Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pope's statue at Santiago dawns covered in paint

Once a Nazi Youth member, later Chief Inquisitor and finally Pope, Ratzinger seems unable to charm anyone, not even Christians.

In any case many feel unease living at the shadow of his statue and have decided to strike it:

That's how it dawned the new Papal statue at Santiago de Compostela, the capital of a Galicia and a Christian pilgrimage site.

The sign hanged on the priest's hand reads: "25 of November - Catholic Church - ?? - Patriarchal Violence", followed by the Christian-Imperial symbol of Earth (distinct from the more genuine Celtic Cross one and opposite of the female icon of planet Venus). The purple color surely indicates the Feminist/Antipatriarchal nature of the direct action.

Source: Sare Antifaxista[es]

Germany should begin a deep exercise of humbleness after so much arrogance

I reproduce here an article By Marshall Auerback, a prominent US economist, originally published at New Deal 2.0, and also at Naked Capitalism (I did not correct typos):

Bankers Gone Wild in Ireland AND Germany

Despite a blame-a-thon on Ireleand, Germans banks are really at the core of the eurozone catastrophe.

Much ink has been spilled in the press over the Irish problem and the laxity of the country’s southern Mediterranean counterparts in contrast to the highly “disciplined” Germans. But perhaps we have to revisit that caricature. Not only has the Irish crisis blown apart the myth of the virtues of fiscal austerity during rapidly declining economic activity, but it has also illustrated that Germany’s bankers were every bit as culpable as their Irish counterparts in helping to stoke the credit bubble.

One of the traditional rationales for the creation of the euro was that a single currency and strict Maastricht criteria would keep the profligate Mediterraneans and their Celtic equivalents in line. Instead, critics, particularly in Germany, increasingly see the European Monetary Union as a means for freeloading nations to offload their liabilities onto fitter neighbors.
Not surprisingly, this has engendered much discussion that perhaps it would serve Germany’s interests to leave the euro, rather than booting one of the Mediterranean “scroungers” out. But as Simon Johnson has pointed out, this comforting narrative of German prudence matched up against Irish profligacy doesn’t really stack up:
German banks in particular lost their composure with regard to lending to Ireland — although British, American, French and Belgian banks were not so far behind. Hypo Real Estate — now taken over by the German government — has what is likely to be the highest exposure to Irish debt.

But look at loans outstanding relative to the size of their domestic economies (using the BIS data on what they call an “ultimate risk basis”).

German banks are owed $139 billion, which is 4.2 percent of German G.D.P. [my emphasis]
Where were the German regulators? As my colleague Bill Black has noted:

They seem to have believed that ‘What happens in Vegas (Dublin) stays in Vegas (Dublin).’ Instead, their German banks came back from their riotous holidays in the PIIGS with BTDs (bank transmitted diseases). The German banks’ regulators continue to let them hide the embarrassing losses they picked up on holiday, but that cover up will collapse if any of the PIIGS default. The PIIGS will default if the EU does not bail them out, so there will be a bail out even though the German taxpayers hate to fund bailouts.
German banks’ relatively high exposure to Ireland does pose the question as to whether there is some wild, Weimar-style hyperinflationista lurking deep in the heart of every German, only able to express itself fully when away from the prying eyes of fellow citizens.

All of the rescue plans that have been introduced in Ireland or Greece thus far rest on the assumption that, with more time, the eurozone’s problem children could get their fiscal houses in order — and Europe could somehow grow its way out of trouble. But the fiscal austerity being offered as the “medicine” is turning out to be worse than the disease. It has exacerbated the downturn and unleashed a horrible debt deflation dynamic in all of the areas where it was reluctantly implemented.

But here’s the thing: these fiscal straitjackets obscure the history of how we came to today’s horrible impasse and, more specifically, the German banks’ role in helping to fuel the credit binge. Also lost is the reason why this has metastasized into a far greater crisis: as part of the eurozone, Ireland does not have the fiscal freedom to come up with a sufficiently robust government response. The UK had a comparable real estate bubble in the late 1980s, which culminated with the Soros attack on the pound in 1992 and the ejection of sterling from Exchange Rate Mechanism (the precursor to the EMU). This was a blessing in disguise. Withdrawal from the ERM saved the UK because it allowed the country sufficient latitude to reflate. Yes, the country had a major recession (in many ways a consequence of the surrender of fiscal freedom as a result of joining the ERM in the first place), but there was never a systemic risk that posed a threat to the country’s overall solvency as is the case in Ireland today. And this is exacerbating the problem in Ireland because it persists in chasing its tail repeatedly with futile fiscal austerity measures.

The truth of the matter is this: the eurozone seems rotten to the core, literally. Germany represents that core. The Germans might occupy the penthouse suite, but it is the suite of a roach motel. And we know what happens to those who enter such “establishments.”

Yes, longer term the problems currently afflicting the eurozone could be sorted via the creation of a supranational fiscal authority — a “United States of Europe”. But with each crisis (Ireland today; Portugal and Spain tomorrow; Italy and then France next?), the political forces are coalescing in a radically different direction. The Germans are becoming increasingly resentful as they perceive their country as the bailout mechanism of last resort (even though the Irish experience suggests that their bankers are also guilty of many of the same excesses as the “Celtic Tiger”). The PIIGS themselves are seeing that the benefits of euro membership have been vastly overstated and in fact now act as a cancerous influence through the Germanic embrace of austerity. (Paradoxically, it has been the “profligate” behavior of those so-called lazy Mediterraneans that has enabled Germany to retain its export-driven model, as well as allowing it to run lower budget deficits than most other countries.)

