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I’m printing this article in full: tell me, where in America can you find journalism this “fair and balanced”?

Another crisis in the horizon?

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Winarno Zain, Jakarta | Tue, 07/19/2011 7:00 AM A | A | A |

It seems the world economy has faced endless threats preventing it from sailing smoothly into a strong recovery this year.

First there was the Greek debt crisis that jolted several major banks, and then a political uprising in the Middle East that pushed up oil prices, and then a tsunami in Japan that disrupted manufacturing activities in many countries.

The world economy has not fully dusted off the adverse impacts of these three events. Yet another headwind is looming large on the horizon. This time it is the possible default of the US government of its debt on Aug. 2, if the US Congress fails to approve an increase to its debt ceiling as requested by President Barack Obama. By that date, the US government debt would have reached its maximum allocated limit of US$14.3 trillion.

The current negotiation between representatives of Democratic and Republican parties on the US budget deficit has run into a deadlock, and so the possibility is real that there won’t be any substantial agreements reached, since the dateline is nearing. Major rating agencies such as Standard and Poor, and Moody’s have warned they are ready to downgrade the US government debt rating from top grade AAA.

This would be the first time in 90 years that the US government debt has been downgraded.

It is not hard to imagine what will happen if by Aug. 2 the US government has exhausted its credit ceiling and can not get additional debt to pay for its spending needs.

The US government would have to curb its spending, and because some of these relate to payments to government employees, pensioners and other social benefits, this would strike a severe blow to the consumer spending that is so essential to the US economic recovery.

With debt default and credit rating downgrades, it would be difficult for the US government to get loans. Faced with increasing risk, investors would ask for higher returns for US government bonds. This would push interest rate higher, further depressing the economic recovery.

The US dollar would plunge, triggering a surge in commodity prices and another round of inflation around the world. A deadly combination of inflation and economic stagnation could spin the world economy into a tailspin as happened in the early 1970’s.

How would this worst case scenario affect the Indonesian economy? As capital flows out of the US, investors have tended to seek safe havens elsewhere. Commodities, especially gold and oil, would be their first targets. Emerging markets could be the next destination of this capital flight, depending on the assessment of investors on the strength of its economy and their vulnerability and exposure to the US economic fallout.

But financial crises always result in a loss of confidence and produce negative sentiments in the financial markets. They put financial markets into disarray, and as investors panic, capital starts flowing out of emerging economies.

During the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, capital moved out from emerging economies back to the advanced economies. At that time, the US government bonds and commodities like gold were considered safe havens.

If the US government defaults on its debt payment this time, the question is will the situation change? Will the US government bonds still be considered a safe haven for investors? If not, then where else will they put their money? Or maybe they would prefer to keep their money in the same place and not move it anywhere. If so, the Indonesian economy could get some benefit and may not have to face another shock.

In the longer term, however, the situation may change. No country is immune to the negative ripples of a US economic crisis. As US imports plunge from weakening domestic demand, exports from emerging countries will also suffer. The extent to which these negative impacts affect each country will depend on their trading and banking exposure to the US economy.

What is disturbing about this debt talk is the use of this debate as a political game. This is especially apparent in the Republican stance.

Economist, market analyst and CEOs of financial institutions and even the IMF itself have warned that if Congress fails to raise the ceiling of the US government debt, the world economy would slip into deep recession.

The Republicans did not fully accept Obama’s proposal to raise the debt ceiling. They only agree on a smaller number, but even it was given with some conditions. The Republicans asked Obama not to raise taxes, especially for the wealthy, and Obama should cut social spending, a sacred cow for the Democrats.

By using tit for tat tactics in the negotiation and by seemingly ignoring the impending consequences and dangers, the Republicans were trying to push Obama into an intricate political dilemma.

If the US economy slip into another crisis, economic contraction would be inevitable. Corporate bankruptcies would spread, and jobless rate would surge.

A presidential election is still slightly more than one year away, and Obama’s reelection prospects are solid. But his popularity rating is highly dependent on the unemployment rate. That is why the Republicans think the only way for them to erode Obama’s popularity now is by pushing the US economy into crisis.

As the stakes are high, the two political parties should temporarily set aside their ideologies and adopt a pragmatic stance for the interests of saving the world economy from another catastrophe.

President Obama demonstrated his willingness to compromise his political ideology during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. Being a Democrat, Obama’s political inclination is generally anti-big business.

Obama realized that it was reckless lending by some big banks on Wall Street that triggered the financial crisis. But he also realized that saving these banks from bankruptcy was key to saving the world economy from further disaster.

His decision to pour $800 billion of taxpayer’s money to bail out these banks was hard to swallow by his fellow party members, but it worked. Now it is expected that the Republicans will be willing to do likewise.

The writer is an economist.

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On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the continuous guns fell silent…… After years of incoming artillery’s deep, resonant pounding,…..the quiet began. The rare pop of small arms fire,….. faded away. Cautiously a brave soul or two crawled out and stood on top of the trenches. Turning to the other side, they saw the enemy of just a few minutes before, mirroring their own actions…..It was truly over.

