| |An embarrassing, unintelligent report
Paul Hammond, Washington
The Director of National Intelligence of the government of the United States, has released a highly embarrassing report entitled, "Background to "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections": The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution."
This report is embarrassing because it is such an amateur cut and paste job with little input from professional intelligence analysts and containing basic errors in facts, out-of-date information and other details pointing to a product of a seriously uninformed team. It is even worse that the "dodgy dossier" signed by Tony Blair in the run up to the Iraq war which he attempted to pass off as an intelligence assessment. These reports are highly politicized and products of the post-truth and "fake-fact" environment that permeated the Westminster filter bubble under Blair then and that pervades today's Beltway.
For an "intelligence briefing" dealing with such serious accusations, the range of levels of certainty of conclusions in the document are unacceptable for any responsible decision-maker. The assessment contained in the unclassified report is stated to be supported with "high confidence" by the CIA and FBI and by NSA with moderate confidence. At the back of the document three levels of confidence are defined with the high confidence, this being the highest level, signifying that "High confidence in a judgement does not imply that the assessment is a fact or certainty; such judgements might be wrong". This definition which, in reality, is a disclaimer, and is simply not serious for the field of cyber crime.
It also provides no justification for the deportation of 35 Russian diplomatic staff from the USA.
Rather than provide anything convincing concerning Russia's attempt to influence the US election, the document provides a considerable amount of irrelevant information on the Russia Today (RT) channel.
For those interested in understanding the rise of cross-border news of which RT is a world leader, it is worth reading the independent report produced by PwC UK (Pricewaterhouse Coopers UK plc) entitled The rise of cross-border news. Margarita Simonyan, Editor in Chief of RT explains the reason for this independent report as, "We wanted to understand the motivation of viewers and readers of cross-border news - and we believed this understanding would help all providers of global news deliver a service that meet users' needs".
Also, in order to clear up the misinformation concerning RT propaganda see the internal APE Brief RT_20160520. Our APE General Editorial Advice is that little or no additional resources should be allocated to this non-story.
Diversionary tactics wont save corrupt Macedonian politicians
JB Swift, Brussels
Solomon Weiskopf, Skopje
Balkan Insight has stated in a recent article that the European Commission expressed “concern” on Monday over the “tensions and the negative rhetoric” present in Macedonia in the past few days". This must be the understatement of the year.
During the Christmas period there have already been a lot of emails flowing between top EU officials, exchanges in corridors and even in some closed seasonal cocktail excounters as they react to media advisories and wires that point out the widespread extent of VMRO DPMNE party corruption and intimidation. In particular the use of a broken "agricultural policy" in influencing voting patterns and which helped swing the election towards VMRO DPMNE. Already the subject of the possible suspension of agricultural funding has been raised.
The VMRO DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski, has accused the State Electoral Commission, DIK, and foreign diplomats of interfering in the election process trying to steal their election victory. He even accused DIK of "unlawful" decisions, said that foreign ambassadors were interfering in its work, and threatened to shut down civil sector groups allegedly linked to George Soros.
According to Deutsche Welle:
"Calls for protests in front of the US Embassy in Skopje on social media were later supplemented with threats against opposition supporters and publishing of their home addresses accompanied with the message "Get ready, we're coming." Speaking during a VMRO rally on December 15 one party official told supporters to prepare for the "Night of Knives," possibly referring to events in Nazi Germany in 1934 known as the "Night of the Long Knives."
Being a visceral parochial politician in a tiny country, Gruevski sees the EU as a source of money to be fooled by cynical cosmetic "reforms", such as in the agricultural sector, to keep money flowing. In order to avoid official investigations, suspension of funding or the black listing of consultancy companies who actively assist VMRO DPMNE operatives manipulate EU funds, he is resorting to displacement activities consisting of threatening international officials. However, he does not appear to understand that they will not respond the way that national ministry officials do, who obey so as not to risk losing their jobs. International officials do not come within the grip of such intimidation tactics that have been the hallmark techniques of VMRO DPMNE's operational norms.
The recent appearance of death threats on the website Imgur is the sort of thing Gruevski's small minded extremism attracts and encourages. Fake death notices have appeared on the US and EU Ambassadors Jess Baily and Samuel Žbogar including their images and also includes the former EU mediator in Macedonia, Peter Vanhouotte, and former European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia, Richard Howitt.
No further comment needed.
Salt & Vinegar option under BREXIT
JB Swift, Brussels
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, assertion that no BREXIT is better than hard BREXIT and that leaving will only leave salt and vinegar. This exposes a behind-the-scenes effort on the part of a wide range of interest groups to try and reverse the UK's decision to leave the European Union.
