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. 

jeudi 17 février 2011

Is the world becoming unsafe for criminal ex-Presidents?

There used to be a day when ex-heads of State could retire from public life and devote their time to rewriting the history of their time in office. Charles de Gaulle wrote a few timeless classics. Winston Churchill, despite his blatant moral double-standards (in particular concerning India...), could handle a pen. George W. Bush, on the other hand, might have to cut back on the out-of-country dates of his latest speaking tour if he hopes to remain out of jail. 

W. had to cancel a speech "at a dinner in Geneva organised by the United Israel Appeal, a US-based organisation that helps Jews move to Israel" because of some of his admissions in his autobiography Decision Points that he had authorized the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights groups called for demonstrations and the threat of an arrest warrant against W. convinced him to call off the talk. Amnesty International claims "there was sufficient information to open a criminal investigation". More information leading to a possible indictment is contained in the "2,500 page case [over the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo] against Bush in Geneva" submitted by various Human Rights Groups. Amnesty added that "Anywhere in the world that he [Bush] travels, he could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law, particularly in any of ther 147 countries that are party to the UN convention against torture". 

Gavin Sullivan, a lawyer for the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, backs the claim in partnership with the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights: "Bush enjoys no immunity from prosecution. As head of state he authorised and condoned acts of torture, and the law is clear - where a person has been responsible for torture, all states have an obligation under international law to open an investigation and prosecute [...] Bush will be pursued wherever he goes as a war criminal and torturer". 

Other key members of the Bush administrations are also under heat following their long involvement in crimes against humanity. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were booed at a GOP Conference by some Ron Paul supporters as they were about to receive the Defenders of the Constitution award. The hecklers yelled "Murderous scum" and "Where's bin Laden?", questions obviously ignored by Cheney, the brain behind the entire Bush presidencies. W.'s foremost partner in crime, ex-PM Tony Blair, is still travelling North American and Europe raving and chanting the merits of the Iraq war, in an apparent attempt to divert the world from the atrocities he actively participating in engaging and escalating. But his time is running out as well. In a statement sent to the Iraq Inquiry, Blair "revealed he disregarded some of the legal advice given to him by his top adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war", ignoring the intelligence memos informing him that Saddam didn't possess any WMDs and that he had no close ties to Al Qaeda (thus sharing no direct responsibility to the 9/11 attacks). English barrister Michael Mansfield told QC told Channel 4 News that "if the advice had been made public, the UK may not have gone to war in Iraq [...] It represents a flagrant disregard for the rule of law which is what the United Kingdom is supposed to adhere over the centuries". Mansfield also emphasizes that the "type of weapons deployed - particularly if they're indiscriminate, if they're not focused and they incur large numbers, as this did, of civilian casualties" could only lead to massive war crimes. He concludes: "There should be a criminal prosecution in the International Criminal Court [...] because this was a criminal event and thousands (so far more than 1 million Iraqi civilians have been killedof people have died". 

We should rejoice to hear that these men are finally getting caught up by time and that there are courageous individuals marching out and calling these criminals out.

A White House report from August predicted Middle-East Unrest

On the 17th of March, 2011, The New York Times' Mark Landler informed his readers that President Barack Obama "ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday". Yet the President chose to do nothing and even strengthened the US' support of Mubarak, until the inevitable happened. The aspirations of the Egyptian people weren't on his mind, as the little priority made of them throughout the article blatantly shows, and instead the central question for Obama is: "how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the US". 

