Showing posts from December, 2010

WikiLeaks Drip, Drip, Drip...For How Long?

Julian Assange Image by Poster Boy NYC via Flickr
WikiLeaks is like a dripping faucet on the international political scene, creating puddles and craters everwhere, much to the dismay of most politicians and the glee of a few, like Putin. He'd like to see Mr. Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, get the Nobel Prize! And the French newspaper Le Monde has named him Man of the Year.

That's pushing it a bit, and it doesn't recognize the damage done - and the numerous people who are losing their job or seeing their career collapse. There is no question that WikiLeaks should have redacted names more carefully. Most unprofessional. There is a rising tide against Assange and he knows it. The US government is trying to build up a case against him and they may get him yet.

There's also been an over-reaction in the financial world - from PayPal to Switzerland - closing down the avenues to support Assange in his self-appointed "crusade". On the other hand, the publishing indu…

The Art of Giving in this Holiday Season

For everyone on the face of this earth, the end of the year is a blessed time for giving  - whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Budhist, a Jew, a Hinduist, an atheist or whatever else you call yourself.

This is a time for thinking of others, especially the poor, the emarginated, the sick and the dying.

We are all rushing to buy presents for family and friends - why not set aside a little something for someone whose only claim on you is that she or he belongs to the human race but was not born lucky the way you were...

It is heartwarming to see how the media and the blogosphere have woken up to the need to give.

In one instance, Christians and atheists, quickly joined by Muslims, have engaged online in what they call the "overall battle for goodness" and in a few days had raised some $50,000 for a hospital (see the article below).  Then Nicholas Kristof, a columnist on the New York Times, lists eleven worthy American charities and I urge you to look i…

2010: the Year Democracy is on its Way Out?

Down with the poor! Image by Stephen Kosloff via Flickr
We are nearing year end and the time to take stock of what has happened in 2010. A tough year with austerity programmes and belt-tightening promised everywhere!

Some newspapers have already started. For its "Person of the Year", Time Magazine has decided to go digital and after  reportedly discarding Julian Assange, responsible for the Wikileaks mess, it has gone for a safer choice: Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. Quite frankly, I would not have chosen either, but I suppose Zuckerberg makes sense given the incredible success of The Social Network movie. This said, I think that Mr. Zuckerberg should start to worry: the implication of the Time selection is that he's fast becoming a "Man of the Past" (at least starting next year!). Facebook indeed has changed lately - much more publicity on it than before, leaving little space for the facebookers on their walls. And I'm not sure that many people ap…

Berlusconi and Italy: What the Media doesn't Tell You!

Berlusconi in a black shirt Image via Wikipedia

In Italy, December 14 was a crucial day for Berlusconi, the head of the Italian government and of the PDL  (Polo delle Libertà - a gathering of central rightist parties). He survived motions of no confidence in both houses of Parliament by the skin of his teeth: 314 vs. 311 in the lower house: that's just 3 votes - not enough to govern.

What does it mean? That Berlusconi, who started his meteoric career back in 1992 is on his way out? He's 74 years old, and for a lot of people, it's about time he went.

It's a little more complicated than that. As he is probably the politician most hated by the foreign media, I think it might be interesting to share with you what I know of the situation since I live in Italy and talk about it to all sorts of Italians.

The picture every English language paper gives of the Italian political situation is highly simplified and often biased, starting with the Economist. Which, to some extent,…

Sarah Palin as a New Ms.Thatcher? Come on!

Mikhail Gorbachev caricatureImage by myoldpostcards via Flickr
The other day, I attended the launching in Italy of the Italian translation of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister, a brave attempt at historical analysis by John O'Sullivan, a British conservative journalist and political commentator at large.The title is a good one and the book tries to identify the role played by Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in the fall of the Soviet Union (for those interested, I've reproduced below the marketing blurb for the book published by Regnery Publishing in 2006)
The event went smoothly until someone asked Mr. O'Sullivan what major current political personalities he saw that might play a similar role todayin the "fight against Islamism and the growing secularization of our society". Aside from the fact that I would never have formulated the major issues of our time in those terms - a point Mr. O'Sullivan failed to note - the politic…

Does the Euro Deserve to Die?