What is not being accepted is that no one has quantified the benefits of remaining. In the 1980s UK European Commissioner Cockburn commissioned a study called "No Europe". This was supposed to calculate the benefits of being in Europe. The initial study came up with no benefits so the study was repeated, again coming up with no significant benefits. This report was a source of embarrassment and was therefore binned by the Commission. However, the fundamental message of the report was not lost on those who had read the report, especially some members of the UK Conservative party. It should be remembered that Cockburn was a UK Commissioner proposed by the Thatcher government. The significant enlargement that took place since then including Central European countries helped exacerbate the so-called democratic deficit and the current likelihood of enlargement going beyond Bulgaria into the Balkans is bringing the spotlight onto doubtful democratic practice and less EU benefits for existing EU Member States, especially in the area of agriculture.
The concern with the likely intensification of the democratic deficit was a major issue in bringing about BREXIT. This is also an emerging issue in France who wish to maintain the benefit of massive EU agricultural financial transfers to their agricultural sector. The bottom line here is that many in Britain know that the European Commission has no bargaining position if a country wishes to leave the EU because it is not possible to quantify the benefits of remaining; indeed, with enlargement, they will become negative. Any "hard exit" will prejudice European exporters to the UK. This means trying to punish, or threatening to punish the UK, bordering on economic sanctions, will only hurt Europe. This is why there is a panic in the European Commission. In any case, the British have a preference for eating fish and chips with salt and vinegar and this tradition will continue after BREXIT.
Macedonian election result increases likelihood of more EU member state exits
Marion Fonseca, Skopje.
Ljubomir Frckovski, the former Macedonian interior and foreign minister was never optimistic about the outcome of the recent Macedonian election. In an interview with DW he stated that he believed that Macedonia has a big problem with democracy. "That is why it is so important not to attribute too much meaning to the election process in Macedonia." Modern dictators, such as those who have been part of the Macedonian populist party, have been able to manipulate elections. That is why the entire election process "needs to be taken out of the hands of the government and there needs to be international monitoring in place. Fortunately this is now going to happen in Macedonia."
The problem is the international observers could not monitor cash payments made to poor rural inhabitants who are kept in their low income status by defective and corrupt agricultural sector policies. This state of affairs is sustained by the ruling party who drag their feet in relation to the introduction of better policies to enhance producer incomes and in line with the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU. According to a rural development strategist working at the European Commission in Brussels, "This Macedonian election result is a disaster and will only feed discontent amongst those Euro-skeptics whose main motivation is to live in a Union that is free of corruption and a democratic deficit." He added, "This only contributes to the feeling that certain countries are not welcome in the EU until they eliminate political corruption. The current talk about Balkan integration into the EU only helps destabilize the confidence of member state populations in the EU creating momentum for member state exits from the EU."
Other observers say the European Commission should be paying urgent attention to the development of agricultural sector policies and should address the lack of freedom of journalists in Macedonia. They live in a regime of fear pervading the environment of reporting on political matters. In March Peter Vanhoutte, who mediated between the Macedonian political parties, stated, "I am shocked by the current situation, the atmosphere of fear, suppression of freedom, by the high number of people currently in detention for the simple fact that they opposed this government or refused to obey its rules." Vanhoutte was regularly targeted by pro-government media and by the ruling party in a cavalier manner, who declared him to be persona non grata because of his outspoken critique of the government.
Samuel Žbogar, Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Macedonia points to needed reforms in Macedonia
Solomon Weiskopf, Skopje
Samuel Žbogar, Head of the European Union Commission Delegation in Macedonia visited Prilep at the end of November together with the British Ambassador, Charles Garrett. He expressed the hope that the upcoming elections would be conducted in a fair and credible manner leading to a new government that would engage in implementing serious reforms and helping create conditions for a path to Europe. Žbogar is recently-appointed and appears to be unaware that the European Commission has come under mounting criticism from more rational Macedonian observers and international agricultural sector experts for its ineffective oversight and lack of response to more obvious emerging issues relating to the agricultural sector. Agricultural policies remain subservient to a singular function as a "voting machine" favouring the VMRO-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO–DPMNE). Distorted policies favour those who rent substantial areas of state land and who illegally sub-let it to gain all of the subsidies. Those who rent and work the land receive no policy benefits. Staff at the ministry of agriculture admit that since this practice took hold the relevant land rental records have not been updated at the Ministry. The Ministry policies also favour processing industries who support political parties and at the expense of the majority of low income producers. It is obvious to those who work in the sector that Macedonia has no chance of achieving fair elections as long as the agricultural sector policies favour the corrupt electoral process in favour of VMRO–DPMNE.
