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Month November 2010

Should the Irish damn the debt?

On Pearl Harbour Day, Ireland will seal its fate. It’s hard to swallow that the Irish Greens (those who remain) have helped to bring the country to its knees.

On December 7th, the current regime will get its budget passed. They will then lose the elections in less than three months’ time. The €64 billion question is whether a new coalition, including Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein, will reject the budget and tell the IMF and European Central Bank where to go?

If they do, then the Irish will once again show their ability to put a spanner in the Brussels machinery and the Euro. Their rejection of the EU treaty sent panic through the EU elites. They were forced to vote Yes eventually.

Well, the Lisbon Treaty (which the Greens in England & Wales reject) may become a historical curiosity. once this crisis has run its course.

The Irish may well decide not to stick their head into the noose. This IMF-inspired programme will condemn them to a lost decade, if not generation.

And for whom? The European banks of course.

When the pips squeak, they are going to have to return to the drawing board. The banks are going to have to be forced to take a haircut – slash 50% of their bond values. If not, a debt default (in real terms) is not out of the question.

Let’s remember the IMF could browbeat cowed Latin American regimes in the 1980s – just one phone call away from a military coup.

The European public have no such threat hanging over them.

The Irish opposition (the nascent, real one, not Fina Gael) will have to convince the people that the days of  12% Corporation Tax must end, that the likes of Google can pay more into the kitty, that investment in smaller scale firms is the way and that an entire generation must refuse to be lambs to the slaughter.

If the banks won’t share the pain, the Irish should refuse to pay through the nose.These one-sided deals to protect the banks have to end.

Debt Repudiation or ‘damn the debt‘ should be the slogan of this second decade.

If not, this debt crisis will leave a trail of wreckage across European economies.

This story will continue. By no means should we think these agreements or deals will stand.

Farid Bakht

The End of History

That phrase coined by imperial globaliser Fukuyama has now been co-opted by the small island states, faced with extinction due to rising sea levels. They are pleading in vain at the talk-fest in Cancun.
For any Obama fans out there, isn’t this the final straw when the biggest historic polluter cannot even make a trip to neighbouring Mexico..?
Obama is not only a disappointment, he is a washout and a captive of Big Fossil Fuel interests….
He might also be scared to confront the belligerant Latin Americans.
The Bolivians are demanding that the Cochabamba declaration be the basis for meaningful solutions which does not involve pseudo solutions such as Carbon Trading.
Note how the world is focused on US Wikileak nonsense rather than what should be the biggest story…. the betrayal by rich countries (again).
Grenada was invaded by Reagan in the 80s. Why did the Marines bother? It’s slipping into the Caribbean. Carbon emissions are a far deadly weapon.

From Russia with love….

The UK media is obsessed with the Atlantic and its ‘cousins’ across the pond in Washington, intersperced with loose talk about an Asian century…. etc.. etc.

London prefers to ignore ‘Europe’ (which means the ‘mainland) as much as it can.

At its peril. Vladimir Putin seemingly had a love-in with NATO in Lisbon by agreeing to lots of cooperation…. Today, we see what he is really upto.

He has made an open call for strategic cooperation with Germany, adding that the US Dollar can no longer remain the world’s reserve currency. That the Euro must take equal ranking… What he really meant was that the currency held by Germany (the Euro in the short term) is what Russia is after – to tie that resource rich economy to the high-technology superpower of the world.

And that is what we are talking about….. a re-alignment of European politics where Moscow asks Berlin to ‘Look East’ and tie MittelEuropa to the Russian giant…. and as equal partners…

Margaret Thatcher was terrified of German re-unification. Do you remember her unwillingness to countenance it following the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Two decades on, Germany is the economic superpower holding Europe together in the face of the global credit, financial and economic crisis.

And Politics will follow Economics.

Which means the Germans are at most one or two bailouts away from saying Auf Wiedersehn to the current EU set up… Its people are already complaining at having the bear the strain of being the engine dragging EU countries along the track….. Influential voices are asking for a few carriages to be de-linked…… those ones with passengers from Ireland, Portugal, Greece and even Spain.

The unthinkable is becoming possible…. After all, the post-war consensus of holding down Germany in the face of a menacing Russian bear has long since broken down… or it should have.

The French and the rest have used the Lisbon Treaty and its former parts as a way of tying in Germany to a European project…. where Paris could maintian equal parity….

Germany must be wondering what it gains. The US were quite happy for an unravelling EU and thus a weaker Euro, as a junior partner…… where the role would be a European army on call and a ready market for US multinationals. The crisis may have taken this desire too far.

Russia, itself in freefall fifteeen years ago, now sees a new role where it has two economic superpowers on either side. Germany to the West. China to the East.

