Thursday, 26 February 2009

guantanamo worse since obama

Exclusive: Lawyer says Guantanamo abuse worse since Obama

Feb 25, 2009

6:23pm EST

By Luke Baker

LONDON (Reuters) - Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards "get their kicks in" before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.

The Pentagon said on Monday that it had received renewed reports of prisoner abuse during a recent review of conditions at Guantanamo, but had concluded that all prisoners were being kept in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated," said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.

"If one was to use one's imagination, (one) could say that these traumatized, and for lack of a better word barbaric, guards were just basically trying to get their kicks in right now for fear that they won't be able to later," he said.

"Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration," added Ghappour, who has visited Guantanamo six times since late September and based his comments on his own observations and conversations with both prisoners and guards.

He stressed the mistreatment did not appear to be directed from above, but was an initiative undertaken by frustrated U.S. army and navy jailers on the ground. It did not seem to be a reaction against the election of Obama, a Democrat who has pledged to close the prison camp within a year, but rather a realization that there was little time remaining before the last 241 detainees, all Muslim, are released.

"It's 'hey, let's have our fun while we can,'" said Ghappour, who helped secure the release this week of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident freed from Guantanamo Bay after more than four years in detention without trial or charge.

"I can't really imagine why you would get your kicks from abusing prisoners, but certainly, having spoken to certain guards who have been injured in Iraq, who indirectly or directly blame my clients for their injuries and the trauma they have suffered, it's not too difficult to put two and two together."


Following a January 22 order from Obama, the U.S. Defense Department conducted a two-week review of conditions at Guantanamo ahead of the planned closure of the prison on Cuba.

Admiral Patrick Walsh, the review's author, acknowledged on Monday that reports of abuse had emerged but concluded all inmates were being treated in line with the Geneva Conventions.

"We heard allegations of abuse," he said, asked if detainees had reported torture. "And what we did at that point was to go back and investigate the allegation... What we found is that there were in some cases substantiated evidence where guards had misconduct, I think that would be the best way to put it."

Walsh said his review looked at 20 allegations of abuse, 14 of which were substantiated, but he did not go into details. Generally he said the abuse ranged from "gestures, comments, disrespect" to "preemptive use of pepper spray."

Ghappour said he had spoken to army guards who, unsolicited, had described the pleasure they took in abusing prisoners, whether interrupting prayer or physical mistreatment. He said they appeared unconcerned about potential repercussions.

He also saw evidence of guards pulling identity numbers off their uniforms or switching them once they were on duty in order to make it more difficult for them to be identified.

Ghappour said he had filed two complaints of serious detainee abuse since December 22 but received no response from U.S. authorities. In one case his client had his knee, shoulder and thumb dislocated by a group of guards, Ghappour said.

In one of the six main camps at Guantanamo, the lawyer said all the detainees he knew were on hunger strike and subject to force-feeding, including with laxatives that induced chronic diarrhea while they were strapped in their feeding chairs.

"Several of my clients have had toilet paper pepper-sprayed while they have had hemorrhoids," Ghappour said.

Another area of concern was evidence that detainees were being abused on the way to meetings with their lawyers -- sometimes so badly that they no longer wanted to meet with counsel for fear of the beatings they would receive, he said.

"Some detainees are convinced they are going to be locked up there forever, despite the promises to close the camp," he said.

(Additional reporting by Randall Mikkelsen and Andrew Gray in Washington, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

© Thomson Reuters 2008.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

too much damage to democracy...

source daily telegraph

Jack Straw bans release of Iraq invasion minutes

Minutes of cabinet meetings in which ministers discussed their motivation for going to war with Iraq will not be made public, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has ruled.

Last Updated: 6:34PM GMT 24 Feb 2009

Jack Straw bans release of Iraq invasion minutes

Mr Straw told the Commons he had consulted with the rest of the Cabinet before issuing the veto

Mr Straw said he could not permit the release of records from 2003 discussions over the invasion of Iraq because it would cause too much "damage" to democracy.

He said he had signed a certificate under section 53 of the FOI Act, "the effect of which is that these Cabinet minutes will not now be disclosed".

Allowing publication to go ahead would cause "serious damage to Cabinet government, an essential principle of British democracy".

Mr Straw told the Commons he had consulted with the rest of the Cabinet before issuing the veto, and the decision had not been taken "lightly".

It is the first time the ministerial veto has been used since the FOI Act came into force in 2005.

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell said the decision was "profoundly disappointing."

"This is a Government which when introducing measures to limit personal freedom says that those that have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear," he said.

"If the process of reaching the decision to embark upon an illegal war against Iraq is still supported by the Government why haven't they the courage to let us see the minutes of the Cabinet?

"The truth is that this was one of the most significant foreign affairs decisions in history which a supine Cabinet nodded through."

Mr Straw told MPs today: "Cabinet is the pinnacle of the decision-making machinery of Government. It's the forum in which debates on the issues of greatest significance and complexity are debated.

"Whether the nation was to take military action was indisputably of the utmost seriousness.

"The convention of Cabinet confidentiality and the public interest in its maintenance are especially crucial when the issues at hand are of the greatest importance and sensitivity."

crise systemique, dislocation geopolitique, chaos regionaux


Début de la phase 5 de la crise systémique globale : la phase de dislocation géopolitique mondiale

Communiqué public GEAB N°32 (15 février 2009)

Depuis Février 2006, LEAP/E2020 avait estimé que la crise systémique globale se déroulerait selon 4 grandes phases structurantes, à savoir les phases de déclenchement, d'accélération, d'impact et de décantation. Ce processus a bien décrit les évènements jusqu'à aujourd'hui. Mais notre équipe estime dorénavant que l'incapacité des dirigeants mondiaux à prendre la mesure de la crise, caractérisée notamment par leur acharnement depuis plus d'un an à en traiter les conséquences au lieu de s'attaquer radicalement à ses causes, va faire entrer la crise systémique globale dans une cinquième phase à partir du 4° trimestre 2009 : la phase dite de dislocation géopolitique mondiale.

Selon LEAP/E2020, cette nouvelle phase de la crise sera ainsi façonnée par deux phénomènes majeurs organisant les évènements en deux séquences parallèles, à savoir :

A. Deux phénomènes majeurs :
1. La disparition du socle financier (Dollars + Dettes) sur l'ensemble de la planète
2. La fragmentation accélérée des intérêts des principaux acteurs du système global et des grands ensembles mondiaux

B. Deux séquences parallèles :
1. La décomposition rapide de l'ensemble du système international actuel
2. La dislocation stratégique de grands acteurs globaux.

Nous avions espéré que la phase de décantation permettrait aux dirigeants du monde entier de tirer les conséquences de l'effondrement du système qui organise la planète depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Hélas, à ce stade, il n'est plus vraiment permis d'être optimiste en la matière (1). Aux Etats-Unis comme en Europe, en Chine ou au Japon, les dirigeants persistent à faire comme si le système global en question était seulement victime d'une panne passagère et qu'il suffisait d'y ajouter quantité de carburants (liquidités) et autres ingrédients (baisse de taux, achats d'actifs toxiques, plans de relance des industries en quasi-faillite,…) pour faire repartir la machine. Or, et c'est bien le sens du terme de « crise systémique globale » créé par LEAP/E2020 dès Février 2006, le système global est désormais hors d'usage. Il faut en reconstruire un nouveau au lieu de s'acharner à sauver ce qui ne peut plus l'être.

L'Histoire n'étant pas particulièrement patiente, cette cinquième phase de la crise va donc entamer ce processus de reconstruction mais de manière brutale, par la dislocation complète du système préexistant. Et les deux séquences parallèles, décrites dans ce GEAB N°32, qui vont organiser les évènements promettent d'être particulièrement tragiques pour plusieurs grands acteurs mondiaux.