The IPARD programme, the main consumer of EU tax payers' funds, is a continuing failure being unable to absorb projected funding because of self-imposed intentional spoiler tactics conducted by VMRO-DPMNE aperatchiks. The EU Commission pre-accession Progress reports are particularly weak on agriculture issues. However comments on the ongoing poor performance of IPARD is a permanent feature in these reports during the last 3 years, including the report for 2016. Besides impractical and somewhat non-transparent investment funding under IPARD which many consider to favour supporters of the main political party, technical assistance projects funded by the EU have difficulty in advancing under the prevailing conditions within the Ministry of agriculture. According to a recent detailed article in Emancipation
, ministry officials have admitted that several EU-funded projects related to policy have failed and that project managers providing technical assistance have been driven to resignation out of frustration due to VMRO-DPMNE apparatchik interference. Ministry officials have alleged that if consultants, brought in at EU expense to assist on policy issues, disagree on the current approach, then elements from the VMRO DPMNE will ensure that they are "eased out" through withdrawal of support and the creation of obstacles such as non-cooperation. A senior member of a management committee that oversees the current progress of an EU-funded policy project at the ministry of agriculture, has alleged that during the last three months significant resources appear to have been withdrawn from the team leader who was attempting to introduce improved policy methods.
The ministry pays lip service to the introduction of compliant legislation and so-called administrative structures but, in practice, agricultural policy continues to be out of line with the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy. This is to the detriment of farmers' income and sector economic development. The deployment of actions and means dedicated to undermining free elections continues. This requires urgent action and, in particular, the attention of the Head of the EU Delegation in Skopje.
British ambassador to Macedonia's presentation on relations with the country
Sarah Muskin, Sofia
An unusual YouTube presentation, featuring the British Ambassador to Macedonia, represents a rather distinct approach to diplomacy. This is an informative video where the Ambassador, Charles Garrett, presents Macedonia in a very positive light and explains UK relations with Macedonia. The attractive aspect of this video is the lack of hype and the simple exposition of some aspects of positive collaboration between countries; well worth watching. To see this video click here
. Apeurope authorizes detailed study on the costs & benefits of Brexit
Nevit Turk, Paris
During the Apeurope Annual General Meeting held on 10th October, Group correspondents registered their extreme frustration at the absense of evidence-based positions, on all sides, during the recent European referendum. With the decision to leave the European Union, this lack of clarity continues. The vascillation and delays by all British polictical parties in defining any coherent position is alarming and the posturing of the European Commission officials and some heads of state of Member States is unacceptable. Therefore, in the continued absense of any positive government or Commission action the Apeurope Board has authorized a study on the "Costs & Benefits of the UK leaving the European Union".
This study will analyse the sector and foreign trade partner potential opportunities, gaps and impacts arising from the new options that now exist with BREXIT. This has the objective of providing a basis for identifying mutual benefits to the remaining European Union's members and to the UK.
On the question of foreign investment in the UK drying up with BREXIT, some recent confidential corporate executive conclaves are concluding that the UK's prospects are better outside the EU because the economy will grow faster than the EU as a result of the incremental growth in UK trade with non-EU countries. The organization of negotiating teams, with many members coming from British Commonwealth countries, is impressive and there is a large build-up of trading profiles being prepared, not with the EU, but with a long list of global partners. Whereas the UK started BREXIT with weak negotiation resources the current capabilities have already surpassed the somewhat sclerotic approach associated with the EU Commission typified by secrecy and a very poor public image such as their poorly handled TTIP negotiations.
|The return of the UK fishing grounds|
will be a major economic and
social benefit of BREXIT
There is a poorly appreciated fact surrounding the UK regulatory environment for financial services and a long established flexibility in the way the UK-based financial sector handle just about any challenge, sets London apart from any other world financial centre. This has its drawbacks but remains a well known, but seldom admitted, reality. The European Commission dreams that BREXIT will result the global financial centre migrating to Frankfurt, or anywhere else in mainland Europe, but according to traders this is unlikely to come true for the foreseeable future. At the moment European centres do not have the right combination of capabilities, experience and regulatory environments or, frankly, any track record to contemplate substituting London as the global financial centre.
The Whale in the coming BREXIT talks
John Templer, Shetland
In some of the preparatory exchanges concerning the Apeurope Study "Costs & Benefits of the UK leaving the European Union" one delegate pointed out that one of the most shocking give-aways by the Heath Conservative government, when the UK entered the European Union in 1972, was the UK's fishing grounds, amongst the most productive on the planet. This had a significant negative social and economic impact on the British fishing industry. BREXIT provides the damaged UK fishing industry and the UK fishermen the opportunity to regain their former prominent contribution to Britain's Agricultural, Fisheries and Forestry sector by supplying the UK with home-caught fish.
The current catch value, official and unofficial, is around £500 million. Much fish coming to the UK market goes through large EU-based factory ships who simply sell fish caught within these waters to UK fishermen or land the fish for port-side markets. With BREXIT the national fishing communities' income could double to around £1 billion.
The re-establishment of British sovereignty over the former UK fishing grounds would be a major tangible benefit of BREXIT. In preparation to this major benefit it would make sense, in terms of managing the total manageable catch (TAC) to come to agreement with Iceland on management and to only permit EU vessels to fish under license paid to the UK treasury. License income would be used to monitor fish stocks and prevent abuse arising from unacceptable catching practices such as avoiding catching and killing very young fish needed to grow stocks for the sustainability of the industry.