The eurozone could ultimately end up like Yugoslavia writ large. Prior to the break up of that country, the relatively rich republics, Slovenia and Croatia, resented policies that transferred wealth to the poorer republics like Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, or the autonomous region of Kosovo. Once Tito’s organizing genius disappeared, the links stitching the country together became frayed and eventually snapped as old grievances manifested themselves in newer forms. The same could happen to the Europe Union if it underwent a supranational fiscal union — the beginnings of which are already in evidence. I think the Germans are beginning to recognize that, which is why there is discussion about leaving the euro.

But let’s first be clear: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has persistently argued that it is essential that private investors, notably the bond holders, begin to suffer losses so that they will have the proper incentives to provide effective “private market discipline” going forward. She has further argued that it is fair that they suffer losses, given the premium yields they received and their lack of due diligence. That’s an honorable policy. But it’s like the old Irish joke of the driver who gets lost, asks for directions, and is told, “Well, I wouldn’t be starting from here.” By the same token, Ireland clearly illustrates that German banks, as well as their Mediterranean counterparts, would be big losers under the Merkel proposal. Ironically, German financial institutions could find themselves subject to the same kinds of bailouts that Chancellor Merkel and many of her counterparts in Berlin are urging on the Irish and Greeks.

As always, leave it to the Irish to come up with the most poetic response to the crisis. True, W.B. Yeats did not live to see this disaster, but his passionate “September 1913” does evoke the tragedy of today’s Ireland and the futility of the current policy responses for their people (and beyond):
Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.
Graves that might soon include not only the O’Learys, but also the Garcias, Texeiras, Moreaus, and Schmidts if a more rational course of action throughout the euro zone is not adopted soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wikileaks diplomatic cables cause mild rash at best

While I strongly favor the release of secret information, after all it is a matter of transparency, democracy and horizontality in information-sharing and decision-making, these cables are at best entertaining.

Quite frustrating is that the US policy is always depicted in positive light - miraculously so (woot, not even a "let's nuke those..." bravado?!), and Israel is also essentially unscathed, as are European leaders in general.

Instead the Arab panic and deep dislike of Iran and their use of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi conflicts as battleground for such quarrels, always leaning on a USA that seems reluctant to take adventuring steps, is very much highlighted, as is the drift of Turkey towards Iran and Russia.

I was a good deal of yesterday and tonight reading through some of the many thousands cables and here follow my first picks. But do not expect anything too revealing, except maybe the weakness of Egyptian and Arab governments in general and their reliance on the USA-Israel tandem for everything.

France about Russia - Sep 16 2009

Medvedev is mentioned often
Loras predicted that substantial Russian under-investment in energy extraction infrastructure was such that Russia would not be able to meet European demand in four or five years. He observed this created an opportunity for Russia to have even more leverage over a Europe that has not prepared to diversify its energy supplies.

Paris is closely watching Medvedev, who is more frequently taking public stances in opposition to Putin. Medvedev is more open to the occidental powers and more open to modernization and rule of law issues that Russia must face.

French President Sarkozy was "convinced" that Ukraine would one day be a member of NATO, but that there was no point in rushing the process and antagonizing Russia, particularly if the Ukrainian public was largely against membership.

Azerbaijan on Russia, Iran, Turkey - Feb 25 2010

Aliyev said that he considers Medvedev "a modern, new-generation intellectual," surrounded by people whom he does not control. He said that he has personally witnessed Medvedev taking decisions that then required further approval before they were implemented, referring specifically to a border demarcation agreement that he had agreed with Medvedev only to have it stymied by ""others,"" presumably in the prime ministerial office. He added, "Many high-ranking officials don't recognize (Medvedev) as a leader." He said that there are signs of a strong confrontation between the teams of the two men, although not yet between Putin and Medvedev personally. "We have a saying in Azeri, 'Two heads cannot be boiled in one pot'" (crude street slang suggesting that two leaders are spoiling for a fight).

He [Azeri President Aliyev] said that earlier sanctions [against Iran] observance had been spotty with many European energy companies working in Iran. "Statoil supports Iran more than it supports us!"

Aliyev said that Iranian provocations in Azerbaijan were on the rise.

He also professed to be worried that active Turkish-Russian cooperation could be one of the impediments to progress. He confided that Turkish Energy Minister Yildiz recently told the head the Azerbaijani State Oil Company, "Why do you want to ruin our relations with Russia? Do you really need Nabucco?" [a projected pipeline through Georgia of great interest for Azerbaijan as oil/gas exporter]

Aliyev made clear his distaste for the Erdogan government in Turkey, underscoring the "naivete" of their foreign policy and the failure of their initiatives, including the loss of support for Turkey among traditional international friends because of Ankara,s hostility to Israel.

Iran on Iraq (perceived as natural ally now that Baathism is gone) - Nov 13 2009

Iraq: regional battleground
Iraq, given its proximity to Iran and its shared Shia heritage, represents a vital foreign policy priority for the Iranian government's (IRIG) efforts to project its ideology and influence in the region. An economically dependent and politically subservient Iraq would foster greater strategic depth for Tehran. Iranian president Ahmadinejad has referred to Iraq in recent press statements as "a Shia base" confronting the broader menace perpetrated by those opposed to Iraq's identity and stability (i.e., Sunni states, the West).

it is not uncommon for the IRIG to finance and support competing Shia, Kurdish, and to some extent, Sunni entities, with the aim of developing the Iraqi body politic's dependency on Tehran's largesse. While exact figures are unknown, Tehran's financial assistance to Iraqi surrogates is estimated at USD 100-200 million annually, with USD 70 million going to ISCI/Badr coffers.

