Category Archives: Geopolitics

Quote of the day: The Greek bailout agenda


Why keep Greece on the euro? Why invade Iraq?

The answer to both questions is the same: Energy.

From a Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten [German Economic Times] piece headlined “Why Greece must stay in the eurozone: It’s about a pipeline,” translated by Keep Talking Greece.” The subject is the Trans Adriatic Pipeline [TAP], that will cross Greece to bring natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe:

Greece’s rescue is not a political project. It’s a matter of natural gas and the energy sector.  The EU wants to free itself from dependence on Russian gas, therefore it builds a pipeline running from Turkey through Greece to Italy. In order not to jeopardize the project through a collapse in Greece, Greece must remain in the euro zone.  Bitter truth for the Greeks: it is about their country, not the people.

Again and again, one wonders: Why is the EU is pumping billion of European taxpayers’ money to Greece? In Greece, there is no oil, no industry – nothing that the Europeans really need. On vacation, Europeans could pay with drachmas, when in Greece.

So why this unquestioning loyalty?

The answer can be found where you can always find answers when much money is involved: In energy policy. Europe has maneuvered itself into a predicament: the EU completely dependents on Russia. The Gazprom Group – advised by former German Chancellor [Gerhard Schroeder SPD] has the license to print money – because Russia is the largest supplier of gas for industry and prosperity in the EU.

This dependence is a problem for the EU: the Russians can do what they want – they dominate the European market through the Gazprom.

Obama poll ratings: Little Hope™, little Change™


Ominously, according to the latest findings from Gallup, Americans think the only important thing he’s done fairly well has been in fighting “terror”:

BLOG Obama approval

RT report: Snowden wants to live in Russia


First the video report from Russia Today:

NSA leaker Snowden plans to settle in Russia, find work

And from the accompanying text:

NSA leaker Edward Snowden plans to settle in Russia and is ready to begin a court battle if the country’s migration service denies his asylum plea, Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who assists the whistleblower, told RT.

“It’s hard for me to say what his actions would be in terms of a positive decision [on the asylum plea],” Kucherena said. “We must understand that security is the number one issue in his case. I think the process of adaptation will take some time. It’s an understandable process as he doesn’t know the Russian language, our customs, and our laws.”

“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in,” he added.

Kucherena expressed hope that the whistleblower’s plea will be granted, because the reasons which prompted Snowden ask for political asylum in Russia “deserve attention.”

“He fears for his health and his life. He’s afraid that if he’ll be handed to the US, torture can be used against him down to death penalty,” he said.

Read the rest.

Chart of the day: Who loves ya, baby?


From the Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Project, a look at how other nations view the United States. Note that the least favorable views reported in Europe on held in two nations diametrically opposed in so many other matters, Germany and Greece:

BLOG US viewed

Clare Daly on Irish media’s Obama obsession


Russia Today’s Oksana Boyko interviews Clare Daly, United Left member of the Dáil Éireann [national legislature] from Dublin North, who we previously featured for her outspoken criticism of Belligerent Barry:

‘Obama hypocrite of century’: Full interview with controversial Irish MP

The program notes:

Outspoken and not afraid to say things as they are, Irish MP Clare Daly joins Oksana to discuss Ireland’s unprecedented ‘slobbering’ over Barack Obama and his family, her country’s involvement in secret CIA rendition flights and weapons sales to Syrian rebels, and the ongoing Edward Snowden saga.

Chart of the day: Syria-ously, just say no


Fro m the Pew Research Center, proof that the Obama administration’s push to arm Syrian “rebels” [i.e., the same people the U.S. attacks with drones elsewhere] is resolutely opposed by a growing number of Americans:

[Title]

Fracking: The New Shale Rush — USA


This 20-minute documentary from Journeyman Pictures, offers a concise look at the new bonanza that is fracking, creating a 21st Century version of the Gold Rush, complete with boom towns, exorbitant paychecks, and vanished unemployment while the rush is on.

The video also gives a fascinating look at some of the deeper geopolitical issues at play with fracking while devoting less attention to the environmental issues. The documentary provides some important context for understanding a critical issue certain to play an increasingly dominant role in U.S. and global politics.

Two notable participants are Rob de Wijk, chair of the Dutch National Security Think Tank and director of the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, and René Peters, director of gas technology for TNO [the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research] and considered a leading European natural gas expert.

The New Shale Rush — USA

The program notes:

From the icy wastelands of North Dakota, an energy revolution is transforming global politics. Shale gas has made the US gas-independent, but at what cost to the environment, Europe and Middle-Eastern stability?

Williston is a boom-town in every sense of the word. By night the city shines brighter than New York, as flare-stacks burn off excess gas. By day it’s swamped with new arrivals, keen to join the new gold rush. “If I could get you driving a truck, you could probably make $100,000 dollars a year.” Economic developer Tom Rolf is proud to live in the only recession-proof town in the US. But as space becomes scarce tensions are bubbling to the surface. One local is distraught: “We shouldn’t have to suffer when the government is making trillions”. And the worries aren’t limited to local concerns. As the US begins freeing itself from dependency on Middle-Eastern oil Europe frets over where it will get its energy supplies in the future. European expert Rob de Wijk explains, “This is also about the safety of Europe in connection with what’s happening in the Middle East. We’re on our own now.”