Selon LEAP/E2020, il ne reste plus qu'une toute petite fenêtre de tir pour tenter d'éviter le pire, à savoir les quatre mois à venir, d'ici l'été 2009. Très concrètement, le Sommet du G20 d'Avril 2009 constitue selon notre équipe la dernière chance pour réorienter de manière constructive les forces en action, c'est-à-dire avant que la séquence cessation de paiement du Royaume-uni, puis des Etats-Unis ne se mette en branle (2). Faute de quoi, ils perdront tout contrôle sur les évènements (3), y compris, pour nombre d'entre eux, dans leurs propres pays, tandis que la planète entrera dans cette phase de dislocation géopolitique à la manière d'un « bateau ivre ». A l'issue de cette phase de dislocation géopolitique, le monde risque de ressembler à l'Europe de 1913 plus qu'à la planète de 2007.

Ainsi, à force de tenter de porter sur leurs épaules le poids toujours croissant de la crise en cours, la plupart des Etats concernés, y compris les plus puissants, ne se sont pas rendu compte qu'ils étaient en train d'organiser leur propre écrasement sous le poids de l'Histoire, oubliant qu'ils n'étaient que des constructions humaines, ne survivant que parce que l'intérêt du plus grand nombre s'y retrouvait. Dans ce numéro 32 du GEAB, LEAP/E2020 a donc choisi d'anticiper les conséquences de cette phase de dislocation géopolitique sur les Etats-Unis et l'UE.

Il est donc temps pour les personnes comme pour les acteurs socio-économiques de se préparer à affronter une période très difficile qui va voir des pans entiers de nos sociétés telles qu'on les connaît être fortement affectés (4), voire tout simplement disparaître provisoirement ou même dans certains cas durablement. Ainsi, la rupture du système monétaire mondial au cours de l'été 2009 va non seulement entraîner un effondrement du Dollar US (et de la valeur de tous les actifs libellés en USD), mais il va aussi induire par contagion psychologique une perte de confiance généralisée dans les monnaies fiduciaires. C'est à tout cela que s'attachent les recommandations de ce GEAB N°32.

Last but not least, notre équipe considère désormais que ce sont les entités politiques (5) les plus monolithiques, les plus « impériales », qui vont être les plus gravement bouleversées au cours de cette cinquième phase de la crise. La dislocation géopolitique va ainsi s'appliquer à des états qui vont connaître une véritable dislocation stratégique remettant en cause leur intégrité territoriale et l'ensemble de leurs zones d'influences dans le monde. D'autres états, en conséquence, seront projetés brutalement hors de situations protégées pour plonger dans des chaos régionaux.


(1) Barack Obama comme Nicolas Sarkozy ou Gordon Brown passent leur temps à invoquer la dimension historique de la crise pour mieux cacher leur incompréhension de sa nature et tenter de se dédouaner à l'avance de l'échec de leurs politiques. Quant aux autres, ils préfèrent se persuader que tout cela se règlera comme un problème technique un peu plus grave que d'habitude. Et tout ce petit monde continue à jouer selon les règles qu'ils connaissent depuis des décennies, sans se rendre compte que le jeu est en train de disparaître sous leurs yeux.

(2) Voir GEAB précédents.

(3) En fait il est même probable que le G20 aura des difficultés croissantes à tout simplement pouvoir se réunir, sur fond de « chacun pour soi ».

(4) Source : New York Times, 14/02/2009

(5) Et cela nous paraît vrai également pour les entreprises.

Dimanche 15 Février 2009

iraq: us officer challenges obama's citizenship


Soldier doubts eligibility, defies president's orders

'As an officer, my sworn oath to support and defend our Constitution requires this'

February 23, 2009

9:35 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh

© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Soldier Scott Easterling

A U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq has called President Obama an "impostor" in a statement in which he affirmed plans to join as plaintiff in a challenge to Obama's eligibility to be commander in chief.

The statement was publicized by California attorney Orly Taitz who, along with her Foundation, is working on a series of legal cases seeking to uncover Obama's birth records and other documents that would reveal whether he meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

"As an active-duty officer in the United States Army, I have grave concerns about the constitutional eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to hold the office of president of the United States," wrote Scott Easterling in a "to-whom-it-may-concern" letter.

Obama "has absolutely refused to provide to the American public his original birth certificate, as well as other documents which may prove or disprove his eligibility," Easterling wrote. "In fact, he has fought every attempt made by concerned citizens in their effort to force him to do so."

Taitz told WND she had advised Easterling to obtain legal counsel before making any statements regarding the commander-in-chief, but he insisted on moving forward. His contention is that as an active member of the U.S. military, he is required to follow orders from a sitting president, and he needs – on pain of court-martial – to know that Obama is eligible.

Where's the proof Barack Obama was born in the U.S. or that he fulfills the "natural-born American" clause in the Constitution? If you still want to see it, join more than 250,000 others and sign up now!

Taitz said other legal cases questioning Obama's eligibility filed by members of the military mostly have included retired officers, and courts several times have ruled they don't have standing to issue their challenge.

Easterling, however, is subject to enemy fire and certainly would have a reason to need to know the legitimacy of his orders, she argued.

"Until Mr. Obama releases a 'vault copy' of his original birth certificate for public review, I will consider him neither my Commander in Chief nor my President, but rather, a usurper to the Office – an impostor," his statement said.

Easterling said he joined the Army at age 40 after working in Iraq as a contractor.

"I chose to work … to support my troops and then left that lucrative position when the Army raised its maximum enlistment age to 40. Upon completion of basic training, I entered Officer Candidate School and commissioned as a 2LT in August 2007. After completing the subsequent basic officer leadership courses, I was assigned to Ft. Knox and shortly thereafter deployed to Balad, Iraq," he wrote.

"I implore all service-members and citizens to contact their senators and representatives and demand that they require Mr. Obama prove his eligibility. Our Constitution and our great nation must not be allowed to be disgraced," he wrote.

Taitz said Easterling is among the plaintiffs she is assembling for a new legal action over Obama's eligibility. Others include a list of state lawmakers who also would be required in their official position to follow orders of the president.

"My conviction is such that I am compelled to join Dr. Orly Taitz's lawsuit, as a plaintiff, against Mr. Obama. As a citizen, it pains me to do this, but as an officer, my sworn oath to support and defend our Constitution requires this action," he said.

Easterling was "saluted" in a forum on Taitz' website.

"Lt. Easterling, As a retired US Army SFC, I salute you sir as a true American patriot and hero! Thank you for your unselfish service to our country. It is rare to find someone today with such moral courage to do the right thing regardless of repercussions," said one contributor.

Said another, "For your voluntary service to our country, we owe you a debt we can never pay."

As WND reported yesterday, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said during a meeting with constituents in Cullman County he has never seen proof the new president was born in Hawaii.

"Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven't seen any birth certificate," Shelby said. "You have to be born in America to be president."

Shelby's office later stated the senator is confident of Obama's vetting process, although it did not elaborate.

WND has reported on multiple legal challenges to Obama's status as a "natural born citizen." The Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, states, "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President."

Some of the lawsuits question whether he was actually born in Hawaii, as he insists. If he was born out of the country, Obama's American mother, the suits contend, was too young at the time of his birth to confer American citizenship to her son under the law at the time.

Other challenges have focused on Obama's citizenship through his father, a Kenyan subject to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom at the time of his birth, thus making him a dual citizen. The cases contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born.

Here is a partial listing and status update for some of the cases over Obama's eligibility:

* New Jersey attorney Mario Apuzzo has filed a case on behalf of Charles Kerchner and others alleging Congress didn't properly ascertain that Obama is qualified to hold the office of president.

* Philip J. Berg, a Pennsylvania Democrat, demanded that the courts verify Obama's original birth certificate and other documents proving his American citizenship. Berg's latest appeal, requesting an injunction to stop the Electoral College from selecting the 44th president, was denied.

* Leo Donofrio of New Jersey filed a lawsuit claiming Obama's dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. His case was considered in conference by the U.S. Supreme Court but denied a full hearing.

* Cort Wrotnowski filed suit against Connecticut's secretary of state, making a similar argument to Donofrio. His case was considered in conference by the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied a full hearing.