In other words: how can the US maintain the institutional and legal frameworks that benefit its interests without it being too obvious to the masses? True democracy is not an option for Obama because it is not certain that if given the full-spectrum of choice the Egyptian people would vote in power a pro-US coalition/candidate. It is even less sure that they would vote in anyone who would be disposed to satisfy the greed of the imperialist yankees as Mubarak had been. Perhaps Obama wants democracy and the rule of law in Egypt, but he and his owners (financial institutions and transnational conglomerates, not forgetting the military-industrial complex) have too much to gain from endless wars and federal bailouts/subsidies. Republicans and Democrats are the two faces of the same coin; factions of the single party that rules over the US and indeed the world: the Business Party. The little game works as long as the mainstream media(dis)misinforms the electorate [at least one-half of American citizens, those who vote in federal elections that is. For Congressional elections the turnout is much lower] believes in the two-party democracy rhetoric. But, as American officials themselves say in the report, things are now "ripe" for political unrest because oppressed people eventually get fed up and demand freedom. Maybe we in the "North" aren't "ripe" yet because we still have so many rights left to get taken away...

In any case, the types of calculations made by Obama and his cronies are totally illegitimate and morally reprehensible. But men of power are not to be judged on the content of their character alone (in a liberal democracy your private life stays private) but on the predictable consequences of their actions. Obama knew that Mubarak was weak, yet his administration's "first assessment" after the start of the demonstrations was that the regime was "stable and looking to meet the legitimate needs of the Egyptian people", as said on live television by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and as already reported below). The official discourse changed less than a day later, yet material and scientific assistance/expertise was not offered to the protesters, who are the weakest and most vulnerable of all the parties at play (unlike the army, Mubarak, Israel and the US Government).

A country has to possess full sovereignty over its affairs to be democratic. Interference by other countries is justified in certain instances (the most important being that the population asks for it) but when a massive popular uprising overthrows a dictator who the US supported for 30 years, the US (or other Western countries) should not get any say in who governs things how next! At the very least, the US has a moral responsibility to help reconstruct Egypt. They must recognize the legitimacy of the protesters' demands and later that of elected officials. Funding must be redirected from outrageous military and intelligence spending to projects "of the people, by the people, for the people" (of the $1.5 billion given to Egypt every year, at least 75% of it could be used for social programs and getting people jobs).That is why transparent elections without foreign intervention must be organized on national Egyptian soil. The results of said elections must be accepted insofar as they do not threaten basic moral and legal principles.

In the US, citizens must realize that their rights are being stripped bit by bit by their government as well and that their national wealth is being transfered massively to the top 2% and more generally to the top 10% of wage earners, ie billionaires and millionaires who have the means to help out the rest of us through higher taxation rates. They are "ripe" for a revolt (or revolution?), because they are the lab rats being tested for the "global lifestyle" (one globalized culture working for the rich)  that is being imposed by the ruling elite. The conditions of their rule will be all the more comfortable when the vast majority of the world's inhabitants will be uneducated, unemployed, apathetic towards politics, denied of their basic rights and dignity, unhealthy, obese and living in poverty despite having one or two jobs.

It goes without saying that unions, the most effective way of achieving progressive victories, do not fit into this scenario. Defending workers' rights to social protection through employment is not socialism. It's a demand to recognize that "modernity" should not mean working more for less pay. With the technological and material resources humanity now possesses, we should be working less for more pay. The labour movement from within America must organize and affirm its existence, being the advocate of nationwide causes (like healthcare, welfare, protection from foreclosures) and helping people aggregate their demands into one list of prioritized grievances to be addressed by politicians. I can think of a few off the top of my head: ending risky financial speculation, a return to pre-1980s progressive tax rates, shortening working hours to boost up unemployment, health regulations in fast-food industry, drastic cuts in the trillion-dollar defense budget, adopting a national single-payer healthcare system, ending the counterproductive drug war...

