jeudi 30 juin 2011

Hedge Fund Managers Illustrate Deregulated Financial Capitalism's Plutocratic Madness

Despite the worst economic crisis in history, some top dogs aren't just raking in the cash, they're getting it delivered directly by Brink's. 

According to AR Magazine's AR: Absolute Return+Alpha survey on hedge fund managers' compensations, top managers made a total of $22.3 billion in 2007, an all time high since the surveys started nine years ago. One year later, it reported that compensations dropped almost 50%, to a still staggering $11.6 billion. 

In 2009, the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers made $25.3 billion dollars. David Tepper of Appaloosa Management made $4 billion on investments in the financial sector. George Soros, best known for betting against the Bank of England in 1992, placed second with $3.3 billion. 

For 2010, AR Magazine says the 25 highest paid will take home a combined $22.07 billion, nearly down 13% from two years ago. 

John Paulson, who earned more than $2 billion last year, places first this year with a record $4.9 billion. That calculates to almost $155 per second. To put that in perspective, his earnings this year represent the combined income of all hedge fund managers just ten years ago. To match the salaries of the top 25, it takes take 441,400 Americans making $50,000 a year. 

Can these 25 individuals' work really be worth close to half a million's? Perhaps, as the French Socialist Party have at least promised in their presidential project, it's time to put a cap on executive pay (not just in the public sector, as they propose, but in the private as well). They propose a 1 to 20 limit. 

In the meantime, the judicial system censors its decision to prosecute or not based on your position in the capitalist pyramid. On July 3rd, fund manager Martin Joel Erzinger allegedly stroke Dr. Steven Milo with his 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan on Highway 6, in Eagle, Colorado. "Mr. Erzinger struck me (Milon was on a bicycle), fled and left me for dead on the highway", wrote Milo in a letter to the District Attorney. Erzinger implicitly pleaded guilty to having fled when he called Mercedes' auto assistance for his vehicle to be towed, but did not report the incident to the authorities. He says he didn't know he had struck the cyclist.

Court documents reveal Milo "suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula. Over the pas six weeks he has suffered 'disabling' spinal headaches and faces multiple surgeries for a herniated disc and plastic surgery to fix the scars he suffered in the accident". His lawyer, Harold Haddon, added that: "He will have lifetime pains. His ability to deal with the physical challenges of his profession - liver transplant surgery - has been seriously jeopardized". 

In the end, the District Attorney dropped the felony charges held against Erzinger claiming they would be bad for his business: "Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession", declared DA Mark Hurlbert. Erzinger is responsible for over $1 billion in assets for "ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations". 

Hurlbert went on to explain that charging Erzinger with a felony could affect his job and his ability to pay restitution: "When you're talking about restitution, you don't wan't to take away his ability to pay".

So there you have it folks, if you're part of the circle of men making their fortunes off of the world's suffering (and in fact contributing to perpetuate it), in the midst of the most dire economic times we have ever faced, you can literally cripple innocent bystanders for sport; the justice department will cover up for you. 

mercredi 29 juin 2011

Google predicts U.S. will miss up to $3.2 trillion in GDP growth if green tech isn't encouraged

My last post detailed the costs of the Afghan war, which could reach $4.4 trillion dollars according to Brown University's Watson Institute.

Now, Google has published a study on its official blog in which they conclude that by delaying investment in green technologies by just four years, the US stands to lose up to $3.2 trillion in GDP and as many as 1.4 million new job creations. 

In addition, the study reveals that implementing clean energy policies would reduce household energy costs by close to $1,000 per year, cut back on US oil consumption by 1.1 billion barrels a year and lower the nation's total carbon emissions by 13% come 2030. 

If we look as far as 2050, Google estimates that up to 4 million jobs will have been created and carbon output reduced by 55%. 

The study's findings are very promising (although not surprising) and appear to be in-line with Google's desire to promote renewable energy technologies. The company has hired several lobbying firms and spent more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2011 to influence lawmakers on the subject. Furthermore, Google has also invested $780 million in clean technology firms working to find cheaper (and cleaner) energy sources than coal. 

