December 2010
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Month December 2010

New Year New hopes New Wars

On Sunday, we will be recovering from the celebrations the night before and wondering if we really meant our New Year resolutions.

The Chinese will keep their powder dry till February 4th, the first day of the Year of the Rabbit.

Long before nearly a billion and a half East Asians make a resolution, we will have broken ours, probably by the first week.

And what do we have before us as we travel the road M2011.

Some will pat themselves on the back for ‘avoiding’ the VAT increase to 20%. Or is that another way of saying we all went to Westfield and Oxford Street to spend £300 on stuff we could have lived without to save £7.50.

Now, what’s the APR interest on £300….. around £80? We will soon know as the credit card bills arrive on our doormats late January and early February.

By this week, 100,000 public sector workers will have received their redundancy letter (a Xmas present unwrapped to offer the statutory 90 day notice before the New financial year in April).

House prices are forecast to fall somewhere between 5 to 10%, though central London may buck the trend.

Last year, one in five properties in London were bought by mainland Europeans…. I imagine some swish Greek millionaires were in there, having taken out their Euros from Athens to avoid waking up one morning and finding the Euros had turned back to Drachmas… that’s on the cards in 2011.

The Irish rue that phrase ‘the luck of the ……’ as they go to the polls and kick out Fianna F and bring in FG…. no one is bothered unless…. the new lot (with Irish Labour & maybe Sinn Fein support) demand a review of the onerous IMF/EU austerity package…. Then watch the financial markets.

Europe’s PIIGS will be dancing on thin ice as Portugal goes to the wall… and everyone wonders how they can save Spain… all this we can watch in high definition by March.

The Italians (with a €1.9 trillion debt) will suffer Berlusconi again and probably face their moment of death/debt next winter or 2012.

This will be a year for Germany. They will decide the fate of the Euro and Europe as a project. How Margaret Thatcher must hate the idea of a German Thatcher, in the guise of Angela Merkel,  deciding the future while a British Prime Minister watches from the side, and twiddles his thumbs.

Surely there will be a spread of wars in Africa, though I wonder whether the ‘progressive Left’ will notice in London, so engrossed are they with the Eastern Mediterranean (or part of it).

The Congo will continue to burn… but will we notice? Five million dead so far but that’s not news unless the raw materials stop coming our way..,,,

West Africa looks like it has found a new victim…. while Sudan is on the verge of a split,  offering a vision of an African Arc of Instability from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

The Afghan War, which looked like it was entering the final chapter this time last year, has suddenly added a few more chapters as the Energy companies & weapons manufacturers twist Obama’s arm (though he does not need much persuading) to guarantee four more years of profits…. The TAPI pipeline is back on the agenda and the Afghan Army is being trained to protect it. The pipeline is set to start in 2012 and pumping out Turkmenistan ‘s gas into Pakistan and India by 2014.

Well, that’s the plan.

WIll there be any new Asian Wars in 2011? Every year we think it could be Iran. Maybe. The democratic Green Revolution failed so it leaves only a military strike to produce regime change. If Obama wants to be re-elected, he probably doesn’t want it in 2012, which is why 2011 looks like a dangerous window…

The Maoist war in India will gather strength though no Guardianista will notice unless Arundhati Roy is arrested….. that war is a slow burning fuse which will be the ultimate game-changer this decade …… but just as we do with Africa, we will ignore it and keep our narrow focus across the Middle East (or West Asia as it is known elsewhere).

The big financial story, besides the Euro, will be the bankruptcy of some US cities (and maybe a couple of European ones too).

With house prices falling too, the second leg of the crisis will be upon us….

What a dark canvas this all is…….. the positive splashes of paint will be the rise of political and social consciousness among millions of Europeans… about time too…. and there will be small victories along the way…. but 2011 seems more like work-in-progress rather than the finished article….

The almost non-existent English Left are pinning their hopes on the emerging student movement but that’s just another way of saying the ‘Left’ want to piggy back rather than broaden the opposition…

Most voters or citizens haven’t got an alternative vision firmly implanted because most of us haven’t communicated this consistently.

Between a token Union day out (sorry,  big terrifying strike) and the Royal Wedding, the unpalatable news will be that the World financial markets will show off London and the UK as a beacon of right wing neo-liberal governance.. and sterling might even soar with that vote of confidence…… imagine all those cheap holidays in Cyprus……

The climate change talks will collapse in South Africa even there if there is a meaningless ‘agreement’ and shedload of pledges.

The idea of the villains and the victims somehow burying the hatchet and over-ride the greed of oil companies and the oil dependent agri-business giants to construct a road map to a Greener World is touching…… this road started in 1992 and still has little to show…. so the only way we can call this ‘good news’ is to suggest that this will mark a turning point.

The negotiation process is not much better than the decades of conferences on poverty…. and where did we get with that then?…… Or Third World Debt…..