With its unlimited resources and space, Russia has cards up its sleeve.

Putin will probably become President again. In any case, Medvedev was head of Gazprom, so there is solid continuity in Russian policy.

The leaderships in Germany posses many German speakers. The Russian leaders speak German.

London may not be saying anything. It better. The Russian rich may be happy to play in Londongrad for a few years more. There are 300,000 Russians in the city too. However, the medium term suggests that geo-politics is shifting in Europe.

Giscard and the Lisbon Treaty may have seen its best moments.A bit like Thatcher in 1990, they haven’t noticed that the ground is shifting below their feet….

The world is about to move this decade…… and whatever happens… Germany is the decisive force………and that Russians know it.

Farid Bakht

 

Slash the ‘Defence budget’ in half

If we want to become a normal European country, we need to cut our ‘defence’ budget by £17 billion a year… that’s after the much trumpeted 8% cut in defence spending…..

Too much debate & protest has been about Trident (which has not been built) and the Afghan War (a relative pittance at £4 billion a year).

The defence budget is a £40 billion a year bottomless pit…. I couldn’t get Stop The War to focus on this… (I understand the obvious reasons) but we have to move beyond the Green Party Manifesto commitment of £8 billion off annually. We have to demand more than double that amount.

Will the Sun say we are weak? So what. The Express will be livid…. Oh dear.

Let them define who are enemies are and why we should spend twice as much per head than Germany. … the country that is bailing out Europe…… how? because it has a high-technology manufacturing base (making things the Chinese cannot) and wastes less on the military (and incidentally has several hundred thousand people working in a new renewable energy sector)…..

The Right wing are taking an axe to sacred cows.. and slicing up the welfare state……. and education…. Why cannot a Party on the Left (which is where the Greens are) do the same the other way round….?

Let us ask who the British tanks are ‘defending’ in Germany….. two decades after the Russian armies disappeared…..

Let us define exactly how many Iranians and North Koreans are going to ignore mainland Europe and invade Blighty…. and how…. what enemies do the English general see …. the ones  German ones cannot?

This is as scandalous as the banks… but we are ignoring it…… At least the banks say they are too big to fail. The military are just too obese to move…. they are not propping up UK PLC .. they are just feathering their nests and playing a fantasy 19th century adventure as if they mattered…

It’s time we were tough on defence… by slashihg it…… not looking over our shoulder at imaginary voters who wouldn’t dream of entertaining us… Being tough on things such as defence and taboos such as immigration (as Max Hastings says) means NOT toeing the line and telling it like it is..

Let’s define who are potential constituency is…….. not follow the crowd in a crowded field…. the LibDems have blundered into a minefield… Let’s choose another route…..

Farid Bakht

 

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Banglatown & Spitalfields by-election (2)

We covered the rest of Brune House and Carter House in a sweep of flats. The reaction was particularly friendly. The other two parties had already knocked on doors and got the message through that there is another election (Dec 16th).

Last night I heard it pretty likely that there will yet another by-election by February in the same ward.

I get the sense that there is something to build on here, even if it requires patience and dedication. Lack of jobs came over this time as the big concern, on top of the permanent nightmare about in-decent housing and broken promises.

Our female candidate is finding it easier to break barriers with many of the women at the doorstep (she worked several years as a Health Visitor on the same estate) though translation is being required regularly.

Again we received the most popular reaction when we said that voters should demand that councillors not jump ship and change parties.

The better-off City employees behind Petticoat Lane haven’t given much indication they will vote. The residents of Brune & Carter House will.

How will they vote? One father said he voted Labour (as always) since he ‘didn’t know much about politics…… it’s all way above our heads’…. and that they had come and asked him.’

We didn’t dwell on trying to persuade him that actually it’s the politician who is way above his head in dealing with the harsh realities of local administration.. with swingeing outs and the onset of recession 2.

Cold and weary, we piled into a cafe run by a couple of Moroccans. They showed us a Labour flyer when he saw our Green rosettes. The one behind the counter said he would offer us free cake if we spotted the error. Being famished, we read every word ….. and found it… the bold headline proclaimed the election was to be held on ’16nd December’.

We received a plate of cake after our falafel lunch. It was worth researching the opposition. After chatting, the cafe owner & chef  volunteered the vote. While we won’t necessarily bank on that… I guess we will be back.

Farid Bakht

 

Catalan nationalists win yesterday

Un claro panorama institucional

Los resultados electorales han dejado un claro panorama institucional en Catalunya, con una aplastante victoria en las urnas, la de CiU, y dos dolorosas derrotas, las del PSC-PSOE y ERC. Artur Mas será el nuevo president de la Generalitat porque, pese a que la coalición que lidera no contará con mayoría absoluta, no tendrá rival -al menos con posibilidades reales- en la votación de investidura. La composición del nuevo Parlamento deja las manos libres al candidato corvengente para formar gobierno en base al programa que ha presentado al electorado.