* Former presidential candidate Alan Keyes headlines a list of people filing a suit in California, in a case handled by the United States Justice Foundation, that asks the secretary of state to refuse to allow the state's 55 Electoral College votes to be cast in the 2008 presidential election until Obama verifies his eligibility to hold the office. The case is pending, and lawyers are seeking the public's support.

* Chicago attorney Andy Martin sought legal action requiring Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle to release Obama's vital statistics record. The case was dismissed by Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Bert Ayabe.

* Lt. Col. Donald Sullivan sought a temporary restraining order to stop the Electoral College vote in North Carolina until Barack Obama's eligibility could be confirmed, alleging doubt about Obama's citizenship. His case was denied.

* In Ohio, David M. Neal sued to force the secretary of state to request documents from the Federal Elections Commission, the Democratic National Committee, the Ohio Democratic Party and Obama to show the presidential candidate was born in Hawaii. The case was denied.

* In Washington state, Steven Marquis sued the secretary of state seeking a determination on Obama's citizenship. The case was denied.

* In Georgia, Rev. Tom Terry asked the state Supreme Court to authenticate Obama's birth certificate. His request for an injunction against Georgia's secretary of state was denied by Georgia Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter.

* California attorney Orly Taitz has brought a case, Lightfoot vs. Bowen, on behalf of Gail Lightfoot, the vice presidential candidate on the ballot with Ron Paul, four electors and two registered voters.

In addition, other cases cited on the RightSideofLife blog as raising questions about Obama's eligibility include:

* In Texas, Darrel Hunter vs. Obama later was dismissed.

* In Ohio, Gordon Stamper vs. U.S. later was dismissed.

* In Texas, Brockhausen vs. Andrade.

* In Washington, L. Charles Cohen vs. Obama.

* In Hawaii, Keyes vs. Lingle, dismissed.

WND senior reporter Jerome Corsi had gone to both Kenya and Hawaii prior to the election to investigate issues surrounding Obama's birth. But his research and discoveries only raised more questions.

Monday, 23 February 2009

roubini: sovereign banks may crack

Roubini warns of '
sovereign' bank failure

February 20, 2009

Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the global credit crisis, said a government-backed bank ''may crack'' as officials try to bail out their financial systems.

''The process of socializing the private losses from this crisis has already moved many of the liabilities of the private sector onto the books of the sovereign,'' Roubini wrote on his Web site today. ''At some point a sovereign bank may crack, in which case the ability of the governments to credibly commit to act as a backstop for the financial system -- including deposit guarantees -- could come unglued.''

Roubini didn't identify any sovereign bank that might run into difficulty.

He also said he sees a 30% chance of an ''L-shaped near-depression'' without ''appropriate and aggressive policy action'' by the US and other major economies to prevent a sovereign bank's failure.

The latest data indicate fourth-quarter gross domestic product in key economies including the US, the euro zone and Japan may be worse than initially reported.

''The global economy is now literally in free fall as the contraction of consumption, capital spending, residential investment, production employment, exports and imports is accelerating rather than decelerating,'' Roubini said.

The protracted downturn Roubini warned of can only be prevented by ``a strong, aggressive, coherent and credible combination of monetary easing (traditional and unorthodox), fiscal stimulus, proper clean-up of the financial system and reduction of the debt burden of insolvent private agents (households and non-financial companies),'' he said.

Bloomberg News

new intel chairman supports hamas dialogue


New U.S. Intel Chief: Support of Israel Not a U.S. Interest

by David Lev


A flurry of reports over the weekend said that the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, considered a sharp critic of Israel, is to be named to a top intelligence post in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Chas W. Freeman Jr., who was U.S. ambassador in Riyadh from 1989-1992, is set to be named chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which has a strong influence on the content of the intelligence briefings presented to the President (and puts together the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, which in 2007 dissuaded the Bush regime from attacking Iran). The Council chairman is also often called on to give direct briefings to the President.

Typical of Freeman's viewpoints is a statement he made in a speech before the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2007, in which he more or less blames international terrorist acts on Israel:

"American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel’s American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation – whatever form it takes – will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture."

Freeman also is a strong advocate of talking to Hamas, which he says "is the only democratically-elected government in the Arab world." In his speech, Freeman said that "Hamas is showing that if we offer it nothing but unreasoning hostility and condemnation, it will only stiffen its position and seek allies among our enemies. In both cases, we forfeit our influence for no gain."

Freeman says that Israel must be pressured to accept the American point of view, which does not coincide with its own. "We must talk with all parties, whatever we think of them or their means of struggle. Refusal to reason with those whose actions threaten injury to oneself, one's friends, and one's interests is foolish, feckless, and self-defeating. That is why it is past time for an active and honest discussion with both Israel and the government Palestinians have elected, which – in an irony that escapes few abroad – is the only democratically-elected government in the Arab world."

In another speech Freeman said:

"We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country... Meanwhile, we embraced Israel’s enemies as our own; they responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies. We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists. This has convinced most Palestinians that Israel cannot be appeased and is persuading increasing numbers of them that a two-state solution is infeasible. It threatens Israelis with an unwelcome choice between a democratic society and a Jewish identity for their state. Now the United States has brought the Palestinian experience – of humiliation, dislocation, and death – to millions more in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel and the United States each have our reasons for what we are doing, but no amount of public diplomacy can persuade the victims of our policies that their suffering is justified, or spin away their anger, or assuage their desire for reprisal and revenge.”

Saturday, 21 February 2009

$oro$: collasso del sistema finanziario

Notizia del 21/02/2009 - 13:22

Il guru della finanza Georges Soros: "Il sistema finanziario mondiale è distrutto"

NEW YORK - Secondo il miliardario guru della finanza Georges Soros, il sistema finanziario mondiale si è di fatto disintegrato e non ci sono prospettive a breve termine per una risoluzione della crisi.

Soros afferma che l'attuale turbolenza è più grave di quella della Grande Depressione e paragonabile alla caduta dell'Unione Sovietica.

Secondo il finanziere la bancarotta di Lehman Brothers di settembre ha segnato un punto di svolta nel funzionamento del sistema dei mercati.

"Siamo testimoni del collasso del sistema finanziario", ha sottolineato ieri sera Soros in una cena alla Columbia University.


guantanamo in line with geneva convention


Guantánamo 'is within Geneva conventions'

Inquiry ordered by Obama carried out by US admiral

Inmates just need time to talk and pray, report says

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

The Guardian

21 February 2009

A Pentagon review ordered by President Barack Obama into conditions at Guantánamo Bay has concluded that prisoners are being treated in line with international standards demanded under the Geneva conventions, according to US officials.

Admiral Patrick Walsh, the vice-chief of naval operations who carried out the inquiry, is to hand over the 85-page report to Obama this weekend. Human rights groups said they feared the review ordered by Obama could turn out to be a whitewash.

The Pentagon report looked into various allegations of abuse. But Walsh's report contains only two major recommendations for improving the prisoners' lives: allowing them more opportunities to communicate with one another and to pray together.

Obama promised on the day of his inauguration to close the Guantánamo detention centre, which has become synonymous worldwide with human rights abuses, within a year. Since his announcement he has faced criticism, mainly from former members of the Bush administration, saying closure of the camp was not that easy. Walsh's conclusions are basically the view espoused by the Pentagon over the last few years, which is that the international image of Guantánamo is based on the treatment and condition of prisoners when they first began to arrive seven years ago.

The camp since then has been well run, the Pentagon claims, insisting it is no worse and, in many ways, better than maximum security prisons on the US mainland. But defence lawyers for the 245 prisoners still held tell a different story: one of prisoners who have suffered severe psychological damage from force-feeding, beatings and being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Walsh concludes, according to the official, that force-feeding, in which prisoners are strapped to a chair while a tube is pushed through a nostril into their stomach, is necessary to fulfil the Geneva conventions' demand to preserve life.

Among recommendations, he suggests that prisoners be allowed to pray and spend recreation time together in groups of at least three.

