It is becoming common for people to say they don’t like Wikileaks because they can’t stand Assange. This is misleading. Few sympathize with Assange as a character. Most of us, myself included, have never met with him. But the issue here is not Assange, his hair or whether he does, or does not have, the ability to have sex with women while they are asleep. What is crucial instead, is the wealth of information that we have learned thanks to Wikileaks. Here’s a good summary from The Guardian. And yes, it is a lot of information. And there is much more. No matter how many experts out there say that “they already knew it all”. Because regardless of whether some experts really “knew it all”, the average Mohammed, Rui or Juana did not. And they are angry. It’s not suprising then that Foreign Policy calls the Tunisian revolt “the first Wikileaks revolution”. Wikileaks has been a catalyst for change in Egypt, Tunisia and in lesser degrees in many other countries. Wikileaks revelations will likely continue to outrage demonstrators and activists around the world for quite a while. And all that change we owe to the diplomatic service of the United States which turned out to be a group of remarkable journalists, the courage of one soldier, and the entrepreneurial spirit of everyone who worked at Wikileaks, including Julian Assange.
Egyptians fought bravely, ousted Mubarak and gave power to the military. But it turns out that USA effectively controls the Egyptian Army. It financed it, trained it and should it go into conflict with it, it can easily defeat it. So Egyptian people, whether they are aware of this or not, gave considerable power to USA. In Latin America and other parts of the world, giving power to US backed military would have been seen as a huge step back in time. So this situation must change quickly and in favor of the Egyptian people. It could also change in favor of US and EU foreign policy in the region.
Egyptians deserve speedy and easy visibility on how democracy will be instituted. Also USA has to be very careful not to be associated with the Egyptian military, but instead with the democratic forces which hopefully will take power. It also needs to prevent the brewing of another Mubarak from inside the military, a military who like Hugo Chavez, after trying to take power as a military leader changed clothes and took power through elections but behaves as a military dictator. The Egyptian people, USA, Obama and Clinton in particular, can emerge as winners in this revolution but there are many obstacles ahead.
After failing promoting democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, USA has a chance to do in Egypt with $50bn what it could not do wasting $1 trillion. It can fund the stabilization of Egypt and prevent the rise of terrorism and Hamas type forces to arise out of discontent. Egypt can become what Iraq never became but it is still one of the poorest nations on earth on a per capita basis and it quickly needs a stabilization fund. Right now what the new government has to prevent is food shortages and provide basic necessities for all. That needs short term EU and US Aid. In short, President Obama can do with Egypt what the Neocons wanted and failed to do with Iraq. Helping Egypt at this moment would be greatly appreciated around the world.
Lastly as soon as things calm down, we can all do our fair share and consider Egypt for our next holiday destination. This will help re start the economy.
This morning I read that most Muslims believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy created by the US government to justify the invasion of Iraq. This worried me. How could the majority of Muslims be so wrong?
But then I thought that the US government and some EU countries did lie to invade Iraq. They lied about the weapons of mass destruction conspiracy and the connections between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
So if I were debating with any of those Muslims who believe that 9/11 was an excuse to invade Iraq, I would have to say “9/11 was not a US/Israeli conspiracy, there is tremendous irrefutable evidence that it was a terrorist attack perpetrated by Saudi terrorists and led by Osama Bin Laden”. And that part is true.
But then I would have to explain other painful truths. I would have to admit that we invaded Iraq despite knowing that neither the 9/11 terrorists nor the WMD where there. That in our countries we created the false impression that Saddam was behind 9/11 and that many believe this lie now. And this is one weak side of the debate.
If we can create conspiracies about WMD and “muslim terrorism” as if all Muslims act together (Saddam=Osama=Ahmadinejad), attack and destroy the wrong country (Iraq), torture their citizens, post pictures of how we torture them in Abu Ghraib, take some to Guantanamo and approve their torture, share the blame in the killing of 25 times more innocent civilians than those who died in 9/11 and admit to use white phosphorous (chemical weapon) attacking Fallujah; if we can commit such human right atrocities, why is it so far fetched that most Muslims believe that 9/11 was perpetrated by US and Israel in order to invade Iraq and control the second largest oil reserves in the world?