A transcript is posted here.

Headlines of the day: Hither to [no] yawn


From the BBC:

IMF: US budget cuts ‘ill-designed’

From Radio France Internationale, a rebuff to the favorite argument of xenophobes:

Immigrants contribute more than they cost, OECD reports finds

From Ekathemerini, evidence that student loans are a global problem:

Greeks owe 4.3 mln pounds for student loans in the UK

From EUobserver, on one country striking an independent note:

Iceland’s EU bid is over, commission told

From Business Insider, a debtor imprisonment here in the U.S.:

Man Handed A 3-Year Prison Sentence For Refusing To Pay For Dinner

From ProPublica, on a story that leaves us shocked. . .shocked we say:

Bank of America Lied to Homeowners and Rewarded Foreclosures, Former Employees Say

From Vienna’s Der Standard, translation by Watching America. But we love the sound of the German word for “thought police,” Gedankenpolizei:

Barry and the Thought Police

No U.S. president has hounded whistleblowers with as much religious zeal as Obama.

Headlines of the day: Spooks & buggery edition


From EU Business:

EU ‘concerned’ by US surveillance revelations

From EUobserver:

Germany most snooped EU country by US

From New Europe:

Time for Europe to stop being complicit in NSA’s crimes

From a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial:

PRISM and BLARNEY mean it’s time to rein in the terrorcrats

From The Guardian, reporting the predictable responses:

Obama deflects criticism over NSA surveillance as Democrats sound alarm

Tech giants object to suggestions that they allowed government direct access to data while details of Prism program emerge

And equally predictable, this from the Electronic Frontier Foundatiuon’s Deeplinks:

Government Says Secret Court Opinion on Law Underlying PRISM Program Needs to Stay Secret

From ProPublica, matter of factly:

No Warrant, No Problem: How the Government Can Get Your Digital Data

From Forbes, a shoulder shrug:

Intelligence Chief Says Massive Data Collection Is No Big Deal, But Reporting It Is

From McClatchy Newspapers, another acknowledgement:

Phone record fury just one sign of how privacy is a thing of the past

And from the “strange bedfellows” department, this from Politico:

Glenn Beck, Michael Moore call Edward Snowden a hero

But another, more sinister take from the London Daily Mail:

Intelligence officials overheard joking about how NSA leaker should be ‘disappeared’ after handing classified documents to press

From the New York Times, no surprise:

Leaker’s Employer Became Wealthy by Maintaining Government Secrets

And from GlobalResearch, a reminder:

Spying on Americans before 9/11: NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999

UPDATE: A final headline, from an announcement by Emisoft:

USA to legalize rootkits, spyware, ransomware and trojans to combat piracy?

‘How Your Tax Dollars Are Actually Spent’


Via Orwellwasright, a dramatic Al Jazeera visualization of the real budget battle’s driving engine, that military/industrial/academic complex Ike warned us about 52 years ago.

We suspect the real number’s larger. Nor were real impacts on, for example, academia made clear. Berkeley, with it’s bandolier of National Laboratories spawned by the search for The Bomb and expanded into engines of imperialism, as in the genetically engineered cops designed to conquer land rights and demolish peasant sovereignty on behalf of private profit and the interests of the U.S. military and their CIA drone-firing gunslingers now busily setting up shop in Africa, along with AFRICOM, the new military command launched by an Air Force general who lead the air war of Afghanistan.

And it was that same general who devixsed the strategy for converting the air force in agrofueled fleet.

Africa was also the first destination of crews from Berkeley’s BP-funded, national lab participating $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute, who launched searches for suitable crops to be turned into fuels using genetically engineered microbial refineries. If all those oil countries rebelled, at least there’d be fuel plantations, operating under the watchful missile-armed eyes droning overhead.

And that’s just one on many avenues in which the single largest burner of money shapes the landscape of possibilities. . .

Chart of the day: Cruisin’ for a bruisin’


Seizing oil, suppressing those who violently resist, and towing the Israeli line on nukes — that’s not just the American foreign policy line. It’s also the sentiment of most Americans, with that oft-cited “building democracy abroad” bit getting the short shrift.

The latest sad numbers from Gallup:

BLOG Foreign policy

Quote of the day: Barry O, imperial president


Philadelphia Daily News scribe Will Bunch, writing at his blog, Attytood:

Obama’s expanded, top-secret drone war has allowed the U.S. to kill high-level members of al-Qaeda without the risks that ground troops have faced in Iraq or Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been fighting more than 11 years.

But in doing so, a president who promised “the most open and transparent administration in history” has gone to Nixonian lengths to hide its actions from the American people and from Congress. He’s ordered missile attacks on countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with which the nation is not at war – drone strikes that in addition to its targets have killed as many as 1,000 innocent civilians, including women and children.

And according to a White House white paper obtained by NBC News, Obama has claimed a power never even envisioned during the waterboarding-drenched years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney – the ability to order the assassination of an American citizen believed to be engaged with al-Qaeda at a high level, even if that citizen is not currently plotting against the U.S.