Hmm…. perhaps I am being gloomy because this is the down time between Xmas and the New Year….. perhaps when the rabbit sings in February I might look forward to the end of the dark winter and scent the spring with its hopes of a brighter future… Let’s hope so….

But let’s end in a positive way…. remember Soros said he was enjoying a good year of the Crisis…. and let’s rejoice in the good fortune of all those bankers planning how to spend their bonuses on yachts and trophy wives…… and all those companies in the ‘security business’ who are making hundreds of billions in providing us with floor to ceiling coverage of ‘protection’…… with 500,000 CCTVs in London (solving just 1,000 crimes),  reading our emails, following our Oyster card movements, tracking our purchases, recording our phone calls, profiling us on spiffy software and categorising us as trouble makers…….. I think we are in the wrong business trying to save the world…….. it seems so much more rewarding destroying it..

Lucky for some then.

Have a happy 2011

 

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China to join the EU?

Should China apply to join the EU? What a preposterous thought? The European elite would shudder at that impossible idea. And of course it’s not a serious proposition.
But…… China’s money is perfectly welcome in Europe. Lisbon is reporting that Beijing is going to buy up €5 bn of Portuguese bonds by February.
This may prevent a bond trader attack.
China is also effectively saying it will back Europe by being a lender of last resort to the European Central Bank by buying Greek, Irish and Spanish bonds.
China’s working class is keeping Europe s middle class afloat in 2011 so that millions in Shanghai can sell stuff to millions of credit hard holders from limerick to Lisbon.
China is already a part of the EUs Financial DNA.
We had better adjust our thinking.
Mao died a long time ago. Mammon is the new messiah. Or so it seems.

Wiki says Indians torture in Kashmir

WikiLeaks cables:
India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir

Beatings and electric shocks inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir, US diplomats in Delhi told by ICRC

by Jason Burke in Delhi

Beatings and electric shocks inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir, US diplomats in Delhi told by ICRC

US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables.
The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees.
Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.
The revelations will be intensely embarrassing for Delhi, which takes pride in its status as the world’s biggest democracy, and come at a time of heightened sensitivity in Kashmir after renewed protests and violence this year.

Other cables reveal that:

• The Dalai Lama has told US officials that combating climate change is more urgent than finding a political solution in Tibet, which “can wait five to 10 years”.
• Rahul Gandhi, the crown prince of Indian politics, believes Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants, according to the American ambassador to India.
• Five doctors were coerced by the Sri Lankan government to recant on casualty figures they gave to journalists in the last months of island’s brutal civil war.
The most highly charged dispatch is likely to be an April 2005 cable from the US embassy in Delhi which reports that the ICRC had become frustrated with the Indian government which, they said, had not acted to halt the “continued ill-treatment of detainees”.
The embassy reported the ICRC concluded that India “condones torture” and that the torture victims were civilians as militants were routinely killed.
The ICRC has a long-standing policy of engaging directly with governments and avoiding the media, so the briefing remained secret.
An insurgency pitting separatist and Islamist militants – many supported by Pakistan – against security services raged in Kashmir throughout the 1990s and into the early years of this decade.
It claimed tens of thousands of lives, including large numbers of civilians who were targeted by both militants and security forces.
The ICRC staff told the US diplomats they had made 177 visits to detention centres in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India between 2002 and 2004, and had met 1,491 detainees. They had been able to interview 1,296 privately.
In 852 cases, the detainees reported ill-treatment, the ICRC said. A total of 171 described being beaten and 681 said they had been subjected to one or more of six forms of torture.
These included 498 on which electricity had been used, 381 who had been suspended from the ceiling, 294 who had muscles crushed in their legs by prison personnel sitting on a bar placed across their thighs, 181 whose legs had been stretched by being “split 180 degrees”, 234 tortured with water and 302 “sexual” cases, the ICRC were reported to have told the Americans.
“Numbers add up to more than 681, as many detainees were subjected to more than one form of IT [ill-treatment],” the cable said.
The ICRC said all branches of the Indian security forces used these forms of ill-treatment and torture, adding: “The abuse always takes place in the presence of officers and … detainees were rarely militants (they are routinely killed), but persons connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency”.
The cable said the situation in Kashmir was “much better” as security forces no longer roused entire villages in the middle of the night and detained inhabitants indiscriminately, and there was “more openness from medical doctors and the police.”
Ten years ago, the ICRC said there were some 300 detention centres, but there are now “a lot fewer”. The organisation had never however gained access to the “Cargo Building”, the most notorious detention centre, in Srinagar.
The abuse continued, they said, because “security forces need promotions,” while for militants, “the insurgency has become a business”.
In the same cable, American diplomats approvingly quoted media reports that India’s army chief, Lieutenant-General Joginder Jaswant Singh, had “put human rights issues at the centre of an [recent] conference of army commanders”.
The ICRC said a “bright spot” was that it had been able to conduct 300 sessions sensitising junior officers from the security forces to human rights.
The cables reveal a careful US policy of pressure in Kashmir, while maintaining a strictly neutral stance.
Two years after the cable on torture was sent, US diplomats in India argued strongly against granting a visa request from the government of India on behalf of a member of the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly who was invited to a conference organised by a think-tank in America.
Usman Abdul Majid, a cable marked secret said, “is a leader of the pro-GOI [government of India] Ikhwan-ul-Musilmeen paramilitary group, which … is notorious for its use of torture, extra-judicial killing, rape, and extortion of Kashmiri civilians suspected of harbouring or facilitating terrorists.”
The diplomats admitted that denying Majid’s application might have some repercussions with Indian officials, “especially those from India’s Intelligence Bureau who have been close to his case” but said it was essential to preserve a balanced approach to the Kashmir issue following the prior refusal of a visa to the leading separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The cable notes that officials are “unable to verify with evidence the claims against Majid”.
US diplomats repeatedly refer to human rights abuses by security and law enforcement agencies within India. In a cable from February 2006, officials reported that “terrorism investigations and court cases tend to rely upon confessions, many of which are obtained under duress if not beatings, threats, or, in some cases, torture”.
A year later a brief for the visiting acting coordinator for counter-terrorism, Frank Urbancic, described India’s police and security forces as “overworked and hampered by bad … practices, including the widespread use of torture in interrogations.”.

