9/28 I once remember Alexander Cockburn writing a column about how Nancy Reagan was the closest thing to a voice of reason in the Reagan White House. And now she is demonstrating her virtues once again.
This article is so clear about the likely impact of a war with Iraq on the natural friends of the US in the Mideast that you almost have to wonder what the reporter was thinking. Could she be one of those terrorist sympathizers John Ashcroft has warned us about?
In many respects, the latest World Economic Outlook paints a picture of a global economy stacked precariously like a house of cards, waiting for a hit from just one more morsel of economic misery to bring on a global recession
Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said that the president "has made it very clear" that he would not sign any legislation if it "doesn't adequately protect the country with the flexibility that the work force needs to do their job well."
Yes, the work force can't work well if the President can't arbitrarily fire them.
Lawrence Sumners, President of Harvard, equates global justice protesters and NGOs opposed to Israeli policies with synagogue burners. Full text here.
Al Gore actually takes a stance against Bush's crazed war drive and 'pre-emptive strikes'.
The US has decided that Germany's efforts to mend fences for the sin of opposing US policy on Iraq aren't good enough. Perhaps its time for a little 'regime change' in Deutchland?
9/22 Tom Tomorrow has put up a link to this site! Thank you Tom.
Israel says it will retaliate if Iraq attacks it if and when the US invades. In other words, the US cannot even control the actions of its very closest ally in the region.
9/20 The Bush administration is claiming that Cuba is giving them false leads in the war against Al Quaeda:
The accusation, which Mr. Fisk aired in separate conferences Tuesday on Cuba policy, marks the second time this year that a State Department official has portrayed
Cuba as a national security threat to the United States without releasing any evidence. Last spring, UnderSecretary of State John R. Bolton accused Cuba of developing biological weapons, which President Castro vigorously denied.
Should the US have an easy time overthrowing Saddam Hussein, expect Cuba to be in their sites next. Full article
A Guatemalan fast food restaurant chain is spreading across the US. The chickens of globalization come home to roost. Full article.
9/19 The Demise of Rosie Magazine presents a post-modern conundrum: Who is "Rosie O'Donnell"?
Regardless of what the contract says, there is an expectation that the magazine belongs to the person it is named after. But Gruner & Jahr officials said Ms. O'Donnell was not the person she had played on TV and not the one they struck a deal with last year. They said that they teamed up with a talk show host who had a huge following of middle Americans who saw themselves in the sweet-as-pie television figure who had a visible crush on Tom Cruise. In less than a year, she had quit her talk show, announced she was a lesbian and said she was tired of acting nice all the time.
"We believe that when she lost the anchor of that television show, something inside her snapped," said one of the editors who worked with her at Rosie. "There is no other way to explain her behavior." Full story.
According to a secret report described in the Scottish Sunday Herald (which my friends tell me is not so secret), not only did Bush have plans to tumble Saddam before he came into the White House, but his claque plans to topple China. China. Waddya, nuts? Full link
Toronto Sun Foreign Editor Eric Margolis, member of the International Insitute for Strategic Studies, the body which has supplied the "evidence"upon which Bush built his case before the United Nations, says that the IISS had its arm twisted by Tony Blair to come up with the requisite findings... full story
9/14 According to Serge Schmemann: 'On the Palestinian side, leaders avoided declaring any retreat in resisting what they call the Israeli "occupation"'
14 Mexican immigrants die in the worst car accident in Maine's history. Will anyone besides their families morn them next September?
9/11 Intelligent, not sanctimonious piece by Susan Sontag on the dangers of the 'war on terrorism' metaphor (or not?). Many of the letters published in response are also thoughtful. Why is this discourse at a superior level to that of our professional pundit class?-
Bechtel is suing Bolivia because its water privatization scheme proved politically untenable, resulting in lost profits.
This is the key passage:
According to Senate testimony from Kenneth Roth, whose Human Rights Watch
group two years ago documented "widespread labor rights violations" in the
United States, in the 1950s a few hundred workers a year were fired -
illegally - for trying to organize unions. But in 1998 - despite a much
lower level of union organizing activity - 24,000 workers lost their jobs
just because they were trying to exercise their internationally guaranteed
freedom to associate with other workers on the job.
8/21 Blair's strategy of trying to change the US by getting close to it has failed.