Quote of the day: Inventing our own enemies


From Alán Camilo Cienfuegos, writing in Irish Left Review:

The United States military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has never been based on the African continent, headquartered instead in Germany. The chief leader of the opposition to US imperialism in Africa, the main opponent to the basing of AFRICOM bases on the continent and to the presence of US troops on the ground in African countries, was Libya under Muammar Gaddafi. Now that the anti-western Libya has been smashed, and the western-puppet Libya has been set up in its place, the field is clear for the most part for US and western imperialism to move physically into Africa and begin setting up bases in strategic locations in the region. But ironically, one of the main obstacles remaining is none other than the myriad Islamist groups funded by the west to help fight and destroy Gaddafi’s Libya. Large numbers of Islamist fighters, veterans of the war against the Libyan state, have since the fall of Gaddafi moved back across the Sahara and into Mali and surrounding countries, taking their weapons and experience with them, in order to set up their own forces to impose Islamic law on larger and larger areas of north Africa, threatening the stability of imperialism’s plans in the region. And this is where the French military comes in.

The United States has long been the spearhead of western capitalist imperialism, with its running dogs mostly playing second fiddle to its domination. But today, with the US military smarting from blows received in Afghanistan and Iraq, and gearing up for a potential war with new regional nemesis Iran (with the attendant face-off with Iranian allies Russia and China), the time has come for the rising military power of the European Union, internally strengthened by various treaties of economic integration and military co-operation, to take its place as the vanguard of the imperialist forces. Britain and France have already taken part in the destruction of Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan, and France took the lead role in the bombardment of Libya in 2011 in support of the western proxies there. The EU, with its continuing, rapid integration of economic and military power, will soon be an imperialist force to be reckoned with in the world, a vital bulwark for the United States against the equally growing powers of Russia and China.

And thus, we now have French forces, with the backing of the US and EU, bombing the same rebels they funded and armed to destroy Libya, and French troops (currently around 2,500 of them) gearing up to fight alongside the Malian government to secure the interests of imperialism in the region. One wonders if the French have learned the lessons of their past colonial adventures, for although French officials have claimed that the Mali operation will last only a few weeks, it is very possible that, in facing once again a well armed, battle-hardened and fanatical enemy on its own soil, the imperialists may well be sucked into yet another war that they cannot win, this time against an enemy of their own making.

Read the rest.

Two remarkable videos on a crucial issue


The presidential foreign policy debate was dominated by one single issue: Whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama would do the most for Israel.

As Stephen Colbert commented the next day, “I was playing a drinking game last night where I took a shot of Manischevitz every time someone said Israel, and by the end of the debate I was totally diabetic.”

So today we offer videos offering alternative views on that most contentious of issues.

How We Can Solve The Palestinian Israeli Problem

Sami Moukaddem, a writer and musician born in Lebanon and trained in psychology at Trinity College Dublin, writes that “In 2009 I bought a video camera with no training in film making and embarked upon making a documentary on the Palestinian/Israel problem.”

From the film’s website:

This film is about equality, which makes me on everybody’s side. It’s my belief that oppression harms the humanity of the oppressed as well as the humanity of the oppressor. While this happens in different ways, ultimately, I believe we’re all in this together.

While emotionally I resonate more with the oppressed, my aim is to find ways to empower the oppressed, and also inspire both societies of the oppressor and colluding societies, so that all are moving towards equality.

Among the interviewees are Denis J. Halliday [former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq], British journalist Jonathan Cooke, Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, Israeli economist Shir Hever, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, Noam Chomsky, former British intelligence [MI6] officer Alastair Crooke, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, and Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer [who draws some ominous historical parallels].

It’s a warm, poignant, and ultimately hopeful story, and well worth your time.

H/T to Moussequetaire.

America’s Secretary of State, Benjamin Netanyahu?

A remarkable video featuring University of Chicago political scientist and international relations expert John J. Mearsheimer examining the sad subservience of Barack Obama to the agenda set by the Israeli prime minister.

The talk was delivered earlier this month at Koç University in Istanbul.

It’s a stunning and informative talk, revealing the extent of a foreign power’s control over the American foreign policy agenda, and the abject surrender of the national political establishment.

H/T to Pulse.

Mearsheimer also delivered a second address at the university, “Realism and the Rise of China,” which can be viewed here.

And a bonus video. . .

Here’s a White House video from May, 2011, of Obama and Netayahu illustrating Mearsheimer’s remarks. Pay close attention to the body language, both postures and gestures.

Chris Hedges on the horrors of rapor capitalism


Former New York Times Mideast bureau chief Chris Hedges, fired for speaking out against the invasion of Iraq, talks with Bill Moyers about the devastating impacts of raptor capitalism, the collapse of news media, and much more.

The program notes:

There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places “sacrifice zones,” and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.

“These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed,” Hedges tells Bill. “It’s the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings… And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from creating essentially a corporate oligarchic state.”

The broadcast includes images from Hedges’ collaboration with comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which is an illustrated account of their travels through America’s sacrifice zones. Kirkus Reviews calls it an “unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about corporate greed.”

A columnist for Truthdig, Hedges also describes the difference between truth and news. “The really great reporters — and I’ve seen them in all sorts of news organizations — are management headaches because they care about truth at the expense of their own career,” Hedges says.

Important documentary: The Power Principle


An important documentary by Scott Noble. The Power Principle exposes the hidden agenda driving American foreign policy over the last seven decades and its gruesome consequences.