City states in trouble

Venice is selling it’s historic infrastructure. Barcelona is selling bonds (IOUs) to its own citizens as the markets say no. All over Europe, cities are in financial trouble. They will need bailouts in 2011/12 just like the banks. Who is going to pay? 3 guesses.
100 US cities are on the brink.
Cities will have to operate like states someday soon.
Basically they are going to have to raise revenue from the rich & upper middle class and change the economic model.
The Green idea of a decentralised, high tech, diversified economy has come of age.
That’s a big part of the political agenda this decade.

Maybe we need to reread the history of the city states……..

one speech does not maketh a movement

It must be Xmas. A Trade Union leader announces his intention to stand alongside the students.  Not great timing. Colleges have broken up. Students have gone home.

So Len McCluskey was only recently elected. What prevented the so called barons turning up as individuals at the protests? Or doing something on a Saturday.

They like to hide behind the terror of Thatcher’s anti union laws. Well, why didn;t they withhold the cheques to New Labour as a threat to withdraw support if they didn’t repeal those laws?

Union leaders and New Labour leaders connived to do nothing.

They bought into the globalisation story and TINA.

Now some of them (and at least Len MC is aware) can see that the movement is morphing to something very flexible and impossible to control.

The NUS is a busted flush. Its leader only wants to become a New Labour MP.

The unions are just talking. It’s a scandal.

They are going to do a lot more than say they are going to do something.

As Nike says, just DO it.

The government should fine BAA & its Spanish parent

Heathrow, airlines, Eurostar…. they all look great until the snow arrives… there is a common thread… private companies report to their shareholders and Board of Directors (paid bonuses in shares which they therefore want going up)…

If BAA is owned by Ferrovial (a Spanish company) then the situation this weekend resulted by decisions made by far away Directors interested in one thing: profit.

They have no remit to worry about the wider economic impact of hundreds of thousands of people being stranded or the social and emotional stress on people.

The toothless regulators will hope this all goes away, as the snow melts away.

They should instead be slapping on a massive fine on BAA and their bosses.

It should be easy to cost by economists. £200 million?

. That hapless Minister of Transport is just throwing up his hands in the air. He has a one-point plan: to commission a study on whether the weather has changed and if we should prepare for winters such as this as normal events.

Well, is that the extent of government?

Just like with bankers bonuses, the government (and it would have been no different if it were New Labour Alan Johnson) just offers empathy with us….. and sits on its hands.

Privatisation means strategic decisions on infrastructure are taken by people who are not elected and often far away.

Green policy is for nationalisation of such vital airports, railways and ports. This weekend vindicates this belief. It makes sense.

Where’s the press release?

Private airports dont work …. for passengers

Private airports want to make money for their shareholders.
BAA have spent a measly £3M on snow clearing equipment this year.
Their terminals are filled with unlucky people huddling under blankets and ti foil, trying to keep warm.
Why weren’t the terminals geared to cope and provide people with warmth and decent places to rest?
Private airports don’t want to spend money – these are not their passengers – they belong to private airlines.
BAA just want people to be customers, shopping in their shops and paying extortionate parking fees.
So their bean cointers tell them it’s not worth wasting funds on passengers beyond a minimum.
Most of Europe coped with the snow. The planes flew from publicly owned airports.
Thirty years into privatisation we know that private trains and planes are more costly, less reliable and more inefficient than Government owned ones.
It’s time we demanded nationalisation of these key transport infrastructure – the bedrock of a 21st century economy.

This is yet another example of how the myths of free Market capitalisation are being laid bare.