As of today the situation for labour unions in the US is dire; the US is one of the rare developed nations that does not have a labour-based party in their electoral system. Organising a grassroots based, but nationally structured union with "electable" candidates (not corporate funded but within the political framework through a third party, or as Independent) is possible in the US, but both 'parties' in power agree on one thing: maintaining the bureaucratic, pyramidal power structures of the post 9/11 surveillance industry. During most of the XXth century unions were associated with the general communist scare and were infiltrated, exposed and repressed. From 1956-1971, the CIA and other special agents were ordered to harass any left-wing, feminist or civil rights group. They were placed on the same scale and treated worse than actual terrorist and hate groups (the KKK was a pretty and organised institution for a long time, and indirectly tolerated because it supported candidates in elections...). Operations went from simple tapping of phone or breaking up of marriages to assassinations. These criminal activities started coming to light in the late 60s, but the media attention around the Watergate scandal (peanuts compared to what successive administrations had done in COINTELPRO) conveniently placed this page of history in the dustbin. So the reason why there aren't any stronger unions today is because As the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations concluded in their Final Report on April 26th, 1976:

"The Committee's fundamental conclusion is that intelligence activities have undermined the constitutional rights of citizens and that they have done so primarily because checks and balances designed by the framers of the Constitution to assure accountability have not been applied" [...]

The crescendo of improper intelligence activity in the latter part of the 1960s and the early 1970s shows what we must watch out for: In time of crisis, the Government will exercise its power to conduct domestic intelligence activities to the fullest extent. The distinction between legal dissent and criminal conduct is easily forgotten. Our job is to recommend means to help ensure that the distinction will always be observed.

And last week, the House Republicans passed a bill that will "reauthorize three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.[...] The three expiring provisions give the government the ability to use roving wiretaps to monitor the communications of suspects; obtain special court orders forcing businesses to turn over records; and conduct surveillance on a so-called "lone wolf", or somebody who is not knowingly associated with terrorists". 

The US can try and monitor its population as tightly and maliciously as it wants. But, as Obama himself confessed, "trying to suppress your own people is something that is not sustainable [...] When you resort to violence, that does not work". The man who escalated George W. Bush's criminal wars and the War on Terror (now rebranded of course) certainly knows what he's talking about. But he has gone down the same path as his predecessor and caused much more damage to the world's population than Mubarak could ever have dreamed of.

For anyone still hesitating on the question of terrorism, the solution is simple: stop participating in terrorism. The US government's aggressive global class warfare (waged with many other "partner countries"), which inevitably spirals down into real war, is the root of [almost] all our grievances. Their involvement in the Middle-East which consists of propping up puppet dictators who suppress the people in order to enrich the US elite is the root of Islamic terrorism.  It is also the root of future revolutionary movements that are about to erupt worldwide. Why? Because virtually all of our Western governments and media are complicit and they already have been exposed for what they are: corporate watchdogs.

vendredi 11 février 2011

Mubarak's Out!

Big news out of Egypt today. In roughly thirty seconds Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced on State television that President-Dictator Hosni Mubarak has finally "chosen" to step down from power. He also informed the world that the Egyptian army will be temporarily "taking charge" of the nation's affairs while the "democratic transition" is being prepared. 

No-one knows exactly where the situation will lead from here, but what has been achieved is already historic in content. The Arab world is starting to free itself from Western imperialism as people around the world watch in awe. This is possibly the last region on Earth we expected a revolution of this proportion to erupt. Now that it has achieved its initial goal (remove Mubarak), the revolution will continue as long as freedom remains the ideal. Even better, Egyptians are not alone in their fight; pro-democracy associations are mobilizing across the Middle-East to spark the same outrage that toppled Ben Ali and Mubarak. Important precedents have been set, and perhaps for once history will have the courtesy to repeat itself.