Historian Michael Parenti calls the film “A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the events of today.”

In an interview for Soldiers for the Cause, a veterans group supporting the Occupy movement, filmmaker Noble outlines the theses advanced in his documentary:

  • The Cold War was not just a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States; the real struggle was between American corporations and the Third World.
  • Top policy planners in the US and other Western nations were acutely aware that the Soviet Union had a conservative foreign policy. You can see this in numerous declassified documents.
  • Nevertheless, the American government engaged in what can only be described as a campaign of terrorism against the American people, constantly invoking the “Soviet Menace” to justify military spending and war.
  • The United States does not have a free press.
  • The Pentagon is a Keynsian Mechanism.
  • The American government was responsible for genocide during the Cold War.
  • The Empire is similar to the mafia.
  • Corporate interests are inextricably wed with military policy.
  • American imperialism is not of recent vintage.
  • Elites deceive themselves as well as the public.
  • The US is not exceptional. It is behaving pretty much as powerful states always have.
  • Western elites supported fascism prior to, during and after WWII.
  • A WWIII scenario is almost inevitable unless the American public wakes up – and fast.

For more information see the film’s website.

And now, the documentary:

The Power Principle – I: Empire

The program notes:

An Introduction to the Empire; Iran – Oil and Geopolitics; Guatemala – the “merger of state and corporate power”; The Congo – Neocolonialism; Grenada – “The Mafia Doctrine”; Chile – “libertarianism with a small l”; Globalization: Consequences.

1945: Grand Area Strategy; Fascism: a “rational system of the plutocracy”; Case Studies: the Greek Communists; The Italian Communists; the Spanish Anarchists; Fascism’s Western backers; Trading with the Enemy; Fascism as “preservation of civilization”; the Cold War and “A Century of Fear”.

The Power Principle – II: Propaganda

The program notes:

The Soviet Menace?; Case Studies: El Salvador, Nicaragua; Propaganda: Self-Deception and blowback; The “International Communist Conspiracy”; Declassified Documents; NSC 68; The Pentagon as Keynsian Mechanism; The Military Industrial Complex; The War against the Third World; Shifting rationales; What is imperialism?; Case Study: Haiti; “War is a racket”.

Fear-based conditioning – The War of the Worlds, The Triumph of the Will; World view Warfare; The Russians are coming; Television: The “perfect propaganda medium”; Soviet vs. American propaganda; Hollywood and the Pentagon; Psywarriors and the media; Operation Mockingbird; The Pentagon Pundits; Project Revere; The Bomber Gap; “scare the hell out of them”.

The Power Principle – III: Apocalypse

The program notes:

Mutually Assured Destruction; MAD men – Curtis Lemay and the super hawks; MAD men – Hermann Kahn and the Rand Corporation; Over flights as provocation; Cuba: the “danger of a good example”; terrorism against Cuba; “Unconventional warfare”; the Cuban Missile Crisis and the “man who saved the world”.

Why did the Soviet Union collapse?; Gorbachev: a “more violent, less stable world”; the Pentagon’s New Map; Did Ronald Reagan end the Cold War?; The Brink of Apocalypse: Able Archer; The betrayal of Russia; The expansion of NATO; Yugoslavia and Libya; the Yeltsin coup; Living standards in the former Soviet Union; A third way?

ChinaWatch: Major Pacific Rim power sifts


With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Obama has launched an economic offensive against China, the rising challenger to America’s global economic dominance.

Combined with the presidential announcement in November of“America’s Pacific century,” complete with a commitment to station more troops in Australia, the Obama administration has launched a struggle for dominance that centers on both economic and military dominance and control of the Asian rim’s crucial supplies of vanishing natural resources, including rare earth elements essential to his green [sic] energy initiative.

And be sure and catch the last item: China’s not the only Asia powerhouse that’s shaky.

China challenges dollar dominance

China’s been forced to respond, and one of the most significant moves occurs tomorrow, with the launch of a currency exchange with Japan that directly challenges the unquestioned [to now] dominance of the dollar as the reigning international medium of exchange.

From Xinhua’s Lu Yu:

The imminent launch of direct trading between the Chinese currency yuan and the Japanese yen is expected to considerably facilitate bilateral trade and investment and give fresh impetus to the world’s second and third biggest economies.

The Central Bank of China on Tuesday announced the direct trading will kick off on Friday, both in Shanghai and Tokyo.

For years, the greenback has been the only major direct trading currency of the yuan, also known as the renminbi, and China’s main foreign exchange reserves currency, continuously keeping yuan’s dependence on the U.S. dollar.

The yen, after the dollar, will become the second major direct trading currency of the yuan.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, and bilateral trade reached as high as 300 billion U.S. dollars in 2010. About 60 percent of Japan-China trade is estimated to be conducted in dollar.

The direct trading will boost bilateral investment, as well as imports and exports due to more convenience in business and considerable reduction of risks caused by fluctuation of the dollar’s exchange rates on the world market.

Read the rest.

Beijing launches new economic stimulus program

In another direct challenge to Washington and Wall Street, the Chinese government announced yesterday major new initiatives in bolstering key areas of industrial development.

