Nothing Sez ‘Common Ground’ Like Hatin’ teh JOOZ

by matttbastard

Awesome:

This January, a week after Barack Obama’s Inauguration, a conference called “Holocaust? A Sacred Lie by the West” was held in Tehran. Ahmadinejad, in a greeting that he sent to the conference, said that Zionists had “ensnared many politicians and parties.” In a follow-up statement, he added, “An incident known as 9/11 occurred. It is not yet clear who carried it out, who collaborated with them, and who paved the way for them. The event took place, and—like in the case of the Holocaust—they sealed it off, refusing to allow objective research groups to find out the truth.”

Iasked Thomas Pickering why Ahmadinejad had chosen that moment to talk so provocatively about the Holocaust. “I think he probably felt encouraged by the Pope,” Pickering replied, referring to the news that week that Benedict XVI had lifted an excommunication order on a British bishop and Holocaust denier. (The Pope later asked the bishop to recant.)

Heartwarming. Who says the Vatican has been backsliding on JPII’s ecumenical outreach efforts? Heckuva job, Ratzi.

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Happy Market Meltdown Monday!

by matttbastard

So, what did we learn this weekend (besides the fact that Sarah Palin is the spiritual reincarnation of Richard Nixon and John Sidney McCain III has, according Howard Wolfson, jumped the shark)?

Well, the European banking crisis is spreading; US bank failures are expected to increase in ’09; US consumer confidence is next-to-non-existent, with a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll showing that 59% of Americans believe a depression is imminent and 84% consider the economy to be poor.

And now it’s Monday and the markets are open.

You know what that means:

We are fucked:

U.S. stocks plummeted in early trading today as economic turmoil rippled through Europe and investors questioned whether a bailout of the financial sector would be enough to prevent a global recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 500 points by mid-morning but then retreated to more than 400 points lower by 11:18 a.m. It was the first time since October 2004 that the Dow fell below 10,000. The Nasdaq and Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index both fell by 6 percent but by 11:18 a.m. had come back slightly, down 5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

The day started with a negative momentum that has turned into a global panic, said Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. “It is just a realization that the global economy is going to be stagnant for the next 12 to 16 months” even with the rescue plan, Hogan said.

Investors remain concerned that the $700 billion financial bailout plan enacted by the federal government last week is not enough to address the country’s fundamental economic problems, including rising unemployment and falling home prices. Banks remain reluctant to lend to each other, keeping the credit markets frozen, and overseas banks are increasingly facing problems of their own.

European officials are scrambling to bolster financial firms, and Asian investors have grown worried that a global recession will undercut their export-dependent economies. Europe has been forced to prop up other banks in recent weeks. Markets in Asia and Europe were down from between 4 and 6 percent.

“People realize that the [bailout] is not going to prevent a more serious economic downturn in the U.S., including a couple of quarters of negative economic growth,” said Marc Chandler, head of currency trading at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. “The banking crisis spreading to Europe is another negative. It means the crisis is getting bigger.”

The price of oil fell as low as $88.89 a barrel in morning trading today, off its peak of $147 a barrel in July. The price of gold jumped as investors sought a safe haven from the market turmoil.

Glad I have today off, as I feel the need for a drink, to be quickly followed by another.

Oh, and memo to Uncle Steve: Canada is most definitely included in that aforementioned ‘we’. This is not simply a financial crisis for the US–it’s a global (yes, global) crisis.

A global crisis that, as Marc Chandler noted, is growing bigger.

We are fucked.

h/t James Curran for the vid

Related: Must read op-ed by David Rothkopf, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, who argues that the financial crisis is a paradigm-shifting event “bigger than 9/11”:

We now know that the costs to the U.S. government associated with this crash will surpass those associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also know that all such government cost estimates tend to be on the low side. We further know that the U.S. economy recovered quickly after 9/11 and that we are in the midst now of a global downturn that may last for many months and perhaps years. We know that there have been vastly more job losses — 600,000 recorded thus far this year in the United States — than were associated with the 9/11 shocks, and that the global job-loss totals that a recession is likely to bring will be measured in the millions. Among the poorest, the likely shocks to emerging markets caused by the United States’ inability to spend freely will take a devastating human toll.

By all the metrics available to us, then, the current financial crisis easily exceeds the post-9/11 war on terror in economic terms. Human costs are harder to measure, of course, and the tolls of both events have been devastating. But the financial crisis will certainly touch many more people in many more countries than did 9/11. And even greater crises may loom ahead, thanks to our unwitting creation of a financial Frankenstein’s monster of unregulated, risk-laden, global derivatives markets.