To take one example, Algerian "civil associations, independent trade unionists and small political parties" have called for a "national day of protest" on Saturday despite an official ban being imposed on demonstrations. The call is to "Change the system" and demand the exit of "12 years of authoritarian rule" of Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his military associates. Scared to death, Bouteflika has tried to buy out the potential protesters by promising cosmetic changes that would not alter the basic mechanisms of his institutionalized dictatorship. Of course nobody is being fooled by the promises of a tyrant, but conditions of protest in Algeria may turn out to be less favorable than in Egypt, according to Mansouria Mokhefi (Maghreb analyst at the French Institute of International Relations), because "the army is much stronger [...] all-powerful, holding the reins of power, both political and economic. The army has a long experience of repression and they didn't hold back during the protests in January". (The Guardian,  11/2/2011). The enemy is powerful, but the will of the people can bring any form of oppression to its knees. Let's wait and see.

vendredi 4 février 2011

Western reaction to Egypt: We Will Help You If You Let Us Decide

Western governments will not support democracy if this means actually handing over political and economic sovereignty to the Egyptians. (We are still far from this point but) Imagine the new Egyptian government decides to nationalize petroleum and other energy industries so that the money generated from their activities will be spent on social projects (housing and community development, schooling, health care for all, promoting healthy and nutritious ways of life, etc etc). How do you think the Western world, and most particularly the USA would react? Precedents have already been set by the US government on the question of: to whom belongs a Middle-Eastern country rich in oil resources? In 1953,  Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was removed from power by the CIA after he tried to re-negociate profit distribution with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (became BP after the coup in 1954). In 1963 Saddam Hussein was also put into power thanks to grandaddy Sam. The ruling family of Saudi Arabia has such a relationship with Washington that its leaders can hold hands with state officials in the US, and on national television, when their own citizens do not have the basic liberty to hold hands with their lover in public. The US, and indeed almost all of Europe, supported Mubarak, Ben Ali, even Khadaffi most recently. Without mentioning the ridiculous amount of brutal African dictatorships that have been fed generously by our benevolent self-appointed betters, in exchange for full pillage rights. 

These same "public servants" are now trying to appear in the media as independent and impartial third-parties who have no responsibilities or past debts to repay,  when it is now well known and confirmed that they have been supporting Mubarak and virtually all of the other dictators (except Ahmadenidjad notably) in the region for decades (side note: if the US is so concerned about Islamic theocracies replacing their criminal associates, then why does it shut a blind eye to what happens in Saudi Arabia, one of its "BFF"'s?). The game is up. What we are experiencing in the Middle-East right now is the principle of universality at its best. 

Egyptians from all sectors of society are uniting to fight for one common cause, putting aside their particularities to demand the most basic and elementary of human rights: freedom, democracy, the application of the rule of law and other easy ones we can think of naturally. By holding peaceful manifestations while bearing the huge risk of government repression (the most important aspect of the cost-benefit calculation before engaging in civil disobedience) and effectively being subject to organised assaults from "pro"-Mubarak "supporters" (who, in an attempt to convince their compatriots of the legitimacy of their presence, had no other option but to yell hesitantly: "We weren't paid to be here" (as reported on Al-Jazira's live broadcast, 4/2/2011)), the Egyptian people find themselves in grosso modo the same scenario as the French in 1789 (although it should be noted that the Egypt's revolution is more grass-roots), when they demanded for their grievances on the absolute authority of the king (in this scenario, Hosni Mubarak) and a handful of aristocrats to be heard. What did the king of France Louis XVI do when confronted by his own people? He promised change, even accepted to be a constitutional monarch. But how long did the game last before the king was "exposed"  and the revolution really started getting ugly? Less than three years, then it was gone with his head. If history should serve as a guide today as we watch the end of the Day of Departure gathering in Cairo's Tahir Square, it is that a tyrant is never as popular as when he leaves office. And that is the moment when change can start to take place. How can a brutal tyrant be held responsible, less alone trusted, for the democratic transition of a country he has worked so hard to suppress, brutalize and destroy?

The Egyptians are rising as one people, carrying a simple message that all human beings can relate to: we want freedom and auto-determination. Forget about the clash of civilizations and all the nonsense we hear about coming from the major news organizations, what the Egyptian protesters are proving to the world is that it is possible to overthrow the powerful and sophisticated institutionalized crime machine, and in a peaceful manner at that. This type of event is what the "Western powers" are built on: a (more or less in some cases) grass-roots uprising that targets the entire governing class (economic and political) in an effort to overthrow it and replace it with a juster system of governance.