La Faucheuse Image by David_Reverchonvia Flickr
This is going to be a crucial week for the Euro and the media and  blogosphere are already heating up. Strong words are bandied about: that the creators of the Euro were dishonest, imprudent, dumb, naive, liars. The Euro is close to collapse announces Chapman in the Market Oracle. "The Euro doesn’t deserve to survive" writes with finality Tim Hedges on his blog.

Sure,  much of the arguments are convincing: the Euro shouldn't have been launched with just monetary policy (courtesy the European Central Bank) to defend it; it needed an equally harmonized fiscal policy or the equivalent of a federal treasury. I've said that before when explaining that the Euro hobbles along on one leg only.

But  I don't think the Euro was conceived in "dishonesty": that's a very strong word and not fair to the ideals of Europeans. It was imprudent, yes, but in line with the way the United Europe dream has been constructed s…

Eternal Russia: Moving Back to the One-Party System

Vladimir Putin in KGB uniform Image via Wikipedia
Recent elections in Siberia gave us a depressing glimpse into what is really happening in Russia. I watched the video on the 10 Decembre New York Times and saw the eyes of the candidate of the opposition party, A Just Russia, fill with tears as she watched the fake returns handing the election over to Mr. Putin's party United Russia. Because there's little doubt the elections were rigged through and through. In Haiti and the Ivory Coast, people take to the street when they suspect foul play, but not in Russia. No, the whole country cowers in front of Mr. Putin and his accolytes. Nobody dares to walk the streets in protest. Not a car nor a garbage can is ever set on fire in a Russian town!

Back to square one.

Twenty years ago, it looked for a short while like Russia was at last going to turn democratic. Fat chance! That democratic season was a short one and Mr. Eltsin drank himself into impotance. Not so Mr. Putin: here is someb…

Nobel Peace Prize vs. Confucius Peace Prize: What a Lark!

Image via WikipediaNobel Peace Prize Concert 2008
Who would have ever believed that the Nobel Peace Prize - one of the West's most respected institutions, the very embodiment of its humanitarian values - would find itself in competition with a cheap Chinese copy?

I suppose we shouldn't be so surprised: the Chinese are famously good at copying everything, from plastic cutlery to e-readers. So why not an international peace prize?

We all know how the Chinese government went beserk when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to dissident Liu Xiaobo serving an eleven-year prison sentence for having drafted Charter 08 - a courageous paper calling for more freedom and democracy and signed by 300 Chinese intellectuals and scientists -. They prevented him or anyone else, whether family or friend, from receiving the prize in Norway. The last time something like this happened - that the prize could not be collected -  was in 1936, over 70 years ago. And they launched a world-wide campaign…

Is China's Shocking Behaviour as a Totalitarian State Condoned by the European Union?

European Invetment Bank   Image via Wikipedia
We tend to forget that China today is the largest communist power on this planet. That means it is still, to a large extent, both a centrally planned economy and a totalitarian state.

This week end, some very interesting news about China got buried under the boring deluge of Wikileaks so-called revelations  (most of them old hat and hardly worth a comment). They reveal how little China has changed...

Let me tell you about China's shocking behaviour and how the European Union is indirectly condoning it. "Indirectly" only in the sense that Brussels may not have thought the consequences through.

The New York Times reported that one of the European Union's major and most highly respected institutions, the European Investment Bank, will provide China with a  €500 million ($669 million) loan to finance some 15 projects intended to mitigate climate change, from onshore wind power to biomass and solar power. Perhaps not much by i…

Who's Going to Save the Euro?

Model of the ECB new headquaretersImage via Wikipedia
Is the Euro dying? After the Irish debacle, ideas are floating around on how to save the Euro.The media is full of suggestions:

1. Transforming Europe's financial rescue fund, the 750 billion-euro ($975 billion) European Financial Stability Facility, into a European equivalent of the International Monetary Fund. This was first proposed by Mr. de Grauwe, a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven, in a paper comparing the current Euro crisis to the collapse in the early 1990s of the precursor to the euro, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. At the time, it was investors betting on devaluations, today it's bondholders taking aim at the weakest economies, Greece first, now Ireland and Spain next.  But the European treaty revisions required to bring to life a European IMF would be hard to carry through in the current political climate, as most European governments fear having to go the referendum route and face E…