Given that a prominent part of Obama's campaign platform was to close Guantánamo, it is unlikely he will renege on that promise. The Pentagon report is only one of several that Obama has ordered. The Justice Department is conducting one of its own into evidence against each prisoner and the new attorney-general, Eric Holder, is to visit Guantánamo on Monday.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer at the Centre for Constitutional Rights who represents many of the detainees, expressed concern that the review might turn into a whitewash, and that she had higher expectations of the new administration.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

russian spin doc suggests grand dialogue

Rumblings of Russian dissent

Public discontent is growing in Russia but the authorities are reluctant to take note of

James Marson, Wednesday 18 February 2009 23.00 GMT

A recent outbreak of protests across Russia has led to a great deal of excitement among commentators. Vladimir Putin's centralised "power vertical" is apparently crumbling; protests are set to sweep the country and lead to his downfall.

After several years of quiet on Russia's streets, it's easy to overestimate the protests' significance. In fact, they are small, sporadic and localised, and do not, as yet, pose a real threat to the leadership. But they do reveal a fundamental weakness in the political system and a threat to its stability.

President Dmitry Medvedev recently organised a meeting with the editor of opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, and Mikhail Gorbachev, who is one of its shareholders. In an interview afterwards, Muratov said that Medvedev wanted "to get our perspective as people who don't represent the official or, generally speaking, television's point of view". This is a fascinating insight into the limitations of the leadership's sources of information about what is happening in the country.

By throttling free media, quashing civil society, taking control of parliament and attempting to centralise power, the authorities have destroyed the feedback mechanisms that can tell them the actual state of the country and what people really think. Society and power do not communicate. Feedback is simulated by the bureaucracy and the media, both of which largely tell the authorities what they think they want to hear.

The tradition of "Potemkin villages" is still going strong. The response to anti-government protests now encompasses not only police crackdowns, but also "spontaneous" counter-protests organised by the ruling United Russia party. These have been humorously mocked at a march in St Petersburg organised under the banner of "We agree with everything".

Having killed feedback other than their own, the authorities are taking decisions with little sensitivity for how they will play out with the population. Surveys consistently reveal discontent with the authorities' handling of the crisis but, with no way of communicating their problems and dissatisfaction, Russians have no outlet other than protest.

When the authorities decided to increase taxes on car imports, there were protests in Vladivostok where local business thrives on reselling imported cars. A report by the State Duma's analytical department explained why the protests had taken place: they were part of a "premeditated plot to destabilise a whole series of Russian regions" by "certain international forces".

Such distortion not only risks stoking local discontent, but is part of a wider failure by the authorities to explain what is happening, what decisions have been taken and why. The limited attempts, for example, to account for thousands of job losses and the plummeting rouble hardly instil confidence and stability. Medvedev seems, in part, to recognise the need for clearer communication. He has started televised "fireside chats" to explain how the authorities are handling the crisis.

But communication is not one way. Since Medvedev opened his video blog to comments, hundreds of responses have been posted from across the country. People clearly have things to say and want their voices to be heard, but with no other outlet, naivete or frustration drives them to write in the undoubtedly vain hope that their comments are read.

An interesting analysis of the crisis was released last week by the Institute of Contemporary Development, a thinktank headed by Igor Yurgens, a senior adviser to Medvedev. Its advice? "A renewal of the social contract requires dialogue between the state, business and all (including 'awkward') political and social forces," and not just during the crisis, but afterwards as well. To preserve stability, the authorities need not only to start talking, but also to start listening. Medvedev, perhaps, understands this. But what is he prepared, and able, to do about it?

g20 will attack offshore privileges

From Times Online

February 18, 2009

Brown calls on world to strike 'grand bargain' to solve economic crisis

Philip Webster, political editor

Gordon Brown brushed aside "gossip" about his future today as he called on world leaders to strike a “grand bargain” to deal with the economic downturn.

The Prime Minister urged the need for co-operation on banking reform and fiscal stimulus packages as he outlined his hopes for the G20 summit of world leaders in London in April.

“From the discussions I have had and am about to have... I think we are fashioning for the future a global deal, a grand bargain, where each continent accepts its responsibilities and its obligations to act to deal with what is a global problem that can only be solved with a global solution,” he told reporters.

The Prime Minister was speaking at his regular Downing Street press conference shortly after talks with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund managing director, and Robert Zoellick, the World Bank president. He will meet European leaders in the coming days.

Mr Brown, who published a document setting out the Government’s blueprint for the “Road To The London Summit”, said: “America has just announced the biggest fiscal and monetary stimulus in the history of its country.

“Every part of the world must be part of the stimulus to the economy, giving support into the economy with investment, getting interest rates down as much as possible, and I believe one of the features of our discussions at the G20 summit on April 2 is how all countries can come together to do that.

“Some may have to do more on interest rates; some may have to do more fiscal stimulus. The whole point of the G20 is that the world must take action to deal with a global problem.”

Co-operation would be required on a “regulatory transformation” of the banking system, including an end to tax havens, he said, adding that he believed a “global new deal” was possible.

“The old orthodoxies will not serve us well in the future. We’ve got to think the previously unthinkable, we’ve got to do what was previously undoable," he said.

“The co-operation that’s needed around the world is not something that has been achieved before - but I believe it can be achieved to meet the needs of our times.”

Asked why the Government had allowed any bonuses to be paid to those with legal contracts at RBS, Mr Brown said the Government had looked carefuly at the legal implications. "It was not our choice to draw up these contracts or enter into these legal obligations but we have to accept that the chances of taking action in a court of law would be very limited."

The Prime Minister tartly dismissed the suggestion that he was tempted to become the “world’s financial regulator”. He said: “There is no possibility anyway of a job called Global Financial Regulator.

"I want to get on with the job I’m doing. “My priority is to help people in this country who are facing problems with their mortgages, problems with their jobs and problems with small business finance."

All the other "gossip" did not matter , he said.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

us army considers widespread civil violence



Bad News From America’s Top Spy

By Chris Hedges

February 16, 2009


We have a remarkable ability to create our own monsters. A few decades of meddling in the Middle East with our Israeli doppelgänger and we get Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, the Iraqi resistance movement and a resurgent Taliban. Now we trash the world economy and destroy the ecosystem and sit back to watch our handiwork. Hints of our brave new world seeped out Thursday when Washington’s new director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He warned that the deepening economic crisis posed perhaps our gravest threat to stability and national security. It could trigger, he said, a return to the “violent extremism” of the 1920s and 1930s.

It turns out that Wall Street, rather than Islamic jihad, has produced our most dangerous terrorists. You wouldn’t know this from the Obama administration, which seems hellbent on draining the blood out of the body politic and transfusing it into the corpse of our financial system. But by the time Barack Obama is done all we will be left with is a corpse—a corpse and no blood. And then what? We will see accelerated plant and retail closures, inflation, an epidemic of bankruptcies, new rounds of foreclosures, bread lines, unemployment surpassing the levels of the Great Depression and, as Blair fears, social upheaval.

The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide this year. The collapse has already seen 3.6 million lost jobs in the United States. The International Monetary Fund’s prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5 percent—the worst since World War II. There are 2.3 million properties in the United States that received a default notice or were repossessed last year. And this number is set to rise in 2009, especially as vacant commercial real estate begins to be foreclosed. About 20,000 major global banks collapsed, were sold or were nationalized in 2008. There are an estimated 62,000 U.S. companies expected to shut down this year. Unemployment, when you add people no longer looking for jobs and part-time workers who cannot find full-time employment, is close to 14 percent.

And we have few tools left to dig our way out. The manufacturing sector in the United States has been destroyed by globalization. Consumers, thanks to credit card companies and easy lines of credit, are $14 trillion in debt. The government has pledged trillions toward the crisis, most of it borrowed or printed in the form of new money. It is borrowing trillions more to fund our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no one states the obvious: We will never be able to pay these loans back. We are supposed to somehow spend our way out of the crisis and maintain our imperial project on credit. Let our kids worry about it. There is no coherent and realistic plan, one built around our severe limitations, to stanch the bleeding or ameliorate the mounting deprivations we will suffer as citizens. Contrast this with the national security state’s strategies to crush potential civil unrest and you get a glimpse of the future. It doesn’t look good.