Iran's worst-case election scenario (increasingly unrealistic) is a coup d'etat of former regime elements [Baathists] hostile to Tehran.

It is important to note that Iran's power in Iraq, although extensive, is not without limitations. The IRIG's greatest political roadblock remains the domineering authority and religious credibility embodied in Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Despite his Iranian heritage, Sistani is Iraq's most revered Shia religious (and political) authority. A critic of Iran's "Velayet-e-Faqih" (rule of the jurisprudent) system of theocratic governance, Sistani's abstemious (aka Quietest school) approach to Shia politics has kept him well above the political fray while at the same time ensuring him significant impact on those rare occasions when he pronounces on politics.

US officer's (Hill's) comments on this situation (downplaying the importance of Iranian influence):

Iran views Iraq as a natural (and more junior) strategic partner. As a result, Iran will continue to flex its muscles to ensure it's strategic outcomes are met. This should not lead to alarmist tendencies or reactions on our part. The next Iraqi government will continue to cultivate close ties with Iran given long-standing historical realities that precede Iraq's ties with the United States. On the other hand, Iran's influence in Iraq should not be overestimated.

Our objective in Iraq should be less about countering all-things Iranian, and more about developing viable alternatives and approaches that gradually alter the 's political, economic, and social worldview. Development of viable international alternatives in Iraq is one of the most effective measures of countering Iranian ambitions and, ultimately, integrating Iraq as a constructive member of the international community.

Also, many different “grassroots” opinions (anonymized, from Najaf) on the Iraqi situation and the Iranian and Saudi interference in the country can be read at another cable (Dec 17 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/239665

Saudi oligarchs worried about being left defenseless in relation to Iran – Jan 28 2009

Arab leaders look weak, dependent
They suggested they may need to develop their own nuclear arsenal.

They are also concerned about environmental dangers derived from the nuclear reactor at Bushir, not just because it could wreak havoc in Saudi Arabia but also, they said in a warning tone, because it could disrupt global economy (i.e. oil extraction and traffick at the Persian Gulf).

"Please write this down. Whatever is discussed with the Iranians, we must be kept informed! Any negotiations with the Iranians must take into account the interests of Saudi Arabia, otherwise, we will not accept it! We should be told -- in advance! -- of what you plan to say."

Israel and Arabian feudal lords upset by Qatar and Al Jazeera public TV channel, suggested US withdraws from Qatar allowing a coup to proceed - Jul 26 2007

Dagan [Mossad chief Meir Dagan] characterized Qatar as "a real problem," and accused Sheikh Hamid of "annoying everyone." In his view, Qatar is trying to play all sides -- Syria, Iran, Hamas -- in an effort to achieve security and some degree of independence. "I think you should remove your bases from there...seriously," said Dagan. "They have confidence only because of the U.S. presence." Dagan predicted, with some humor, that al-Jazeera would be the next cause of war in the Middle East as some Arab leaders (specifically Saudi Arabia) are willing to take drastic steps to shut down the channel, and hold Sheikh Hamid personally responsible for its provocations.

Morocco's King Mohammed II is uniterested in governing (same cable)

Morocco is coping better with these issues "in spite of the king," said Dagan, who appears to take little interest in governing.

Israel supported more US military aid to Turkey's Military to counter Islamo-Democrats (same cable)

Dagan argued that if the Turkish military received more direct support from the United States, it would be better able to prevent the rise of Islamists.

Israeli fears (so many!) - July 30 2009

A/S Shapiro stressed the importance of the U.S-Israeli political-military relationship, noting the significance of visiting Israel on his first overseas trip in his capacity as Assistant Secretary for the Political-Military Affairs Bureau.

GOI officials reiterated the importance of maintaining Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME). They said that Israel understands U.S. policy intentions to arm moderate Arab states in the region to counter the Iranian threat, and prefers such sales originate from the United States instead of other countries like Russia or China. However, Israel continues to stress the importance of identifying potential risks that may become future threats or adversaries, and for this reason maintains several objections as indicated in the official response to the QME non-paper on potential U.S. arms sales to the region.

(S) GOI interlocutors attempted to make the argument that moderate Arab countries could in the future become adversaries -- and that this should be taken into account in the QME process. During a roundtable discussion led by the MFA's Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Alon Bar, the MFA's Center for Policy Research gave intelligence briefs on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon to further support the argument that these countries could become future foes. Policy Research Center interlocutors reviewed succession concerns in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Bar argued that a perceived closure in the capability gap between Israel and Arab states, coupled with a nuclear-armed Iran, could compel moderate Arab states to reassess the notion that Israel was a fixture in the region.

Egypt looks unstable
(S) Typically frank, MOD Political-Military Chief Amos Gilad was not certain how much longer Egyptian President Mubarak would live, and questioned whether his son Gamal was ready to assume command. Gilad said the Egyptian military led by Defense Minister Tantawi continues to train and exercise as if "Israel was its only enemy." He added that there were disturbing signs on the Egyptian streets, as women are dressed more conservatively, and that peace with Israel "is too thin, too superficial." On Saudi Arabia, Gilad said that King Abdullah does not hate Israel, but his chief priority is the survival of the regime.