Exports from the US aren't increasing much, despite a weakening dollar. Not much of a payoff from the end of the great strategy of the eighties and nineties, using a strong dollar to attract foreign capital to the US:
Subtracting capital sent abroad from the United States, the net inflow into the country fell 83 percent, or $16.4 billion, in the first quarter compared with figures in the period a year earlier. Switzerland alone invested $11.1 billion in the United States in the first quarter of 2001; in the first quarter of this year, it withdrew $154 million worth of capital.
Mr. Schoenholtz said he viewed the dollar's decline as a signal of these retreating capital flows. The business climate in the United States, crippled by accounting scandals and faltering profits, makes investment in American securities less attractive. With less demand for American securities comes less demand for dollars with which to buy them, and the currency loses value.
Despite scepticism over a big Saudi shift out of dollar assets, Iran - described as part of an "axis of evil" by President George Bush, is reportedly considering switching crude oil sales from dollars into euros. If they did so, and were followed by other oil producers, the consequences for the US would be serious.
Excellent article available free at the NACLA website on the coup and un-coup in Venezuela in April, particularly focusing on the perfidy of the Venezuelan private media, which broadcast soap operas rather than live reports of pro-Chavez demonstrations.
Item: According to reporter Elizabeth Bumiller:
Even Republican supporters of Mr. Bush have recently criticized the forum as an exercise in promoting the Bush economic agenda and a reaffirmation of the president's policies, rather than an open airing of the economic problems facing the country.
8/12 Breaking up a child smuggling ring sounds very noble--but it should be noted that the children were being smuggled so that their parents in the US could see them, and that the smuggling ring is necessitated largely because of US immigration policy. Now that it is busted it, it's not clear how these parents will ever see their children (Although, obviously, where there is a demand, an enterprise will probably emerge, legal or no).
The interesting thing about this article is not so much that US arrogance toward Japan remains intact even after the US bubble burst; the interesting thing is that the potential of Japanese decline is seen as a problem for the US:
If the Japanese really lost hope, they might start thinking more about acquiescing in Chinese power," said Robyn Lim, an expert in international relations at Nanzan University in Nagoya, "so Japan's return to some semblance of economic health is a vital interest of the U.S. for both security and economic reasons.
As always, worth noting how 'US security' seems to depend on the right behaviour of countries thousands of miles away.
8/10 Blunt article in the Times clarifying the way the IMF is seeking to tie the hands of the next administration in Brazil.
This article, about the way stagnant wages may hinder US economic recovery, is also useful.
In a tangled legal case, Mr. Sor Vann [deported to Cambodia] said he had been convicted of indecent exposure for urinating in public, then of violating his parole, and had ended up serving four years in prison before he was released....
As the deportations continue in the months to come, the Cambodian government will find itself burdened with hundreds of people like this, lost, jobless, many of them unable to function in the Cambodian language, all with criminal records. The hard cases among them could become a menace, possibly joining criminal groups or forming their own gangs
Good, frank article about the reasons for the IMF bailout of Brazil, supported by the US. Some highlights:
For one thing, a Brazilian collapse would be much more frightening [than Argentina's]. Brazil's economy is several times as big as Argentina's. Its external debt of $264 billion is more than double that of Argentina, and American banks like Citigroup, FleetBoston and J. P. Morgan Chase have much greater exposure to Brazilian loans than to Argentine ones.
Brazil has also been a big magnet for American industrial investment. General Motors and other car companies have sunk billions into factory expansions, and a Brazilian meltdown would turn those into white elephants....
The I.M.F. loan was carefully structured to affect Brazil's upcoming elections, in which two left-wing candidates are in the lead and had been threatening to reverse Brazil's free-market approach to economics and trade.
Most of the loan cannot be tapped until after the elections, and the left-wing candidates strongly implied today that they will continue the current belt-tightening budget policies in order to satisfy the fund.
The loan may well keep Brazil on the neo-liberal track. But as Paul Krugman admits in this surprising column, that track has not been particularly beneficial to the poor majority.
8/7 Apparently the prospect of South America's largest economy collapsing is too much even for the Bush administration, which is working with the IMF to get Brazil money to stave off its currency decline. On the other hand, they have not been so generous to Argentina:
Between his meetings with government officials and businessmen, Mr. O'Neill visited a day care center in a Buenos Aires suburb in which more than half of the 500,000 inhabitants are now living below the poverty line. As his motorcade sped through the streets, onlookers rubbed their fingers together to indicate money and one man shouted "where's the cash, where's the cash?"