“The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications,” Blair told the Senate. “The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.”

The specter of social unrest was raised at the U.S. Army War College in November in a monograph [click on Policypointers’ pdf link to see the report] titled “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development.” The military must be prepared, the document warned, for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” which could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse,” “purposeful domestic resistance,” “pervasive public health emergencies” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” The “widespread civil violence,” the document said, “would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.”

“An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home,” it went on.

“Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD [the Department of Defense] would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance,” the document read.

In plain English, something bureaucrats and the military seem incapable of employing, this translates into the imposition of martial law and a de facto government being run out of the Department of Defense. They are considering it. So should you.

Adm. Blair warned the Senate that “roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown.” He noted that the “bulk of anti-state demonstrations” internationally have been seen in Europe and the former Soviet Union, but this did not mean they could not spread to the United States. He told the senators that the collapse of the global financial system is “likely to produce a wave of economic crises in emerging market nations over the next year.” He added that “much of Latin America, former Soviet Union states and sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient cash reserves, access to international aid or credit, or other coping mechanism.”

“When those growth rates go down, my gut tells me that there are going to be problems coming out of that, and we’re looking for that,” he said. He referred to “statistical modeling” showing that “economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period.”

Blair articulated the newest narrative of fear. As the economic unraveling accelerates we will be told it is not the bearded Islamic extremists, although those in power will drag them out of the Halloween closet when they need to give us an exotic shock, but instead the domestic riffraff, environmentalists, anarchists, unions and enraged members of our dispossessed working class who threaten us. Crime, as it always does in times of turmoil, will grow. Those who oppose the iron fist of the state security apparatus will be lumped together in slick, corporate news reports with the growing criminal underclass.

The committee’s Republican vice chairman, Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri, not quite knowing what to make of Blair’s testimony, said he was concerned that Blair was making the “conditions in the country” and the global economic crisis “the primary focus of the intelligence community.”

The economic collapse has exposed the stupidity of our collective faith in a free market and the absurdity of an economy based on the goals of endless growth, consumption, borrowing and expansion. The ideology of unlimited growth failed to take into account the massive depletion of the world’s resources, from fossil fuels to clean water to fish stocks to erosion, as well as overpopulation, global warming and climate change. The huge international flows of unregulated capital have wrecked the global financial system. An overvalued dollar (which will soon deflate), wild tech, stock and housing financial bubbles, unchecked greed, the decimation of our manufacturing sector, the empowerment of an oligarchic class, the corruption of our political elite, the impoverishment of workers, a bloated military and defense budget and unrestrained credit binges have conspired to bring us down. The financial crisis will soon become a currency crisis. This second shock will threaten our financial viability. We let the market rule. Now we are paying for it.

The corporate thieves, those who insisted they be paid tens of millions of dollars because they were the best and the brightest, have been exposed as con artists. Our elected officials, along with the press, have been exposed as corrupt and spineless corporate lackeys. Our business schools and intellectual elite have been exposed as frauds. The age of the West has ended. Look to China. Laissez-faire capitalism has destroyed itself. It is time to dust off your copies of Marx.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

eurozone: worst recession in 50 years

Eurozone slump worst in 50 years

By Ralph Atkins in Frankfurt, Guy Dinmore in Rome and Jean Eaglesham in London

Published: February 13 2009 08:39

Countries in the eurozone face their worst recession in half a century after data on Friday revealed that the economic slump late last year was even steeper than feared.

Eurozone gross domestic product fell 1.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, led by a dramatic deterioration in Germany. This highlighted how the fortunes of the world’s economies have become entwined as the global crisis has unfolded.

As finance ministers from the G7 group of industrial nations gathered for a summit in Rome, Alistair Darling, UK chancellor, said Germany’s difficulties demonstrated that economies were going through “one of the severest downturns in generations” and that “governments must take extraordinary actions at extraordinary times”.

Before leaving Washington, Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, said he would call for “strong action” and that challenges called for “exceptional and complementary measures by all”.

German gross domestic produce contracted by 2.1 per cent in the final three months of last year – the worst quarterly performance since the country was reunified in 1990. That was significantly faster than the UK, where the fourth quarter contraction was in line with the eurozone average. Germany has had no housing bubble but has depended on exports to power growth.

With little sign of any rebound in global or European prospects, resistance to further cuts in eurozone interest rates has crumbled at the European Central Bank, which is widely expected to cut its main policy rate another half percentage point next month to 1.5 per cent – the lowest ever.

The ECB could soon follow the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England in taking additional “non-conventional” measures to boost the economy – for instance by buying corporate debt.

London saw the latest eurozone economic data as rebutting an International Monetary Fund report last month that forecast the UK – not part of the eurozone – would be the hardest hit of all developed countries.

Downing Street maintained a diplomatic silence. But one senior government insider said: “These data show the challenging economic circumstances across the whole of Europe. The recession started earlier in the euro area than in Britain and in some countries has been deeper than in Britain, despite the fact financial services, the sector hit hardest, accounts for a larger share of our economy.”

The human dimension of the crisis was illustrated in Rome where ministers arrived late for G7 meetings after being delayed by tens of thousands of Italian workers protesting against their centre-right government’s economic policies.

Officials played down expectations of major initiatives at the summit, and said talks were limited to an evening’s dinner and discussions this morning.

Avoiding protectionist measures was top of everyone’s agenda. Ministers and aides sought consensus in public, while gently pointing fingers in the direction of others.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

euro under threat, uk: social unrest in the pipe

From The Times

February 14, 2009

Britain’s bankers plumb new depths

Patrick Hosking: On the money

Jon Moulton, the private equity chief, warned a City lunch this week that he feared serious civil unrest. There was, he said, a 25 per cent chance of one of the 15 member countries of the eurozone pulling out of the currency club. That, he said, would be a catastrophic shock leading to a “far greater financial crisis” than the current one.

The mind boggles at a financial crisis far worse than the current one. Is such a thing possible? Even with this one, it may already be too late to prevent social unrest, especially in Britain, which is tipped to be one of the worst-hit countries economically.

The spectacle of bankers continuing to award themselves bonuses while taking taxpayer support is feeding an extraordinary public rage and a fierce sense of injustice. With 40,000 people losing their jobs each month, it is a recipe for trouble, come the traditional rioting months of the summer.

It won’t be bankers being lynched, of course, but small shopkeepers in inner-city areas having their windows smashed and their stock looted. The only surprise is there haven’t already been antibanker demonstrations in Threadneedle Street – secretly cheered on by 99 per cent of Middle England.

The seething sense of unfairness is almost palpable. The view that a small elite not only caused the crisis, but continues to profit at the expense of everyone else, is near universal. Gordon Brown’s promise of no rewards for failure in state-supported banks is looking ever more threadbare. We now know that Peter Cummings, the highest-paid person on the HBOS board, headed a division responsible for £7 billion of losses last year, yet he was still given a reported £660,000 payoff when he left in early January clutching his £6 million pension pot.

The suggestion by Lord Myners, the City minister, that some bankers simply have no sense of the broader society around them is getting harder to refute. To be preparing to pay out billions of pounds in discretionary bonuses over the next few weeks suggests an ignorance of the public mood and a single-mindedness bordering on sociopathic.

All this may be a bit of a side show for Sir Victor Blank and Eric Daniels, chairman and chief executive, respectively, as they try to stop the water slopping over the gunwales of the combined Lloyds/HBOS. Yesterday’s bombshell was grave for the bank, dispiriting for taxpayers and damaging to the chief executive. The timing is acutely awkward, coming just 48 hours after he appeared before the Commons Treasury Select Committee. MPs might have pressed him rather harder if they had known what was just around the corner.

The £10 billion loss at HBOS is humiliating enough, but the admission that the losses are £1.6 billion worse than when shareholders were asked to approve the deal in November is worse. Lloyds got HBOS to sweeten the terms twice. With hindsight it still wasn’t enough. Mr Daniels admitted to Parliament this week that he was not able to conduct as much due diligence as in a normal deal. His shareholders and UK taxpayers are now paying a heavy price for that failure.