All this to say that the Egyptians are on the verge of a small victory in what is the beginning of a new era not only for Egypt, but for the entire Middle-East and hopefully the world. For those of you still skeptic as to what the outcome of this revolution will be (theocracy or other authoritarian regime), here's a tweet i ran into from The Guardian Live Egypt Blog: 

"5.52pm: Egyptian blogger @suzeeinthecity has tweeted what she says are the seven demands of the protesters:

     1. Resignation of the president

     2. End of the Emergency State

     3. Dissolution of The People's Assembly and Shora Council

     4. Formation of a national transitional government

     5. An elected Parliament that will ammend the Constitution to allow for presidential elections

     6. Immediate prosecution for those responsible of the deaths of the revolution's martyrs

     7. Immediate prosecution of the corrupters and those who robbed the country of its wealth".

Pretty moderate "demands" wouldn't you say? For those who say "What about the average Joe who's fed up and wants things to get back to normal, to put food on the table?" (as actually heard on the Al-Jazira live feed today by one of the presenters), ask yourself this (besides the obvious one: why do you think millions of people are revolting against conditions you eagerly call "normal" under Mubarak?...): had you been in India during the beginning of Ghandi's triumphant and peaceful march, would you have stood up on a podium and told the crowd to stop its efforts on the basis that the average Indian man's feet were sore and that he wanted to go back to "the way things were", c'est-à-dire being outright colonized by the U.K.? Today, under Egyptian martial law, three adults cannot meet without being under the threat of being arrested. Enough is enough, and it is time to blow this corrupt and criminal government to pieces and let Egyptians decide of their own future. Let's stand behind them.

jeudi 3 février 2011

Mubarak worsens his case

It was another hectic day today in various parts of Egypt, but something of note occurred yesterday that is at best worrying and at worst criminal. 

As the Aiken Standard reports, "Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak charged into Cairo's central square on horseback and camels brandishing whips while others rained firebombs from rooftops in what appeared to be an orchestrated assault against anti-government protesters trying to topple Egypt's leader of 30 years. At least three people died and 600 were injured in the uncontrolled violence". (2/2/2011, by Hadeed Al-Shalchi). This alone is a criminal act of serious proportions. The degree of coordination and precision that these "protesters" demonstrated in crowd-control ability was too blatant not to be noticed. The vast majority of these thugs are on the Mubarak payroll; some as public servants (policemen, army), some as contracted goons asked to clear the way. These individuals are also involved in other criminal activities such as looting, as the Washington Post reported that "Human Rights Watch confirmed several cases of undercover police loyal to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime committing acts of violence and looting in an attempt to stoke fear of instability as demonstrations grew stronger against the autocratic leader" (1/2/2011, by Leila Fadel). 

So keeping in mind the fact that Mubarak authorized the creation of large-scale goon squads with the objective of dispersing and intimidating the peaceful protesters, it was quite strange to hear the man himself tell ABC's Christian Amanpour: "If I leave, there will be chaos" (3/2/2011, ABC interview), in an attempt to justify the fact that he wants to "work very hard to carry out all the necessary measures to transfer power", and more precisely not running again for president in September on the basis that he has "spent enough time serving Egypt" (2/2/2011, by Paul Ohia). Hmm, didn't get the clue when millions of people started protesting all over the country Hosni? How about when you heard them chant "Leave now! Mubarak step down now!" over and over again for days? 