Moreover, in this Wikipedia entry you will be surprised to find out that one third of Americans actually AGREE with the majority of Muslims. They also believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories even though 2% of Americans are Muslims.
Can our argument just be “yes, we do horrible things but not precisely the horrible things you believe we do”? My hope is that, during this decade, we will truly gain the high moral ground against terrorism and cooperate with moderate Muslims to erradicate Muslim extremism without violating human rights in the region. In the end, terrorism is an industry that feeds on angry young men. We have to make it much harder for Muslim terrorists to recruit. As we have been behaving over the last 10 years, it is not surprising that terrorism has greatly increased since 9/11.
I just wanted to thank Mayor Bloomberg who I had a chance to meet a few times and greatly admire for the new bike paths around the city. Here’s a ride I did today. It was phenomenal and mostly done on bike routes and bike paths, a lot of it in Harlem.
I take the opportunity to recommend Endomondo. What a great bike app!! I used it on an HTC Desire.
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.
Russia suffers from Islamic terrorism. China suffers from Islamic terrorism. The USA is involved in two lethal and expensive wars against Islamic terrorism. It seems that the Obama administration is connecting the dots and beginning to deal with China on this matter. I think the same should be done with Russia. If the most destabilizing threat to our security is Osama Bin Laden´s successors armed with nuclear devices why not collaborate with nations with whom we have much more in common, than say with the Taliban, to avoid this threat. Moreover these nations are geographically much closer to the epicenter of Islamic violence than USA and in the case of Russia have fought the same enemies as the USA. And there many other reasons to collaborate beyond the real, yet not probable threat, of massive nuclear terrorism. Russia and China were communist dictatorships. Now they are capitalist and autocratic – not yet democracies in our sense of the word, but certainly much closer to us than in the 70s. This evolution alone seems to be a move in the right direction and reason enough for closer ties. With Bush, I had the feeling that the old hawks running foreign policy just could not accept that Russia and China had greatly changed for the better. With Obama and Clinton, we may realize that the era of forcing others to be like you is over and a new year of “we both have our flaws but we can still be friends” is here. Moreover, in the “terrible abuses” competition, the USA is up there as well. As far as human rights are concerned, with the death penalty, Guantanamo, Abu Gharb and air bombings of civilian populations, there´s more harm that has been done by the USA than Russia and China combined in the last 20 years. So let´s be friends.
Yes, we all know that this is the administration that robbed from the poor and gave to the rich and there are countless examples of that. The most obvious one are the lucrative contracts given to friends of the Bush Administration in Iraq paid for by the US taxpayer. And this was generally true…. until the current financial bailouts. My view on what the Bush Administration is doing lately is that shock, shock, shock, they are stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
I know most of you will think I am wrong. And I may be, as only time will tell. But allow me to make my point. My thinking here is that when confronting the property bubble, Wall Street analysts have underestimated the ability of the average US citizen to pay his/her mortgages. This has depressed the mortgage asset class beyond reason.
I believe that over the next 20 years, many of these “worthless” mortgages will turn out to be very valuable and partly or fully repaid. As a result, I think that by buying these mortgages on the cheap from Wall Street the US government will engage in a gigantic Robin Hood like effort and steal from the bankers and give to the average tax payer. Moreover, Paulson and the guys now at Treasury are bankers and they think like bankers. They are hired guns who make money for whoever they work for. And now they work for the US Treasury and they are making the deals of their lives, but, paradoxically, on behalf of the American people.
In this video I apologize for the enormous pick up truck that I have in my farm in the States but explain that until gas prices in the States don´t approach those of Europe and Japan US consumers can´t be blamed for driving these beasts. In my case the truck is being used at a farm which makes a little more sense.
Whiskey Jacques is a great place in Sun Valley to go and and listen to live music.
This video about Rawlins Wyoming shows a town whose main lines of work according to a very nice woman who sold me a coffee there are the refinery or the penitentiary.