Potenza, 7 Jan. (AKI) - A director of Italian public broadcaster RAI has urged the government to protect to one of its journalists after a suspected radical Muslim opened fire on his car in southern Italy. Nello Rega was uninjured in the attack as he drove home late on Thursday. Rega wrote a book on Islam's uneasy relationship (with) Christianity and has received several threats from alleged Muslim extremists over the past two years.
Since his book 'Different and Divided - a Diary of Coexistence with Islam' Rega has received threats in the Italian capital, Rome, and in Potenza including an envelope mailed to him with bullets inside.
A single shot was fired at Rega's car from a vehicle that drew up alongside as he drove along a state highway near the city of Potenza in Italy's Basilicata region, damaging Rega's rear window. He reported the attack to police, who were examining his car as part of their investigation.
"Last night's attack should leave people in no doubt. Rega could have been killed. Why is he not adequately protected?" said Antonio Bagnardi, director of RAI Televideo, where Bagnardi works. "Isn't it enough that he has beeen intimidated for months on end and now is a victim of attempted murder,"
Bagnardi urged media not to under-report or ignore such incidents.
The Telegraph has had sight of the document issued by the security services warning of plots against transport hubs by al-Qaeda which prompted the increased sercurity seen yesterday. As we expected details are as follows.
It warns of attacks against British airports and the London transport network – including the Underground – with the aim of inflicting "political, economic and psychological" damage.
Terrorists, it says, could use "vehicle-borne" or "hand-delivered" bombs and firearms.
The memo, dated on Thursday and sent to airlines, airports and cargo carriers by the Department for Transport, said the threat was "credible". It originated at the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, part of MI5, sources said. "No announcement about the aviation or London transport sector threat level changes will be made to the media," it adds.
The threat level was raised from "substantial" to "severe" for transport hubs, meaning an attack is "highly likely". It has led to British Transport Police calling in extra officers.
Fears are growing that Islamic extremists could try to mount a Mumbai-style attack on Britain'.
The same warning was issued for London transport, including the Underground, overground, Docklands Light Railway, buses, trams and river services. No changes to airport security will be made at present, it says, even though the change in alert level for transport hubs suggests the security services have intelligence about specific threats. It is understood that the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police have put extra officers on duty this weekend in the wake of the warning.
When we will we put on a war footing and able to deal with our enemy accordingly? Deportation for enemy aliens, charges of treason for those with no other nationality than British.
Nobody wants to go back to a time when telephones were grey, or computer screens green. But there is a case for drabness, even if that case amounts to just leaving well alone. Charles Moore in The Spectator:
Because my father and I both went to Trinity College, Cambridge, the Trinity Annual Record has arrived in our house every year of my life. Until now, its cover has always been the same. A weak black-and-white drawing has depicted the fountain in Great Court, with two unidentifiable, etiolated, begowned male undergraduates standing beside it. I have always loved this picture because it speaks of an age when great institutions felt no compulsion to make themselves interesting. No one, even at the time (1950?), can have felt that the drawing was excitingly contemporary or outstandingly beautiful or remarkable in any way. But few would have seen such drabness as a bad thing. For about 40 years, I have been wondering why no bright new editor has got round to changing it, and prayed that none would. But now my former tutor, John Lonsdale, has taken over the editorship. He has been a Fellow since 1964, popular and respected, but it turns out that all this time he has been harbouring projects of restless innovation. The Annual Record 2010, just arrived, has replaced the drawing with a colour photograph in which the Great Gate of Trinity is refracted and reflected in three windows of Great Court. Whenever I have edited anything, it has been on the open market, and therefore the front page has had to sell the publication, so the design has to change from time to time to get attention on the news-stands. But the Annual Record goes out free to all alumni. Can’t we have a few corners of our high culture which refuse to be ‘user-friendly’?
The same goes for libraries, which are altogether too jolly these days.
And a three letter word at that, turning truth into falsehood. From The Times:
Abid Siddique, 27, and Mohammed Liaqat, 28, presented themselves in the Pakistani community as family men and devout Muslims. But they were sexual predators prepared to employ threats and violence in order to rape and abuse.
Change "but" to "and", and it makes sense. "But" would be appropriate for family men and devout adherents of any other religion. But devotion to Islam is not inconsistent with sexual predation, violence, rape and abuse.
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has stated the obvious about Pakistani men, naturally without making the connection with Islam. From The Times:
Jack Straw, the former home secretary, has accused some Pakistani men in Britain of seeing white girls as “easy meat” for sexual abuse.
The Blackburn MP talked of a “specific problem” involving Pakistani men and called on the community to be “more open” about the issue.
His comments came just days after an investigation by The Times revealed the sexual exploitation of hundreds of young girls mostly involving Pakistani men and the day that two Asian men who subjected a series of vulnerable girls to rapes and sexual assaults were given indefinite jail terms.
Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, was jailed for a minimum of 11 years at Nottingham Crown Court and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28, was told he must serve at least eight years before being considered for release.
The men were the prime movers in a group of men revealed in the Times who befriended girls aged from 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.
Mr Straw told the BBC’s Newsnight programme: “Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders’ wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.
“But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls.
“We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.”
Perhaps if Labour politicians like Straw had not spinelessly courted the Muslim vote, these "Pakistani heritage men" would not have been so bold in exercising their Allah-given right to rape infidel girls.
"English heiritage" is stately homes, Stonehenge, art collections and classical music concerts on Hampstead Heath. What is "Pakistani heritage"?
The words “mother” and “father” will be removed from U.S. passport applications and replaced with gender neutral terminology, the State Department says.
“The words in the old form were ‘mother’ and ‘father,’” said Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services. "They are now ‘parent one’ and ‘parent two.’"
A statement on the State Department website noted: “These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.” The statement didn't note if it was for child applications only.
The State Department said the new passport applications, not yet available to the public, will be available online soon.
Sprague said the decision to remove the traditional parenting names was not an act of political correctness.
“We find that with changes in medical science and reproductive technology that we are confronting situations now that we would not have anticipated 10 or 15 years ago,” she said...
Islamic militants in southern Somalia have banned unrelated men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together in public.
People who break the rules could be imprisoned, whipped or even executed.
Al-Shabab, the Islamic extremists, have already banned women from working in public, leaving many mothers with a terrible choice: risk execution by going to sell some tea or vegetables in the marketplace, or stay safely at home and watch the children slowly starve. I always thought the whole point of FGM was to seal up the women of a nomadic culture so that they could be sent outside to tend fields and goats or the family would starve, or even worse, the men might have to do some work. This is a double whammy of abuse.
Gunmen are searching buses for improperly dressed women or women travelling alone, said student Hamdi Osman in Elasha. She said she was once beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress instead of the long, shapeless black robes favoured by the fighters.
The Islamists' insistence that women wear the long, heavy robes also forces many women to stay at home because they can't afford the new clothing.
The Islamists have also banned the cinema, music, and bras because they say they are all un-Islamic. Such restrictions are influenced by foreign fighters practicing Wahhabi Islam, which is much stricter than Somalia's traditional Sufi Islam that incorporates a long tradition of poetry and song.
"The last time I listened a song or music, was two years ago, before the insurgents managed the full control of my village," said Bile Hassan. Now, he says, even the memory of music makes him feel afraid. And thats no way to live.
On the left is the picture from the telegraph of women demonstrating in Somalia recently in support of the merger between al-Shabab and the other group Hizbul Islam. On the left is a picture I found on this cultural site of young girls wearing the traditional Subeeciyad, which is one single long cloth draped around the waist and over the shoulders.
The Very Very Rich As A Separate Trans-National Class
The Rise of the New Global Elite
F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity—and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.
By Chrystia Freeland
Image credit: Stephen Webster/Wonderful Machine
If you happened to be watching NBC on the first Sunday morning in August last summer, you would have seen something curious. There, on the set of Meet the Press, the host, David Gregory, was interviewing a guest who made a forceful case that the U.S. economy had become “very distorted.” In the wake of the recession, this guest explained, high-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations had experienced a “significant recovery”; the rest of the economy, by contrast—including small businesses and “a very significant amount of the labor force”—was stuck and still struggling. What we were seeing, he argued, was not a single economy at all, but rather “fundamentally two separate types of economy,” increasingly distinct and divergent.
This diagnosis, though alarming, was hardly unique: drawing attention to the divide between the wealthy and everyone else has long been standard fare on the left. (The idea of “two Americas” was a central theme of John Edwards’s 2004 and 2008 presidential runs.) What made the argument striking in this instance was that it was being offered by none other than the former five-term Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: iconic libertarian, preeminent defender of the free market, and (at least until recently) the nation’s foremost devotee of Ayn Rand. When the high priest of capitalism himself is declaring the growth in economic inequality a national crisis, something has gone very, very wrong.
This widening gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years. In a 2005 report to investors, for instance, three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest”:
In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.
Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore this concentration of wealth among an elite few. The wondrous inventions of the modern economy—Google, Amazon, the iPhone—broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions—particularly the explosion of subprime credit—helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.
But the financial crisis and its long, dismal aftermath have changed all that. A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.
Through my work as a business journalist, I’ve spent the better part of the past decade shadowing the new super-rich: attending the same exclusive conferences in Europe; conducting interviews over cappuccinos on Martha’s Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms; observing high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan. Some of what I’ve learned is entirely predictable: the rich are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously noted, different from you and me.
What is more relevant to our times, though, is that the rich of today are also different from the rich of yesterday. Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and many of them, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who didn’t succeed so spectacularly. Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.
The Winner-Take-Most Economy
The rise of the new plutocracy is inextricably connected to two phenomena: the revolution in information technology and the liberalization of global trade. Individual nations have offered their own contributions to income inequality—financial deregulation and upper-bracket tax cuts in the United States; insider privatization in Russia; rent-seeking in regulated industries in India and Mexico. But the shared narrative is that, thanks to globalization and technological innovation, people, money, and ideas travel more freely today than ever before.