Two of the areas targeted for stimulus represent direct challenges to Obama administration initiatives, specifically biology [which we take to mean genetic engineering and what folks here like to call synthetic biology] and “new energy.” Both of these sectors are also targeted by UC Berkeley and the Department of Energy with their plans for a massive new campus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

From China Daily:

The State Council on Wednesday adopted a plan to boost the development of seven strategic emerging industries amid the country’s economic slowdown.

“It is an important and strategic task to develop strategic emerging industries, particularly when the economy is facing increasing downward pressure,” said a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

The statement said the development of strategic emerging industries is of great significance in terms of maintaining long-term and steady economic growth.

The meeting resulted in the creation of plans to launch 20 major projects related to the seven strategic emerging industries.

According to the statement, the strategic industries include energy-saving and environmental protection, information technology, biology, advanced equipment manufacturing, new energy, new materials and new-energy vehicles.

The healthy development of these industries, the statement said, will mainly rely on a market that can play a fundamental role in allocating resources, an optimized policy environment and market participants.

Read the rest.

China launches infrastructure initiative

While America’s rapidly aging infrastructure is falling apart, China has chosen to stimulate its own unsteady economy by doing what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did during the Great Depression: A civil works program.

The effort won’t be as large as the program conducted immediately after the start of the 2008 crash, however.

From Michael Wines of the New York Times:

Spooked by a sharply slowing economy, China’s leaders have begun opening the financial spigots to build still more roads and airports and subsidize consumer purchases, reprising measures that enabled the nation to sail mostly unscathed through the last great global recession.

But the leaders are signaling that the latest round of stimulus spending will fall far short of the four trillion renminbi, or $585 billion at the time, that the government poured into the economy in 2008 and 2009. That spurred a torrent of bank lending, part of it for dubious projects that many experts say will wind up bankrupt in coming years.

The government has made no formal announcement of a stimulus program, and an article in Wednesday’s People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s leading newspaper, quoted leading Chinese economists as suggesting that any efforts to bolster growth are likely to be measured. Markets fell on Wednesday after the article and other news from Beijing indicated that China’s planners remained cautious about engaging in a huge additional stimulus program.

Read the rest.

Relax, says WTO: No U.S. China trade war

This is one we’ll put in our “Oh, really?” department.

From Ding Qingfen of China Daily:

Trade frictions between China and the United States will probably become more heated in the months ahead, but no trade war will break out between the two biggest economies in the world, Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, said on Tuesday.

“As Chinese trade with the rest of the world grows, there is a normal statistical proportion of trade frictions, and we believe that the frictions can be handled peacefully,” said Lamy.

“But nothing like a trade war.”

Lamy made the remarks in an interview conducted at the Beijing 2012 Round Table for Least-developed Countries on Best Practices in the WTO Accession Process, which was held in the capital city.

During the forum, Chen Deming, minister of commerce, said China is willing to help the least developed countries join the WTO. Having them in the organization will be good for the world economy and global trade, and for China.

Read the rest.

No trade war? Already on, says Romney aide

That’s what former Missouri Sen. James M. Talent, now an economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, tells Bloomberg:

Europe launches a Chinese trade war?

Okay, maybe that’s a little strong. But just a little.

From Deutsche Welle:

Nearly a quarter of all European companies with operations in China considers moving at least part of their businesses out of the country in Continue reading

Eurowatch: Can Pasok form a new government?


The Guardian’s been liveblogging the developments as socialist [sic] party leader Evangelos Venizelos attempts to form a new government, and according to the latest developments, it looks like he has a chance.

In one of the latest developments, SYRIZA — the left coalition that tried and failed to form a government Wednesday — has apparently softened its once adamant anti-austerity line, an odd development given the party’s post-election rise in popularity [which we note below].

Lots more from Greece, more woes for Spain, bellowing from Berlin, and the latest chapter in Italy’s longest-running show, the Berlusconi Follies.

But on to Greece.

Venizelos tries to make a government

Most of today’s items on the Greek political scene were written before the latest developments liveblogged by The Guardian, but they indicate the difficulties Paok faces in trying to hammer out a coalition.

Given Pasok’s plummeting popularity, it’s going to be interesting to watch what sort of compromises are made. We suspect any last pretense of socialism will be cast aside.

From Maria Petrakis, Natalie Weeks, and Marcus Bensasson of Bloomberg:

Evangelos Venizelos, the socialist Pasok leader and former finance minister, is trying to form a government after receiving a three-day mandate from President Karolos Papoulias today. Pasok yesterday rejected terms for a government set by Alexis Tsipras of anti-bailout Syriza party, which then gave up its bid to build a coalition.

“There is no time to lose,” Venizelos said in Athens yesterday on state-run NET television. “We can’t take any decisions that worsen the recession, increase unemployment or endanger the real economy. That means no new elections, no instability, no uncertainty: to remain in the euro.”

The standoff has reignited European concerns over Greece’s ability to hold to the terms of its two bailouts negotiated since May 2010. With Parliament split and policy makers in Berlin and Brussels urging Greece to stay the course, the country at the epicenter of the debt crisis is again facing the risk of an exit from the euro.

>snip<

“New elections are the most likely possibility,” Spyros Economides, a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics, said in a telephone interview. “The coalition math from the May 6 vote just doesn’t add up.”

Read the rest.

The BBC adds:

Pasok is now deeply unpopular, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens – seen as the architects of austerity, and tainted with allegations of corruption.