So, if we do the math, the US will stand to lose $4.4 trillion to the wars in the Middle-East plus $3.2 trillion if they don't prioritize green tech (which they probably won't): that's a grand total of $7.6 trillion in losses just to finance counterproductive wars and an outdated, destructive fossil-fuel economy. All that without mentioning the cost of the Bush taxcuts [plus the regressive tax code as a whole], and the irrational privatized health-care/educational/carceral systems.

Don't forget to count in the banks, who still collects huge bailouts to cover the expenses of paying billions of dollars in bonuses [to increase the rate of foreclosures: the chief executive of the UK Asset Resolution said this week that showing « tough love » to those who can't make their mortgage payments and throwing them out of their homes is « fair » as it stops the person from being « further in debt » ; in sum, an increasing foreclosre rate has become 'fairness' ].

Already in 2009, Neil Barofsky, special inspector-general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said in a statement given to Congress that the US Treasury's bailout program could cost up to $23.7 trillion for the taxpayers, or 1.7 times the country's GDP.

And so the machine rolls on. Be sure to roll over when you hear it coming. 

US cost of war at least $5.4 trillion and counting

According to the research project "Costs of War" led by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, in the ten years since US troops invaded Afghanistan, spending on the conflict totalled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion, although the final bill could reach $4.4 trillion depending on when it comes to an end. 

The study also notes that these numbers will rise by at least another trillion dollars when you take into account the interest payments still left to be made on loans contracted by the administration. 

In terms of casualties, it is estimated that up to 258,000 people have died as a direct result of warfare, including 125,000 civilians [in Iraq]. This number rises when you count those who have perished as a result of unsafe drinking water, lack of quality healthcare and mal/undernourishment. 365,000 more are left wounded and close to 8 million people have been displaced. But these are just estimates, because as Tommy Franks (U.S. commander in Iraq) said after the fall of Saddam in 2003, "We don't do body counts".

In a way we can say that the report calculates the "cost of 9/11": nineteen hijackers plus other Al Qaeda plotters spent half a million dollars to plan and carry out the attacks, causing anywhere between $50 and $100 billion in economic damage. 

For every victim of 9/11, 73 people lost their lives in wars of "retaliation". 

Confronted to such facts, members of the American Congress are raising questions as to what a "victory" scenario would look like: "I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends, something very good has come out of it", declared Republican representative Bob Corker of Tennessee to Reuters, not offering details on what such a scenario would look like.

For some, like ex-presidential hopeful Donald Trump, "victory" is easy to define: "In the old days when you had wars, you win, right? You win. To the victor belonged the spoils. So when we go to Iraq, we spend $1.4 trillion so far and thousands of lives are lost, right? ... And we're going to leave and 15 minutes after we leave, Iran is going to go into Iraq. You stay and protect the oil and you take the oil and you take whatever is necessary for them and you take what's necessary for us and we pay ourselves back $1.5 trillion or more. We take care of Britain, we take care of other countries that helped us and we don't be stupid ... So, in a nutshell, we go in, we take over the second largest oil fields and we stay". 

The Donald also holds little illusions over the war in Libya. As rebels battle for control of oil towns, Trump declared: "I'm only interested in Libya if we keep the oil. If we don't keep the oil, I'm not interested. ... I' m only interested in Libya if we get the oil". An Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Iran, and so on and so forth.

Simple enough. And if you think Obama's plans for the Middle-East differ from Trump's, you are in for more deceptions. On Wednesday (29/06/11), French armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard told Reuters that "France ... sent equipment allowing them [the rebels] to defend themselves, comprising light weapons and munitions". The UK's Foreign Office proposed its own interpretation of UN resolution 1973: "Our position is clear. There is an arms embargo in Libya. At the same time ... we think that the UN resolution allows, in certain limited circumstances, defensive weapons to be provided".

The legal basis for such interference in what resembles a civil war is nonexistent, and Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, unconsciously revealed the ridicule of NATO's position by invoking that these operations could be "morally justified since Gaddafi's change in tactics. He is hiding tanks in streets exactly to make impossible Nato air strikes to destroy tanks".