Peter Lindert is an economist at the University of California at Davis and one of the leaders of the “deep history” school of economics, a movement devoted to thinking about the world economy over the long term—that is to say, in the context of the entire sweep of human civilization. Yet he argues that the economic changes we are witnessing today are unprecedented. “Britain’s classic industrial revolution was far less impressive than what has been going on in the past 30 years,” he told me. The current productivity gains are larger, he explained, and the waves of disruptive innovation much, much faster.
From a global perspective, the impact of these developments has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly in the poorer parts of the world. Take India and China, for example: between 1820 and 1950, nearly a century and a half, per capita income in those two countries was basically flat. Between 1950 and 1973, it increased by 68 percent. Then, between 1973 and 2002, it grew by 245 percent, and continues to grow strongly despite the global financial crisis.
But within nations, the fruits of this global transformation have been shared unevenly. Though China’s middle class has grown exponentially and tens of millions have been lifted out of poverty, the super-elite in Shanghai and other east-coast cities have steadily pulled away. Income inequality has also increased in developing markets such as India and Russia, and across much of the industrialized West, from the relatively laissez-faire United States to the comfy social democracies of Canada and Scandinavia. Thomas Friedman is right that in many ways the world has become flatter; but in others it has grown spikier.
One reason for the spikes is that the global market and its associated technologies have enabled the creation of a class of international business megastars. As companies become bigger, the global environment more competitive, and the rate of disruptive technological innovation ever faster, the value to shareholders of attracting the best possible CEO increases correspondingly. Executive pay has skyrocketed for many reasons—including the prevalence of overly cozy boards and changing cultural norms about pay—but increasing scale, competition, and innovation have all played major roles.
Many corporations have profited from this economic upheaval. Expanded global access to labor (skilled and unskilled alike), customers, and capital has lowered traditional barriers to entry and increased the value of an ahead-of-the-curve insight or innovation. Facebook, whose founder, Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of college just six years ago, is already challenging Google, itself hardly an old-school corporation. But the biggest winners have been individuals, not institutions. The hedge-fund manager John Paulson, for instance, single-handedly profited almost as much from the crisis of 2008 as Goldman Sachs did.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of U.S. workers, however devoted and skilled at their jobs, have missed out on the windfalls of this winner-take-most economy—or worse, found their savings, employers, or professions ravaged by the same forces that have enriched the plutocratic elite. The result of these divergent trends is a jaw-dropping surge in U.S. income inequality. According to the economists Emmanuel Saez of Berkeley and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, between 2002 and 2007, 65 percent of all income growth in the United States went to the top 1 percent of the population. The financial crisis interrupted this trend temporarily, as incomes for the top 1 percent fell more than those of the rest of the population in 2008. But recent evidence suggests that, in the wake of the crisis, incomes at the summit are rebounding more quickly than those below. One example: after a down year in 2008, the top 25 hedge-fund managers were paid, on average, more than $1 billion each in 2009, quickly eclipsing the record they had set in pre-recession 2007.
If you are looking for the date when America’s plutocracy had its coming-out party, you could do worse than choose June 21, 2007. On that day, the private-equity behemoth Blackstone priced the largest initial public offering in the United States since 2002, raising $4 billion and creating a publicly held company worth $31 billion at the time. Stephen Schwarzman, one of the firm’s two co-founders, came away with a personal stake worth almost $8 billion, along with $677 million in cash; the other, Peter Peterson, cashed a check for $1.88 billion and retired.
In the sort of coincidence that delights historians, conspiracy theorists, and book publishers, June 21 also happened to be the day Peterson threw a party—at Manhattan’s Four Seasons restaurant, of course—to launch The Manny, the debut novel of his daughter, Holly, who lightly satirizes the lives and loves of financiers and their wives on the Upper East Side. The best seller fits neatly into the genre of modern “mommy lit”—USA Today advised readers to take it to the beach—but the author told me that she was inspired to write it in part by her belief that “people have no clue about how much money there is in this town.”
Holly Peterson and I spoke several times about how the super-affluence of recent years has changed the meaning of wealth. “There’s so much money on the Upper East Side right now,” she said. “If you look at the original movie Wall Street, it was a phenomenon where there were men in their 30s and 40s making $2 and $3 million a year, and that was disgusting. But then you had the Internet age, and then globalization, and you had people in their 30s, through hedge funds and Goldman Sachs partner jobs, who were making $20, $30, $40 million a year. And there were a lot of them doing it. I think people making $5 million to $10 million definitely don’t think they are making enough money.”
As an example, she described a conversation with a couple at a Manhattan dinner party: “They started saying, ‘If you’re going to buy all this stuff, life starts getting really expensive. If you’re going to do the NetJet thing’”—this is a service offering “fractional aircraft ownership” for those who do not wish to buy outright—“‘and if you’re going to have four houses, and you’re going to run the four houses, it’s like you start spending some money.’”
The clincher, Peterson says, came from the wife: “She turns to me and she goes, ‘You know, the thing about 20’”—by this, she meant $20 million a year—“‘is 20 is only 10 after taxes.’ And everyone at the table is nodding.”
As with the aristocracies of bygone days, such vast wealth has created a gulf between the plutocrats and other people, one reinforced by their withdrawal into gated estates, exclusive academies, and private planes. We are mesmerized by such extravagances as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s 414-foot yacht, the Octopus, which is home to two helicopters, a submarine, and a swimming pool.
But while their excesses seem familiar, even archaic, today’s plutocrats represent a new phenomenon. The wealthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s era were shaped, he wrote, by the fact that they had been “born rich.” They knew what it was to “possess and enjoy early.”
That’s not the case for much of today’s super-elite. “Fat cats who owe it to their grandfathers are not getting all of the gains,” Peter Lindert told me. “A lot of it is going to innovators this time around. There is more meritocracy in Bill Gates being at the top than the Duke of Bedford.” Even Emmanuel Saez, who is deeply worried about the social and political consequences of rising income inequality, concurs that a defining quality of the current crop of plutocrats is that they are the “working rich.” He has found that in 1916, the richest 1 percent of Americans received only one-fifth of their income from paid work; in 2004, that figure had risen threefold, to 60 percent.
Peter Peterson, for example, is the son of a Greek immigrant who arrived in America at age 17 and worked his way up to owning a diner in Nebraska; his Blackstone co-founder, Stephen Schwarzman, is the son of a Philadelphia retailer. And they are hardly the exceptions. Of the top 10 figures on the 2010 Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans, four are self-made, two (Charles and David Koch) expanded a medium-size family oil business into a billion-dollar industrial conglomerate, and the remaining four are all heirs of the self-made billionaire Sam Walton. Similarly, of the top 10 foreign billionaires, six are self-made, and the remaining four are vigorously growing their patrimony, rather than merely living off it. It’s true that few of today’s plutocrats were born into the sort of abject poverty that can close off opportunity altogether— a strong early education is pretty much a precondition—but the bulk of their wealth is generally the fruit of hustle and intelligence (with, presumably, some luck thrown in). They are not aristocrats, by and large, but rather economic meritocrats, preoccupied not merely with consuming wealth but with creating it.
The Road to Davos
To grasp the difference between today’s plutocrats and the hereditary elite, who (to use John Stuart Mill’s memorable phrase) “grow rich in their sleep,” one need merely glance at the events that now fill high-end social calendars. The debutante balls and hunts and regattas of yesteryear may not be quite obsolete, but they are headed in that direction. The real community life of the 21st-century plutocracy occurs on the international conference circuit.
The best-known of these events is the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, invitation to which marks an aspiring plutocrat’s arrival on the international scene. The Bilderberg Group, which meets annually at locations in Europe and North America, is more exclusive still—and more secretive—though it is more focused on geopolitics and less on global business and philanthropy. The Boao Forum for Asia, convened on China’s Hainan Island each spring, offers evidence of that nation’s growing economic importance and its understanding of the plutocratic culture. Bill Clinton is pushing hard to win his Clinton Global Initiative a regular place on the circuit. The TED conferences (the acronym stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design”) are an important stop for the digerati; Paul Allen’s Sun Valley gathering, for the media moguls; and the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival (co-sponsored by this magazine), for the more policy-minded.
Recognizing the value of such global conclaves, some corporations have begun hosting their own. Among these is Google’s Zeitgeist conference, where I have moderated discussions for several years. One of the most recent gatherings was held last May at the Grove Hotel, a former provincial estate in the English countryside, whose 300-acre grounds have been transformed into a golf course and whose high-ceilinged rooms are now decorated with a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture. (Mock Louis XIV chairs—made, with a wink, from high-end plastic—are much in evidence.) Last year, Cirque du Soleil offered the 500 guests a private performance in an enormous tent erected on the grounds; in 2007, to celebrate its acquisition of YouTube, Google flew in overnight Internet sensations from around the world.
Yet for all its luxury, the mood of the Zeitgeist conference is hardly sybaritic. Rather, it has the intense, earnest atmosphere of a gathering of college summa cum laudes. This is not a group that plays hooky: the conference room is full from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and during coffee breaks the lawns are crowded with executives checking their BlackBerrys and iPads.
Last year’s lineup of Zeitgeist speakers included such notables as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (not to mention, of course, Google’s own CEO, Eric Schmidt). But the most potent currency at this and comparable gatherings is neither fame nor money. Rather, it’s what author Michael Lewis has dubbed “the new new thing”—the insight or algorithm or technology with the potential to change the world, however briefly. Hence the presence last year of three Nobel laureates, including Daniel Kahneman, a pioneer in behavioral economics. One of the business stars in attendance was the 36-year-old entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, who had sold his Zappos online shoe retailer to Amazon for more than $1 billion the previous summer. And the most popular session of all was the one in which Google showcased some of its new inventions, including the Nexus phone.