It dominated Greek politics for most of the past four decades, but saw its support slashed on Sunday – coming third with just 41 seats, a quarter of its pre-bailout support.

Its attempt to form a government also appears likely to fail, our correspondent says, making fresh elections – and weeks of fresh instability across the eurozone – seem inevitable.

Read the rest.

And from Niki Kitsantonis of the New York Times:

Mr. Venizelos is likely to face even greater difficulties as his party, known as Pasok, was the architect of the country’s first bailout in 2010 and is widely blamed for Greece’s economic woes. But although he failed to find any common ground in exploratory talks with political rivals, Mr. Venizelos expressed determination on Wednesday. “It is clear that we currently cannot reach a solution but we must continue the national effort,” he said, noting that his mandate would have “substance and importance.”

Local media were more skeptical, reporting that the Socialist leader may give up what appears to be a losing battle, surrender his mandate and instead ask the president to proceed to the next stage, summoning all the leaders of parties in Parliament to try to broker a coalition. If this fails, Mr. Papoulias must appoint a caretaker government and call new elections within 30 days, with the most probable date believed to be June 17.

Read the rest.

Bailout renegotiation hinted

This story leaves us wondering what sort of backroom deals are being hammered out in Brussels to allow the two formerly dominant Greek political parties, Pasok and New Democracy, to hammer out a deal that will keep the real Left out.

From Agence France-Presse:

Venizelos helped negotiate Greece’s second international bail-out, which was granted on condition the then Pasok-New Democracy coalition government implemented the harsh austerity measures required by the EU and IMF.

But both mainstream parties are now suggesting it will have to be renegotiated.

Venizelos now says Greece needs to “look for the best amendment possible of the terms” of the agreed reforms, and New Democracy leader Samaras said renegotiating the bailout was “certainly realistic”.

Their shift echoed the anti-austerity rhetoric of Syriza’s Tsipras, who argued that Sunday’s overwhelming anti-austerity vote had “clearly nullified the loan agreement and (pledges) sent to Europe and the IMF”.

Read the rest.

Meanwhile, the EU adds bailout strings

If there’s a carrot being offered in secret, Brussels also brought out the stick.

From Valentina Pop of EUobserver:

Eurozone officials on Wednesday night (9 May) agreed to pay only €4.2 billion as first bail-out tranche for Greece, an outstanding 1 billion being blocked until June, amid growing political uncertainty in Athens and another failed attempt to form a government.

“The Board has confirmed the release of the outstanding amount of €5.2bn from the first installment…an amount of €4.2bn will be disbursed on 10 May. The remaining funds of €1.0bn are not needed before June and will be disbursed depending on the financing needs of Greece,” reads a statement from eurozone’s temporary bail-out fund, the European Financial Stability Facility.

Its board of directors comprises of finance ministry officials from each of the 17 eurozone countries.

The statement also noted that the money is put into a “segregated account” and used to pay back Greece’s debt.

Read the rest.

Berlin brings out its own stick

If there’s one person whose name is likely to provoke anger in Greece, it’s that of Germany’s finance minister, the official who has consistently taken the hardest line against any moderation of the Troika-imposed austerity regime.

Wolfgang Schaeuble is back at it again.

From EUbusiness:

Greece must stick to a March deal agreed with its international backers and enact promised reforms to remain within the eurozone, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Wednesday.

“If Greece wants to remain in the eurozone, there is no better solution than the path it has already taken,” Schaeuble said, referring to austerity cuts and reforms in return for a 240-billion-euro debt bailout.

“You can’t have one without the other,” he added.

The Greeks need “to form a stable government and strictly respect their commitments, in the same way that we will respect our obligations to Greece,” Schaeuble said, echoing earlier comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Read the rest.

The latest Greek jobless numbers: Grimmer still

The official Greek unemployment rate nears 22 percent, numbers certain to fuel the growth of discontent as well as more alienation from the two mainstream parties which landed Greek labor in the deepest crisis since the fall of the dictatorship 38 years ago.

From Keep Talking Greece:

900 people were losing their jobs on a daily basis in February 2012, pushing  the unemployment rates to 21.7%. According to Greek Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) the number of unemployed in 1,070,724 Continue reading

NATO-Chicago, police state proving ground


When the two-day summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gets underway in Chicago on the 20th, we’ll be treated to a showcase of newly strengthened police powers in the form of Operation Red Zone.

The chilling expansion of the Obama administration’s vastly expanded police powers will meld with draconian measures implemented in January by Chicago Mayor — and former Obama Chief of Staff — Rahm Emanuel.

In addition to the new laws, plans are already in place for a mass evacuation of the city and the resurrection of a closed prison to house the anticipated massive arrests.

The goal: Reducing dissent to an irrelevancy by first containing it, then swooping in for mass arrests.

And beneath the obvious measures, we’re sure the National Security Agency and other agencies are busy intercepting communications and preparing target lists for arrests by the FBI, Secret Service, and the Chicago Police Department.

The NATO summit is certainly a legitimate protest target, given NATO’s increasing belligerence in the Islamic world and in that missile defense system the Obama administration has pushed on Europe — much to Russia’s outrage.

The meeting will also focus on NATO strategy in Afghanistan and, presumably, contingency plans for assaults on Iran and Syria.

