February 25, 2008 § Leave a comment
BBC – The rising price of cereals such as wheat and maize is a “major global concern”, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says.
Poor countries could see their cereal import bill rise by more than a third. Africa as a whole is expected to see an estimated 49% increase this year.
International wheat prices have risen 83% in the past 12 months.
Demand from emerging countries such as China, and droughts and flooding have pushed cereal prices to record highs.
IHT – Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to propel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Gulf.
In Jordan, the soaring price of oil led the government to remove almost all its costly fuel subsidies this month, pushing the price of some fuels up 76 percent overnight. In a devastating domino effect, the cost of basic foods like eggs, potatoes and cucumbers doubled or more.
In Saudi Arabia, where the inflation rate had been virtually zero for a decade, it has reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher. Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause “theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor.”
February 24, 2008 § Leave a comment
House of credit
A growing dependence on credit cards is leaving the American consumer mired in debt
By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With America’s total credit card debt approaching $1 trillion, she had plenty of company, according to figures from the government and a credit-tracking firm.
Consumers charged $68 billion worth of purchases last year, boosting credit card debt by 7.8 percent, the largest increase in seven years.
That rising personal debt is bad news for a nation teetering on recession. The estimated $132 billion a year spent on credit card interest takes money away from purchases of goods and services, contributing to the nation’s economic slump.
The average U.S. household spends 15 percent of its disposable income on mortgage and credit card interest combined, a ratio that has increased 25 percent in the past decade.
“We really can’t count on the consumer to drive this economy,” Cochrane said.
About 175 million Americans pay with plastic. The average cardholder has seven bank and retail credit cards; only 7 percent of consumers have none, according to various estimates.
ased on its survey of more than 55,000 consumers, CardTrak pegged the median cardholder debt at $6,600 (meaning half owed more and half owed less), and the average revolving credit card debt at $9,840.Stiff fees for late payments and exceeding limits compound debt load. In 2006, credit card companies made more than $17 billion in penalty fees, U.S. PIRG said.
Compare the numbers in bold. See anything unusual?
“al-Hakim “the mad,” … the Fatimid Caliph who torched the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and put the kybosh on a long-standing hudna between Muslims and Christians to allow Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, which the conventional wisdom has it was the immediate provocation that egged on the Crusades.”
This was hardly “immediate provocation.” It took place in 1009 – at the same time as the mosque in Constantinople was destroyed. Al Hakim’s son, Ali az-Zahir, who replaced him as Fatimid Caliph, negotiated with the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine VIII on the rebuilding and redecoration of both the Church in Jerusalem and the mosque in Constantinople. In the latter, Friday hutbes were to be delivered in the name of the Fatimid Caliph. The Church in Jerusalem was fully rebuilt and in full operation as a pilgrimage site by 1050.
So it seems that it was a stretch for the Papacy to use the 1009 event as the pretext for the call, more than 80 years later, of the First Crusade. I think we have to find other explanations forUrban’s call for crusade in 1095.
Hubert Houben. Roger II of Sicily: Ruler Between East and West, Cambridge University Press, 2002; and Donald Matthew, The Norman Kingdom of Sicily, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
February 23, 2008 § Leave a comment
Some interesting ideas fro Keith Hart
A body of Marxist and feminist scholarship in the 1960s and 70s extended this analysis to the conflict between African males of different age, with polygamous elders commanding young men’s labour through control of access to marriageable women and the latter condemned to doing most of the work without effective political representation. Gender and generation differences accordingly take on huge salience in African societies.