This geeky enthusiasm for innovation and ideas is evident at more-intimate gatherings of the global elite as well. Take the elegant Manhattan dinner parties hosted by Marie-Josée Kravis, the economist wife of the private-equity billionaire Henry, in their elegant Upper East Side apartment. Though the china is Sèvres and the paintings are museum quality (Marie-Josée is, after all, president of the Museum of Modern Art’s board), the dinner-table conversation would not be out of place in a graduate seminar. Mrs. Kravis takes pride in bringing together not only plutocrats such as her husband and Michael Bloomberg, but also thinkers and policy makers such as Richard Holbrooke, Robert Zoellick, and Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, and leading them in discussion of matters ranging from global financial imbalances to the war in Afghanistan.
Indeed, in this age of elites who delight in such phrases as outside the box and killer app, arguably the most coveted status symbol isn’t a yacht, a racehorse, or a knighthood; it’s a philanthropic foundation—and, more than that, one actively managed in ways that show its sponsor has big ideas for reshaping the world.
George Soros, who turned 80 last summer, is a pioneer and role model for the socially engaged billionaire. Arguably the most successful investor of the post-war era, he is nonetheless proudest of his Open Society Foundations, through which he has spent billions of dollars on issues as diverse as marijuana legalization, civil society in central and eastern Europe, and rethinking economic assumptions in the wake of the financial crisis.
Inspired and advised by the liberal Soros, Peter Peterson—himself a Republican and former member of Nixon’s Cabinet—has spent $1 billion of his Blackstone windfall on a foundation dedicated to bringing down America’s deficit and entitlement spending. Bill Gates, likewise, devotes most of his energy and intellect today to his foundation’s work on causes ranging from supporting charter schools to combating disease in Africa. Facebook’s Zuckerberg has yet to reach his 30th birthday, but last fall he donated $100 million to improving the public schools of Newark, New Jersey. Insurance and real-estate magnate Eli Broad has become an influential funder of stem-cell research; Jim Balsillie, a co-founder of BlackBerry creator Research in Motion, has established his own international-affairs think tank; and on and on. It is no coincidence that Bill Clinton has devoted his post-presidency to the construction of a global philanthropic “brand.”
The super-wealthy have long recognized that philanthropy, in addition to its moral rewards, can also serve as a pathway to social acceptance and even immortality: Andrew “The Man Who Dies Rich Dies Disgraced” Carnegie transformed himself from robber baron to secular saint with his hospitals, concert halls, libraries, and university; Alfred Nobel ensured that he would be remembered for something other than the invention of dynamite. What is notable about today’s plutocrats is that they tend to bestow their fortunes in much the same way they made them: entrepreneurially. Rather than merely donate to worthy charities or endow existing institutions (though they of course do this as well), they are using their wealth to test new ways to solve big problems. The journalists Matthew Bishop and Michael Green have dubbed the approach “philanthrocapitalism” in their book of the same name. “There is a connection between their ways of thinking as businesspeople and their ways of giving,” Bishop told me. “They are used to operating on a grand scale, and so they operate on a grand scale in their philanthropy as well. And they are doing it at a much earlier age.”
A measure of the importance of public engagement for today’s super-rich is the zeal with which even emerging-market plutocrats are developing their own foundations and think tanks. When the oligarchs of the former Soviet Union first burst out beyond their own borders, they were Marxist caricatures of the nouveau riche, purchasing yachts and sports teams, and surrounding themselves with couture-clad supermodels. Fifteen years later, they are exploring how to buy their way into the world of ideas.
One of the most determined is the Ukrainian entrepreneur Victor Pinchuk, whose business empire ranges from pipe manufacturing to TV stations. With a net worth of $3 billion, Pinchuk is no longer content merely to acquire modern art: in 2009, he began a global competition for young artists, run by his art center in Kiev and conceived as a way of bringing Ukraine into the international cultural mainstream. Pinchuk hosts a regular lunch on the fringes of Davos and has launched his own annual “ideas forum,” a gathering devoted to geopolitics that is held, with suitable modesty, in the same Crimean villa where Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill attended the Yalta Conference. Last September’s meeting, where I served as a moderator, included Bill Clinton, International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin.
As an entrée into the global super-elite, Pinchuk’s efforts seem to be working: on a visit to the U.S. last spring, the oligarch met with David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, in Washington and schmoozed with Charlie Rose at a New York book party for Time magazine editor Rick Stengel. On a previous trip, he’d dined with Caroline Kennedy at the Upper East Side townhouse of HBO’s Richard Plepler. Back home, he has entertained his fellow art enthusiast Eli Broad at his palatial estate (which features its own nine-hole golf course) outside Kiev, and has partnered with Soros to finance Ukrainian civil-society projects.
A Nation Apart
Pinchuk’s growing international Rolodex illustrates another defining characteristic of today’s plutocrats: they are forming a global community, and their ties to one another are increasingly closer than their ties to hoi polloi back home. As Glenn Hutchins, co-founder of the private-equity firm Silver Lake, puts it, “A person in Africa who runs a big African bank and went to Harvard might have more in common with me than he does with his neighbors, and I could well share more overlapping concerns and experiences with him than with my neighbors.” The circles we move in, Hutchins explains, are defined by “interests” and “activities” rather than “geography”: “Beijing has a lot in common with New York, London, or Mumbai. You see the same people, you eat in the same restaurants, you stay in the same hotels. But most important, we are engaged as global citizens in crosscutting commercial, political, and social matters of common concern. We are much less place-based than we used to be.”
In a similar vein, the wife of one of America’s most successful hedge-fund managers offered me the small but telling observation that her husband is better able to navigate the streets of Davos than those of his native Manhattan. When he’s at home, she explained, he is ferried around town by a car and driver; the snowy Swiss hamlet, which is too small and awkward for limos, is the only place where he actually walks. An American media executive living in London put it more succinctly still: “We are the people who know airline flight attendants better than we know our own wives.”
America’s business elite is something of a latecomer to this transnational community. In a study of British and American CEOs, for example, Elisabeth Marx, of the headhunting firm Heidrick & Struggles, found that almost a third of the former were foreign nationals, compared with just 10 percent of the latter. Similarly, more than two-thirds of the Brits had worked abroad for at least a year, whereas just a third of the Americans had done so.
But despite the slow start, American business is catching up: the younger generation of chief executives has significantly more international experience than the older generation, and the number of foreign and foreign-born CEOs, while still relatively small, is rising. The shift is particularly evident on Wall Street: in 2006, each of America’s eight biggest banks was run by a native-born CEO; today, five of those banks remain, and two of the survivors—Citigroup and Morgan Stanley—are led by men who were born abroad.
Mohamed ElErian, the CEO of Pimco, the world’s largest bond manager, is typical of the internationalists gradually rising to the top echelons of U.S. business. The son of an Egyptian father and a French mother, ElErian had a peripatetic childhood, shuttling between Egypt, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. He was educated at Cambridge and Oxford and now leads a U.S.-based company that is owned by the German financial conglomerate Allianz SE.
Though ElErian lives in Laguna Beach, California, near where Pimco is headquartered, he says that he can’t name a single country as his own. “I have had the privilege of living in many countries,” ElErian told me on a recent visit to New York. “One consequence is that I am a sort of global nomad, open to many perspectives.” As he talked, we walked through Midtown, which ElErian remembered fondly from his childhood, when he’d take the crosstown bus each day to the United Nations International School. That evening, ElErian was catching a flight to London. Later in the week, he was due in St. Petersburg.
Indeed, there is a growing sense that American businesses that don’t internationalize aggressively risk being left behind. For all its global reach, Pimco is still based in the United States. But the flows of goods and capital upon which the super-elite surf are bypassing America more often than they used to. Take, for example, Stephen Jennings, the 50-year-old New Zealander who co-founded the investment bank Renaissance Capital. Renaissance’s roots are in Moscow, where Jennings maintains his primary residence, and his business strategy involves positioning the firm to capture the investment flows between the emerging markets, particularly Russia, Africa, and Asia. For his purposes, New York is increasingly irrelevant. In a 2009 speech in Wellington, New Zealand, he offered his vision of this post-unipolar business reality: “The largest metals group in the world is Indian. The largest aluminum group in the world is Russian … The fastest-growing and largest banks in China, Russia, and Nigeria are all domestic.”
As it happens, a fellow tenant in Jennings’s high-tech, high-rise Moscow office building recently put together a deal that exemplifies just this kind of intra-emerging-market trade. Last year, Digital Sky Technologies, Russia’s largest technology investment firm, entered into a partnership with the South African media corporation Naspers and the Chinese technology company Tencent. All three are fast-growing firms with global vision—last fall, a DST spin-off called Mail.ru went public and immediately became Europe’s most highly valued Internet company—yet none is primarily focused on the United States. A similar harbinger of the intra-emerging-market economy was the acquisition by Bharti Enterprises, the Indian telecom giant, of the African properties of the Kuwait-based telecom firm Zain. A California technology executive explained to me that a company like Bharti has a competitive advantage in what he believes will be the exploding African market: “They know how to provide mobile phones so much more cheaply than we do. In a place like Africa, how can Western firms compete?”
The good news—and the bad news—for America is that the nation’s own super-elite is rapidly adjusting to this more global perspective. The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told me that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” the CEO recalled.
I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, he’s nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world,” he told me. “So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.”
At last summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival, Michael Splinter, CEO of the Silicon Valley green-tech firm Applied Materials, said that if he were starting from scratch, only 20 percent of his workforce would be domestic. “This year, almost 90 percent of our sales will be outside the U.S.,” he explained. “The pull to be close to the customers—most of them in Asia—is enormous.” Speaking at the same conference, Thomas Wilson, CEO of Allstate, also lamented this global reality: “I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business … American businesses will adapt.”
