Americans live in a culture of truth. Spaniards are less inspired by truth itself. This doesn’t mean that no one tells lies in the American business world, clearly not the case, or that the business culture of Spain is based on lies, clearly not the case either. But it means that in relative terms truth for truth sake is above all an American obsession. Lying is seen as a more serious failing in American culture than it is in Spanish culture. The abortion debate is an interesting one. Spain never legalized abortion, “lo descriminalizó” which means it made it illegal but without a penalty, this type of legal structure would not really make it in the States. But as a result in Spain the abortion debate is mostly over and in USA it is an endless, useless debate. But let´s move on to banking.
Why is it that now Banco Santander is still worth 42 billion dollars, and Citigroup, which is much bigger, is only worth 5 billion? Because Banco Santander operates in a culture of lax auditing and Citigroup operates in a culture of mark to market – and the same goes for all American and Spanish banks. Because the Bank of Spain has not asked Botín and his local competitors to price all their financial assets in the marketplace. Because Spain is a club in which it is better to have friends than to tell the truth at all cost, and the truth is that Spanish bank portfolios are not much better off than American bank portfolios but at least so far Spanish banks are the most profitable in the world. And this is happening while the economic crisis is much worse in Spain than it is in the USA with unemployment at over twice the rate of the 8% recorded in the States. Lies create inflated values on the bank assets and so far the value of Spanish banks dwarfs the value of USA banks.
I am still surprised that moderate Muslims around the world don´t rally in protests against radical Muslims who commit horrendous atrocities in the name of Islam. Why don´t moderate Muslims stage demonstrations in London after the terrorist attacks of July 7th as moderate basques do against ETA after ETA assassinates? I am Jewish and when the State of Israel attacks Lebanon in what I consider a disproportionate response to the kidnapping of soldiers by Hezbollah I protest and explain my views in such a way as creating a site known as Jews For Lebanon, that obtains donations from like minded Jews for organizations that rebuild Lebanon. Why don´t I see similar gestures or organizations on the Muslim side?
What happened in Mumbai is pure hatred. Muslim terrorists targeting British and US nationals and the only Jewish center in this Indian city and killing and injuring hundreds of innocent people. Now, how can the Muslim world rally so effectively into massive demonstration over such incidents as some offensive Danish cartoons, and moderate Muslims cannot organize in horror over the current Mumbai massacre?
Think of what would happen if the opposite were true. Imagine a group of racists, anti Muslim militias who would go around London asking people if they were Muslim and shooting them or randomly taking them hostage. Wouldn´t all of European society stand by Muslims everywhere and strongly condemn this act? Why can´t Muslims everywhere demonstrate against the Mumbai massacre? Why couldn’t the hundreds of thousands of Spanish Muslims condemn the Atocha massacre?
In my view, until moderate Muslims, who are the majority of Muslims, mobilize against terrorists, and not only against some Danish cartoons I don´t think things will change.
‘I don’t think it’s just the fact that we are meeting in The Great Hall of the People and we listened to the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party talking about the need to prop up global capital markets that brings home to one that there is this big shift in economic power.”
Brutal paradoxes these days. While the Bush administration nationalizes banks, the “communists” lead the way to save global financial markets.
I end this commentary with one of the most depressing posts about the state of the union I read in a long time.
I met Joschka Fischer on Monday to talk about an idea that I had a few years ago: the creation of a new European Party. Joschka Fischer did not think this is a good idea. I still think that there are two forces in Europe that could need support, one is the Pro European forces and the other ones are the Pro Diversity forces (or anti nationalist forces). There are a lot of people in Europe who think Europe is a great idea. Especially during this crisis. And there are a a lot of people in Europe who are negatively rubbed off by nationalists, like myself, and who think humanity is a concept that is as or more important than nationality.
China calling itself Communist is like Latin countries calling themselves Catholic. The Communist Chinese seem to like money as much as the Catholic Latinos like sex and yet both have “ideologies” whose main principles are based around repression of what those cultures like the most. Maybe it is unsuccessfully trying to fight these “excessive” desires that makes these cultures come up with ideologies that are so far from their own reality of life. You are as unlikely to find a Chinese who believes in sharing his wealth as you are to find a Brazilian who practices abstinence. But there you go.
It really surprised me how easy and anonymous the process of buying a SIM card was. This will never happen in USA or Europe after the terrorists attacks that took place in those territories. China has an unusual combination of significant censorship and yet great opportunities for anonymity.
Last Saturday I had the very unusual opportunity of having lunch with Warren Buffet and his wife Astrid, and Bill Gates and his wife Melinda. While my wife and I were eating with them, I remembered they are no longer the richest men in the world. In March this year, Forbes magazine –which every year makes a list of the world’s biggest fortunes– placed Carlos Slim as the second richest man on Earth. Slim has displaced the American Warren Buffet from a position he had occupied for seven years. Now, according to Business Week magazine, the fortune of the telecommunications tycoon has already reached 67.8 billion dollars, above Microsoft founder’s 59 billions. Carlos Slim’s fortune has surpassed Bill Gates’ and has put him in the place Gates had maintained for a long time: the one of the world’s richest man. Forbes magazine will publish its updated ranking in September. I’m interested in this story because I think that, although Mexicans may feel proud of having the person who has made the world’s biggest fortune working from Mexico, Slim’s story can be considered a proof of two Mexican disgraces: the awful distribution of wealth and Carlos Slim’s ability to reach a monopoly level with Telmex, which is hurting Mexican consumers.
Many of my English readers, especially those from USA and UK, would be surprised to know how anti US, anti UK, anti Israel and pro Arab the continental European press is. Because very few people in the world read press in translation or are both bilingual and interested in knowing what others think, this strong dislike for the policies of the US, the UK and Israel has mostly gone unnoticed in the anglo saxon world.
Living in Madrid and running a foundation like Safe Democracy, I have had a hard time dealing with commentators who have lost perspective as of the causes of the wars in the Muslim world. It is difficult for me to read newspapers like El Pais who frequently attribute all evil in the region to the bad policy choices of the US, the UK and Israel to the point in which the average Spaniard now thinks of Israel as a nation who invaded not just the Palestinian territories (a view which I share) but Israel itself (a view that is simply wrong). While I do believe that these three nations have made tragic policy mistakes in the region, and many times have done more harm than good I am also convinced that the problem of radical Islam has little to do with US, UK and Israel. Radical islamists hate fellow Muslims more than they hate Christians, Jews and anyone else in the planet. Most likely, even without any intervention from USA, UK or Israel the Muslim world would have been a part of the world suffering from horrendous wars similar to those that were found in the Christian world a century before. A proof of this is that during the last 20 years many more Muslims have been killed by Muslims than Muslims by Infidels. This is evident right now in the three Arab Civil Wars: the civil war between Al Fatah and Hamas, between the Lebanese and Palestinians and the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. These conflicts have caught the Continental European progressives by surprise as it is becoming more and more apparent that it is hard to blame USA, UK and Israel for the virulent Muslim vs Muslim character of these three wars.
In this video, while walking around Dublin, my friend Antoin O Lachtain and I speak about broadband situation in Eire and the world in general. To watch only if you have some free time….
What many people remember as the atrocity of World War II is the Holocaust, the mass-murder of over 6 million Jews. But what most don’t realize is that Russians suffered more than three times that number of casualties at the hands of the Nazis. Why, then, has neo-Nazism becoming so popular in Russia today?
Warning, this post is longer than the attention span of the average blog reader.