The 32 per cent slump in the Lloyds share price yesterday speaks volumes about the market’s fears. Although Lloyds insists its balance sheet is still strong, the need for additional capital will be back on the agenda. If HBOS’s corporate loans could have soured by £1.6 billion in the space of just a month, its surplus capital cushion could quickly be wiped out. That could lead to full nationalisation eventually.

Lloyds says that one of the reasons for the losses was the more conservative methodology it uses for gauging potential loan losses. That comes close to suggesting the old HBOS board was somewhat less than conservative itself. If the reputation of the old guard at HBOS, including Gordon Brown’s former favourite Sir James Crosby, is capable of sinking any lower in the public estimation, it will now be doing so.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

rupture de civilisation et renaissance du politique

Psychosociologue allemand, chercheur au Kulturwissenschaftlichen Institut d'Essen

Crise : le choc est à venir,

par Harald Welzer


07.02.09 | 14h13

Peu de temps avant la banqueroute de Lehman Brothers, Josef Ackermann, le président de la Deutsche Bank, avait laissé courir le bruit que le pire était passé. Dans les semaines fiévreuses qui se sont succédé depuis, les politiques et les spécialistes se sont surpassés dans la recherche de moyens destinés à doper la consommation, comme si le capitalisme était en mouvement perpétuel et qu'il suffisait de relancer son cycle de création continue.

L'idée que, cette fois, il s'agit peut-être de plus que d'une "crise", n'est apparemment venue à personne. La vie suit son cours : on emprunte, on donne un tour de vis fiscal, et on espère, avec tout ça, passer le cap au plus vite. Le manque de la plus élémentaire clairvoyance de la mesure et des conséquences de la débâcle financière indique pourtant bien que ce qui est arrivé n'a pas été anticipé. Des faillites bancaires massives, des groupes d'assurances entamés, des Etats eux aussi au bord de la ruine ? Et les milliards requis pour tout ça, que sont-ils, sinon de l'argent virtuel injecté dans un système lui-même au bord de l'implosion, à cause, justement, de la nature virtuelle de ses échanges ?

Bien que la catastrophe économique déploie implacablement son cours à une allure défiant toute concurrence, frappant une branche après l'autre, le bricolage, le raboutage et le rembourrage, et les sempiternels sommets continuent à donner l'apparence que la crise est gérée. Les réactions des gens sont graves, mais pas paniquées. En dépit du lot quotidien de nouvelles horrifiques en provenance de la Global Economy, citoyennes et citoyens ne sont que modérément agités.

Notons d'abord qu'un événement, considéré comme historique par la postérité, est rarement perçu comme tel en temps réel. Rétrospectivement on s'étonne qu'un Kafka, le jour où l'Allemagne déclara la guerre à la Russie, ait seulement consigné dans son journal de façon lapidaire : "l'Allemagne a déclaré la guerre à la Russie. - Après-midi : cours de natation". Les ondes de choc, qui parcourent nos sociétés modernes et complexes, partent d'un point d'impact catastrophique initial qui n'atteint les fonctions essentielles qu'à retardement. Il est donc plutôt exceptionnel qu'un bouleversement social soit reconnu pour ce qu'il est par ses contemporains. C'est aux historiens qu'il appartient d'en constater la réalité. Les écologistes déplorent parfois que les gens ne parviennent pas à intégrer l'idée que leur environnement se modifie.

Une étude menée sur plusieurs générations de professionnels de la pêche, en Californie, a montré que c'étaient les plus jeunes qui avaient le moins conscience du problème de la surpêche et de la disparition des espèces. De telles modifications de perception et de valeurs, analogues aux transformations environnementales, on les rencontre aussi dans la sphère sociale : que l'on pense au renversement complet des valeurs dans la société allemande à l'époque hitlérienne.

Dans cette société, les composantes non juives auraient, en 1933, trouvé complètement impensable que, quelques années plus tard seulement, et avec leur participation active, leurs concitoyens juifs se verraient non seulement spoliés, mais seraient embarqués dans des trains pour être mis à mort. Ce sont pourtant les mêmes qui regarderont, à partir de 1941, les convois de déportés partir vers l'Est, tandis qu'une partie non négligeable d'entre eux rachèteront les installations de cuisine, le mobilier et les oeuvres d'art "aryanisés" ; que certains prendront la gestion d'affaires "juives" ou habiteront des maisons dont leurs propriétaires juifs auront été expulsés. En trouvant cela tout naturel.

Que les changements de cadre de vie ainsi que de normes consensuelles se remarquent à peine, tient aussi à ce que les métamorphoses perceptibles ne concernent qu'une part souvent infime de la réalité vécue. On sous-estime de façon chronique combien le train-train quotidien, les habitudes, le maintien d'institutions, de médias, la continuité de l'approvisionnement entretiennent la croyance qu'en fait rien ne peut arriver : les bus fonctionnent, les avions décollent, les voitures restent coincées dans les embouteillages du week-end, les entreprises décorent leurs bureaux pour Noël. Autant de preuves de normalité qui viennent étayer la conviction bien enracinée que tout continue comme au bon vieux temps.

Au moment où l'histoire se produit, les hommes vivent le présent. Les catastrophes sociales, à la différence des cyclones et des tremblements de terre, ne surviennent pas sans crier gare mais, pour ce qui est de leur perception, représentent un processus quasi insensible, qui ne peut être condensé en un concept comme celui d'"effondrement" ou de "rupture de civilisation", qu'a posteriori.

C'est bien connu : le savoir croît en même temps que l'ignorance ; mais jusqu'à présent nous avons, avec Karl Popper, donné à cette maxime un sens plutôt optimiste en l'interprétant comme une exigence de stabilité pour les sociétés de savoir. Or les crises qui sont en train de s'accumuler - le climat et l'environnement, l'énergie, les ressources et les finances - manifestent à l'évidence que nous devons nous battre sur de nombreux fronts dans une ignorance abyssale des conséquences de nos actes.

La déconfiture de l'expertise, où qu'elle s'applique, ne marque-t-elle pas que nous nous trouvons déjà à un "tipping point" point de basculement systémique, à partir duquel des tendances ne peuvent plus être corrigées ? La dernière en date nous fait remonter deux décennies en arrière : l'éclatement général que personne n'avait prévu de tout un hémisphère politique avec des effets de fond sur les configurations des Etats. Alors la marche triomphale de l'Occident paraissait scellée ; on proclama précipitamment la fin de l'histoire, mais entre-temps, la suite semble avoir montré que, dans cinquante ans, les historiens pourraient bien dater de 1989 le commencement du recul des démocraties. Ils pourraient bien diagnostiquer que l'actuelle crise financière mondiale seulement n'avait été que la nouvelle étape d'un déclin entamé depuis longtemps.

On peut, sans risque, qualifier dorénavant de changement accéléré le fait de passer en un instant d'une époque à une autre, dès lors qu'un ultralibéralisme débridé succède à un interventionnisme étatique qui met sens dessus dessous toutes les certitudes jusque-là acquises, non seulement en matière d'économie et de finance, mais aussi dans la politique du climat. Pourtant, personne n'envisage sérieusement la possibilité d'un échec total et, à cet égard, les crises financière, énergétique et climatique révèlent des affinités. On tient pour impossible un effondrement complet du système financier et économique et on se représente encore moins que la pénurie d'énergies fossiles atteigne un niveau tel, d'ici quelques années, que même dans les pays les plus riches, les plus bas revenus ne pourront plus se chauffer.

Qu'est-ce que signifie la connaissance du présent ? Les émissions de gaz à effet de serre vont s'accroître du fait de l'industrialisation globalisée, au point que la fameuse limite des deux degrés au-delà desquels les conséquences des changements climatiques deviennent incontrôlables ne sera pas tenable. En même temps, les spécialistes du climat ne nous donnent que sept ans pour changer de cap. La concurrence qui s'accroît de plus en vite autour des ressources pourrait bien dégénérer en affrontements violents pour départager vainqueurs et vaincus.

