges suggests that these high-end schools “refuse to question a self-justifying system” in which “organization, technology, self-advancement, and information systems are the only things that matter.”
Hedges not only blames the elite universities for our mortgage-fueled financial crisis but is sure their alumni on Wall Street and in Washington have no capacity to really fix the economic system. “Indeed, they’ll make it worse,” he predicts, exchanging his reportorial register for the absolutist. “They have no concept, thanks to the educations they have received, of how to replace a failed system with a new one.” (He includes George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Obama’s “degree-laden” cabinet members in this group.)
If Hedges knows how to fix the system, he doesn’t tell us inEmpire of Illusion. I hope that’ll be the subject of his next book, because in the meantime, “powerful corporate entities, fearful of losing their influence and wealth” are waiting for “a national crisis that will allow them, in the name of national security and moral renewal, to take complete control,” he warns, without citing verifiable evidence for his dire prediction.
What if PBS, Fox and YouTube organized a national debate featuring Chris Hedges, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, his predecessor Hank Paulson, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Christian Coalition president Roberta Combs and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? That panel is a little far-fetched, but it’s the sort of cross-ideological forum that Cass Sunsteinprescribes in Republic.com 2.0 as a way of preventing the nation from sliding into factional, perhaps even violent strife.
Sunstein is a law professor, author and perennial all-star in the world of public intellectuals; he took leave from Harvard Law School to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget. “The American constitutional order was designed to create a republic, as opposed to a monarch or direct democracy,” he writes. “Representatives would be accountable to the public at large. But there was also supposed to be a large degree of reflection and debate, both within the citizenry and within government itself.”
Of course, the Founding Fathers knew public debate could get ugly. Sunstein notes Alexander Hamilton’s belief that the “jarring of parties” was a good thing because it would engender deliberation and, over time, a “republic of reasons.”
Are we one today? Not as much as we could be, Sunstein thinks. His fundamental concern in Republic.com 2.0 is the Internet’s potential for impeding deliberation between groups with opposing viewpoints, eventually increasing ideological rigidity and polarization to a point of no return. It’s vastly easier to join like-minded Internet “enclaves” across the world than to drive across town for a meeting in which someone might challenge one’s pre-established beliefs and positions. Sunstein walks readers through behavioral studies finding that when groups of like-minded individuals are isolated from different viewpoints, they tend toward consensus on the most extreme position held within the group.
At worst, Sunstein says, Internet-induced polarization could lead to social instability. “The danger is that through the mechanisms of persuasive arguments, social comparisons, and corroboration, members will move to positions that lack merit,” he writes. “It is impossible to say, in the abstract, that those who sort themselves into enclaves will generally move in a direction that is desirable for society at large or even for its own members. It is easy to think of examples to the contrary, as, for example, Nazism, hate groups, terrorists, and cults of various sorts.”
Clearly, the Internet has potential to create political good. Citizens have access to vast amounts of information and commentary. Even like-minded enclave proliferation can be good: The more there are, the greater the potential for inter-enclave discussion.
But a study of 1,400 liberal and conservative blogs found the vast majority of bloggers link only to like-minded blogs. Worse, another study showed that when “liberal” bloggers comment on “conservative” blog posts, and vice-versa, a plurality of comments simply cast contempt on opposing views. “Only a quarter of cross-ideological posts involve genuine substantive discussion. In this way, real deliberation is often occurring within established points of view, but only infrequently across them,” Sunstein reports.
One cure for Internet-driven polarization lies with “general interest intermediaries.” By that terminology, Sunstein means media outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, current affairs magazines, PBS, NPR and old-fashioned network news broadcasts: “People who rely on such intermediaries have a range of chance encounters, involving shared experiences with diverse others, and also exposure to materials and topics that they did not seek out in advance.”
Of course, these are the media that are in decline because of the Internet. Sunstein imagines a greater role for private and public institutions, including the federal government, in ensuring enough general-interest intermediaries exist to make the republic’s communications system “a help rather than a hindrance to democratic self-government” and a counterbalance to the echo chambers of the Web.
For the most part, Thom Hartmann’s Threshold: Crisis of Western Civilization functions as a general-interest intermediary in book form. Still, readers can be forgiven for wondering, at times, whether they are in a no-conservatives zone. Hartmann is host of the Thom Hartmann Show, a nationally syndicated “progressive” radio talk show.
Just the same, Threshold is so geographically and temporally sprawling that it offers material even progressive readers might not have chosen in advance: a refugee camp in contemporary Darfur in southern Sudan (Lesson: Famine leads to war and more suffering.); ancient New Zealand, where the Maoris exterminated the moa birds, forcing them to become cannibals (Don’t repeat this mistake.); contemporary Denmark, where people happily send 30 to 60 percent of their income to the government in exchange for free health care, free university tuition, yearlong maternity leave, ample unemployment coverage and more (Americans should consider this.); Caral in ancient Peru, where anthropologists have found no evidence of weaponry (”Maybe peace is the natural state of things.”); the Iroquois people, who made certain decisions based on how they would affect tribe members seven generations hence. (If only the rest of us Americans would do that.)
In sum, Threshold is 262 pages of scientific and historical anecdote suggesting that unregulated markets, undemocratic behavior and unecological practices lead to catastrophe. If you haven’t already read a good overview of topsoil depletion, the marine fisheries crisis, rain forest destruction, the democratic behavior of red deer, the 1888 Supreme Court decision that defined corporations as “persons,” the $15 million that 30,000 corporate lobbyists spend weekly when Congress is in session, President Eisenhower’s premonition of a military-industrial complex with “unwarranted influence,” the 2004 computerized voting machines controversy, the $1 trillion in tax dollars the U.S. government spent on war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not on infrastructure and schools, and the subprime loan/toxic securities debacle — you can find one in Threshold. Hartmann’s common-sense remedies include “recovering a culture of democracy,” “balancing the power of men and women,” “reuniting with nature,” “creating an economy modeled on biology” and “influencing people by helping them rather than bombing them.” His book offers few specifics on how these ends might be accomplished in the real world.
So are we drifting along in a pre-fascist state? Has our democratic system really fallen under the control of corporate America? Hartmann’s take obviously starts and stays (far) to the left of center, and we’ll just have to stay tuned and see whether future events support the dire view he and Hedges have of America’s political direction. Meanwhile, I’ll be on the lookout for a persuasive book telling me how it isn’t exactly so, and why America can escape from the economic and ecological spectacle it has made itself.
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