Forget civilians, the war is about securing control over strategic resources and territories. 

vendredi 3 juin 2011

Les promesses non tenues du Monarque

Le blog a récemment publié une liste (non exhaustive) des promesses de campagne non tenues de Nicolas Sarkozy :

Lecture intéressante. Commentaires ?

mardi 24 mai 2011

Serà que é tempo de legalizar as drogas?

Poucos dias após a invasão bem sucedida do Complexo de Alemão e da Vila Cruzeiro, o governador do Rio Sérgio Cabral afirmou à Folha de São Paulo que vai levar o assunto da legalização das drogas leves à presidente Dilma Rousseff.

Segundo o governador, que jà defendeu essa posição em 2007 e 2008, “a repressão pura e simples não tem sentido”. Ele acha que a proibição “leva mais prejuizo do que uma ação inteligente do poder público”, evocando uma repressão que mata “inocentes”. Também afirmou que o dinheiro gasto na repressão poderia ser destinado a outras áreas.

Para Cabral, a legalização pode começar com a maconha, mas precisa ser adotada por muitos paises, porque “é um tema que merece a atenção dos chefes de Estado.

O Brasil é o maior consumidor de drogas da America Latina

O Relátorio Mundial das Drogas 2009 publicado pela ONU estima que, no mundo, entre 143 e 190 milhões de pessoas fumaram maconha pelo menos uma vez em 2007, e nota que “o uso parece estar crescendo em muitos paises de America Latina e Africa1.

Um relatório do governo americano mostra que o Brasil é o maior consumidor de drogas da América do Sul, com cerca de um milhão de consumidores de cocaína. Além disso, o pais divide fronteiras com dois paises entre os maiores produtores de maconha, o Paraguay e a Colombia: juntos, eles produzem cerca de 20,000 toneladas por ano.

Entre 2004 e 2005, o uso predominante anual da maconha no Brasil “mais do que dobrou, de 1% à 2.6% e – segundo as autoridades brasileiras, parece que seguiu crescendo os anos que seguirem”2.

Porém, a consumação de maconha segue ilegal, como explica uma coluna 'Perguntas & Respostas' da seção on-line da revista Veja,

Consumir ou comercializar drogas no Brasil é crime. Porém, a legislação atual prevê punições distintas a usuário e traficante.

Ao primeiro, a lei imputa três tipos de pena: advertência sobre os efeitos das drogas, prestação de serviços à comunidade (de 5 a 10 meses) e medida educativa de comparecimento a programa ou curso educativo.

Já a quem produz ou comercializa drogas, a lei atribui pena de 5 a 15 anos de reclusão e pagamento de multa de 500 a 1.500 reais. Cabe ao juiz determinar a finalidade da droga apreendida - se para consumo pessoal ou comercialização -, o depende de inúmeros fatores, como a natureza e a quantidade da substância e os antecedentes do suposto criminoso.

Reinaldo Azevedo, jornalista e blogger do site online da Veja é categoricamente contra a legalização, achando que os argumentos apresentados a favor são a “evidência da miséria intelectual” do país.

Ele afirma que “estudos demostram, por exemplo, que boa parte dos moradores de rua de São Paulo – e isso deve ser verdade em todas as grande cidades – são doentes mentais. Em alguns casos, a doença é efeito da droga; em outro, os males se conjugaram. ONGs chegam ao requinte de distribuir cachimbos para o consumo de crack e um kit com seringa, água esterilizada e outros apetrechos para o uso de drogas injetáveis. Só falta fornecer mesmo a droga. A suposição, sempre, é a de que, já que o consumo é inevitável, que seja feito de maneira segura.

As preocupações do blogger são legítimas, embora ele não dê referências das pesquisas as quais se refere. Por enquanto, pode-se referir a um estudo que comparou os efeitos sanitários da maconha e de substâncias legais como o álcool e o tabaco.

Em 1998, a BBC revelou que a Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) omitiu parte de uma pesquisa publicada no jornal New Scientist que tratava dos efeitos sanitários da maconha. A mesma mostrou que a maconha é menos um perigo de saúde pública do que o álcool ou o tabacco.