Revolt of the Elites
Wilson’s distinction helps explain why many of America’s other business elites appear so removed from the continuing travails of the U.S. workforce and economy: the global “nation” in which they increasingly live and work is doing fine—indeed, it’s thriving. As a consequence of this disconnect, when business titans talk about the economy and their role in it, the notes they strike are often discordant: for example, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein waving away public outrage in 2009 by saying he was “doing God’s work”; or the insistence by several top bankers after the immediate threat of the financial crisis receded that their institutions could have survived without TARP funding and that they had accepted it only because they had been strong-armed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Nor does this aloof disposition end at the water’s edge: think of BP CEO Tony Hayward, who complained of wanting to get his life back after the Gulf oil spill and then proceeded to do so by watching his yacht compete in a race off the Isle of Wight.
It is perhaps telling that Blankfein is the son of a Brooklyn postal worker and that Hayward—despite his U.S. caricature as an upper-class English twit—got his start at BP as a rig geologist in the North Sea. They are both, in other words, working-class boys made good. And while you might imagine that such backgrounds would make plutocrats especially sympathetic to those who are struggling, the opposite is often true. For the super-elite, a sense of meritocratic achievement can inspire high self-regard, and that self-regard—especially when compounded by their isolation among like-minded peers—can lead to obliviousness and indifference to the suffering of others.
Unsurprisingly, Russian oligarchs have been among the most fearless in expressing this attitude. A little more than a decade ago, for instance, I spoke to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, at that moment the richest man in Russia. “If a man is not an oligarch, something is not right with him,” Khodorkovsky told me. “Everyone had the same starting conditions, everyone could have done it.” (Khodorkovsky’s subsequent political travails—his oil company was appropriated by the state in 2004 and he is currently in prison—have tempered this Darwinian outlook: in a jail-cell correspondence last year, he admitted that he had “treated business exclusively as a game” and “did not care much about social responsibility.”)
Though typically more guarded in their choice of words, many American plutocrats suggest, as Khodorkovsky did, that the trials faced by the working and middle classes are generally their own fault. When I asked one of Wall Street’s most successful investment-bank CEOs if he felt guilty for his firm’s role in creating the financial crisis, he told me with evident sincerity that he did not. The real culprit, he explained, was his feckless cousin, who owned three cars and a home he could not afford. One of America’s top hedge-fund managers made a near-identical case to me—though this time the offenders were his in-laws and their subprime mortgage. And a private-equity baron who divides his time between New York and Palm Beach pinned blame for the collapse on a favorite golf caddy in Arizona, who had bought three condos as investment properties at the height of the bubble.
It is this not-our-fault mentality that accounts for the plutocrats’ profound sense of victimization in the Obama era. You might expect that American elites—and particularly those in the financial sector—would be feeling pretty good, and more than a little grateful, right now. Thanks to a $700 billion TARP bailout and hundreds of billions of dollars lent nearly free of charge by the Federal Reserve (a policy Soros himself told me was a “hidden gift” to the banks), Wall Street has surged back to pre-crisis levels of compensation even as Main Street continues to struggle. Yet many of America’s financial giants consider themselves under siege from the Obama administration—in some cases almost literally. Last summer, for example, Blackstone’s Schwarzman caused an uproar when he said an Obama proposal to raise taxes on private-equity-firm compensation—by treating “carried interest” as ordinary income—was “like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”
However histrionic his imagery, Schwarzman (who subsequently apologized for the remark) is a Republican, so his antipathy toward the current administration is no surprise. What is more striking is the degree to which even former Obama supporters in the financial industry have turned against the president and his party. A Wall Street investor who is a passionate Democrat recounted to me his bitter exchange with a Democratic leader in Congress who is involved in the tax-reform effort. “Screw you,” he told the lawmaker. “Even if you change the legislation, the government won’t get a single penny more from me in taxes. I’ll put my money into my foundation and spend it on good causes. My money isn’t going to be wasted in your deficit sinkhole.”
He is not alone in his fury. In a much-quoted newsletter to investors last summer, the hedge-fund manager—and 2008 Obama fund-raiser—Dan Loeb fumed, “So long as our leaders tell us that we must trust them to regulate and redistribute our way back to prosperity, we will not break out of this economic quagmire.” Two other former Obama backers on Wall Street—both claim to have been on Rahm Emanuel’s speed-dial list—told me that the president is “anti-business”; one went so far as to worry that Obama is “a socialist.”
Much of this pique stems from simple self-interest: in addition to the proposed tax hikes, the financial reforms that Obama signed into law last summer have made regulations on American finance more stringent. But as the Democratic investor’s angry references to his philanthropic work suggest, the rage in the C-suites is driven not merely by greed but by a perceived affront to the plutocrats’ amour propre, a wounded incredulity that anyone could think of them as villains rather than heroes. Aren’t they, after all, the ones whose financial and technological innovations represent the future of the American economy? Aren’t they “doing God’s work”?
You might say that the American plutocracy is experiencing its John Galt moment. Libertarians (and run-of-the-mill high-school nerds) will recall that Galt is the plutocratic hero of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. Tired of being dragged down by the parasitic, envious, and less talented lower classes, Galt and his fellow capitalists revolted, retreating to “Galt’s Gulch,” a refuge in the Rocky Mountains. There, they passed their days in secluded natural splendor, while the rest of the world, bereft of their genius and hard work, collapsed. (G. K. Chesterton suggested a similar idea, though more gently, in his novel The Man Who Was Thursday: “The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht.”)
This plutocratic fantasy is, of course, just that: no matter how smart and innovative and industrious the super-elite may be, they can’t exist without the wider community. Even setting aside the financial bailouts recently supplied by the governments of the world, the rich need the rest of us as workers, clients, and consumers. Yet, as a metaphor, Galt’s Gulch has an ominous ring at a time when the business elite view themselves increasingly as a global community, distinguished by their unique talents and above such parochial concerns as national identity, or devoting “their” taxes to paying down “our” budget deficit. They may not be isolating themselves geographically, as Rand fantasized. But they appear to be isolating themselves ideologically, which in the end may be of greater consequence.
The cultural ties that bind the super-rich to everyone else are fraying from both ends at once. Since World War II, the United States in particular has had an ethos of aspirational capitalism. As Soros told me, “It is easier to be rich in America than in Europe, because Europeans envy the billionaire, but Americans hope to emulate him.” But as the wealth gap has grown wider, and the rich have appeared to benefit disproportionately from government bailouts, that admiration has begun to sour.
One measure of the pricklier mood is how risky it has become for politicians to champion Big Business publicly. Defending Big Oil and railing against government interference used to be part of the job description of Texas Republicans. But when Congressman Joe Barton tried to take the White House to task for its post-spill “shakedown” of BP, he was immediately silenced by party elders. New York’s Charles Schumer is sometimes described as “the senator from Wall Street.” Yet when the financial-reform bill came to the Senate last spring—a political tussle in which each side furiously accused the other of carrying water for the banks—on Wall Street, Schumer was called the “invisible man” for his uncharacteristic silence on the issue.
In June, when I asked Larry Summers, then the president’s chief economic adviser, about hedge funds’ objections to the carried-interest tax reform, he was quick to disassociate himself from Wall Street’s concerns. “If that’s been the largest public-policy issue you’ve encountered,” he told me, “you’ve been traveling in different circles than I have been over the last several months.” I reminded him that he had in fact worked for a hedge fund, D. E. Shaw, as recently as 2008, and he emphasized his use of the qualifier over the last several months.
Critiques of the super-elite are becoming more common even at gatherings of the super-elite. At a Wall Street Journal conference in December 2009, Paul Volcker, the legendary former head of the Federal Reserve, argued that Wall Street’s claims of wealth creation were without any real basis. “I wish someone,” he said, “would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth—one shred of evidence.”
At Google’s May Zeitgeist gathering, Desmond Tutu, the opening speaker, took direct aim at executive compensation. “I do have a very real concern about capitalism,” he lectured the gathered executives. “The Goldman Sachs thing. I read that one of the directors general—whatever they are called, CEO—took away one year as his salary $64 million. Sixty-four million dollars.” He sputtered to a stop, momentarily stunned by this sum (though, by the standards of Wall Street and Silicon Valley compensation, it’s not actually that much money). In an op-ed in TheWall Street Journal last year, even the economist Klaus Schwab—founder of the World Economic Forum and its iconic Davos meeting—warned that “the entrepreneurial system is being perverted,” and businesses that “fall back into old habits and excesses” could “undermin[e] social peace.”
Bridging the Divide
Not all plutocrats, of course, are created equal. Apple’s visionary Steve Jobs is neither the moral nor the economic equivalent of the Russian oligarchs who made their fortunes by brazenly seizing their country’s natural resources. And while the benefits of the past decade’s financial “innovations” are, as Volcker noted, very much in question, many plutocratic fortunes—especially in the technology sector—have been built on advances that have broadly benefited the nation and the world. That is why, even as the TARP-recipient bankers have become objects of widespread anger, figures such as Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett remain heroes.
And, ultimately, that is the dilemma: America really does need many of its plutocrats. We benefit from the goods they produce and the jobs they create. And even if a growing portion of those jobs are overseas, it is better to be the home of these innovators—native and immigrant alike—than not. In today’s hypercompetitive global environment, we need a creative, dynamic super-elite more than ever.
There is also the simple fact that someone will have to pay for the improved public education and social safety net the American middle class will need in order to navigate the wrenching transformations of the global economy. (That’s not to mention the small matter of the budget deficit.) Inevitably, a lot of that money will have to come from the wealthy—after all, as the bank robbers say, that’s where the money is.