Here’s an excerpt from the latest NATO propaganda piece:

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed the importance of this month’s Chicago Summit to the future of the Alliance and its mission in Afghanistan, in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on 4 May 2012.

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen praised Germany’s steadfast support for the Alliance and its missions, notably in Afghanistan, Kosovo and off the coast of Somalia.

>snip<

The Secretary General discussed the 20-21 May Chicago Summit agenda in his meeting with the Chancellor. He said that the Chicago Summit will be a crucial one for the Alliance. The Summit will have three main goals: Afghanistan, capabilities and partnerships.

“This will be a vital moment, as we set out how to keep NATO of the future as strong and successful as the NATO of the past,” said Mr. Fogh Rasmussen.

Read the rest.

Add in the presence of a stellar cast of Western presidents, prime ministers, admirals, generals, and sundry other stars of the power elite, and you’ve got a very legitimate target of protest.

In a Thursday story, the Associated Press listed some of the movements expected at the protest. They include anti-war groups, organized labor, Occupy activists, civil rights advocates, environmentalists, immigrant and refugee advocates, and others we would loosely group together as social justice movements.

Go here for the full list.

And now it starts to get interesting.

Chicago evacuation planned for NATO summit?

First, a clip from CBS News 2 in Chicago:

From the CBS news story:

Are there plans in place for a mass evacuation of downtown in the event of riots on May 20-21? A Red Cross memo out of Milwaukee indicates that there is.

>snip<

As for the Red Cross plan, CBS 2 News has obtained a copy of an e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area.

It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”

According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone.

“Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said.

Officials at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication said the directive did not come from them.

The U.S. Secret Service did not return calls for comment.

Read the rest.

Fox News in Chicago has posted a memo [PDF] sent to residents of the Liberty Tower Condominium Association on State Street urging them to find accommodations outside the city during the protest and warning that the Secret Service won’t announce train and bus service cancellations until right before the summit.

Black helicopters cruise the Chicago skies

Really, Black helicopters. Filled with guys with guns.

A video from Fox News aired last month shows a strange “routine military training exercise” over Chicago last month, featuring machine gun-armed troops flying in black Blackhawk helicopters below rooftop level through the city’s streets:

Throwing in the Fear Factor

The history of the 20th Century reveals countless examples of governments inciting fear of terrorism and alien invasion as justifications for massive repression.

The most notable example remains the Enabling Act, passed after the Reichstag Fire in Germany in 1933. By depicting the blaze as the act of a Soviet/Jewish conspiracy, Hitler got the folks who used to meet in the burned building to pass legislation granting him dictatorial powers. The next day, in an orgy of violence, Left parties and labor unions were smashed and their property confiscated, effectively destroying the two major bases of opposition. We all know the rest of the story.

By whipping up anti-Communist fears, starting in 1948 Republicans and their allies in the Southern Democrats were able to deny civil rights to American communists and cooperate with the media world in purging journalists, directors, actors, writers, and others from their jobs — including many whose sole crimes were refusing to turn snitch or invoking their constitutional rights. The law was used to purge labor unions and force even liberal Democrats to sign on to the purge.

What began in 1948 was vastly expanded in the wake of 9/11, following the same recipe Hitler followed. The only difference was in the choice of targets. The Jews, targets of those earlier purges in both countries, were now the good guys, while another Semitic people was selected for black hat role.

In that light, consider this from the New York Post, headlined “Chicago hospitals perform dirty bomb response drills ahead of NATO summit”:

Chicago’s suburban hospitals are preparing for a worst-case scenario during next month’s NATO summit.

At least 10 Chicago hospitals performed drills this week, including Evanston Hospital, simulating a radioactive dirty bomb explosion.

“We want to make sure that, as we’re getting close to the NATO Summit, that our staff are ready and trained and able to take care of our community,” NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Brigham Temple said.

The “victims” were volunteers from the US Navy’s Great Lakes training center.

>snip<

They were posing as victims of a so-called “dirty bomb” that had exploded, leaving them with deadly radioactive cesium on their skin. Doctors and nurses would risk their own lives if they began treating the wounded before they are cleansed of radiation.

Temple said Wednesday’s dirty bomb scenario had been worked out in conjunction with the Secret Service and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Read the rest.

Operation Red Zone

That “Red Zone” phrase will be familiar to anyone who watched the documentary about police containment strategies for the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto that we posted on May Day.

Red Zone was the term used then by Canadian authorities to define areas where protests were excluded.

To enforce their police actions, the Canadian police relied on a dormant piece of legislation passed in 1939 as Canada entered World War II: The Public Works Protection Act, which hadn’t been enforced since the end of the war.

While Canadians already had a law enabling them to enforce draconian restrictions on citizens, the Obama administration lacked a comparable law.

Until this year, when Barack Obama signed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Continue reading

ChinaWatch: Troubles ahead for the Asian giant?


While there’s denying China has become the world’s rising industrial star, are the same problems facing other developed countries headed their way?

How could they not, given that China depends on the major industrial economies of the West for most of its exports, ranging from iPads to giant industrial turbines.

And with the Obama administration shifting its military might to the Pacific in a direct confrontation with China, the Beijing government is being forced to boost its military budget.