Os pesquisadores concluíram que a fumaça de maconha não necessariamente bloqueia as vias respiratórias ou impacta a função pulmonar. Além disso, eles afirmaram que a droga é menos aditiva do que o álcool ou o tabaco. O doutor Roger Pertwee, da Universidade da Aberdeen, declarou que “Tem poucas provas mostrando que a maconha é prejudicial no longo-termo”.

As comparações foram censuradas porque o jornal ficou receoso de que as conclusões da pesquisa dariam argumentos para quem queria legalizar a maconha6.

A descriminalização em Portugal : um sucesso inesperado

Em 2000, Portugal contava com quase 100,000 viciados aos entorpecentes ditos pesados, o equivalente a cerca de 1% da população total. Os governantes tomaram a decisão histórica de descriminalizar o uso de todas as drogas. O professor da Universidade de Kent, Alex Stevens, estudou o programa e declarou: “O desastre anunciado pelos criticos não aconteceu. A resposta foi simples: fornecer tratamento.
As drogas permanecem ilegais no país, mas as penas contra os usuários mudaram de natureza. Em lugar de enviar os usuários a tribunais criminais e à cadeia, os governantes preferiram impedir que as atividades permanecessem clandestinas. A questão voltou-se para a saúde pública

Funcionários da saúde fornecem agulhas frescas, cotonetes, pequenos pratos para preparação das misturas injetáveis, desinfetantes e preservativos. Uma pessoa pega com drogas, seja em pequena quantidade, é automaticamente enviada à sessões de consultas,palestradas profissionais legais, psicólogos e trabalhadores sociais. Faltar nas reuniões acarreta em multas ou tratamentos obrigatórios. Em casos graves, o adito é internado numa clínica de rahabilitação.

Segundo as informações dadas pela AFP entre 2000 e 2008, em Portugal houve pequeno crescimento no uso de drogas entre adultos, mas uma redução entre adolescentes e usuários 'problema' como aditos e prisoneiros. No caso da maconha, o número de usuários estabilizou-se em menos de 3% da população. Para as consideradas pesadas, a porcentagem abaixou para 0.3%. Quanto os casos em tribunal relacionados à drogas, esses caíram em 66% .

Por outro lado, parece que a decriminalização participou na tomada de consciência sanitária: durante o período, os casos encontrados de HIV cairam em 75%. Em 2002, quase 50% das pessoas com AIDS eram aditas; em 2008, o número caiu para 28%. No total, entre 2001 e 2008, o número de pessoas tratadas por adição às drogas aumentou em 20%.

Foi uma escolha muito dificil [decriminalizar] porque o assunto da droga traz muitos preconceitos”, declarou o Primeiro ministro Jose Sócrates, que foi um dos arquitetos da nova estratégia. “Você precisa abandonar os preconceitos e adotar uma aproximação inteligente”.

1. UNODC:United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime, « World Drug Report 2009 », p. 89.
2Mesmo. p. 108.

mercredi 4 mai 2011

From Reuters, Thursday March 10th 2011:

  "An elderly relative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was shot dead by NATO forces during a botched night raid in southern Afghanistan Thursday, Karzai's brother said, stoking controversy over the war's civilian death toll [...] Last year was the most lethal for non-combatants since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, with a 15 percent rise in civilian casualties to 2,777, the United Nations said in a report Wednesday".

Night raids are one of the most counterproductive and criminal actions of the Western invaders. General Petraeus' men conduct 20 of them per night since December 2010 and have slaughtered 600 people in that same time period.

This same Reuters piece tells the heartbreaking story of "an 11th grade boy with dreams of becoming a translator [who became] the despairing head of a family of more than a dozen [after] his father and oldest brother were shot dead last August at the start of a midnight assault by NATO-led troops on their house".

If you prefer tales of inadvertant slaughter, there's always the New York Times (02/03/2011): "Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents. [...] The boys, who were 9 to 15 years old, were attacked on Tuesday in what amounted to one of the war's worst cases of mistaken killings".

Cases like these are innumerable. This war has to stop.
Fuck le peuple, fuck les électeurs, et fuck ceux qui sont ont désaccords avec les politiques économiques et sociales que j'essaie d'enfoncer dans la gueule des Français et des barbares hors-frontières (et plutôt situés au sud) ! 