Et il n'y a aucun moyen de savoir dans quel groupe se situera l'Europe. Désormais, c'est l'avenir des générations futures que l'on va obérer, notamment par l'envol de la dette publique et la surexploitation des matières premières. Cette colonisation de l'avenir se paiera, car le sentiment d'inégalité entre générations est l'un des plus puissants catalyseurs de mutations sociales radicales. Des mutations qui ne doivent pas s'entendre en un sens positif, comme le projet de renouvellement générationnel du national-socialisme l'a montré.

Une masse débordante de problèmes dans un contexte où le manque de solutions possibles est criant conduit à ce que la psychologie sociale définit comme une "dissonance cognitive". Ou, pour le dire à la manière de Groucho Marx : pourquoi prendrais-je soin de la postérité ? Est-ce que la postérité s'est préoccupée de moi ? Certes, un objectif tel que l'égalité entre générations remet en question les calculs de croissance à courte vue aussi bien que l'idée que le bonheur s'obtient par une mobilité ininterrompue et par l'éclairage 24 heures sur 24 de la planète entière.

C'est justement en temps de crise qu'on voit ce qui se passe, fatalement, quand une entité politique commune ne procède d'aucune idée de ce qu'elle veut vraiment être. Des sociétés qui se contentent de satisfaire leur besoin de sens par la consommation n'ont, au moment où, alors qu'elles se sont coupées de la possibilité d'acquérir une identité du sens et un sentiment de ce qu'est le bonheur quand l'économie fonctionnait encore, plus de filet pour retarder leur chute. Cela tombe au moment où les experts n'ont aucun plan à proposer. Peut-être leur vol à l'aveuglette est-il le signe d'une renaissance. Celle du politique.

Traduit de l'allemand par Nicolas Weill

© Harald Welzer

Crise : le choc est à venir

Psychosociologue allemand, chercheur au Kulturwissenschaftlichen Institut d'Essen. Il est l'auteur de plusieurs ouvrages consacrés à la mémoire et la perception des événements historiques.L'étude qu'il a dirigée "Opa war kein Nazi" ("Grand-père n'était pas nazi") a été un best-seller en Allemagne (Fischer, 2002). "Les Exécuteurs : des hommes normaux aux meurtriers de masse" (Gallimard, 2007)

Harald Welzer
Article paru dans l'édition du 08.02.09

explosion euro


Les marchés parient sur l'explosion de la zone euro

Les marchés font le pari que la crise financière et économique va faire voler en éclat la zone euro. En effet, depuis le début de la crise bancaire, en août 2007, mais surtout depuis qu’elle a touché l’Europe, en octobre 2008, l’écart (« spread » en anglais) de taux d’intérêt entre l’emprunt d’Etat de référence à 10 ans (le Bund allemand) et celui des autres emprunts d’Etat de la zone euro s’est fortement creusé. Autrement dit, les marchés exigent de la plupart des pays qui veulent emprunter pour financer leur plan de relance une « prime de risque » de plus en plus élevée. Ils manifestent ainsi leur défiance à l’égard de la solvabilité à long terme de bons nombres de pays et donc leur capacité à en rester membre de la zone euro. Ce creusement affolant des « spreads » inquiète de plus en plus les autorités monétaires européennes : l’Eurogroupe, qui réunit les seize ministres des finances de la zone
euro, va aborder le sujet ce lundi.

Les taux d’intérêt à long terme sont librement fixés par les marchés (et varient donc au jour le jour) et reflètent la qualité de la signature d’un Etat. Depuis 1995, date à laquelle les marchés se sont persuadés que l’euro verrait le jour, ces taux se sont rapprochés et ont navigué dans une fourchette très étroite, ce qui a permis, par exemple, à la Grèce ou à l’Italie, deux pays fortement endettés, de se financer dans des conditions proches de celle de l’Allemagne. Car cette dernière reste la référence absolue : sa signature étant considérée comme la plus sûre, elle bénéficie des taux les plus bas.

Mais depuis le début de la crise, le besoin de financement massif des Etats, a accru les spreads. Ainsi, alors que le Bund allemand était hier à 2,90 %, le taux français était à 3,38 % %, soit l’écart le plus important depuis le lancement de l’euro (avant la crise, l’écart était de 5 points de base contre 47 en moyenne aujourd’hui), le taux portugais à 4,19 %, le taux italien à 4,41 %, le taux irlandais à 4,62 % et le taux grec à 5,34 %, soit un écart de 244 points de base, ce qui est faramineux !

C’est ce qu’on appelle en anglais le « flight to quality » : dans un environnement risqué, les investisseurs recherchent la qualité. Or la dégradation des finances publiques les inquiète car cela fait peser un risque sur la capacité de remboursement des Etats : le fait que l’agence de notation Standard & Poor’s ait dégradé, mercredi, la note de la Grèce de A/A-1 à A/A-2 et que l’Espagne, le Portugal et l’Irlande aient été placés « sous surveillance » ne va pas les rassurer (la note maximale, triple A, n’est plus décernée qu’à sept Etats dans le monde, dont la France). Et face à l’explosion des emprunts d’Etat, les marchés peuvent faire la fine bouche et se montrer exigeants. Ainsi, en 2009, la France empruntera 175 milliards d’euros, l’Allemagne 238 milliards d’euros, l’Italie 220 milliards d’euros, la Grande-Bretagne 182 milliards d’euros, la Grèce 53 milliards d’euros, etc. Et les Etats-Unis, plus
de 1000 milliards d’euros. Le problème est que cette augmentation des taux longs enclenche un cercle vicieux : comme le service de la dette s’alourdit, cela détériore davantage le déficit et accroît la dette, ce qui augmente d’autant la méfiance des marchés…

« En réalité, le marché se pose des questions qui n’ont pas lieu d’être posées », estime Christian de Boissieu, le président du Conseil d’analyse économique. « Aucun pays n’a quitté la zone euro, c’est même le contraire qui se passe, le nombre d’Etats membres étant passé de 11 à 16. Le flux est entrant et pas sortant. Si un pays le faisait, il verrait exploser la charge des intérêts de sa dette ». Alors, que faire pour réduire ces spreads ? « Il faut que les pays attaqués ne laissent planer aucun doute sur leur volonté de rester dans la zone euro. Il faut donc qu’ils annoncent un plan d’assainissement de leurs finances publiques à moyen terme, une fois que la crise sera passée », explique Boissieu. C’est le message qu’a martelé, hier, Jean-Claude Trichet, le président de la BCE : « la confiance dans la stabilité à long terme des finances est essentiel ». D’où l’importance, une fois la crise
passée, de revenir dans les clous du Pacte de stabilité. Surtout, ne faudrait-il pas créer une agence européenne capable d’émettre des « eurobligations », comme l’a suggéré Jean-Claude Juncker, le Premier ministre luxembourgeois et président de l’Eurogroupe ? Certes, dans un premier temps, l’Allemagne y perdrait. Mais à moyen terme, l’ensemble de la zone euro y gagnerait. L’idée fait son chemin et devrait être évoquée lundi soir, lors de l’Eurogroupe.

Source: Agence France Trésor.

Rédigé le 16/01/2009 à 17:40

uk: private police to monitor extremists

The secret police are watching you

How can an organisation that is not subject to public scrutiny set up a sinister unit to monitor political and environmental groups?
Comments (…)

"A secret police intelligence unit has been set up to spy on leftwing and rightwing political groups," said the story in the Mail on Sunday. Who has decided that political and environmental groups consisting of individuals, who are guaranteed the rights of demonstration, association, free speech and privacy under the Human Rights Act, should be spied upon by this new sinister police unit?

The answer is the Association of Chief Police Officers – and that is the problem.

Few understand that ACPO is a private company, which happens to be funded by a Home Office grant and money from 44 police authorities. But despite its important role in drafting and implementing policies that affect the fundamental freedoms of this country, ACPO is protected from freedom of information requests and its proceedings remain largely hidden from public view. In reality ACPO is no more troubled by public scrutiny than the freemasons.