This could become the Whale in the BREXIT negotiation fish tank when discussions get going. Several countries, France and Spain and indirectly The Netherlands, have much to lose with this aspect of BREXIT. The solution, of course, is for EU Commission and other Member State heads to stop their talk about punishing Britain for BREXIT but to come to a satisfactory settlement of things like this; there are many more to come and Emancipation News will be setting these out here.Putin's Useful Idiots?
Dimitri Ivanov, London
An American NGO called the Henry Jackson Society, has just published a document by an Andrew Foxall of the so-called Russia Studies Centre. This document is entitled, "Putin's Useful Idiots: Britain's Left, Right and Russia"
, demonstrates a lamentable misunderstanding of Russia's policy with repect to so-called left and right movements worldwide. There is no depth to this document with most references being all very recent, most dated 2016 and one or two 1990s vintage. In fact the analysis is plain wrong and reflects perhaps the writer's age and lack of experience with the fundamentals of Russian motivations going back beyond the initiation of World War II. The writer has simply bought into the recent Clintonesque and John Kerry State Department-driven paranoia about Putin. The personalisation of this document, centred on Putin, is typical of the brand of knee jerk journalism that is the US mainstream media today. This cannot be considered to be a serious researched document reflecting the current motivations of Putin.
Any amateur student of history knows that Russia has a well-established habit, like the USA, of funding sympathetic political movements. In fact the USA dedicates somthing like 500 times more funding to foreign political movements and NGOs than does Russia. Indeed, Russia learned some of these techniques from the USA. It is notable that although there is ample evidence of USA funding of foreign political activity as well as regime change supported by bloody wars, the Clinton campaign and security agencies in the USA could not come up with any evidence for Russian interference in the recent US election. Of course even the FBI was accused of acting on behalf of Russia. There is by contrast excessive amounts of evidence concerning USA interference in foreign elections as well as support of the so-called right in Ukraine as well as terrorist groups in the Middle East and of strong political support for Saudi Arabia in spite of evidence of their involvement
in the murderous events of 9-11 in downtown New York. One cannot equate this behaviour with anything to do with freedom, democracy and the rule of law but the author of this document does not want to be bothered with such details but simply wants to deliver on attacking Putin.
One bizarre recommendation by this individual is a that politicians should be required to register the fact that they will participate in coverage by such media organizations as RT. This is a MacCarthyism excess. RT receives funding from the Russian government in the same way as Voice of America in the USA or BBC in the UK. Most US mainstream media are essentially stenographers for US government output, especially in the case of foreign affairs and State Department output so that on these stations it is difficult to get alternative point of view across.
A self-imposed or funded censorship creates enormous bias in news coverage, indeed, the experience of Bernie Sanders during the primaries, provides ample evidence of this. RT has a range of programmes that are managed by people who would not accept any editorial orientation from RT. For example Larry King and his program "Politicking", Ameera David's "Boom Bust" and Afshin Rattansi's "Going Underground"". These are all programs that provide a rational and alternative view of opinions and all off them grill interviewees from any side.
Finally, to highlight where this document goes wrong, like the USA, Russia provides "support" to people whose ideas are potentially against the interests of the country. Such people, mainly on the right, are seduced into misunderstading of provision of platforms, and even funding, signifies support for their basic philosophies; it doesn't and never has done. It is largely designed to raise their profile and expose them so as to line up domestic opinion against them. This succeeded in the case of the National Front and most other ultra right wing UK parties to the benefit of the UK population.
In disagreement with Stalin, Leon Trotsky pointed out the danger of the right (Fascists) and Stalin made him pay the ultimate price. However, the lesson arising from the Nazi fiasco caused Russia to finally understand Trotsky's analysis at a great human cost. The recent Ukraine events saw the US State Department support of neofascist paramilitary units. There were calls for NATO expansion into Ukraine. NATO, however, had demonstrated its willingness to alter its etablished defensive role willy nilly to pursue a proactive regime change in Libya, under the guise of an innocent "no flight zone". This created a significant change in the perception of the stablity of NATO as a reliable adversary alliance both within the UK as well as in Russia. The evidence is there for all to see that NATO's intervention resulted in chaos and the spread of ISIS and a major European immigration crisis which Muammar Gaddafi had predicted and had prevented. This led, naturally, to the Crimean outcome in light of the important Russian naval base and ethnic make-up of Crimeans, mainly Russian speakers. Ukrainan events at the time was showing TV coverage of Ukrainan neo-fascists clubbing members of Russian ethnic groups to death. This is not to argue that what has occurred is right it is simply to point out that there were good reasons for this move in strategic terms as well as in terms of the security of the population in Crimea. When the West acts in a way that does not demonstrate a consistent strategy there is a problem of predictability resulting in instability. The only way to stop this growing global chaos is to take decisive actions.