Compared to the rest of Europe, the US fared well. Germany, France, Great Britain lost an entire generation of their young men…..

Some dreamed that surely, after such a waste, there never could, or would be such a war again……

It was only a dream…..as history would soon prove……

On this day, there are 22 verified veterans left….worldwide. Four of these are Americans. Soon the last living memories of this war….. will fade away……….

My brush with living memories happened when I was in High School. What the German war machine failed to do………an insignificant clot accomplished. Those who visited, told stories of the dark, turbulent wrestling within the soul……They whispered of an alert mind, albeit one locked in the year 1917 from which it would ultimately and peacefully escape…. They spoke in hushed tones of an old man, possessing enormous strength, incapable of being subdued by even the hospital’s largest orderlies……They told of the soldier’s enterprising son, who climbing back into those years to be with him, and navigating the treacherous barbed wire memories, peacefully calmed him down, until the old soldier finally accepted that his war was over, and quietly signed his own armistice with God………..

We learned he had suffered from shell shock as they called it then, spending the post-war years in a sanitarium somewhere in occupied Germany, of the bland letters to his wife and unseen child back home, letters whose lack of substance during this vapid time, played rabidly on her fears of another women…..

We heard stories of involuntary reactions, occurring some twenty years later…of a face, framed by white hair, turned scarlet in the middle of a social gathering, when someone absently said, “Oh that was during the war.”

And then there were the personal effects, a letter rapidly written in German by a dying officer, with our hero’s first name mentioned as being the one entrusted to make sure the letter got back to his wife, a letter that said the war would soon be over for him, that the only important thing he hung onto as he crossed over to the the other side, were the times he and she had shared together……..As kids we used to march around in a dough boy’s hat, and a genuine spiked Prussian helmet. (the originals were all black, by the way, no silver.)

And then the youngest son, who came along after our soldier had mellowed somewhat, told of stumbling with his dad, across a model of one battlefield, I think it was Belleau Wood, and how that opened up the memories which, pent up for years, calmly flowed out unrepressed, with no emotional consequences.

Through this, we heard the story of a young officer defying a direct order to attack, solely because the objective was unattainable and trying to attempt it, would wipe out every one of his men….Who opting, instead of facing a firing squad, to have himself crawl into no mans land……accompanied only by his sergeant who had stood steadfast with him during this ordeal only to get ripped apart minutes later, had to lie there for two days protected under the warm, safe body which occasionally absorbed a well placed bullet, kept safe by only the tiniest rise of land preventing a direct shot…..

The story of showing up in France, and leading the AEF’s first attack, upon a fortified hill surrounded by the Meuse, and succeeding…..

Those memories didn’t die….they passed and took seed in another generation. Today they lie embedded in one more, a generation who once again questions the “why” of war.

Like his grandfather before him, this person too was brought up under a religion that seem to question war and tell us to “turn the other cheek.” Like his grandfather before him, this person too believes that sometimes there is no greater duty, than to give one’s life for one’s country……..How are these two, supposedly opposite points of view, ever to be reconciled?

We know that Jesus allowed his disciples to carry swords. During the final days, when he asks the disciples if they have a sword, and Peter shows two, he says that is enough…..But later that night when Peter uses his sword to protect Jesus and cuts off a servant’s ear, Jesus tells him sternly. “Put that away. We will have no more of that…”

Fascinating. This duality starts from the beginning of the Christian religion itself.

Throughout history, the worst wars fought have been religious ones. The longest animosities, the ones considered too hard to bury, are those originally pricked by religion….

When we are told to turn the other cheek, perhaps we are to do that on a personal level…. By doing so, hoping that we show others, just how deeply we believe these principals . Perhaps this line of thought recognizes that we are each small instruments of change; but a change of heart in multitudes of men, can implement massive changes…..Therefore doing a self deprecating act, such as dying for another, or carrying an enemy soldier’s bag an extra mile, can have a much greater impact overall, than another killing and the loss of one dead soldier…..

But as a nation of free people we have another responsibility. That responsibility is to ensure that justice, (or that which is right),… prevails over evil, (or that which is wrong)…. As some of you may note, there is a wide play of interpretation in just exactly what is right, and what is wrong…..

But for a strong nation to appease a despot like Stalin, Hitler, or those tyrants in Burma, does exactly the opposite of performing justice. Instead it shows others, despite our words, that we implicitly support these evil regimes, and in doing so, we fail to send hope and inspiration to those who fight, to right the wrongs caused by their misguided leaders….

War enacted by a political state is sometimes a necessity, the last remaining line of defense against the selfish designs of a demented few. Less pain and suffering worldwide, can be bandaged by enacting war, than by allowing open wounds to fester, rot, and spread their evil infection elsewhere.