It is not much of a surprise that the plutocrats themselves oppose such analysis and consider themselves singled out, unfairly maligned, or even punished for their success. Self-interest, after all, is the mother of rationalization, and—as we have seen—many of the plutocracy’s rationalizations have more than a bit of truth to them: as a class, they are generally more hardworking and meritocratic than their forebears; their philanthropic efforts are innovative and important; and the recent losses of the American middle class have in many cases entailed gains for the rest of the world.
But if the plutocrats’ opposition to increases in their taxes and tighter regulation of their economic activities is understandable, it is also a mistake. The real threat facing the super-elite, at home and abroad, isn’t modestly higher taxes, but rather the possibility that inchoate public rage could cohere into a more concrete populist agenda—that, for instance, middle-class Americans could conclude that the world economy isn’t working for them and decide that protectionism or truly punitive taxation is preferable to incremental measures such as the eventual repeal of the upper-bracket Bush tax cuts.
Mohamed El-Erian, the Pimco CEO, is a model member of the super-elite. But he is also a man whose father grew up in rural Egypt, and he has studied nations where the gaps between the rich and the poor have had violent resolutions. “For successful people to say the challenges faced by the lower end of the income distribution aren’t relevant to them is shortsighted,” he told me. Noting that “global labor and capital are doing better than their strictly national counterparts” in most Western industrialized nations, ElErian added, “I think this will lead to increasingly inward-looking social and political conditions. I worry that we risk ending up with very insular policies that will not do well in a global world. One of the big surprises of 2010 is that the protectionist dog didn’t bark. But that will come under pressure.”
The lesson of history is that, in the long run, super-elites have two ways to survive: by suppressing dissent or by sharing their wealth. It is obvious which of these would be the better outcome for America, and the world. Let us hope the plutocrats aren’t already too isolated to recognize this. Because, in the end, there can never be a place like Galt’s Gulch.
Giorgio Napolitano: We Haven't Made Clear To Brazil The Gravity of Battisti's Crimes
The President of Italy, the respected Giorgio Napolitano, and all people of sense in Italy, are enraged at the behavior of Lula and of his successor Rousseff, in deciding not to honor the extradition request for Cesare Battisti, who when hewas involved with the terrorist Brigate Rossi in the 1970s murdered a man, then fled to Brazil.
It now looks as though the Brazilian courts, and Brazilians --lawyers, journalists, "intellectuals" -- are having second thoughts about Lula and Rousseff, and recognize that their atittudes and behavior have been unacceptable. And that's good. For now, the Brazilian courts have decided that no release of Battisti should take place. One hopes that as more people in Brazil come to their senses - and the italians (not Berlusconi, but the respected Napolitano who, Lula and Rousseff might be interested to know, was once upon a time a Communist, but he lived longer, thought more, and came to his senses).
Cesare Battisti should be, and will be, sent back to Italy. The spectacle so far, on the Brazilian side, has not been edifying. But things are looking up.
One note: if you travel to Italy, you will find in many towns a street named "Via Cesare Battisti." That is not the terrorist-murderer who is being honored by a local crazed left-wing administration. Cesare Battisti was the name of a man who was famous in the post-Risorgimento period, one of the Irredentists, as they were inaptly called, working to end Austrian rule in the Trentino (and executed, for his pains, in 1916), and it is that Cesare Battisti, not the armed-proletarian-revolt man with the same name who is wanted in Italy for murder, who is being honored. I thought you would want to be street-wise, when it comes to this matter, and now you are.
Here, in Italian, is Giorgio Napolitano, as reported in Corridere della Sera:
«non siamo riusciti a far comprendere la gravità del terrorismo»
«Su Battisti non ci siamo fatti capire»
Napolitano interviene nella vicenda della mancata estradizione: «Alla nostra politica è mancato qualcosa»
«non siamo riusciti a far comprendere la gravità del terrorismo»
«Su Battisti non ci siamo fatti capire»
Napolitano interviene nella vicenda della mancata estradizione: «Alla nostra politica è mancato qualcosa»
MILANO - Giorgio Napolitano interviene nella vicenda della mancata estradizione di Cesare Battisti. Riconoscendo che essa è in parte frutto dell'incapacità della cultura e della politica italiana di trasmettere il significato vero degli anni del terrorismo in Italia. «È mancato qualcosa alla nostra cultura e alla nostra politica - ha detto il capo dello Stato - per trasmettere, e far capire davvero, il senso di ciò che accadde in quegli anni tormentosi del terrorismo. Non siamo riusciti a far comprendere anche a Paesi amici vicini e lontani cosa hanno significato», ha detto il presidente della Repubblica in un intervento fuori progrmma a Ravenna. [these very words, this same lament, might be spoken by an Israeil leader describing the failure of his country to make its overwhelming case, a case that rests in the end on understanding the false claims made by those who are conducting not a war for "nationhood" but a class Jihad to weaken, and then to remove entirely, the Infidel nation-state of Israel]
FRATTINI - Il ministro degli Esteri Frattini, intanto, ha annunciato che la ratifica dell'accordo tra Italia e Brasile che il Parlamento italiano doveva esaminare questo mese «verrà sospesa, non cancellata». Intervenendo a Che tempo che fa e parlando della decisione di Lula di non concedere l'estradizione a Battisti in Itali, il titolare della Farnesina ha aggiunto che si è trattato di una «brutta fine del mandato di un bravissimo presidente dettata da motivazioni ideologiche». Parlando dell'accordo militare, ha spiegato che «era calendarizzato ma il clima non è propizio a votarlo. Certo - ha aggiunto - il Parlamento è sovrano ma credo che l'atmosfera richieda di aspettare a febbraio la decisione del Supremo tribunale federale». Il tribunale dovrà infatti decidere se ratificare o meno la scelta di Lula di non consegnare all'Italia Battisti. Se la decisione sarà contraria rispetto a quella presa dall'ex presidente brasiliano, «in quel caso - ha sottolineato Frattini - saremo più che lieti di ratificare l'accordo». Il ministro, in ogni caso, si è detto contrario a qualsiasi ipotesi di boicottaggio dei prodotti brasiliani, in reazione alla mancata estradizione dell'ex terrorista Cesare Battisti.
BOLDRINI E ZACCAGNINI - Nel suo intervento a Ravenna, dove ha partecipato alle celebrazioni per i 150 anni dell'unità d'Italia, Napolitano ha preso spunto dal commosso ricordo di Arrigo Boldrini e Benigno Zaccagnini, commemorati da Sergio Zavoli come due grandi figli di Ravenna, due persone provenienti da culture e storie diverse fra i quali si era instaurata una grande amicizia umana e politica, per arrivare a parlare di Battisti. Il capo dello Stato ha fatto riferimento al rischio che si disperda la memoria e la consapevolezza dei rischi che corse l'Italia negli anni della lotta al nazifascismo e dall'attacco terroristico alla Repubblica. «Questo rischio esiste ed è grave. Vicende tristi dei giorni scorsi - ha spiegato - ci inducono a pensare che non siamo riusciti a far comprendere anche a paesi amici vicini e lontani cosa abbia significato per noi quella vicenda del terrorismo e quale forza straordinaria sia servita per batterlo. Forse è mancato qualcosa nella nostra cultura e nella politica, qualcosa in grado di trasmettere alle nuove generazioni cosa accadde davvero in quegli anni tormentosi (il riferimento in particolare al sequestro di Aldo Moro, ndr) che Benigno Zaccagnini superò con straordinaria tempra, dolore e coraggio». Napolitano ha anche a invitato a riflettere sullo straordinario legame umano e politico che si stabilì con amicizia fra Arrigo Boldrini e Benigno Zaccagnini.
Par Carl Meeus, Jean Sévillia
07/01/2011 | Mise à jour : 17:55 Réactions (233)
... autant que l'antisémitisme et l'anti-islamisme». Le ministre des Affaires étrangères s'engage et nous dévoile son plan d'action en faveur des chrétiens d'Orient.
Michèle Alliot-Marie : «L'antichristianisme est intolérable...
Par Carl Meeus, Jean Sévillia
07/01/2011 |Réactions (233)
"... autant que l'antisémitisme et l'anti-islamisme». Le ministre des Affaires étrangères s'engage et nous dévoile son plan d'action en faveur des chrétiens d'Orient."
From the Story:
"Pour nous, l'antichristianisme est aussi intolérable que l'antisémitisme ou l'anti-islamisme. Il est urgent d'agir. La semaine prochaine, à l'occasion du Forum pour l'Avenir qui se tiendra à Doha, au Qatar, je compte lancer un appel à la tolérance et au respect mutuel entre les trois religions monothéistes. Ce forum regroupe les pays du G8 et ceux du grand Moyen-Orient et de l'Afrique du Nord. Il me paraît le lieu propice pour faire passer ce message de tolérance et de respect général de la religion, qu'elle soit chrétienne, juive ou musulmane. Je vais commencer une tournée dans le Maghreb, au Moyen-Orient et dans le Golfe, où je veux porter aussi cette idée de tolérance et de respect de la liberté de conscience et de la liberté religieuse. Ce n'est pas seulement une question de principe. C'est dans la pratique quotidienne que des résultats doivent être obtenus.
In Le Figaro Michele Alliot-Marie is quoted as commenting on the attacks on Christians in Egypt and iraq as to be deplored for, she added, "anti-christianisme is just as bad as antisemitisme and anti-islamisme." This astonishing remark reveals her insensate eagerness to analogize in a spirit that is false to the truth. For being criticla of Judaism is not the same thing as being antisemitic, and antisemitism is a pathological condition that has led to results far beyond compare with anything else, and requires its own study. But even if Michele Alliot-Marie were to emend her statement, and leave out Judaism and Jews altogether, it is misleading, in denouncing murders of Christians (a form of "anti-Christianisme" that goes far beyond anticlericalism, crticisim of church scandals involving misbehaving priests or the Banco Ambrosiano or even the beatification or sanctification of Pius XII), and when M.A.-0M. insists that this form of "anti-Christianisme" is "just as bad" as "anti-Islamisme" she is making a false analogy. Anti-Islamisme has not led to any attacks on individual Believers, and the ideology of Islam is, to those who study it, and are not fooled by the stragies and fog-machines of an army of apologists (both Muslim and non-Muslim), cause for great alarm and hostility toward its carriers that is amply justified. Few of those who commented on Michele Alliot-Marie's remark were impressed by it.