In such a world there is a need for balanced rational analyses to identify options for possible soltions. The shallow nature of this journalistic publication devoid of objective analysis with rights reserved by a UK registered charity calls into question why this organization has a charitable status when it is wasting money on such polemic that contributes nothing to the debate.Hollande's reclassification of "collateral damage" to "war crimes" is just ridiculous, he must be getting desperate
Francois Hollande is a real disappointment. He needs to understand that the French proudly led the disastrous Libyan invasion that led to the murder of Gadaffi and created a failed state in what was one of the richest countries in Africa. This also led to massive migration into Southern Europe and a negative narrative absorbed by people born in France as well as others who now try and terrorize the people of France. The French government have shown a good degree of incompetence in this story. This was all initiated as a result of a knee jerk reaction attempting to align France with USA State Department desires. But no one can deny that this action, like others in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria were punctuated with atrocities and war crimes but the "handling" of all such event was to simply put these down to "collateral damage" and therefore in a baskets labeled "mistakes" or "not worth investigating".
Francois Hollande is now demonstrating typical French leader's penchant of cow towing to the US State Department's line by trying to add weight to the State Department's hysterical theatrics by pushing a motion in the UN Security Council that they knew Russia would have to refuse. Like the United Kingdom, France followed the USA's very bad example of walking out of the Security Council when the Syrian US Ambassador was to speak. These people are supposed to be diplomats but they act like a group of uncouth scoundrels who no longer feel they need to hear the opinions and presentation of facts by any opposition. This is after all why they exist and are there. They are not there to set a bad example to the world demonstrating their tendency to only listen to one side. Things might be very different if the USA State Department and UN Ambassador would only present credible evidence supporting their claims to show who is really responsible for any specific event that might be classified as a war crime. These accusations are serious enough for the US to be required to support such claims with real time evidence. The current state-of-the-art monitoring surveillance systems being deployed could present such evidence if it existed but, because they are unable to present any evidence, the truth appears not to be with the USA and its partners. They rely on bluster and assertion. Since they have been unable to present any evidence when required, and on a repetitive basis, their credibility is low and increasing numbers have increasing doubts about th sincerity of the USA. Resorting to histrionics and accusations of "barbarism" and the like is shallow theatrics that only makes them look ridiculous. Is this behaviour a less-than-subtle attempt to distract attention from a failed foreign policy based on blind aggression?
The attack on the Syrian forces in Aleppo was not "a terrible mistake" it was coordinated by several coalition units (to not isolate the US contribution) and attacked an area known to be occupied by the Syrian government forces for over 2 years. The reason the "mission" could be "called off immediately", as claimed by John Kerry, was because so much ordinance had been thrown at the location, killing over 62 soldiers, that it was already "mission accomplished" within a very short time lapse
The EU insistence on supporting failed US/NATO/"coalition" middle east "policies" sustains the immigrant pressure on the EU
This title says it all, because of the weak European leadership at Member State and Commission levels, constituencies of the European Union, the people, continue to pay a high price for the yawning democratic deficit of the European Union. No wonder the United Kingdom voted to leave, they see more promise without this expensive suffocating overhead.
In a shaky Europe where the UK is giving the impression that it will not compromise on border controls while the UK is a major EU market for European companies and employs many Europeans, lands the EU and not the UK with a problem. Markets have reacted the wrong way, leading to a further devaluation in the UK pound. This has helped UK business export growth helping strengthen the UK's trading independence from the EU. The more the disoriented heads of some Member States, including Angela Merkel who was the one who encouraged all heads of state not to provide the European electorate with a vote on the new constitution, and the confused Commission President continue on the line of punishing the United Kingdom the more such individuals will expose their lack of credibility as representatives of anything approaching a participatory democracy. This typical continental reaction, harking back to the 1930s is hardening the position of many in the United Kingdom and encouraging many more in Europe to consider following the United Kingdom to regain their sovereignty as constituents in true democracies.
Paranoid NATO warping Europe's foreign policy
NATO’s 28 leaders took decisions to bolster the Alliance’s deterrence and defence at the first working session this year. They would have been better deployed discussing how to close down this failed institution. But the robot-like Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg plods on taking his instructions and reading his prepared briefs in an unconvincing manner always acting as spokesperson in chief for the US arms industry and murky lobbies who want to stoke up support for an organization that is destabilizing the world. Maybe the EU should present NATO with a bill to pay for the chaos created by the mass migration into Europe resulting from its failed military efforts. Keeping the cold war alive and well appears to be NATO's main current role.