Therefore as a nation, the United States must occasionally gamble all of it’s resources in the ultimate test…. One must on occasion risk all, to determine whether all was worthy to be risked……

Any nation is only as good as its foot soldiers,…. its grunts. Those choice veterans I know, with whom I’ve hugged, laughed, and cried, …… continue to reinforce the notion I once had as a child: that based on the quality of people who put their lives on the line for this nation, we are truly the best nation to have ever lived upon this planet……..

I am somewhat despondent that halfway across the globe, in a backwards nation yanked forward from the forties, greater appreciation for freedom exists, than it does in this twenty-first century bastion of freedom itself.

Probably the most moving piece of video coming out of Myanmar, is the procession of monks marching forward, protected only by their grace, into certain death in order to protest the actions of their captors.

What courage must flow through those veins…… I have often wondered at what thoughts flow through one’s consciousness, as one lies there resigned,  and lets life escape them, blow by blow.   I wonder where such deep rooted courage comes from.  From the point of a casual observer, it seems those Buddhists have far more of it within them then do our chicken-hawked Christian counterparts.

And to think here, in what once was our bastion of freedom, our own timid Congress cannot even say “no” to a president, who on a global scale, (if measured in strict dollars and ‘sense’) has robbed American citizens  of far move than this Myanmar junta has ever hoped to cull from the former Burma republic………..

So on one hand, as I become inspired by the raw courage of those who have collectively decided that their deaths, “right here, right now”, will have more of a positive influence on the scope of things to come, then the continuation of their lives………and on the other hand, I sadly realize how comfortable Americans have become, and perhaps wonder if we have indeed strayed over to apathy, and started down our own nation’s downward spiral.

Granted: they live in poverty. Granted: we are quite wealthy. Understood: they need help to survive. Understood: we can survive without help. But despite such glaring economic differences it is still sad to see that they are willing to do something about it, whereas we sit on our hands.

Todays hot topic, the Iraq war, is a flash button. But in timely terms, it will probably be an asterisk in history, sort of like the Spanish American War is considered today. But the single issue that history is bound to focus on from this era, as it gazes back from the future and with cold glaring eyes reappraises our actions of today, …will be how this generation, this party in power, and this president, when handed the gift that was given to it by those citizens of the last century, a healthy budget surplus, …..either wisely invested, or stupidly squandered it.

With historical clarity, they will focus on the actions of each of those members of the Congressional delegation, and examine those motives behind every vote made to either progress forward into this mad fiscal insolvency, or to step away from the precipice, and walk back to financial stability.

What is sad is that most American people have yet to realize that they are no longer the greatest power in the world. That in an instant, with a call back of our outstanding loans, we become a third rate power, incapable of paying on our obligations. They fail to realized that in 7 short years, this nation went from being the richest, to becoming a heartbeat away from bankruptcy. They fail to realize that those extreme few who benefit from the rape of their assets, are those extreme few who already had all the money to begin with………..

So what happened to those who live in the land of the free? When did we lose our nerve and our ability to protest against the misuse of our resources for the benefit of our wealthy junta? What, if any difference lies between the Myanmar junta’s misplacement of public resources and our neocon junta, which orchestrated an 11 trillion misplacement of our resources from out of the public trust into the pockets of the wealthy?

Why are our Evangelists not leading mobs through the streets protesting this outrageous theft of our future resources?

Because they are chicken? Have they no guts? Have they all become “wussified”? They answer lies in you my friend. If you once decided, “well, its not my fight today” then you have your answer. You have been compromised……….You have sold out…………you have denounced you birthright as an American citizen.

I am slowly realizing that I am as guilty as anyone. I’ll write in these forums among friends, and argue lines back and forth, but within a boardroom, I will keep my political views silent. Why do I DO such? I guess it is what decorum taught me. Ever since the seventies: “Don’t rock the boat, baby.”

I remember with admiration looking over some old photographs of Hyde Park, in downtown London, where citizens would walk down Sunday afternoon, and listen to the “speakers.” These speakers were just other citizens, like them, who came with a wood box, stood on it and started speaking. Those with topics of interest garnered more support than those who were boring. To the British this was accepted behavior.

As an American, if I were to see someone on a box speaking and my path were to cross theirs, my first tendency would be to cross the street and avoid even acknowledging it. (Stupid me. I will however listen to much worse every Sunday morning, and not even blink the third time I see the same commercial for the Archer Daniels Midland Corporation.) There is just something so “un-American” about forcing your views upon other people.” in person. It just lacks class.

Is it because we are chicken? Is it because we have no guts. Have we indeed become “wussified”?

Some of you who hearken back a few years remember the both the artist and tune behind these words………….

“What if you knew her, and saw her dead on the ground…….”

That poor girl just went to protest something she thought was wrong……..In her thoughts, “this is wrong, and now I have an opportunity to do something about it.”

Likewise with those monks marching into lines of security forces. “This is wrong, and now we have an opportunity to do something about it.”

When will it hit you? “This is wrong, and now I have an opportunity to do something about it?”

And when will it hit our Congress? Especially Delaware’s Lone Congressman? “This is wrong, and now I have the responsibility to do something about it?”

Courage…..lacking in me…..lacking in you.

The True Testament of Courage