Add in the globe’s biggest real estate bubble, and there’s real cause for concern.

With that, let’s look at some of the warning signs emerging in the dragon of the East.

China’s trade deficit soars

The clearest warning signal comes in the latest trade figures announced by Bejing.

From the official Xinhua news agency:

For the first time in a year, China recorded a trade deficit of 31.48 billion U.S. dollars in February, the largest in a decade, as import growth far outpaced exports.

Exports rose by a six-month-high of 18.4 percent from a year earlier to 114.47 billion U.S. dollars in February, while imports were up 39.6 percent, the highest growth in 13 months, to 145.96 billion U.S. dollars, customs data showed Saturday.

The relatively fast nominal expansion was fueled by the lower comparative base for last February, when the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday cut working days from the month and skewed trade data, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said. The week-long holiday fell in January this year.

After seasonal adjustments, the annual growth of exports slowed to 4 percent in February, while that of imports was cut down to 9.4 percent.

Read the rest.

More from Agence France-Presse:

China swung into a huge trade deficit of $31.48 billion in February, customs data showed Saturday, as the West’s economic troubles hit the world’s second-largest economy.

China is normally a net exporter of goods — it recorded a surplus of $27.28 billion in January — but total monthly imports rose 39.6 percent year-on-year to $145.96 billion, with exports only going up 18.4 percent to $114.47 billion.

Chinese firms’ efforts to sell to the country’s major trading partners in the West are suffering from the effects of the eurozone debt crisis and weak economic recovery in the United States.

The deficit was the largest for at least 12 years, according to Dow Jones Newswires — the extent of its archived data — and far in excess of the median forecast of $8.5 billion among 15 economists it had surveyed.

Analysts had expected a deficit as imports recovered from temporary disruption after the unusually early Lunar New Year in January, but they had predicted a larger rise in exports and a smaller increase in imports.

Read the rest.

China’s car sales suffer decline

While this indicator’s a mixed blessing — fewer car sales mean fewer emissions — it’s one more signs that China’s growth imperative may turn into a bumpy ride.

From Bloomberg News:

China’s passenger-car sales had their worst two-month start in seven years as slowing economic growth and record fuel prices discouraged consumers in the world’s largest vehicle market.

Wholesale deliveries of passenger automobiles, including multipurpose and sport-utility vehicles, declined 4.4 percent to 2.37 million units in January and February, the biggest drop since 2005, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Sales were projected to fall 3 percent, based on the median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Enlarge image China Car Sales Have Worst Start Since 2005

Models pose with the a BYD Co. G3R at the 8th China International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China’s industry minister said car sales may fail to meet this year’s growth forecast after Premier Wen Jiabao this week set the lowest target for economic expansion since 2004. The data is a blow to global carmakers from General Motors Co. (GM) to Volkswagen AG that are already contending with a slump in European sales.

“This is going to be a tough year for China’s automakers,” said Harry Chen, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities Co. in Shenzhen. “The government is concerned about inflation and economic growth is projected to slow.”

Read the rest.

China cuts annual growth target

The stated reason is interesting. The government says it’s because they want to spur sales to China’s consumers, but given the growing trade gap and the continuing economic crisis in the West, what other alternative is there?

From Reuters:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao cut his nation’s 2012 growth target to an eight-year low of 7.5 percent and made boosting consumer demand the year’s first priority as Beijing looks to wean the economy off its reliance on external demand and foreign capital.

He lowered the target from a longstanding annual goal of 8 percent, a move investors anticipated so that Beijing has some economic leeway to rebalance the economy and defuse price pressures in the run up to a leadership change later this year.

Lower growth will allow Beijing to reform key price controls without causing an inflation spike, so monetary policy can stay broadly expansionary to ensure a steady flow of credit to the small and medium-sized firms the government wants to encourage.

“We aim to promote steady and robust economic development, keep prices stable, and guard against financial risks by keeping the total money and credit supply at an appropriate level, and taking a cautious and flexible approach,” Wen said in his annual work report to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s annual parliamentary session.

The premier named “expanding consumer demand” as his first priority for 2012, when the ruling Communist Party must also navigate a leadership handover that will send Wen and President Hu Jintao into retirement in 2013.

Read the rest.

The joker in the deck: Oil prices

Just as oil soaring prices threaten Western economies already in crisis, the high cost of energy poses a major problem for Asian economies as well.

From Xinhua:

Asian economies, a major net importer of oil as a whole, will be much more adversely affected than most other regions if oil prices keep rising, Nomura Research warned in a latest report.

The price of Brent crude was up nearly 15 percent last week from 108 U.S. dollars per barrel at the end of last year, hovering at about 124 U.S. dollars per barrel. While this pales in comparison to the 364 percent surge over the prior five years to the peak of 144 U.S. dollars per barrel in July 2008, Nomura said the recent run-up is not insignificant and the current level is already relatively high.

Given that Asia excluding Japan’s annual net imports of crude and refined petroleum increased from 234 billion U.S. dollars in 2009 to 329 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 and to a record 447 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, Nomura estimated a U.S. dollars per barrel rise in Brent crude could add 3.5 billion U.S. dollars to Asia’s monthly net oil import bill. Although Asia excluding Japan is not completely without oil reserves, but with its massive industrialization and growing Continue reading