(S) The GOI official response to the arms transfer non-paper includes several objections, such as the potential transfer of systems for the F-15SA to Saudi Arabia, including the Enhanced Paveway II, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, and AESA radar. Buchris said the is ready to establish a working group to discuss the F-15SA transfer, and proposed an Israeli technical team accompany "> Heymann to Washington (in town for a missile defense meeting) on August 3 to discuss the issue further. Buchris said the sale of the F-15SA was not the problem, but rather the weapons systems included on the planes and the location of the planes in Saudi Arabia.

(S) The GOI remains concerned about U.S. arms transfers to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and has requested the opportunity to discuss further U.S. intentions regarding the LAF.

(S) Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons remains the GOI's primary focus. Buchris stated bluntly that it was not clear to him where U.S. policy was heading with regard to Iran.

(S) Buchris referenced a press report from Secretary Clinton's trip to Jakarta in which she said the United States would consider providing a defense umbrella for moderate Arab countries in the Middle East should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. Buchris argued that such a statement already conceded the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran.

(S) Buchris acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority was doing a "good job" in the West Bank (…) A/S Shapiro deferred to Special Envoy Sen. George Mitchell's efforts, but noted Secretary Clinton's point that a stronger PA will offer an alternative to Hamas.

Turkey and USA disagree on Iran – Nov 17 2009

Turkey on its own
Gordon pushed back that Ankara should give a stern public message about the consequences if UN resolutions are ignored. Davutoglu countered that Erdogan had given just such a statement in Tehran when he visited. He emphasized that Turkey's foreign policy is giving a "sense of justice" and a "sense of vision" to the region. Turkey has provided a "third option" in addition to Iran and the Saudis (who he contended are viewed as "puppets" of the US). The result, he said, is that we "limit Iranian influence in the region." We need a "pro-Western approach AND a sense of justice."

Italian and US foreign ministers on Iran, Israel - Feb 12 2010
He [Franco Frattini] expressed particular frustration with Ankara's "double game" of outreach to both Europe and Iran.
SecDef pointedly warned that urgent action is required. Without progress in the next few months, we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both. (…) Saudi Arabia is more important to both Beijing and Moscow than Iran.

Saudis ask USA to attack Iran – Apr 20 2008

Al-Jubeir recalled the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. "He told you to cut off the head of the snake," he recalled to the Charge', adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.

Egypt besieges Gaza but does not want to be perceived as doing it – Feb 9 2009 (just after genocidal Cast Lead Zionist attack)
Mubarak besieges Gaza discretely
(S/NF) Egypt will not take any action that could be perceived as collaboration in Israel's siege of Gaza, and they have been hyper-sensitive to any suggestion that foreigners are assisting them or overseeing their efforts to counter smuggling. Aboul Gheit publicly distanced Egypt from our January MOU with Israel to combat arms smuggling into Gaza, although he knew about it in advance and consulted with Secretary Rice and me about its contents. The Egyptians do not want to be stuck holding the Gaza bag, and must be able to point the finger of blame at Israel for the plight of the Palestinians. At the same time, Egypt has withstood scathing and widespread criticism in the Arab world for refusing to open the Rafah border crossing to supply Gaza. Even during the height of the December fighting, the Egyptians only sent medicine and medical supplies through the Rafah border; all other humanitarian goods went through the Israeli crossing at Kerem Shalom. They likewise insist that Rafah will only reopen to handle Gazan travellers when the Gazan side is under PA control with EU observers according to the 2005 AMA.

(S/NF) President Mubarak told Senator Mitchell that he wanted to personally invite you to the March 2 Gaza Donors Conference in Cairo. Aboul Gheit will press hard for you to accept this invitation. He is keen to keep up the momentum on Gaza reconstruction and for Egypt to be seen as taking the lead in helping the Palestinians. It is very important to him that this conference be at the ministerial level, and he will be disappointed if you are unable to accept.
As for Iran, Mubarak has a visceral hatred for the Islamic Republic, referring repeatedly to Iranians as "liars," and denouncing them for seeking to destabilize Egypt and the region. He sees the Syrians and Qataris as sycophants to Tehran and liars themselves.
(S/NF) The greatest Egyptian outrage a year ago -- Congressional conditioning of $100 million of U.S. assistance to Egypt -- may now be moot, according to our latest understanding of the state of play with the FY2009 appropriations language. Beyond the issue of conditioning, the Egyptians resent the U.S. unilateral decision to cut ESF in half, from $415 million in FY-08 to $200 million in FY-09, a level which the Egyptians find embarrassing, not because they need the money (they say), but because it shows our diminished view of the value of our relationship.
(S/NF) Concerning military assistance, the Egyptian political and military leadership feel that they have been "short changed" by our holding to an FMF level of $1.3 billion, (the same level for 30 years despite inflation), and which they contrast with increases to our military assistance to Israel. Finally, Egypt seeks a higher profile in international financial circles (Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali was recently named Chairman of the IMF's policy-setting committee, the IMFC, the first from a developing country), and Aboul Gheit is likely to ask for your support to include Egypt in expanded G8 and G20 fora.

The Amir of Qatar and US Senator Kerry - Feb 23 2010

The Amir of Qatar
The Amir advised the U.S. to continue trying to open a dialogue with the Iranian leadership. He also told Senator Kerry the U.S. needs to tell the Israelis they are causing the U.S. to lose the hearts and minds of Muslims. There was a time, such as during the Suez Canal crisis, when the Arabs loved the Americans and disliked the British and French, he said.

Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about changing its reputation. The Amir said first and foremost the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track.

The Amir encouraged the U.S. to work the Golan Heights issue first. He stressed that Syrians are very different from Iranians in "mentality," and said the Syrians turned to Iran for support only because they had nowhere else to go. Now is the time, the Amir told Senator Kerry, to reach out to Damascus.

The Iranian regime is strong, continued the Amir, because President Ahmadinejad is uncorrupted. "That is the secret to his success." Khatami is also not corrupted, but as a reformer he is in a weak position. Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is corrupt.

Iran wants to be a "big power," agreed the Amir, but what sort? He reminded Senator Kerry the U.S. should not forget that Iranians are Persian and the U.S. needs to approach them in that framework.

The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.

UAE instead is persuaded that war with Iran is unavoidable at some level and that Iraq and Saudi Arabia are at risk (Feb 9 2010). 

I understand that they try to seduce the USA to this position because they want the USA to help finance their army, but there may be more to that.

UAE: a key base for USA
(S/NF) The UAE is one of our closest partners in the Middle East and one of our most useful friends worldwide.
-- Al-Dhafra Air Force Base is the high altitude ISR hub for the AOR, and supports 50 percent of aerial refueling in the AOR.
-- Ports in Dubai and Fujairah are the logistics backbone for the U.S. Fifth. Jebel Ali (Dubai) is the most frequented USN liberty port after Norfolk.
(S) The UAE leadership sees Iran as its primary external threat, and one that is existential in nature. (…) In other words, he sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near obsessive efforts to build up the UAE's armed forces.

(S/NF) MbZ's main message to us during his September visit was that we needed to be better coordinated for Iran contingencies. High level engagement by CENTCOM planners have helped to address this concern, but he believes we have made less progress in addressing what he sees as the slow pace of deliveries of US security assistance and he is still worried that he does not have enough equipment in place to defend his people when war with Iran breaks out. (And for MbZ it is a matter of when, not if.) We have repeatedly presented to his staff the various explanations for what he perceives as delays, but he remains unconvinced that we are addressing his concerns as a matter of priority.
(S) (…) But MbZ runs hot and cold on Iraq. Sometimes he chooses to emphasize his supportive position; at other times he suggests that Iran has been the big winner in Iraq, and that Southern Iraq will be one of the major flashpoints in the upcoming confrontation with Iran. Anything you can say to reassure him about the US commitment to Iraqi stability will be helpful.

Saudis concerned on US credibility, Iran and Iraq - Mar 22 2009 (after the Cast Lead massacres in Gaza)

Abdullah said his one piece of advice was that restoring U.S. credibility in the world was critically important. Brennan responded that this was an important issue for President Obama as well.

(S) IN THE HANDS OF GOD AND IRAN: Brennan expressed the importance the U.S. attaches to achieving peace and stability in Iraq. The King replied that this was "in the hands of God," though he agreed that Iraq was vitally important to both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The King also pointed out that "some say the U.S. invasion handed Iraq to Iran on a silver platter; this after we fought Saddam Hussein."
Maliki is often considered pro-Iranian
(S) NO HOPE FOR MALIKI: The King said he had "no confidence whatsoever in (Iraqi PM) Maliki, and the Ambassador (Fraker) is well aware of my views." The King affirmed that he had refused former President Bush's entreaties that he meet with Maliki. The King said he had met Maliki early in Maliki's term of office, and the Iraqi had given him a written list of commitments for reconciliation in Iraq, but had failed to follow through on any of them. For this reason, the King said, Maliki had no credibility. "I don,t trust this man," the King stated, "He's an Iranian agent." The King said he had told both Bush and former Vice president Cheney "how can I meet with someone I don,t trust?" Maliki has "opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq" since taking power, the King said, and he was "not hopeful at all" for Maliki, "or I would have met with him."

Rigged elections at Haiti and Egypt

Al Jazeera: Haiti, Egypt.

Not really feeling like commenting after reading so many Wikileaks cables (I'll post something on this in the near future) but also needed to mention them. Just to mention that, even before fraud and violence made most candidates to denounce the polls, the main real party Fanmi Lavalas was not allowed to run again, so it was expected most people would not vote in any case in the pseudo-democratic protectorate. The Egyptian case is more domestic instead but not at all disconnected from the global networks of power and conflict.

Everything dead at Louisiana marshes

It looks pretty much like what Brazilian victims of a different oil spill did forecast it would end up like: all dead.

And ten years from now it will be all dead as well, most probably.

So sad.

Video from Florida Spill Law / OilFlorida at YouTube.

Quote of the month

By someone posting as Constantnormal at the comments section of Naked Capitalism:

The recession is over, but the recovery is unlikely to arrive before the onset of the next recession.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Starving US unemployment victim's last letter

From The Examiner. Warning: it will break your heart, yet you must read it.

To the unemployed, sick, disabled and poor:


I'm unemployed over 2 years now, a 99er without any benefits for 3 months. I followed Unemployed Friends almost from its start, never posted until now, but am grateful for my time with you all. I did as asked with calls and emails, etc. I've a confession to make to you all. I'm a criminal.