This suggests that there are aspects of kinship systems, which can be opposed generally to hierarchical state structures, that are attractive and that we need to understand better if we are to deal with needed *cultural* change. These quotes can be retrieved from d# archive: http://www.nettime.org
More from the same source
In the decades leading up to the First World War, fifty million Europeans left home for temperate lands of new settlement; the same number of Indians and Chinese (‘coolies’) were shipped to the colonies as indentured labourers. These two streams of migrants had to be kept apart since, although their work and skill-level was often similar, whites were paid on average nine shillings a day, while Asians received one shilling a day. In those areas where Asian workers were allowed to settle, the price of local wage-labour was driven down to their level. Western imperialism’s division of the world at this time into countries of dear and cheap labour had profound consequences for their subsequent economic development. Demand in high-wage economies is stronger than in their low-wage counterparts. World trade has been organized ever since in the interests of the better-paid, with tax-rich states subsidizing their farmers to dump cheap food overseas at the expense of local agricultural development, while preventing the poorer countries’ manufactures from undermining the wages of industrial workers at home. South Africa and the United States each encouraged heavy immigration of working-class Europeans while seeking to retain a reserve of poorly-paid black and Asian labour. The resulting dualism is inscribed on their shared history of racist urbanization.
February 20, 2008 § Leave a comment
If the country were being run by professionals, Bush, Obama, Clinton and Mccain would get together to work out a plan for what to do in case the country is attacked before the election. The following from a friend
If one studies and observes the “tactical history” of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, then it becomes obvious that they intend to do something, somewhere which will serve as a catalyst to the ascendancy of U.S. Presidential Candidates with a proclivity towards “Vengeful Victory” in the entire Middle East.
One way to look at the upcoming election is the war party vs the diplomacy party. The war party can be a distraction from economic progress for the standard big corporation world of banks, energy, and MIC (military industrial complex). the peace party can be an attempt to keep the same economy going with less cost to the system. I am not sure but what both are distractions from facing up to the real issues.
Asian Times has
US efforts are in overdrive to ward off a clean bill of health for Iran’s nuclear program when the International Atomic Energy Agency issues a new report later this week. The American diplomats as usual have the help of compliant media, which are making much of supposed US intelligence newly “shared” with the atomic agency. Just don’t believe everything you read; the IAEA does not.
February 17, 2008 § Leave a comment
The reasons we need change..
CIA’s ambitious post-9/11 spy plan crumbles
‘Fox News Sunday’
ADAPTATION: Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., says: “I don’t believe the intelligence community has made the fundamental shift in how it operates to adapt to the different targets that are out there.”
The agency spent millions setting up front companies overseas to snag terrorists. Officials now say the bogus firms were ill-conceived and not close enough to Muslim enclaves.
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 17, 2008
WASHINGTON — The CIA set up a network of front companies in Europe and elsewhere after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a constellation of “black stations” for a new generation of spies, according to current and former agency officials.
But after spending hundreds of millions of dollars setting up as many as 12 of the companies, the agency shut down all but two after concluding they were ill-conceived and poorly positioned for gathering intelligence on the CIA’s principal targets: terrorist groups and unconventional weapons proliferation networks.
February 16, 2008 § Leave a comment
Hard time. A friend beaten to death in Australia, the continuation of the Bush presidency and
As of now I would vote democratic, but the spectacle of charisma and attack politics and the inability of the democrats to be clear about national security, the economy, the environment, and the need to manage decline, makes me wish for a saner alternative
These are more attractive. I hope Obama and or Clinton could lead the party, but I don’t see signs of it.
Iraq, from JuanCole
Patrick Cockburn explains that among the main outcomes of the US troop escalation (“surge”) was the Shiite victory in the 2007 battle for Baghdad, which has left hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs homeless and often in exile in Syria. He is also scathing on how the Awakening Councils are full of ex-al-Qaeda fighters who still despise the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which returns the sentiment in spades. He points out that the era of good feeling in Washington DC and New York about Iraq is part of a cycle of unfounded optimism that has much more to do with US politics than the squalid situation on the ground in Iraq.
February 14, 2008 § Leave a comment
Love is still a miracle, not that it violates physics, but that it uses it well. the way chess pieces use wood.
Ben S. Bernanke said that he expects the economy to regain speed after a few months of “sluggish” growth. how can that e? Only with deflated dollars methinks. if we all paddle our canoe, it can go well, but if the ones with money use the opportunity to snap up depreciated assets and gain more control: trouble ahead.
Iraq is peaceful because so few are left.