European Union Foreign Policy is failing it's Citizens
The recent past events in the Ukraine are yet another example of the failure of the European Union Member States to implement a sound independent Foreign Policy. The recent lauding of a Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, by the European Commission does not hide the fact that he was hardly elected by a democratic process when those who put him in power used selective and calculated violence and murder to remove a democratically elected President and to fill the main Government portfolios with representatives of Neo Nazi parties of the "Right" who profess anti-Semitic and anti-ethnic Russian views. The EU policies appear to have been quite effective in stoking up this sort of polemic not only in the Ukraine but increasingly in Member States of the EU, encouraging many citizens to reflect on the possibility that life might be more agreeable if their countries were no longer members of the Union.
Read more ....
Governments that spy on citizens
The recent revelations concerning secret surveillance of private communications on the world wide web by the USA National Security Agency will not have been surprising to anyone who had read the book "Cypherpunks - Freedom and the Future of the Internet" by Julian Assange and others (published by OR Books at the end of 2012 - shown right). Whereas before there was a sort of plausible denial that such activities were being carried out by the USA and UK government agencies, it would seem that now the facts are seeping out to the general embarrassment of those who would like to uphold a more wholesome if not rational image.
President Obama has exposed his weakness by trotting out the tired time-tested justification that if people want security they need to give up some of their privacy (read freedom).
This was the underlying thrust of Nazi and Fascist "reasoning" used to control the middle classes who accepted official outrages against others for fear of becoming conspicuous by rebelling against it and becoming marginalized. This regime of fear lets the government off the hook in their particularly aggressive treatment of whistle blowers and is a testament to the command and control absolutist approach to defending the image of officialdom and governance, through intimidation.
Read more ....
EU military spending is 'elephant in the room' and key
factor in European debt crisis
We remind people of a report that argues that high levels of military spending played a key role in the unfolding European economic crisis and continues to undermine efforts to resolve it. The report was produced by the Transnational Institute and the Dutch Campaign against the Arms Trade. The report, "Guns, Debt and Corruption: Military spending and the EU crisis", demonstrates how military budgets across Europe have been largely protected, at a time of severe social cuts. EU's military expenditure totalled €194 billion in 2010, equivalent to the combined annual deficits of Greece, Italy and Spain. The latest data released today by the Stockholm International Peace Institute suggests little change in these overall trends. The report unveils how high levels of military spending in countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Spain at the epicentre of the Euro crisis played a significant role in their debt crises. Much of the military spending was tied to arms sales by creditor countries like Germany and France. In Portugal and Greece, several major arms deals are being investigated for serious irregularities. Yet creditor countries continue to hawk new arms deals to debtor countries whilst demanding ever more stringent cuts in social services.
The report argues that resolving the economic crisis will require cancellation of the debt tied to corrupt arms deals and a redirection of military spending towards social needs. It highlights research that spending on education and public transport creates double the number of jobs as investments in defence.
Report author Frank Slijper said: “Global military spending was still at a record €1.3 trillion in 2011 despite the global economic crisis. Even in Europe most
countries still spend more than ten years ago. The only austerity that Europe really needs is one imposed on the military and the arms industry.”
“It is time for Brussels and EU member states to publicly acknowledge the 'elephant in the room' of the current EU economic crisis and that is the role of
military spending. At a time of harsh cuts in social services, it is morally unjustifiable to spend money on weapons that should be invested in creating jobs
and tackling poverty.”
The report has been released in the EU as campaigners in around 30 countries held over 100 events worldwide to protest record levels of military spending and to call for resources to be reallocated to anti-poverty and environmental sustainability programmes. The report can be downloaded here where other recent reports can be accessed. NATO remains a major vector in maintaining military expenditure irrespective of need.
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
How constitutional principles saved a nationLike all politicians facing the challenges of demands being made by owners of assets of failed private banks, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, faced pressure from creditors for the government to bail out private banks with government revenue or loans and to compensate deposit holders. Rather than panic under the immense pressure of the extra-constitutional pressures brought about by the IMF, banks and media, Ólafur Grímsson took time to reflect upon and to analyze the issue. In completing his decision analysis he had to take into account the direct pressure from Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling.
President Grímsson did not react in a knee-jerk fashion as Gordon Brown and the US Governments had done. The solution of these so-called "democracies" was to force normal people, including farmers, nurses, doctors, factory workers and fishermen pay for the mistakes made by the management of big banks. He recognized immediately that such a "solution" was completely unconstitutional; the demands of the "financial system" posed a threat to democracy. Indeed, President Grímsson was one of the first politicians to openly express this problem of the undermining of democracy through an unfair imposition of taxes, levies and other forms of financial sequestration on innocent citizens engineered by the IMF and governments in countries who themselves had succumbed to the extra-constitutional pressures from banks.