I've obeyed the 10 commandments and all laws except: I'm unemployed and that's now a crime, I'm poor and that's a crime, I'm worthless surplus population and that's a crime, I'm a main street American Citizen born and raised in the USA and that's now a crime, and I'm euthanizing myself as I write this note -- so arrest my corpse. This isn't a call for help, the deed is done, it's not what I wanted. Death is my best available option. It's not just that my bank account is $4, that I've not eaten in a week, not because hunger pangs are agonizing (I'm a wimp), not because I live in physical and mental anguish, not because the landlady is banging on the door non-stop and I face eviction, not that Congress and President have sent a strong message they no longer help the unemployed. It's because I'm a law abiding though worthless, long-term unemployed older man who is surplus population. Had I used my college education to rip people off and steal from the elderly, poor, disabled and main street Americans I would be wearing different shoes now -- a petty king. Hard work, honesty, loving kindness, charity and mercy, and becoming unemployed and destitute unable to pay your bills are all considered foolishness and high crimes in America now. Whereas stealing and lying and cheating and being greedy to excess and destroying the fabric of America is rewarded and protected - even making such people petty king and petty queens among us.

Since the end of 2008, when corporate America began enjoying the resumption of growth, profits have swelled from an annualized pace of $995 billion to the current $1.66 trillion as of the end of September 2010. Over the same period, the number of non-farm jobs counted by the Labor Department has slipped from 13.4 million to 13 million - there is no recovery for the unemployed and main street. We taxpayers have handed trillions of dollars to the same bank and insurance industry that started our economic disaster with its reckless gambling. We bailed out General Motors. We distributed tax-cuts to businesses that were supposed to use this lubrication to expand and hire. For our dollars, we have been rewarded with starvation, homelessness and a plague of fear - a testament to post-national capitalism.

12 years ago I lost the last of my family. 10 years ago I lost the love of my life, couldn't even visit him in the hospital because gays have no rights. I fought through and grieved and went on as best I could. 7 years ago I was diagnosed with Diabetes and Stage 2 high blood pressure with various complications including kidney problems, mild heart failure, Diabetic Retinopathy. These conditions are debilitating and painful. I am on over 8 prescribed medications, which is very difficult without insurance and income. But I struggled on and my primary care giver was very pleased with my effort overtime with my A1C at 7. Still these physical disabilities have progressively worsened, and I have had a harder and harder time functioning in basic ways. All the while I give thanks to God because I know there are many more worse off than me - and I tried to help by giving money to charities and smiling at people who looked down and sharing what little I had.

I am college educated and worked 35 years in management, receiving written references and praise from every boss for whom I worked. Yet, after thousands of resumes, applications, emails, phone calls, and drop ins, I've failed to get a job even at McDonalds. I've discovered there are 3 strikes against me -- most 99ers will understand. Strike 1 -- businesses are not hiring long term unemployed -- in fact many job ads now underline "the unemployed need not apply." Strike 2 -- I am almost 60 years old. Employers prefer hiring younger workers who demand less and are better pack mules. Strike 3 - for every job opening I've applied there are over 300 applicants according to each business who allow a follow up call. With the U3 unemployment holding steady at 9.6% and U6 at 17% for the past 18 months the chances of me or any 99er landing a job is less than winning the Mega Million Jackpot. On top of that even the most conservative economists admit unemployment will not start to fall before 2012 and most predict up to 7 years of this crap.

I believe the Congress and President have no intention of really aiding the unemployed - due to various political reasons and their total removal from the suffering of most Americans, their cold-hearted, self serving natures. Had they really wanted to help us, they could have used unspent stimulus monies or cut foolish costs like the failed wars or foreign aid, and farm subsidies. The unspent stimulus money alone cold have taken care of ALL unemployed persons for five years or until the unemployment rate reached 7% if Congress and the President really wanted to help us - and not string us all along with a meager safety net that fails every few months. In any case if I were to survive homelessness (would be like winning the mega-millions) and with those 3 strikes against me, in 7 more years I'll be near 70 with the new retirement age at 70 -- now who will hire an old homeless guy out of work for 9 years with just a few years until retirement?

So, here I am. Long term unemployed, older man, with chronic health problems, now totally broke, hungry, facing eviction. My landlady should really be an advocate for the unemployed - she bangs on my door demanding I take action. A phone call and a "please" are not enough for her - she is angry. She is right to be angry with me, I am unemployed - as apparently everyone is now angry with us unemployed.

211 and social services cannot help single men. Food banks and other charities are unable to help any more folks - they are overwhelmed with the poor in this nation. So I have the "freedom" to be homeless and destitute and "pursue happiness" in garbage cans and then die - yay for America huh? It's the end of November and cold. A diabetic homeless older person will experience amputations in the winter months. So I will be raiding garbage cans for food, as my body literally falls apart, a foot here, a finger there. I have experienced and even worked with pain from my diseases - hardship I can face. I just cannot muster the courage to slowly die in agony and humiliation in the gutter.

I have no family, I have no friends. For the past 2 years I've had nobody to talk with as people who knew me react to the "unemployed" label as if it were leprosy and contagious. I am not a bad person, in fact people really like me. But everyone seems to be on a tight budget these days and living in incredible fear. It is hopeless since we all are hearing more and more that we unemployed are to blame for unemployment, that we are just lazy, that we are no good, that we are sinners, that we are druggies, yet we are the victims who suffer and are punished while the robber baron banksters and tycoons become Senators, Congress, Presidents and petty kings. So the only option left for me is merciful self euthanasia.