TERROR THROUGH A MORAL LENS, Part 1
‘They have no honor’
Americans have great difficulty framing foreign policy outside the scope of values and morals. Many believe the “war on terror” is necessary because the enemy’s methods, not agendas, are a serious infraction against American cultural values. Neither the US’s attitudes nor tactics have caught up to the realities of this frighteningly limitless battle, and without a balance between the two, the “war on terror” will continue to fail. – David Young
and from Juan Cole on the Iraqi Parliament “vote”.
Al-Zaman (The Times of Baghdad) reports in Arabic that there was not actually a vote, but rather the laws were passed as a package by consensus. The consensus reflected a political deal among the major parties rather than a recorded vote of a majority of the MPs. Al-Zaman calls the method of the vote “unconstitutional.” (They are protesting the lack of a recorded individual voice vote; it may be they also object to the bundling of the three separate laws together, which made MPs vote up and down, yes or no). Many MPs had interests in some of the laws but opposed a third, and therefore had to choose between betraying their interests or accepting legislation they really opposed. Al-Zaman quotes MP Salih Mutlak (a secular, ex-Baathist Sunni who is in the opposition) and MPs of the Sadr Movement as expressing fierce opposition to amnesty for prisoners, one of the three measures adopted.
This undemocratic and unconstitutional way of passing through legislation that the Americans insist be approved, in the teeth of opposition from a majority of MPs, was ironically employed in passing the constitution itself. Some version of it was passed without an individual voice vote in late August of 2005 (after the deadline set by the Transitional Administrative Law) and then the US embassy went on tinkering with the text right up until the October 15 referendum! It is ironic that when the Americans make their influence felt most strongly in the Iraqi government, that government acts least democratically.
and, from a friend
my default position is to assume that anyone running for
the Presidency is a hack politician. That is not an insult, but rather a recognition that a liberal republic with a two party system tends to produce many more hacks than statesman. Since I am loyal to this liberal republic, I hope (occasionally trust) that there are other precautions (Madison) to check the lack of virtue in the executive. That hope is often dashed by the growth of the imperial presidency that began with the Presidency & grew with the various wars that followed (Especially WWI, WWII, & the Cold War) along with the creation of the welfare state. Since the Presidency has become a potential juggernaut, … the Obama campaign could presage something much more dangerous than partisanship as usual, but rather a radical transformation of the republic rooted in Gnostic fantasies.
and, slowly getting our voice back.
By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, February 14, 2008; 1:36 PM
Who are we as a nation? Are we who we used to be? Did one terrorist attack really change all that? Can it be changed back?
Those, at heart, are the questions raised by the Senate’s passage yesterday of a bill that would ban harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA — a bill already passed by the House, and a bill President Bush has vowed to veto.
The debate is not just about waterboarding. It’s about whether other tactics — such as prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, mock executions, the use of attack dogs, the withholding of food, water and medical care and the application of electric shocks — should be part of our official interrogation toolkit.
Whether you call them torture or not, they are undeniably cruel. They are undeniable assaults on human dignity.
They are all prohibited by the Army Field Manual, which covers all military interrogations. They are all off limits to the FBI. Now Congress wants the CIA to adhere to the same restrictions.
But Bush says no.
The propagation of our values has long been a hallmark of American foreign policy. Chief among those values has been respect for human dignity. But the message we’ve been sending lately is altogether different. How can we tell other countries to respect human dignity when we have made it optional for our own government? When our official policy is that the ends justify the means?
On McCain, gossipy but then.. Economist Brad DeLong’.
John McCain as he gave his Virginia victory speech was the dog-eating Jew-counter himself, Fred Malek–the man who accepted from Richard Nixon the mission of trying to identify and fire the nest of Jews working in the Bureau of Labor Statistics whom Nixon was sure were plotting to undermine him.
That’s the modern Republican Party: paranoia, bigotry, and a craven eagerness to do everything possible to assist the criminal enterprises of your highers-up–it’s not a disqualification, it’s a lifestyle.
Shut down the Republican Party as quickly as possible. America needs an honorable opposition party to face off against the Democrats.