I've copied-and-pasted some samples below:
Florent DelageMadamae Alliot Marie du temps de son passage à la Justice et à l'Intérieur n'a rien fait pour remédier à l'anti-christianisme en France. pourtant de nombreux cimetières chrétiens sont régulièrement profanées; des églises vandalisées et des objets de culte volés. Mais là dessus pas un mot car cela montrerait une réalité du quotidien pas tellement plus belle que celles des Coptes d'Egypte, même si pour le moment elle reste moins violente...
abdel iariah ah ah!!c est la meilleure celle la!! l islam est hai et sali depuis des decennies et voila que pour quelques faits divers concernant les coptes d egypte le monde entier s indigne !! bizarre ce monde!!
intelpolovous devez être musulman sans doute? pour "quelques faits divers"? ces quelques faits divers comme vous dites représentent du sang, des pleurs, des familles détruites... Je parle avec beaucoup de musulmans et très peu m'ont dit qu'ils condamnaient ces actes!!! Sans doute la solidarité au sein de l'Oumma est elle plus importante que des vies innocentes sacrifiées, qui plus est d'incroyants mécréants!!! Islam hai et sali? oui par sa propre faute en ne luttant pas contre son passé rétrograde et en dehors du monde moderne civilisé! Oui car les musulmans se présentent sans cesse comme de pauvres victimes des méchants chrétiens et juifs au lieu de prendre leur destin en main! Inch Allah comme ils disent!!! J'imagine que vous faites parti de ces catégories de personnes???
Pauvre France15@abdel. Pour vous les meurtres de masses sont des faits divers, on voit votre provenance.
Le 8/01/2011 à 00:05
Bris FredIl est où le problème Abdel ? A vous lire , on a le sentiment que Vous vous sentez vraiment solidaire des massacres des chrétiens d' Orient ... Et que l' indignation des chrétiens du monde entier face à ses massacres vous révulse ... Pas un mot de compassion ! Rien ! Faut pas vous étonner si l' islam en France n' a pas bonne presse après ça . Même si je sais que tous les musulmans de France ne s' exprimeraient certainement pas de la sorte .
Bris FredVous liriez le message qui m' a été refusé par les modérateurs sur la question ! Lamentable ! Sur Le Figaro , les modérateurs me censurent ! Sur Présent , ce sont les modérateurs en personne qui écriraient ce qui m' a été ici refusé ! Il faut dire qu' on n' a pas les mêmes valeurs ! Ca c' est certain !! Et puis du courage , on n' en manque dans Présent ...
jean louis survillel antichristianisme est intolerable dans les pays etrangers,mais en france tous les jours des eglises sont la cible de vandales et que font nos responsables politiques et nos journalistes ils preferent regarder a l tranger c est tellement plus facile de tourner la tete
réaliste1en france les politiques sont dans la dhimmitude, le politiquement correct et la pensée unique.... mais malgré leurs mensonges le peuple se renseigne, et il va réagir a l'election présidentiel.....
News stories so far -- where they make or hint at any hypotheses -- talk about Tea-Party mad-dogs. But surely there are other possiblities. She was apparently firm on border security. And Gabrielle Cliffords, married to a Navy astronaut, Mark Kelly, happens to have been Arizona's only Jewish representative. That has nowhere been noted in accounts of attempt to murder her; the name of the attacker, who shot Giffords in the head at point-blank range, has not yet been revealed. No has suggested that her background might be relevant. It has, after all, been all too relevant many millions of times before.
What Rep. Peter King Could Do About Radicalization of American Muslims
by Jerry Gordon (January 2011)
In a NewsdayOp edpublished on December 19th following Representative Peter King's election as US House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, he laid out the case for conducting investigative hearings on radicalization of American Muslims:
Even today I cannot begin to describe the disappointment, anger and outrage I felt when, barely a month after the 9/11 attacks that killed so many hundreds of Long Islanders, prominent Long Island Muslim leaders were insisting there was no evidence that al-Qaida was responsible for the attacks - even saying it could have been the CIA, the FBI or the Zionists!
It appears that this YouTube clip is of Jared Loughner, in custody for the shooting at Safeway this morning.
My son is 9 years old, so when I heard from UMC's Dr. Peter Rhee that a child of the same age is among the confirmed dead from the shooting at Safeway on Ina and Oracle roads, this whole event became even harder to take. I try to take my son to events where politicians appear to try to expose him to newsmakers and the world around him, and while we're on the other side of town from today's shooting, what separates my family from being involved in something like this is that this Safeway was within walking distance of Loughner's family's house, and not mine. It's a little tough to process.
I guess you want to blame a movement or radical belief for what happened, so that there's someone to blame bigger than just one shooter or that the madness makes a little sense, but after pouring through the digital remnants left behind by Jared Loughner across the Internet, the one thing I feel like I can say about the 22 year old is that he seems to be someone desperately needing mental health care.
There are certainly themes that run through his videos and postings: the unconstitutionality of various institutions (including Pima Community College), remarks about "rare birds" and the use of language that would imply that Loughner didn't expect to be around for long (his last Myspace post, from this morning, was "Goodbye friends"), but otherwise, it's impossible to make sense of most of it.
If there's no flag in the constitution then the flag in the film is unknown.
There's no flag in the constitution.
Therefore, the flag in the film is unknown.
Burn every new and old flag that you see.
Burn your flag!
I bet you can imagine this in your mind with a faster speed.
Watch this protest in reverse!
Ask the local police; "What's your illegal activity on duty?".
If you protest the government then there's a new government from protesting.
There's not a new government from protesting.
Thus, you aren't protesting the government.
There's something important in this video: There's no communication to anyone in this location.
You shouldn't be afraid of the stars.
There's a new bird on my right shoulder. The beak is two feet and lime green. The rarest bird on earth, there's no feathers, but small grey scales all over the body. It's with one large red eye with a light blue iris. The bird feet are the same as a woodpecker. This new bird and there's only one, the gender is not female or male. The wings of this bird are beautiful; 3 feet wide with the shape of a bald eagle that you could die for. If you can see this bird then you will understand. You think this bird is able to chat about a government?
I want you to imagine a comet or meteoroid coming through the atmosphere.
That was left 77 days ago, but what are you supposed to make of that?
The YouTube clips on his channel are just as wildly confusing. If you can understand what on Earth this means, you're a step ahead of me:
Hello, my name is Jared Lee Loughner.
This video is my introduction to you! My favorite activity is conscience dreaming; the greatest inspiration for my political business information. Some of you don't dream — sadly.
Firstly, the current government officials are in power for their currency, but I'm informing you for your new currency! If you're treasuerer of a new money system, then you're responsible for the distributing of a new currency. We now know — the treasurer for a new money system, is the distributor of the new currency. As a result, the people approve a new money system which is promising new information that's accurate, and we truly believe in a new currency. Above all, you have your new currency, listener?
Secondly, my hope - is for you to be literate! If you're literate in English grammar, then you comprehend English grammar. The majority of poeple, who reside in District 8, are illiterate — hilarious. I don't control your English grammar structure, but you control your English grammar structure.
Thirdly, I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen.
In conclusion, my ambition - is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you know I'm conscience dreaming! Thank you!
The other recent video is longer and maybe a little more distressing, in retrospect, especially considering that he refers to them as his "final thoughts":
My Final Thoughts: Jared Lee Loughner!
Most people, who read this text, forget in the next 2 second!
The population of dreamers in the United States of America is less than 5%!
If 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E. then the previous year is 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E.
987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E.
Therefore, the previous year of 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E.
If B.C.E. years are unable to start then A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
B.C.E. years are unable to start.
Thus, A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
If A.D.E. is endless in year then the years in A.D.E. don't cease.
A.D.E. is endless in year.
Therefore, the years in A.D.E. don't cease.
If I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronunciation then the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that's replacing an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.
I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronunciation.
Thus, the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that replaces an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.
Every human who's mentally capable is always able to be treasurer of their new currency.
If you create one new currency then you're able to create a second new currency.
If you're able to create second new currency then you're able to create third new currency.
You create one new currency.
Thus, you're able to create a third new currency.
You're a treasurer for a new currency, listener?
You create and distribute your new currency, listener?
You don't allow the government to control your grammar structure, listener?
If you create one new language then you're able to create a second new language.
If you're able to create a second new language then you're able to create a third new language.
You create one new language.
Thus, you're able to create a third new language.
All humans are in need of sleep.
Jared Loughner is a human.
Hence, Jared Loughner is in need of sleep.
If I define sleepwalking then sleepwalking is the act or state of walking, eating, or performing other motor acts while asleep, of which one is unaware upon awakening.
I define sleepwalking.
Thus, sleepwalking is the act or state of walking, eating, or performing other motor acts while asleep, of which one is unaware upon awakening.
I'm a sleepwalker - who turns off the alarm clock.
All conscience dreaming at this moment is asleep.
Jared Loughner is conscience dreaming at this moment.
Thus, Jared Loughner is asleep.
If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.
I define terrorist.
This, a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.
If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem.
You call me a terrorist.
Thus, the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem.
Every United States Military recruit at MEPS in Phoenis is receiving one mini bible before the tests.
Jared Loughner is a United States Military recruit at MEPS in Phoenix.
Therefore, Jared Loughner is receiving one mini bible before the tests.
I didn't write a belief on my Army application, and the recruiter wrote on the application; None.
The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America's Constitution.