It is with a heavy heart that I have set my death in motion, but what I am facing is not living. So off I go, I have made peace with God and placed my burden on Jesus and He forgives me. This nation has become evil to the core, with cold-hearted politicians and tycoons squeezing what little Main Street Americans have left. It is not the America into which I was born - the land of the free and the home of the brave with kind folks who help neighbors - it is now land of the Tycoon-haves and the rest of us have-nots who march into hopelessness and despair.

Every unemployed person I have met over these past 2 years have been saintly. Sharing what little they have, and being charitable - being kind and patient and supportive. Isn't it amazing that we Americans who suffer so much, have not taken to the streets in violence, riots or gotten out the guillotines and marched on tycoons and Washington in revolt as would happen in most other nations? But rather we plead with deaf politicians to please help us. We don't demand huge sums - just 300 bucks a week, barely enough to cover housing for most. Most of all we say, please help us get a job, please allow us dignity.

I can't help juxtapose our plight to the tycoons and politicians. They are never satisfied with their enormous wealth, and always want more millions no matter whom it hurts. They STEAL from pension funds, banks, The People and government, and little Wall Street investors. Then rather than face punishment, they become petty kings in this world. They are disloyal to America, unpatriotic, and serve their own foreign UN-American greedy causes and demand more and more and more. I feel that this is not the nation into which I was born. I was born in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. America, where people give as much as they receive. America, where all people work for the common good, and try to leave a better and more prosperous nation for the next generation. American, where people help their neighbors and show charity and mercy. This new America is alien to me - it is an America of greed and corruption and avarice and mean spirited selfishness and hatred of the common good - it is an America of savage beasts roaring and tearing at the weak, and bullying the humble and peacemakers and poor and those without means to defend themselves. I am not welcome here anymore. I don't belong here anymore. It's as if some evil beast controls government, the economy, and our lives now.

I must go now, my home is someplace else. Goodbye and God bless you all. God bless the unemployed and poor and elderly and disabled. God bless America and the American people except the tycoons and politicians - may God retain the sins of tycoons and politicians and phony preachers and send them to the Devil.


(Note: I obviously do not share some aspects of his view of life, specially all the Christian references but that doesn't really matter at all, right?)

Irish massive protests underline the need for a paradigm shift in Europe. Capital has no ideas anymore: it's just entrenched in a desperate situation

Some 100,000 people (50,000 according to police 100-150,000 according to organizers) demonstrated in Dublin yesterday against the government and the EU "rescue" (debt trap) plan. Irish are clearly saying that they are not going to pay others' debts anymore and I feel reasonably confident that at some point they will just decry all these illegitimate loans that are not benefiting the least the Irish People and are only intended to keep the farce of a financial system that went bankrupt in 2008 in fact, while keeping fat the paychecks of CEOs and politicians and, of course, the yearly payments to shareholders.

The rich are becoming richer while the poor and even middle classes are being squeezed to pay for their luxuries, abuses and mismanagement. Whoever thinks this is any sort of "plan" is very wrong.

The ball of de facto defaults will keep rolling and becoming fatter and fatter (next are not just Portugal and Spain, but Britain, Italy, Belgium and also France, Netherlands, Germany...) There is no way to stop it: the system has effectively collapsed in EU and we will just have to wait a few months to see all these uncontrolled explosions bringing down the whole building.

Our real problem is what next? How do we remove the oligarchic control over the economy that so harmful is for all but a few oligarchs? This is something that is only now being asked (except for the avant-guard elements, including myself, of course) or even being considered at all.

We are now realizing collectively that Capitalism is a failure and cannot offer any viable project. That this paradigm that so ruthlessly has lead the World for the last two centuries or so is finished, that it cannot propose any solution to the problems it has accumulated. For a while it hid them inside the credit bubble but now that the bubble has burst, what? The have no plan at all. And maybe they cannot ever muster any plan, other than entrenching themselves in their grip of power and resist for as long as they can.

This is not a plan: it is just a hopeless siege that will end, the latest, when provisions run off. Nobody will come to rescue, among other things because it would require more resources than anyone can muster. It's all a matter of time but the siege can be sped up if there are assaults or internal betrayals/infighting. And both will happen, though I cannot predict exactly how, who or when.

Source for the Irish protests news: 20 Minutos[es].

Update: 57% Irish prefer bankruptcy over the EU toxic rescue (source: Capital[ro], via Cuestionatelotodo[es]).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Irish bailout is crime against the Irish people and is stupid and useless anyhow

Washington Blog makes a good review of the latest that economists have to say on the criminal Irish bailout / debt trap for the Irish people:

Paul Krugman wrote yesterday:
These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit. Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.


Punishing the populace for the bankers’ sins is worse than a crime; it’s a mistake.
Mike Whitney noted yesterday:
Don't believe the hype about European unity or saving Ireland. My ass. This is about bailing out the banks. The bondholders get a free ride while workers get kicked to the curb.
And Mish pointed out last week:
Today the Irish Government sold its citizens into debt slavery by agreeing to guarantee stupid loans made by German, British, and US banks.


Why the average Irish citizen should have to bail out foreign bondholders is beyond me, but I do note that the same happened in the US with taxpayers footing an enormous bill for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG.

"Anti-drug" military operation in Rio denounced as state collaboration with the mafia Terceiro Commando

In an article today, Brazilian blogger Fernando Marcelino denounces the recent operation in a favela (slum) of Rio de Janeiro as nothing but an operation to consolidate the institutionally intertwined mafia Terceiro Commando as the monopolistic force in drug trade in Brazil.