That is wrong. Senior police officers are acting with increasing autonomy in drafting these authoritarian new policies. If you wonder how it came to be that police officers are being equipped with 10,000 stun guns, despite the reports of hundreds of deaths in the United States, or how the automatic number plate recognition camera network was set up to record and store data from most road journeys, look no further than ACPO.

Too often it seems ACPO is the driving force behind policy, and the Home Office succumbs, either because of its own autocratic instincts or because the police are exceptionally good at pushing through the things they want.

Now the police have set up the confidential intelligence unit to monitor the political life of this nation. The only reason we know of this is because the Mail on Sunday followed up an internal police job advertisement for the head of the confidential intelligence unit, who would work closely with government departments, university authorities and private sector companies "to remove the threat of criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism". The story tells us that the CIU will also prevent details of its operations being made public.

This surely must ring a few alarm bells, even among our complacent MPs who have allowed this tiny state-within-a-state to flourish over the past decade. It is evident that the CIU will not be troubled by any public accountability and that the individual who becomes its head will be able to make decisions unilaterally about the nation's politics. If all environmental groups are to be branded extreme, if those who demonstrate against the invasion of Gaza are, as a matter of course, to be regarded as a criminal threat, we will enter a period of enormous tension between the authorities and those people who wish to exercise their legitimate right to demonstrate.

Of course there are extremist groups hoping to make use of troubles ahead but it is surely a matter of the gravest urgency that parliament involves itself in defining the limits of the CIU's activity and bringing ACPO into the 21st century by forcing it to become more accountable and open. We cannot have the police making decisions about what constitutes legitimate politics in this country.

Secret police unit set up to spy on British 'domestic extremists'

By Jason Lewis

10:04 PM on 07th February 2009

Plane Stupid

Target: Members of the Plane Stupid group, pictured on the runway at Stansted Airport in December, could be under scrutiny from the new unit

A secret police intelligence unit has been set up to spy on Left-wing and Right-wing political groups.

The Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) has the power to operate across the UK and will mount surveillance and run informers on ‘domestic extremists’.

Its job is to build up a detailed picture of radical campaigners.

Targets will include environmental groups involved in direct action such as Plane Stupid, whose supporters invaded the runway at Stansted Airport in December.

The unit also aims to identify the ring-leaders behind violent demonstrations such as the recent anti-Israel protests in London, and to infiltrate neo-Nazi groups, animal liberation groups and organisations behind unlawful industrial action such as secondary picketing.

The CIU’s role will be similar to the ‘counter subversion’ functions formerly carried out by MI5.

The so-called reds under the bed operations focused on trade unionists and peace campaigners but were abandoned by MI5 to concentrate on Islamic terrorism.

The unit is being set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and will be based at Scotland Yard in Central London.

An internal police job advertisement for the ‘Head of Confidential Intelligence Unit’, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, reveals key details of its wide-ranging powers.

The advert says the unit will work closely with Government departments, university authorities and private sector companies to ‘remove the threat of criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism’.

The CIU will also use legal proceedings to prevent details of its operations being made public.

Its chief will play an active part in obtaining Public Interest Immunity Certificates from Government Ministers, and will attend ‘legal meetings regarding sensitive source material’.

Another vacancy, for an administration officer, states that the CIU will be involved in the collection of ‘secret data’.

The job descriptions indicate that the postholders will have links with MI5.

Details of the senior vacancies were circulated to police forces last year - the closing date for applications was November 14, 2008.

The top job was open to officers of at least the rank of Detective Chief Inspector.

MI5’s counter subversion role led to it compiling files on Left-wing student activists in the Sixties and Seventies.

These included records on Jack Straw and Peter Mandelson.

dangerous side effect of 2nd wave of turmoil

Pimco Says World Economic Crisis Faces ‘Second Wave

By Wes Goodman

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Pacific Investment Management Co., which runs the world’s biggest bond fund, said the global economy faces a “second wave” of turmoil unless governments adopt larger spending plans.

“The economic setback is still in its early stages,” Koyo Ozeki, head of Asia-Pacific credit research at Pimco’s Tokyo office, wrote in a report published today on the company’s Web site. “Any further decline in housing prices could accelerate the downturn, intensifying the pernicious feedback loop and possibly leading to a second wave in the financial crisis in the next six to 12 months.”

The lack of specifics in U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s financial-system rescue plan triggered a 4.9 percent slide in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index yesterday, the steepest since President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Advanced economies are in a “depression” that may get worse, Dominique Strauss- Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, said on Feb. 7.

Ozeki this month said investors may want to hold off buying Japanese corporate debt until yields rise to reflect the full extent of the slump. Pimco is also avoiding longer-maturity bonds elsewhere in Asia as governments increase spending, Douglas Hodge, managing director for the region, said in an interview yesterday. Bill Gross, Pimco’s co-chief investment officer, said on Feb. 5 the Federal Reserve will have to buy Treasuries to curb yields as debt sales increase.

‘Second Wave’

“To overcome that second wave, governments worldwide would have to spend vast quantities,” Ozeki wrote. “The resulting erosion in their finances would increase the risk of dangerous side effects.”

Trading was closed today in Japan for a holiday, and Ozeki could not be reached at his office.

The cost of protecting Asia-Pacific bonds from default rose on speculation Geithner’s bank plan won’t be enough to revive the world’s largest economy.

The Markit iTraxx Asia index of 50 investment-grade borrowers outside Japan increased 10 basis points to 355 as of 9:14 a.m. in Singapore, according to Barclays Capital. Japan’s corporate bond risk climbed to a record yesterday.

Credit-default swap indexes are benchmarks for protecting bonds against default and traders use them to speculate on changes in credit quality. The swaps pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities if a borrower fails to adhere to its debt agreements. A basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, is worth $1,000 on a swap protecting $10 million of debt.

Toxic Assets

Geithner pledged government financing for as much as $2 trillion to spur new lending and address banks’ toxic assets, seeking to end the credit crunch hobbling the economy. He said he is still “exploring a range of different structures” to implement the plan, outlined in Washington yesterday.

“The worst cannot be ruled out,” Strauss-Kahn said in Kuala Lumpur, where he was attending a gathering of central bankers from Southeast Asia. “There’s a lot of downside risk.”

Investors will demand a greater yield premium to hold longer-dated Asian bonds over short-term securities as the supply of government debt increases, Pimco’s Hodge said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday in Kuala Lumpur.

Corporate bonds have trounced Treasuries so far this year as government efforts to spur economic growth led some investors to favor higher-yielding assets.

Extra Yield

U.S. company debt rated A by Standard & Poor’s returned 0.8 percent so far in 2009, according to Merrill Lynch & Co.’s Corporate Master index. Government securities fell 2.7 percent, based on the company’s Treasury Master index.

Investors demand 4.74 percentage points of extra yield to buy the A rated bonds instead of Treasuries. While the spread has narrowed from 6.49 percentage points in December, it is still up from 2.30 percentage points a year ago, the Merrill indexes show.

In Japan, A rated corporates yield 1.74 percentage points more than government bonds, widening from 0.58 percentage point 12 months ago, according to Merrill’s Japan Corporate Index. Company debt fell 0.5 percent so far this year and government securities dropped 0.7 percent, the indexes show.

Japan’s struggle to revive growth in the 1990s, the so- called Lost Decade, offers lessons on how the world economy will develop, Ozeki wrote in his report.

The government has limited ability to keep prices for real estate and other assets from falling, he said.

‘Downside Risks’

“In a situation where the economy continues to retreat amid a financial crisis, demand for real estate will not recover until a severe enough drop in prices significantly reduces the downside risk of holding property,” he wrote. “In Japan’s case, it took 15 years for real estate prices to hit bottom.”

Pimco, based in Newport Beach, California, is a unit of Munich-based Allianz SE, Europe’s biggest insurer. It’s Total Return Fund is the largest bond fund with $136 billion in assets. It returned 2.7 percent in the past year, beating 89 percent of its competitors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gross said in his Feb. 5 interview on Bloomberg Television that he recommends high-rated company and bank bonds because they offer higher yields than Treasuries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Wes Goodman in Singapore at

Last Updated: February 11, 2009 04:16 EST