Aunque las encuestas lo habían predicho, el golpe que ha recibido ERC debió doler mucho anoche tanto a sus dirigentes como a su militancia más fiel. Pasar en cuatro años de recoger más de 400.000 votos a poco más de 200.000 -perdiendo 11 de los 21 escaños- sólo puede entenderse como un duro varapalo. Las razones de este hundimiento, que retrotrae a la formación republicana a una etapa que parecía superada en la última década, no se pueden limitar al desgaste que ha supuesto gobernar junto a PSC e ICV, porque hace cuatro años, después de la convulsa experiencia del primer tripartito, el que presidió Pasqual Maragall, el «castigo» de las urnas fue muy suave y, quizá por ello, la dirección de ERC volvió a apostar por esa fórmula.

La derrota del PSC no sólo había sido vaticinada por los sondeos, ya que el propio Montilla la había certificado anticipadamente al arrancar la campaña prometiendo que no volvería a repetirse un gobierno tripartito. Por ello, pese a los mensajes triunfalistas del PP con la puesta vista en las próximas elecciones al Parlamento español, anoche los dirigentes del PSC y los del PSOE asumieron los resultados como una derrota inevitable que abre paso a una renovación necesaria, fundamentalmente, en lo ideológico.

La única incógnita que falta por despejar es el papel que jugará Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència, el partido de Joan Laporta, en el nuevo Parlamento catalán, en el que tanto los catalanistas de ICV como los españolistas de Ciutadans mantienen su peso específico.

Source:  Gara.net –  a basque newspaper.

The great Trade Union Plan…… revealed

The students did another big demo yesterday. This time schoolchildren were ‘kettled’.

It’s utterly shocking that it’s come to this.

The students look like returning next Tuesday, 30th November. This is determination, doggedness and even daring.

Imagine your teenage child facing up to policemen in that arena. A few years ago you would be walking them to school. Now they are confronting police with batons.

They are making worldwide headines. France24, Al Jazeera among other TV channels  and the print media are showing what the supposedly apathetic youth are doing to challenge the ridiculous assault on education… What ever happened to the ‘knowledge economy’?

Meanwhile what are the great Red Trade Unions doing? You know those  ones who put their ever-ready (sorry, red) Ed into power. Beer & sandwiches blah blah blah.

Well, they are showing solidarity by putting together a strike on….. December, no, January, no….. February then? ….. no… it’s March 26th. Next Year.

Yes. Sky and the BBC will be too busy regaling us with tales of preparation for that other spring event…. that marriage……a month afterwards by when everyone will have forgotten.

It’s back to the seventies all right… not of the powerful unions of 1973… but another royal pageant (the Silver Jubilee of 1977).

While students freeze, holding hand-written placards, wondering why they are prisoners on ‘their’ public streets, the Trade Union Barons put in a spot of hard campaigning…. a soundbite interview here….. an email there…. and ……. perhaps lunch.

The great Trade Union Plan is…… to do …… as little as possible…. just send emails to the network and ask how many coaches they need for a walkabout in four months’ time…..

If you look at the polls, there are surprisingly large numbers of people who think the cuts make sense. Not education or public services but somehow cutting the deficit.

Why? Because of the constant refrain across the media. Even New Labour say yes but a tad slower please.

The 7 million trade union members will be among those who are angry but confused.

Angry at the continual bank rolling of the financial sectos and confused as to what they should be demanding beyond a halt to cuts in their neck of the woods.

Every day, the Union machinery should be educating their members, explaining how the crisis came about and how we can get out of it without crucifying the innocent majority and how we can build a new economy which understands what that overused word ‘fair’ really means.

If they are not striking they should be winning hearts and minds…. At present, millions of people are being abandoned in local skirmishes with no connecting thread to unite people to demand another alternative.

They waited for the ‘Cuts Budget’ or CSR in October. They now know the true extent of the Irish Solution in store for us… so what are they waiting for?

At best, the unions have half-heartedly tagged along on the one million climate jobs…. but do you hear people talking about this in the pubs, cafes and restaurants? No, I didn’t think so.

The underlying truth is that the Unions gave up long ago.. and trumpeted the free market ‘success’ in the debt induced boom years when ‘their’ Party was in government.

They and their sponsored Party have no intention in owning up and undergoing an internal upheaval to weed out the ‘leaders’ who led them into a cul-de-sac.

There is no plan. And the govenment knows it.

Farid Bakht