Workers at the center, built with a grant from the World Bank, said that most of the parents of the 110 children, ages 2 to 5, enrolled in the program were unemployed. The breakfast and lunch which today consisted of chicken and rice with milk and flan for dessert is the only nourishment many of the children receive, the workers said.
8/5 When people try to change the subject away from Israel, as in this repellent piece by Richard Bernstein, they often mention situations like Chechnya or the war in Congo, which have resulted in more deaths. But it might be more useful to direct attention closer to home, to US border policy, which has actually produced a death toll comparable to the conflict in Israel/Palestine.
The report said that some executive board members also recommended increases in U.S. energy taxes as a way to reduce America's use of energy reserves.
The IMF urged U.S. policy-makers to consider rolling back some of the future tax cuts in an effort to keep budget deficits under control and said the administration's current forecasts of when the federal budget will return to surpluses could prove too optimistic.
The report was also critical of the recently passed farm bill, which sharply boosts farm subsidy payments, saying this would also be a drain on the budget in coming years and undermine the U.S. position in global trade talks that all farm subsidies should be dramatically scaled back.
8/4 Will Brazil follow Argentina into financial chaos? The subtext of this question is revealed in this quote:
Behind many of the tremors in Brazil are polls showing that Mr. Cardoso's hand-picked candidate, the former health minister José Serra of the president's centrist Social Democracy Party, is steadily losing ground to his main rivals: the leftist Workers' Party candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former metalworker who used to talk loudly about renegotiating Brazil's debt, and the dark horse candidate, Ciro Gomes of the Labor Front coalition, who still talks about it.
In other words, the investing class may well throw the country into turmoil to punish it for democratically electing leaders it disapproves of.
8/3 What does it mean if the Pentagon parking lot is empty in August? Could it possibly mean that people have been told to take their vacations now, since there may be a war soon that will but all breaks on hold?
Add Bolivia to the list of countries in Latin America where the left is accumulating strength. A coalition of peasants, unions, and indigenous people (in other words, 'terrorists', in the judgement of the US government) may attain the presidency this weekend.
Reading the New York Times lately, including this piece featuring Republicans with reservations about invading Iraq, I've begun to wonder whether the newspaper of record actually supports the idea of this invasion.
Senator Trent Lott, the Republican minority leader, told reporters today that he did not think the administration needed Congressional approval for a major assault. He said that authority had been granted last fall in a resolution supporting military action against Al Qaeda.
"I suspect that Al Qaeda elements are in Iraq," Mr. Lott said. "The resolution we passed, we made it very clear the president has the authority to pursue the Al Qaeda wherever they may be found, in whatever country, which could very well include Iraq."
The logic here is wonderful. If Bush thinks Al Quaeda might be in Iraq, he has the right to attack them without any sort of input from the senate. Actually, we know Al Quaeda is active in a number of Western European countries, not to mention the US... Why doesn't Bush just attack them?
7/31 UN Human Rights chief Mary Robinson: forced out by the US?
Add Jordan to voices questioning the US war drive against Iraq.
The first voice in this piece badmouthing the Bush war drive on Iraq is an analyst for Lehmann Brothers. The second is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family.
7/26 More on the Nigerian women's protests.
7/24 The US refuses to participate in international goals, others will step up. People around the world will notice.
Great quotes from the former king of Afghanistan. The rest of this article is interesting in comparing the war on terrorism to Vietnam, but I think it overestimates how easy it will be for the US to get in and out of Iraq, and also overestimates Bush's desire to wrap up the war on terror.
7/22 Article in Le Monde Diplomatique suggests that the WHO has been corrupted by a pro-corporate attitude in its leadership.
How does the agenda of corporate advertisers shape even the most creative TV shows? This tidbit from E!online's Ask Wanda is revealing.
7/21 Robert Kagan believes the US and Europe see things so differently that the former should basically disregard the opinions of the latter.
7/20 The New York Times today has an article claiming hundreds of civilian deaths as a result of the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
7/11 Jordan doesn't want to be used as a base for a US attack on Iraq. But why would that stop theUS--it's just Jordan.
6/17: Doctrine of Pre-emptive strikes.
6/16: Limits to the achievements of the war on terrorism.
5/27: Clip from New York Times about difficulties faced by US flight schools, limits of US globalization. Op Ed from the Guardian about the need for an assertive Europe.
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