C'est ce que semblait dire Henri Guaino, le «conseiller spécial» du président de la République, aux lecteurs du Monde qui lui ont posé des questions parfois piquantes lors d'un chat. Après tout, en tant qu'écrivain des discours du président, Guaino est aussi l'un des créateurs du Sarkozysme et l'homme de l'ombre parmi les plus puissants de France. Il est logique de lui attribuer une part de responsabilité à assumer lorsqu'il est question de la situation, tragique dans sa 'kafkaïenneté', de notre patrie. 

Guaino cultive le sens de la contradiction. Il s'affirme gaulliste, insistant sur le fait que «la démocratie, c'est le suffrage universel» mais, en même temps, il ne parvient pas à expliquer la disproportion (ou la dichotomie, je ne sais plus) qui existe entre l'électorat ultra-minoritaire qu'il représente et l'influence d'un Dick Cheney qu'il exerce sur les politiques [in]nationales. 

Il joue la carte de l'humilité: il avoue s'être présenté «un jour à une élection […] dans le 5e arrondissement [de Paris]. J'ai été battu au premier tour. Cela en défendant les valeurs auxquelles je croyais». Avant de [presque] rajouter: Par la suite, je suis devenu le cerveau politique d'un président d'extrême-droite qui préfère enrichir les fortunés au détriment des travailleurs et diviser une société dite héritière des Lumières en cherchant des bouc-émissaires (sans-papiers, Roms, musulmans) pour cacher la responsabilité des élites dans la crise économique mondiale. On l'applaudit pour sa retenue. Et on le félicite d'avoir compris que changer de rôle dans le jeu politique sans affronter le suffrage permet de rester fidèle à ses valeurs, pourtant rejetées par le peuple, et d'exercer une grande influence auprès des hommes de pouvoir. 

Guaino essaie de se reprendre en abusant de la rhétorique: «Mais pourrais-je me permettre d'ajouter que l'intelligence d'un point de vue, sa véracité, voire sa légitimité, dans une démocratie où par définition tout le monde a le droit de s'exprimer, ne dépendent pas du résultat d'une élection dans un arrondissement de Paris ou dans une circonscription électorale ?». Il semblait que théoriquement, un système 'gaulliste' de démocratie représentative devait se charger de trancher le sujet: par le suffrage direct le public accorde sa confiance à des hommes politiques responsables devant lui. Ceux que le public rejette ou n'élise pas s'expriment sur un blog, pas à l'oreille du président.

Ainsi, une personne impopulaire et sans 'base' électorale (que ce soit une circonscription, un secteur économique, des internautes indignés ayant signés une pétition) dans la vie politique ne devrait pas bénéficier d'un temps d'antenne exponentiellement supérieur à d'autres agents plus représentatifs d'un segment donné de la population, a fortiori être chargée ou non des affaires de la Nation (pourquoi Sarkozy nommerait-il pas un syndicaliste pour être son conseiller spécial ? Ne représenterait-il pas plus de contribuables-électeurs qu'un Guéant ou un Guaino?). Dans le chat organisé par Le Monde, les lecteurs n'ont pas eu un droit de réponse aux réponses de Guaino (pour le relancer ou le mettre en difficulté) et le «modérateur» n'a pas jugé nécessaire d'ajouter une annexe à la fin de l'«entretien» pour analyser les propos du conseiller spécial. Guaino est venu, a lu quelques questions, est parvenu à raconté n'importe quoi sans qu'il ait eu à se forcer face à un interlocuteur et est rentré chez lui peinard. Pendant qu'en bas de la pyramide ça souffre.

Le conseiller a tout de même gratifié la plèbe d'une valeur intellectuelle digne d'un macaque. Un internaute Emile lui demande son «analyse […] de la persistance des sondages de popularité, ou plutôt d'impopularité, de Nicolas Sarkozy et des faibles intentions de vote en sa faveur pour 2012 ?» ; Guaino s'en tape: «Aucune. Je ne me suis jamais beaucoup intéressé aux sondages. Ce qui m'intéresse, ce sont les valeurs auxquelles je crois et celles que défendent les candidats que je soutiens». 