This I'd say is nothing new and most, if not all, police and military operations worldwide that are presented as war against narco-trafficking are in fact selective attacks against groups that try to work outside of the police/state protection networks.

But it's always interesting to know some specifics, as all this world is highly secretive.

Fernando goes further than just this: he denounces the favelas, particularly in the very socially segregated city of Rio, as true concentration camps of Capitalist Globalization. This is why the state intervenes violently once and again against them, often killing random civilians, invariably poor defenseless people, in order to prevent the contradictions assembled in this urban periphery of the Capitalist monster from overflowing into the overall social system.

Variants of this criminalization and violent exorcism of the misery generated by Capitalism are building of walls that enclose the ghettos, use of vigilance devices such as police cameras or spy robot airplanes (drones). But the most explicit form of criminalization of poverty is police invasions of the slum neighborhoods in full force, presented by the media propaganda machinery as struggles of good versus evil.

All this, I have to add, is not essentially different of what Israel does in Gaza or Mexico does in the many supposed fights against narcos. It is not different of what the USA does when it invades Haiti or when it does promote opium as cash crop in Afghanistan or the cocaine industry in Colombia and Peru, with the occasional selective attack against individual farmers or dissident gangsters for mere image and business reasons.

Friday, November 26, 2010

France to deport politician to Spain: de facto illegalization of Batasuna in the North

Today at 16:00 CET a demonstration that will probably be quite large will gather at the Northern Basque capital, Baiona (Bayonne), to protest the extradition dictated by the tribunals of Pau in favor of deporting young politician Aurore Martin to Spain, where she will be judged and surely sent to prison by the political tribunal Audiencia Nacional.

Her only crime: to be politically active in favor of Basque sovereignty. The party she belongs to, Batasuna, has been declared illegal in Spain but is still legal in France. Yet this has been no obstacle for the French judges with jurisdiction on parts of our country to order her arrest and extradition.

Abertzaleen Batasuna (the main nationalist party in the North) wondered why France always follows the Spanish lead in the repression against Basques.

The Parti de Gauche (Party of the Left) considers unacceptable that Martin is sent to an exception tribunal.

The Labor Union Platform of Stateless Nations condemns this attack to political freedom of speech and warns that the measure obstructs any sort of political resolution of the conflict.

The Communist Party (PCF) says that the case demonstrates the failure of Europe in the issue of liberties.

France was recently condemned by the European Court on the arrest of a lawyer in 2005. The European tribunal argues that in France public attorneys are not independent because they are appointed by the Ministry of Interior and therefore they do not fulfill the requirement of impartiality and independence.

Aurore Martin is a former mahaikide (National Board Member, from mahai: table, board + kide: colleague, member) of Batasuna. Her attorney, Amaia Rekarte, declared yesterday that the goal of this judicial decision is to illegalize Batasuna de facto

The organizers of today's demonstration want to express the rejection to hand the Basque political leader to a torturer state. Among the organizers there are members of Abertzeleen Batasuna (Patriots' Union, a distinct party from Batasuna and the main nationalist force of the North), ELB, LAB, Sud and Solidaires (all these labor unions).

The decision has been appealed and the appeal should be resolved in about a month in Paris. However, considering this decision is clearly politically motivated and manipulated, few expect it to be revoked.

Source: Gara[es]: link 1, link 2, Kazeta[eu]

Who loses if Greece, Ireland, Portugal or Spain go bankrupt?

I just found this macroeconomic report of the Bank of International Settlements:

Among other macroeconomic data, it details the exposure by country (page 16) to the loans of the four Eurozone countries targeted for "revision" by the media and some authorities: Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

It is an interesting data to review. Let's see:


The main state exposed to a possible Greek bankruptcy is France, with more tha 1/3 of total exposure, followed by Germany, the USA and the broad category of other EU countries (Benelux and/or Nordic countries surely). Spain, Italy, the UK and the rest of the world have rather low exposures.


Roughly half the Irish exposure is split between the UK and Germany. The USA, France and the other EU group are also quite exposed. The overall exposure to an Irish bankruptcy is almost three times larger than in the cases Greece and Portugal, in spite of Ireland being a country almost three times smaller than these two.

It is clear that Ireland has been lent to quite liberally in the recent past.


The most exposed country is Spain, what makes Portugal the first real case of possible "contagion" senso stricto (there's a lot of chatter about "contagion" and "domino effect" but actually this is the only case where a the main creditor is also among the "red tagged" countries). Spain holds about 1/3 of Portuguese exposure, followed at a good distance by Germany, France, the USA and the UK.


Spain is much larger than any of the others by all measures (4 times larger than Portugal or Greece and ten times Ireland, by population). It also has the largest foreign exposure, which is however only somewhat larger than that of Ireland ($1100 billion compared to $843 billion).

The Spanish exposure is shared roughly at similar apportions by France, Germany, the USA, the UK and the other EU group. Each has, very roughly, 1/5 of the exposure.

Who loses more where?

All lose the most in the event of a Spanish bankruptcy, except the UK that would lose more in the Irish case. However for some countries (Germany, UK) the loses are quite even in the Irish and Spanish cases. France stands to lose the most in Spain and Greece and has few interests in Ireland. The USA is most exposed in the Spanish and Irish cases but being a much larger country and economy the blow would be rather light in any case. Spain stands to lose the most in the case of a Portuguese bankruptcy.

I believe that these are interesting figures and concepts to get familiar with for whatever may lay ahead, which does not look pretty in any case.