As the dithering U.S. governing class is grappling with the disposal of “toxic assets” in the U.S. economy, the world is moving on to debate what is widely seen as a toxic ideology: a form of market fundamentalism that promotes inequality.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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Quote of the Day: The Rhetoric of Confrontation and Confusion

by matttbastard

There’s a moral problem with all the pro-Georgia cheerleading, which has gotten lost in the op-ed blasts against Putin’s neo-imperialism. A recurring phenomenon of the early Cold War was that America encouraged oppressed peoples to rise up and fight for freedom — and then, when things got rough, abandoned them to their fate. The CIA did that egregiously in the early 1950s, broadcasting to the Soviet republics and the nations of Eastern Europe that America would back their liberation from Soviet tyranny. After the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, responsible U.S. leaders learned to be more cautious, and more honest about the limits of American power.

Now, after the Georgia war, McCain should learn that lesson: American leaders shouldn’t make threats the country can’t deliver or promises it isn’t prepared to keep. The rhetoric of confrontation may make us feel good, but other people end up getting killed.

– David Ignatius, The Risk of the Zinger

h/t Clive Crook

Related: Ivan Krastev on the ‘great power trap’:

The politics of mixed – and confused – signals emanating from Washington continued throughout the five days of the Russia-Georgia conflict. The outcome is doubly revealing: of the fact that the US does not have leverage over Moscow, and that Bush’s rhetorical commitment to guarantee the territorial integrity of Georgia is indeed just rhetoric. In short, the Bush administration’s crisis-management was the worst of both worlds: it had no sense of direction, and it lost credibility.

Moscow too made a grave strategic miscalculation. The decision to follow the crushing of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali by invasion of Georgia proper – though with no political plan, no local political allies to help remove Saakashvili, and no principle on which to build a Caucasus settlement after the war – meant that Russia’s actions were guaranteed to invite stinging international criticism. Russia has not offered anything, articulated any larger and inclusive project to make sense of its military campaign or enable it to reach out to neighbouring states and international partners. Russia has, in narrow terms, won; but it could yet turn out to be the biggest loser of the Georgian war.

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Quote of the Day: Imperial Nostalgia

by matttbastard

…Even after the fiasco in Iraq, the bloody failure in Lebanon, the downward spiral in Afghanistan and, now, the futile posturing in Georgia, there’s absolutely no evidence the US foreign policy elite is inclined to moderate its ambition to re-organize the world along American lines. Nor is there any sign the political class (including, unfortunately, Barack Obama) is rethinking its lockstep support for that agenda. The voters, meanwhile, don’t seem to care much one way or another – as long as gas doesn’t get too expensive and the military casualties aren’t too high (or can be kept off the TV). If anything, it looks like bashing the Russians is still good politics, if only for the nostalgia value.If you caught Andrew Bacevich on Bill Moyer’s show the other night, you may have noticed that his biggest complaint was not that US foreign policy is misguided and destructive (although he clearly thinks it’s both) but that it is being conducted in a democratic vacuum — despite all the florid rhetoric about promoting democracy. We may still go through the motions of a republican form of government, Bacevich says, but the fabric has gotten pretty thin: or, in the case of our national revival of the Great Game in the Caucasus, damned near invisible.

How long before it tears completely?

– Billmon, Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco

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Conflict in the Caucasus: Four Perspectives

by matttbastard

Greg Djerejian:

What’s needed now, rather critically, is rather a large dose of humble pie by Mr. Saakashvili (let Solana visit him to hand-hold some, and perhaps then send our own Condi-the-Great too, as face-saver, if she’s not too busy showcasing our incompetence elsewhere), with an understanding that the main objective is an immediate cease-fire with the goal of returning to the status quo ante, which is to say, de facto Russian control of the provinces in question. We could do far worse (indeed Putin may be minded to just have them go ahead and declare their independence under Russian control, or simply annex them), and bloviating about the death of the Rose Revolution in far-flung Abkhazia and Ossetia, while doubtless fun cocktail chit-chat among the grandees of our favorite editorial pages, well, Putin might have an idea or two where to put such talk, and it won’t save any lives at this urgent juncture either. Put differently, let’s stop our fanciful reverie from points removed (and where the ramifications don’t include rampant lost of life, say) in favor of trying to dampen back a bloodbath that is looming today in the Caucasus, especially should Saakashvili delude himself some quasi-cavalry might be in the offing, and push back on the Russians even harder. For there is no cavalry coming, save if cavalry can be construed as ‘we must respect Georgian sovereignty’ soundbites that will blanket around clueless anchors striving mightily to pose intelligible questions on the cable news circuit that might be overheard at the Tbilisi Marriott.

Yulia Latynina (h/t Joshua Rouse Foust):

{A}ll the recent actions of Eduard Kokoity, the leader of the breakaway South Ossetian government, have run counter to the interests of Russia in the Caucasus — beginning with his embarrassing Russia in the eyes of the international community and ending with his ratcheting up the tensions in the very region where Russia might begin to come undone. South Ossetia is not a territory, not a country, not a regime. It is a joint venture of siloviki generals and Ossetian bandits for making money in a conflict with Georgia. For me, the most surprising thing in this entire story is the complete lack of any strategic goals on the part of the South Ossetians.