Une bonne vision 'gaulliste', pour ne pas dire totalitarienne, de la vie politique: un leader, une idéologie, une patrie, etc etc. En fait, Guaino a besoin d'un relais médiatisable (vu sa tronche...) pour imposer sa vision du monde. Je dis «vision», parce qu'elle est déconnectée de la réalité, comme le montrent ses propos suivants.

On lui demande quelles sont pour lui les réformes marquantes du quinquennat de Sarkozy. C'est le moment de sortir l'artillerie de talking points et de mauvaise foi: «L'autonomie des universités est une véritable révolution […] les réforme des retraites, parce qu'elles permettent de sauver le système de retraite par répartition […] le crédit d'impôt-recherche, qui est un outil essentiel». A part quelques phrases bien tournées, Guaino n'apporte aucune explication des crises actuelles, ne répond à aucune des critiques formulées à l'égard de ces réformes, et au contraire abuse de son autorité en n'argumentant pas son cas de manière interactive avec les internautes. 

Pour prendre du recul sur le «bilan» de Nicolas Sarkozy à la tête de la France, il faut rappeler les 'faits marquants' de la période 2007-2011: la crise financière qui devient économique et globale ; la tentative avortée de créer une Union Pour la Méditerranée avec des dictateurs sous pressions (ou qui ont déjà fuis...) ; des scandales internes, comme l'affaire Karachi, l'affaire Bettencourt, les abus ministériaux, entre autres (qui, dans un État de droit, garantirait un passage en prison pour certains) ; les conférences de Copenhague et de Mexico qui n'ont rien apporté de concret ; les révolutions arabes ; les catastrophes naturelles, le réchauffement climatique et les drames humanitaires (cyclones et tremblements de terre en Haïti, inondations au Pakistan, tsunami et tremblements de terre au Japon qui ont provoqué une catastrophe nucléaire, des morts par tornade aux USA...) ; les plans d'austérité en Europe et j'en passe.

Les réformes que Guaino considère importante le sont, mais pas pour les raisons qu'il exprime. Elles sont avant tout importantes de part leur impopularité. 

La loi d'autonomie des universités à été dénoncée à maintes reprises et le jeudi 29 janvier 2009, 20 000 enseignants-chercheurs (ainsi que de nombreux étudiants) ont fait grève dans toute la France. Des CRS nerveux n'attendaient que la baston mais, comme le souligne Mathieu Rigouste, le savoir-faire Français en termes de contrôle des foules a permis d'éviter les abus physiques: «Il faut garder en mémoire que la logique interne du système auquel nous faisons face est de maintenir la légitimité du souverain auprès de ses sujets et de préserver l'ordre économique et social. […] Les modèles français gardent une renommée, on reconnaît à la patrie des droits de l'homme une certaine expertise pour mener la guerre dans et contre le peuple. […] La répression des émeutes de l'automne 2005 et du CPE a tout de même été considérée dans les instituts privés et officiels étrangers, comme un retour de la France parmi les experts incontestables du maintien de l'ordre». 

La seconde retraite «clé» de Sarko selon Guaino serait la réforme des retraites. Il nous apprend qu'elle va sauver le système, alors que Sarkozy lui-même avait promis pendant la campagne de 2007 de ne pas y toucher sous prétexte que «Le Financement des retraites est équilibré jusqu'en 2020 […] contesté par personne». Le 23 janvier 2007, il va jusqu'à déclarer au Monde que «le droit à la retraite à 60 ans doit demeurer, de même que les 35 heures continueront d'être la durée hebdomadaire légale du travail. Que ce soit un minimum, cela me va très bien». 

Guaino choisit aussi de passer sous silence les 3,5 millions personnes qui ont manifesté (estimation haute) le mardi 12 octobre 2010 contre cette réforme. C'est plus d'électeurs-citoyens présents que lors de son scrutin à l''élection dans le 5e arrondissement' mais, contrairement à Guaino, ceux-ci ne doivent pas posséder une «intelligence de point de vue» digne d'être entendue.

Nous en venons enfin à la réforme crédit-impôt, une réforme faite au «mépris du bon sens et de l'efficacité». Je comprend pourquoi Guaino n'a pas accepté de rester pour "discuter" avec les lecteurs : il savait qu'il racontait de la merde.