You don't have to accept the federalist laws.
Nonetheless, read the United States of America's Constituion to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.
You're literate, listener?
If the property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution then the revolutionary's from the revolution are in control of the land and laws.
The property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution.
Thus, the revolutionary's from the revolution are in control of the land and laws.
In conclusion, reading the second United States Constition, I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.
No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver!
No! I won't trust in God!
What's government if words don't have meaning?
Another video, favorited by Loughner, uses "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" by Drowning Pool as a soundtrack to the burning of an American flag in the desert by a hooded, masked man wearing what appears to be pants made of black garbage bags.
His MySpace page featured a photo of a Glock pistol placed on an American History textbook and listed his favorite books as "Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver’s Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno", a mess of books with wildly different viewpoints.
January 2, 2011 — In April 2008 candidate Barack Obama expressed “deep concern” that the Bush administration was making an unseemly deal with the Khartoum regime as a means to bolster the fledgling but already failing UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Obama also used the occasion to criticize U.S. failure to hold Khartoum accountable for its failure to implement key elements of the North/South “Comprehensive Peace Agreement”:
“This reckless and cynical initiative would reward a regime in Khartoum that has a record of failing to live up to its commitments. First, no country should be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism for any reason other than the existence of verifiable proof that the government in question does not support terrorist organizations. Second, the Bush Administration should be holding the Government of Sudan accountable for its past promises to let UN peacekeepers operate within its borders—Khartoum’s record of inaction and obstruction when it comes to the deployment of the AU-UN force must not be rewarded. Third, the Bush Administration should be holding Sudan accountable for failing to implement significant aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), imperiling the prospects for scheduled multiparty elections in 2009.” [ ]
“The Government of Sudan has pursued a policy of genocide in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have been killed in Darfur, and the killing continues to this very day. Meanwhile, lasting peace will not come without implementation of the CPA. The Bush Administration and Congress have imposed sanctions in an effort to change Khartoum’s behavior; to suddenly offer to normalize relations before that change takes place, particularly without close consultation with Congress, makes no sense. Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences.” (http://www.barackobama.com/2008/04/...
For those of us who had pushed for years for an honest recognition of what the Khartoum regime represented, and the dangers these brutal men posed to both Darfur and the fragile CPA for South Sudan, these were precisely the words we wanted to hear. Strong, principled, tough-minded. But less than three years later, this language stands starkly revealed as electoral bluster—an unprincipled and expedient trading on the potency of one of the most impressive American grass-roots constituencies ever to grow up around a foreign policy issue, and an African issue no less. The temptation on the part of some, including myself, has been to focus on how Darfur and Sudan have been betrayed by other members of the Obama administration—chiefly special envoy Scott Gration, but also officials at the National Security Council and State Department who have offered weak or misguided counsel; the Obama administration’s Sudan policy has also been hindered by poor advice from Senator John Kerry, as well as excessively belated involvement on the part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But that temptation must now be resisted: the administration policy that has unfolded over the past two years is President Obama’s policy, and he must take full responsibility for the demonstrable error, expediency, ignorance, and most shamefully, the mendacity that has defined this policy. He has chosen to keep Gration, to continue to deploy Kerry as an ad hoc envoy, and to allow key members of his administration to indulge a perverse “moral equivalence”—equating the actions, threats, and responses of the Khartoum regime to those of rebel groups in Darfur and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the South. President Obama, despite the enormity of his responsibilities at home and abroad, cannot slough off responsibility for what he has himself called a “policy of genocide” in Darfur. The previous administration indeed refused to “hold Sudan accountable for failing to implement significant aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” thereby “imperiling the prospects for scheduled multiparty elections in 2009.” But Obama’s policies, no less than Bush’s, are “reckless and cynical,” the Southern referenda remain imperiled, and it is time for a reckoning.
Humanitarian Response to Darfur
Obama appointed former Air Force Major General Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan in March 2009, shortly after Khartoum had expelled from Darfur thirteen distinguished international humanitarian organizations and shut down three important domestic aid organizations; together these organizations represented approximately half the total humanitarian capacity in Darfur. Following the egregious violation of international humanitarian law represented by these expulsions, Obama’s appointment of a special presidential envoy was welcomed by many as a sign of seriousness. Troublingly, however, Gration had no relevant background for tackling the immensely complex and challenging issues inhering within the negotiation of a just peace for Sudan. Gration had Obama’s full confidence, we were told, but no experience in Sudan, no relevant linguistic skills, and—most consequentially—no diplomatic background.
The consequences of Obama’s choice were almost immediately apparent. Gration’s inexperience and general ignorance of Sudan led him to look for ways to accommodate Khartoum rather than press for a reversal of a decision that over the past twenty-two months has cost many thousands of Darfuri civilian lives—lives lost for lack of adequate primary medical attention, clean water, immunizations, sheltering materials, and food. Gration did not challenge in any meaningful way the pretext for humanitarian expulsions—the preposterous charge of “espionage”—but rather sought to make the most of the painfully small concessions Khartoum made toward restoring humanitarian capacity. Here he followed the shameful lead of Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on several occasions an intermediary between the Obama administration and Khartoum’s génocidaires. A little over a month after the expulsions an apparently hopeful Kerry declared, “We have agreement [with Khartoum] that in the next weeks we will be back to 100 percent capacity” (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS...
). But this was not simply a lie, it was a consequential distortion that worked to let Khartoum off the hook for what was arguably a massive instance of crimes against humanity—the deliberate denial of humanitarian assistance to a needy population of millions of civilians. Gration would echo Kerry several months later, arguing in a September 2009 interview with Radio Dabanga that “the [humanitarian] situation has improved,” and that “as we have four nongovernmental organizations in, the capacity of the UN is increased, the capacity of the other NGOs still remained…. There has been a positive trend” (http://126.96.36.199/node/392
This was more hopeful posturing, for the realities of Darfur were quite otherwise, as even timid and deferential UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was obliged to note in his report on Darfur to the Security Council (November 2009):
“[T]he sustainability of these initial [humanitarian] actions remains a critical issue. In remote locations, international presence has been reduced by 50 per cent, as compared to pre-March 2009 levels. The kidnapping of international aid workers has also contributed to this situation, which has led to a serious shortage of residual implementing capacity and a dramatic reduction in monitoring and evaluation capabilities in Darfur.” (http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/sgrep09.htm
What Gration disingenuously suggested was that the return of four expelled international humanitarian organizations was really the return of other national sections of the organizations in question (for example, the small Save the Children/Sweden replaced the expelled Save the Children/USA, the largest humanitarian actor in West Darfur). The replacement organizations did not begin to have the capacity or operational and organizational skills required in Darfur’s harsh environs, and none of the essential institutional memory and monitoring experience. Gone also was the humanitarian sector leadership (in food distribution, clean water, hygiene, primary medical care) that had been provided by the expelled organizations. To make the claims that Kerry and Gration did was nothing less than expedient mendacity, motivated by the misguided hope that Khartoum would become diplomatically more tractable. In fact, the signal sent to the regime was that even an act as outrageous as expelling critical humanitarian resources from one of the world’s greatest scenes of human need would be met with soothing words of accommodation. The implications of such expediency were not lost on Khartoum.
In the words of an especially well-informed representative from one of the expelled humanitarian organizations, “the view from within the aid community is that Gration has been a disaster for Sudan generally, and Darfur in particular.” And yet Obama continued to support Gration, as did the State Department and National Security Council. Thus in July 2009 Gration received no criticism for suggesting, in dangerously premature terms, that millions of Darfuris—displaced from their homes by more than six years of devastating genocidal counterinsurgency warfare—should begin the process of returning to their lands and villages. No matter that the lands were often occupied by the very Arab militia that had originally driven these people from their lands; no matter that many villages had been burned to the ground, with all means of livelihood systematically destroyed; and no matter that the two key aid agencies responsible for overseeing safe returns as defined by international humanitarian law—the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)—were quite unprepared and without nearly sufficient capacity to undertake this extremely challenging task.
In an extraordinary rebuke of the Obama administration’s excessive desire for signs of “progress” in Darfur, an ad hoc group of humanitarians in South Darfur (the “Inter-Agency Management Group” [IAMG]) assembled in late July 2009 to declare their views of Gration’s visit to the region:
“The [United States] mission was of a political nature more than humanitarian focused. The [U.S. Special Envoy] was exposing his political plan rather than seeking feedback from the humanitarian community and/or looking into the facts presented.”
The bluntness of the distinction and the politically one-sided character of Gration’s remarks put the aid organizations in an uncomfortable position, one they felt a need to clarify both for Darfuris in attendance and those who would seek to politicize their humanitarian mission in any fashion:
“Given the message sent by Scott Gration to the Humanitarian Community and the beneficiaries, i.e. peace will prevail in Darfur by the end of the year, and returns have to happen, the IAMG felt it has to take a common position.”
Clearly the aid representatives felt a need to take a “common position” because the humanitarian implications of Gration’s political assessment were enormous. An “end of the year” (2009) peace agreement was of course an absurd prediction, and as we begin 2011, peace seems no closer. Moreover, in summer 2010 Khartoum expelled senior officials of both the IOM and UNHCR, making returns for displaced persons even more unlikely. In July 2009 the IAMG had stressed all too accurately:
“The Special Envoy emphasized his desire to see Internally Displaced Persons returning to their home as early as possible. Beyond the fact that this is linked to a success of the political process, the IAMG, whilst recognizing the possibility to returns as an ultimate goal and supporting it, want to emphasize that specific impediments need to be addressed before it is made possible. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that a large part of the IDPs might opt for staying in their new settlements over a return to their place of origin.” (http://www.sudantribune.com/Darfur-...