It should come as no surprise that a man who has confiscated all political and economic power from his own people for 30 years is trying to hold on as long as he can. He is the principal military ally of the U.S [after Britain and Israel] and applies a classic capitalist recette to the economy, but it comes with a sour à la yankee aftertaste. Should he step down, public records will come out that will confirm the accusations of intent and complicity in numerous crimes and abuses put forth by Egyptian and international human rights groups. Everyone should support the anti-Mubarak supporters in their march against tyranny and arbitrary power. Those responsible for supporting and rewarding Mubarak's actions should be brought before an independent tribunal and judged for their actions. Mubarak himself shall of course be present. Families of victims will come testify before the world, as such an event should be televised worldwide, and hopefully we may utter that schizophrenic phrase one last time, "never again...".

ABC News (3/2/2011), Christiane Amanpour interviews Hosni Mubarak.

mardi 1 février 2011

Revolts in Egypt

I am trying to follow very closely the massive popular revolts taking place in Egypt, a country whose President, Hosni Mubarak, has tortured (physically and mentally) and killed many of his own people for the past 30 years with full US/Western support. Looking at his political/economic/human rights record, it should go without saying that his removal from power should have been organised long ago. It was thus surprising to hear the content of Hillary Clinton's initial "assessment" of the situation, which [was] "that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people"(AFP). She did not judge necessary to offer supplementary insight on what may have led these hundreds of thousands of protestors to march in the streets to demand the immediate removal of Mubarak, knowingly exposing themselves to the brutal government repression (more than 150 killed already, the vast majority of which are Mubarak's direct responsability).

But being a key military ally of both the USA and Israel, Mubarak's long relationship with Washington was seen by Clinton as superior to the social needs and aspirations of the Egyptian people. How much of the $1.5 billion that the US gives as "aid" to Egypt annually actually gets spent on public interest projects, such as public schooling, healthcare, housing and sanitation, sustainable agriculture and material consumption,...? The CIA's own "World factbook" reports that "Egypt's economy was highly centralized during the rule of former President Gamal Abder NASSER but has opened up considerably under former President Anwar EL-SADAT and current Mohamed Hosni MUBARAK. Cairo from 2004 to 2008 aggressively pursued economic reforms to attract foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth", but despite all his benevolent and self-sacrificing efforts, under Mubarak's economic planning "over the past few years, living conditions for the average Egyptian remain poor"(CIA FACTBOOK).

Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief opposition leader and ex-Director General of the IAEA (who publicly exposed the Bush administration's lies on the presence of WMD's in Irak, but did not succeed in stopping the start of the Irak war,), told CBS's Face the Nation that Mubarak's response to the massive revolts don't "even begin to address peopless concerns. Peoples' concerns right now is Mubarak has to go, immediately", going on to say later in the interview that the uprisings had been "many, many years in the making". His last comment says it all: "You can't run a country on repression, detention, torture, lack of economic opportunity for 30 years", said the 2005 Nobel peace prize laureate (GLOBALPOST).

The CIA's own "official" assessment is that the unemployment rate in Egypt is 10% (the reality is closer to 25-30%...), GDP per capita stands at $6,200 (107th in the world), 20% of the population lives below the poverty line (2005 estimate), the 10% richest Egyptians pocket close to 30% of  "household income and consumption" while the bottom 10% take in 4%. Egypt places 90th in the world in terms of family income distribution (CIA Factbook ibid.). And this without mentioning the harsh martial law imposed during 30 years. Many renowned international organisations, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, have written thorough and highly pertinent reports on the human rights situation. Their conclusion is that Egypt is not a free country, in fact it was, until the recent events, a very smoothly-run police State.

It thus time to man-up and accept the bare reality of the situation: the United States government has been actively supporting one of the most brutal dictatorships in the region for three decades while repeating the same democracy-human rights talking points that have long been exposed as political rhetoric. All must be done to support the Egyptian people in their transition to a true democratic regime in which the people, not corporations or foreign governments, formulate and debate economic/social/political/social policies to be implemented.

'US Sees Egypt's Gov. as Stable Despite Protests', AFP (01/25/2011),

"Egypt" entry on CIA Factbook,

'Mohamed ElBaradeu in Tahir Square urges US to take action against Mubarak', The Global Post,