As soon as Russia tamped down the war in Abkhazia, tensions in South Ossetia started rising. South Ossetian forces start shelling Georgian villages, and as soon as Georgia returns fire, the airwaves are filled with accusations of “Georgian aggression.” No one pays attention to the fact that when this happens, Kokoity is not on the front lines or visiting the injured in a hospital — he’s 1,000 kilometers away in Abkhazia, apparently offering the Russian siloviki his people as hostages, as another card to be played to inflame the situation and make a few more dollars.

Again — nothing that is going on in South Ossetia makes any sense from the point of view of strategy. It only makes sense as a means of making money. And we aren’t talking about small sums. Running a gas pipeline through the mountains from Russia — a precaution in case Georgia decides to cut off the 70,000 residents — cost $570 million. And then there is the secret budget Russia has allotted for the struggle — estimated at somewhere around $800 million. And don’t forget the pensions and wages for state-sector workers, who officially number some 80,000 but whose actual numbers are not more than 30,000.

James Sherr (h/t The Parasite):

Unlike Georgia, Ukraine has no territorial conflicts, but it has a potential territorial dispute, Crimea. What is more, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – and along with it, its intelligence services – is authorised to remain there until 2017. In 1997, Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea was recognised by a treaty signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Kuchma. Yet after Nato’s summit in Bucharest last April, President Putin let it be known that Crimea and other questions long regarded as settled could be reopened if Ukraine ceased to be a “friendly” (ie, non-Nato) state. After the events of last week, Ukraine is even more concerned about Russia’s wish to destabilise it.

Russia’s regional objectives are therefore straightforward. It aims to show its neighbours, by means of the Georgian example, that Russia is “glavniy”: that its contentment is the key to “stability and security”, and that if Russia expresses its discontent, Nato will be unwilling and unable to help. It aims to show Nato that its newest aspirant members are divided, divisible and, in the case of Georgia, reckless. It aims to show both sets of actors that Russia has (in Putin’s words) “earned a right to be self-interested” and that in its own “zone”, it will defend these interests irrespective of what others think about them. For Russia, the broader implications are also becoming straightforward. To its political establishment, to the heads of Gazprom and Rosneft, to its armed forces and security services and to their advisors and “ideologists”, the key point is that the era of Western dominance is over.

Far from rejecting “globalisation”, as Westerners might suppose, their view, in Foreign Minister Lavrov’s words, is that the West is “losing its monopoly over the globalisation process”.

Natalia Antonova:

Ultimately, the nations who have encouraged Georgia to join Nato will wash their hands of this conflict. When it comes to what matters more, Tbilisi or Moscow, Moscow will win out. It’s expedient to kick smaller nations to the curb in favour of the big guys, and I say this as someone who has a hell of a lot in common with the Russian Federation and its interests.

Who knows? Perhaps this entire conflict will serve to benefit Russian-American relations. On Air Force One, high above the toils of ordinary life and death, people who will benefit from this disaster can toast each other while the dead are being buried.

It’s not fair. It’s politics. And the only thing left for those not directly involved may be simply to turn away. As one of my Russian friends put it: “I don’t give a s—. It’s summer. Beautiful women in light dresses and sandals are about. I am young enough to pay attention to beautiful women, and old enough to not be interested in f—– up political games.”

More links at my Delicious.

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matttbastard at Muslimah Media Watch

by matttbastard

My thanks to the fine folks at Muslimah Media Watch for crossposting my post on Faiza M:

Muslimah Media Watch is a forum where we, as Muslim women, can critique how our images appear in the media and popular culture. Although we are of different nationalities, sects, races, etc., we have something important in common: we’re tired of seeing ourselves portrayed by the media in ways that are one-dimensional and misleading. This is a space where, from a Muslim feminist perspective, we can speak up for ourselves.

As Muslim feminists we aim to locate and critique misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia as they affect Muslim women. Furthermore, we believe in equality — regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and ability.

This blog is meant to be inclusive to all people, with a special focus on Muslim women. MMW strives to create an environment in which our writers and readers feel safe and welcome. We ask that you be considerate towards others and their opinions. This is a respectful forum for dialogue, not argument or personal attacks.

Add MMW to your bookmarks/blogroll/subscriptions (assuming you haven’t already done so)

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Bob Watson on Reforming Agriculture

by matttbastard

Related: International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report calls for “world leaders to urgently reform farming rules to boost the state of global agriculture and prevent a food crisis that could threaten international security and the fight against poverty”: The Guardian.  (Report summary here, key findings here.)   Also see this op-ed by George Monbiot, who advises that “[i]f you care about hunger, eat less meat”, and Michael Grunwald on “The Clean Energy Scam”

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