Ólafur Grímsson refused to sign the IMF and other agreements the British government tried to impose leading to the UK branding Iceland in the same category as Al Quaeda and other terrorist organizations. In face of this disgraceful attempts at intimidation Ólafur Grímsson proposed a referendum so that the people of Iceland could decide whether or not they were willing to pay for the bail out of the private banks. Naturally the people of Iceland, given the opportunity to express their preferences, refused to support such a bail out when the referendum was held. Since then Iceland has recovered while countries who succumbed to the extra-constitional pressures face increasingly difficult circumstances as exemplified by the current events in the UK and the disgraceful treatment of the people of Cyprus, Greece, Spain and other countries at the hands of the IMF, ECB and European Commission.
The intensification of currency conflict
The paralysis in the necessary dynamics of economies has led to falling confidence in future prospects. The recognition of this fact is causing some reflection on the necessity for growth. However, this "solution" is bound to be shaped along traditional Keynesian lines of public expenditure. This creates a strategic problem of avoiding price stimulus in the face of excessive "quantitative easing" and the early requirement to raise interest rates to prevent transforming the recession into slumpflation.
Because interest rates are being held low investment portfolios are increasingly absorbing positions on soft and hard commodities, including gold and silver.
With each country thinking that "quantitative easing" and low interest rates will help stimulate exports as a result of the fall in purchasing power of the national currency, the pernicious reality is that most countries today are involved in a currency conflict. This currency conflict also exists within nations where savers are being penalized and those on fixed income from financial investments have found their real incomes decline by in excess of 60%.
The overall decline in confidence in the major currencies of the US dollar and Euro has led to major trading partners in Asia to begin trade agreements under which their currencies are pegged and directly convertible without making use of an intermediate "international" currency.
The bad precedent set in the Cyprus deal
The current "solutions" to the economic debt crises such as quantitative easing and low interest rates hurt savers and it is important to emphasize that savers are not those creating debt. Savers help banks survive by providing funds to them. However these funds remain the property of savers. The decisions made this weekend include a move to have some of those with current and savings accounts in Cypriot banks pay a levy in excess of 20% as a condition for the bail out, is a disgrace. This undermines the necessary level of confidence in the neutrality of banks enforced through an underlying lack of respect for basic constitutional considerations. This is an act of theft manipulated through the prevention of people accessing their own property in the form of money while the robbery takes place. This solution attacks the very people who have done nothing wrong. This undermines the already shaky European Commission's, and therefore the European Union's legitimacy as democratic institutions. Why is the European Parliament doing nothing? Why do our UK politicians say nothing about this unacceptable abuse?
Issues of constitutional economics
Constitutional economics is largely associated with the work of James Buchanan who received the Nobel Prize for his contributions to this field.
The recent experiences of Ireland, Portugal, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Spain have raised questions as to the role of constitution in economic policy as the foundation of democratic participation in the formulation of economic policies. Broadly speaking, as a fundamentally "regulatory" organization the European Union continues to consolidate its operations in the name of freedom and democracy and the rule of law but in reality law is being used to rule over a geographic zone without effective participatory democracy and therefore with declining freedoms.
The arbitrary nature of European decision-making has been highlighted by the current economic crisis which was caused initially by an over-valuation of mainly US-inspired derivatives that were purchased world wide by gullible banks and other types of investor. Evidence appears to indicate that many transactions in this domain were fraudulent and in several cases client funds were "lost" while executives, during the period leading up to the admission of failure, paid themselves very large bonuses that had no relationship to performance. Several European banks were affected by the downward valuations of portfolios and the degree of failure led to several governments believing that the only solution was to bail out these banks. The theory was that by handing money to the banks to "build up their balance sheets" lending would start again and the economies would recover. However, the transfer of government funds to the bank bail outs raised government debt and imposed current and future rises in taxation on the constituencies as well as cut backs in public services. The combined effect has been "austerity" and an evolving recession making it less likely that banks will lend. In the meantime bank executives continue to pay themselves multi-million Euro bonuses on top of multi million Euro salaries in a continued cavalier attitude to the use of public funds and to shareholders.
The effective devaluation of currencies arising from low interest rates and "quantitative easing" was expected to stimulate exports. However, as explained in the previous article a currency conflict exists in competitive devaluations resulting in disappointing export performances.
Greece, the first major casualty of Europe's democratic deficitGreece has essentially lost its right to rule.
Sovereignty has been traded for loans from the IMF and Euro group in order to pay of creditors and, in the main, private banks.
The deprivation to be enforced on the population of Greece is the price to be paid for irresponsibility on the part of the European Union and, in particular, the European Commission, for not monitoring and auditing the state of affairs of Greece as part of the Single Market and as a member of the Euro in particular.
the birth & death of democracy...
Behind the scenes Germany presses its interests by demanding proof that the Greek politicians will deliver on what they have voted to undertake while, at the same time, obtaining front end loadings and pay backs in the form of arms sales to Greece for German manufacturers. Naturally the arms sales were agreed to by politicians and not be the people of Greece.
The strategic disintegration of Europe? The potential candidates for future European enlargement confront challenges that threaten the cohesion of the European Union.
In a visit to Serbia in August 2011, Angela Merkel commented on the unwelcomed development of parallel structures supported by the Serbs in Kosovo which undermine the Kosovo state. It would seem that the direct purpose of undermining the state is a common and continuing policy of the Serbian psych affecting areas where Serbs live outside Serbia. These proclivities persist encouraged by appeals, by local politicians, to Serbian nationalism. A case in point is Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton Accord resulted in three devolved areas within the State of Bosnia & Herzegovina in the form of the Serb Republic, the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina and District Brcko. It is reported that there is a persistent effort on the part of Serb Republic local government entities to undermine support for the consolidation of, or operation of, state institutions.
This is achieved through a consistent withdrawal of support for project decisions that relate to the development of state administrative structures.
Since the satisfaction of the European Legal requirements for accession include the development of state entities responsible for coordinating development and the observation of European Law in each sector, this anti-state stance is creating a significant wastage of funds where projects do not progress because of intransigence emanating from Serb Republic interests. The European Union has been observing this with some dismay and is now encouraging Bosnia to implement necessary reforms so that Bosnia can apply for membership of the EU. The European Council President, Herman van Rompuy, after a meeting with the Bosnian Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda, said,
"With other countries in the Western Balkans taking resolute steps toward the union, there is no reason why (Bosnia) should slip behind."
A basic condition is stronger central government and changes in the country’s constitution. One basic issues is that the current constitution violates European Law by restricting the running of the joint presidency to the three main communities and excluding others such as Jews or Roma. The Bosnian political system has been in grid lock through a lack of ability of the three main community representatives to agree on the formation of a government following elections in October 2010. Neighbouring countries, such as Croatia, is expected to join the EU soon and Montenegro and Serbia are now recognized candidates.
While the entity populations of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and District Brcko and the Bosniak and Croat communities wish to see much more integration, the Bosnian Serbs through the entity Serb Republic, insist on more autonomy for their area while continuing to undermine central government initiatives.
The overall progress of the surrounding states could result in Bosnia & Herzegovina becoming isolated from the benefits that accrue to the others as they join the EU. For example Bosnia, stands to gain significant payments from the EU Common Agricultural Policy, a vital issue in a largely rural economy. However, Bosnia's agricultural exports will be compromised and the cost of agricultural imports will rise as a result a decline in incomes resulting from Bosnia's slow progress.
Improving the effectiveness of Bosnian development
One of the normal practices under development projects is the application of participatory decision-making in the use of funds including the evaluation of tenders for goods, works and services. Where one of the participants is not willing to support the acquisition of goods, services or works in a timely manner in favour of a state activity, these parts of development projects become non-productive either through unacceptable delays or never being implemented.
One of the responsibilities of funding agencies is to apply a realistic due diligence to project design to avoid some quite serious mistakes that have led to an inability of Bosnia & Herzegovina to absorb funds by applying them effectively. Where participatory approaches have been applied in Bosnia involving substantial funding, such approaches have turned out to prove to be unwarranted. This creates a direct challenge to the European Union's approach to development for accession where the state institutions need to be strengthened so as to coordinate development and ensure legislation is adapted and enforced. Where control over funds is passed to participants who oppose the state, such projects will not only fail but they will undermine the EU objective of establishing appropriate administrative structures to oversee the application of European Law and regulations. In such circumstances the parties opposing the state and cynically motivated by the wish to "capture" funds as opposed to supporting the overall EU objectives.
The European Union is in urgent need to hold meeting with other donors, including the World Bank, to ensure that future projects do not contain procedures that undermine the Bosnian state. This issue must be addressed so as to avoid the exposure of EU funding to corruption and the undermining of the objectives of preparation for candidacy.
Lastly, The European Union has suffered fractures in coherence and unity as a direct result of cash diplomacy as exercised by the USA in Central and Southern Europe. The risks of such manipulation by Russia in the Slav and Serbian enclaves throughout the Balkans, or US or other externally driven cash diplomacy, is even greater in the Balkan regions because of the very low income levels.
The European Union needs a consistent and clear policy on what is expected of accession states and part of the process of accession should include the development of state institutions that are independent of developed governance to the degree that they can effectively protect minority interests as opposed to becoming the victims of forces arising from the manipulation of minority interests in the hands of local politicians and politicians located inside or outside Bosnia & Herzegovina. Certainly, as long as Serbia continues to give support to enclave politics in Kosova and Bosnia & Herzegovina then by design or by default, they disrupt European Union interests.
Serbian progress to accession should be slowed down because their "foreign policy" undermines future EU cohesion. Their accession to the EU should only be validated when the issues in Kosova and Bosnia & Herzegovina have been resolved through a strengthened state apparatus upholding Human Rights and able to uphold and enforce all other aspects of European Law across the entities.