“The incapacitation of the International Organization for Migration and UN High Commission for Refugees in South Darfur is utterly limiting the capacity to deal with population movements and potential returns. IAMG emphasize that even if one of the Agency is granted access it will not be enough. The presence of the two is essential to work according to humanitarian principles and the UN framework for return.”
These failures of insight and perspective on Gration’s part were widely reported, including in The Washington Post. The Obama administration cannot pretend that it was unaware of Gration’s disastrous initiative, and his larger failure in responding to Darfur’s humanitarian crisis.
Sudanese National Elections
Candidate Obama rightly worried that U.S. inaction was “imperiling the prospects for scheduled multiparty elections in 2009.” In the end, the elections were not held until April 2010, and were by all reasonable accounts a gross electoral travesty. This was widely foreseen, as many of the most insidious machinations had occurred within the first year of the Obama administration, including an absurd “census” that grossly distorted Sudan’s demographic realities in ways both conspicuous and of obvious benefit to the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) regime in Khartoum. And yet extraordinarily, shortly before the elections were actually held, the Obama administration, again in the person of Scott Gration, declared that these elections would be “as free and fair as possible” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8...
). There is no possible parsing or contextualizing of such a statement that can make of it anything other than a deliberate lie, designed to assist Khartoum in securing a veneer of international respectability. It was not even the expression of hope; it was pure expediency.
Gration was joined in his assessment by former President Jimmy Carter—a notorious fool in all his political assessments of Sudan—and by Russia, China, the Arab League, and the African Union. Hardly a group of democratic stalwarts. The U.S. actions helped confer an undeserved legitimacy on a regime that was the beneficiary of massive vote and registration fraud, ballot-box stuffing and theft, an untenable census—a regime that also enjoyed the advantages of ruthless security forces and a monopoly on broadcast media. The White House itself took part in the charade, issuing an April 20, 2010 press release expressing “regret that Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC) did not do more to prevent and address such problems prior to voting” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press...
). But this disingenuously shifted the blame by failing to note that the NEC was entirely a creature of the regime, and acted throughout the electoral period precisely as instructed.
Despite the fiasco of U.S. efforts to secure meaningful Sudanese elections, Gration kept the support of President Obama and senior foreign policy officials at State and NSC. And publicly, no dissent was permitted to be aired, even as we know that more than one administration official strenuously objected, including U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Indeed, tensions between Rice and Gration had been festering for some time, certainly since Gration had declared very early in his tenure (June 2009) that only “remnants of genocide” could be found in Darfur (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/w...
). Rice is reported to have been furious at such a characterization by the inexperienced Gration; and although the Obama administration did not accept Gration’s characterization, he was not rebuked either, and he stood stubbornly by his comments. Earlier this yet Gration and Rice clashed again (http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/p...
), this time as the slow-learning Gration belatedly realized that the self-determination referenda for South Sudan and the Abyei region were deeply imperiled by an excessively compressed electoral calendar. At an early August 2010 meeting on Sudan that included all relevant senior Obama administration officials—including Secretary Clinton—Gration is reported to have pushed for a “de-emphasizing of Darfur,” and a re-focusing on the South.
In one sense the decision had been made inevitable by the ineptitude of the Obama administration. Khartoum was seeking to run out the clock on the referenda, and preparations were in some cases literally years behind schedule (the Abyei Referendum Commission still has not been established, and there will be no referendum in this critical region, the most likely flashpoint for renewed war). Gration for his part had made no progress on Darfur—in securing a meaningful cease-fire, in uniting the most important of the fractious rebel groups, in presenting a credible outline for a peace agreement, in bolstering the beleaguered UN/AU force in Darfur (still badly hamstrung by Khartoum), or in improving humanitarian conditions and capacity. The so-called “Doha (Qatar) peace process” is making no progress, with present diplomatic hopes extending only to securing a fig-leaf agreement between Khartoum and one Darfuri faction that comprises several minor rebels groups; the agreement will not satisfy Darfuris or bring an end to conflict.
Gration’s record on Darfur has been one of complete failure, and unsurprisingly the Obama administration has recently appointed a seasoned and knowledgeable diplomat, Dane Smith, to take on the Darfur file (though without officially removing Gration from his role). At this point, however, the vast majority of Darfuris—both civilians and rebels—despise Gration and the Obama administration; in the camps, Gration’s security has become so great an issue that he can travel only to those camps most fully secured my Military Intelligence. Darfuris have even risked staging anti-Gration demonstrations and demanding his resignation. Ambassador Smith’s chances of success have been badly compromised.
But Gration’s determination to “de-emphasize” Darfur was accepted by senior Obama officials—including Hillary Clinton—and was among the recommendations presented to the President this past August (Susan Rice was reportedly given the opportunity to present a “dissenting view”). The full consequences of this decision were made clear by unnamed senior administration officials in the transcript of a November 8, 2010 briefing provided by the State Department, in which Darfur was not simply “de-emphasized” but “de-coupled”: “[A] senior administration official" declared that in order to secure cooperation from the Khartoum regime on the referenda, "the US is prepared to accelerate the removal of Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list." Specifically, in its now desperate effort to rescue the referenda, the administration "would also be decoupling the state sponsor of terrorism from Darfur and the Darfur issue" (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/20...
). Despite the euphemism—“de-coupling”—the significance of the decision here can hardly be obscured. Although Obama administration officials pointed out that other sanctions remain in place, the leverage deriving from what is certainly the biggest carrot the U.S. has to offer Khartoum is no longer available for resolution of intensifying armed conflict in Darfur and reversing the continuing deterioration in humanitarian conditions affecting more than 4 million civilians, the vast majority of them displaced from their homes, many very recently.
Gration’s hand is again in evidence, since he testified to the Senate on July 30, 2009 that, “There’s no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism. It’s a political decision” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/...
). Is it simply a “political decision”? Is there no evidence of Khartoum’s ongoing complicity in terrorism? (Let’s recall that the present Khartoum regime, as the National Islamic Front, hosted Osama bin Laden from 1991 to 1996, the years in which al-Qaeda came to fruition.) One of the “Wikileaked” U.S. diplomatic cables reveals (according to Reuters) that, “In March 2009, the United States informed Jordan and Egypt about new Iranian plans to ship a cargo of ‘lethal military equipment’ to Syria with onward transfer to Sudan and then to Hamas, the Guardian [UK] said” (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS...
). Hamas is still considered by the U.S., Canada, Japan, the European Union and others to be a terrorist organization. Why has there been no clarification of the apparently direct contradiction between Gration’s testimony—which guides his response to Khartoum—and evidence of the regime’s support for terrorism during the Obama administration? Has expediency triumphed yet again on the part of the President?
And just how far is the White House willing to go in countenancing a policy that is defined not only by Gration’s clearly limited understanding of state support for terrorism, but by his naïve assessment of the role of China and Egypt in Sudanese affairs? In his Senate testimony Gration suggested that his travels to Cairo and Beijing enabled him to meet “leaders who share our common concern and want to work together toward shared objectives.” But this hopeful assessment ignores the long and resolutely obstructionist role both Egypt and China have played in Sudan over many years. Shortly after Gration’s testimony, for example, a senior Egyptian official described Darfur as an “artificial” crisis directed against the people of Sudan. Cairo has also long and adamantly opposed Southern self-determination. For its part, Beijing continues to ship to Khartoum advanced weaponry and military supplies, which are then transferred to Darfur in violation of a UN arms embargo. China also opposes any role for the International Criminal Court in pursuing atrocity crimes in Darfur, and at the Security Council has relentlessly supported Khartoum’s intransigence. All this leaves one wondering what Gration means by “common concern.”
Candidate Obama seemed to see the Khartoum regime for what it is, and to recognize the penchant of these ruthless men for lies, reneging, dissimulation, and bad faith. But President Obama is guided by a Secretary of State, National Security Council, and special envoy who are willing to see the actions and declarations on the part of the Government of South Sudan and the Darfuri rebels as “morally equivalent” to those of the regime. Although there are many examples of such destructive comparisons during the Obama administration, a recent example suggests just how extreme this distortion can become.
On December 16, 2010 the White House issued a press release concerning repeated attacks by Khartoum’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on the South Darfur village of Khor Abeche, and the forces of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader Minni Minawi (formerly a partner in the regime). Deploring attacks that “left many [civilians] injured, some dead, and thousands displaced,” NSC spokesman Mike Hammer went on to say:
“This attack comes at a time that we are also seeing increased evidence of support to militant proxies from the Governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan. All Sudanese leaders have a responsibility to protect civilian populations—to do otherwise is unacceptable.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press...
The implicit claim here is that the Government of South Sudan is giving “support to militant proxies” and irresponsibly putting civilian populations at deliberate risk. In short, more than seven years of savage, finally genocidal predations by Khartoum-directed “militant proxies”—Janjaweed militia, the Popular Defense Force, the Border Guards, the Central Police, and other paramilitary elements in Darfur—are here being directly compared to the actions of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS).
This is an outrageous distortion, an apparent effort at soothing “even-handedness” that in fact deeply betrays the truth. It is the case that the GOSS has hosted in Juba some of the Darfur rebel leadership, including Minni Minawi. It is also likely true that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has provided some medical assistance to wounded Darfuri rebels who make their way into Western or Northern Bahr el-Ghazal. It may or may not be the case that some elements of the SPLA have provided limited supplies, on an ad hoc basis, to rebel elements in Bahr el-Ghazal, something the Obama administration has warned against, and which indeed would be ill-advised. But none of this is in any way comparable to Khartoum’s recruiting, arming, and deploying the Janjaweed and other “militant proxies” in Darfur.
Indeed, the real perversity of the NSC comparison is most conspicuously evident in the nominal subject of this brief press release—Khor Abeche. Evidently the Obama White House has forgotten the history of Khor Abeche (South Darfur), and the brutal Janjaweed attack of April 7, 2005. This was one of the most destructive and best chronicled of the atrocity crimes that have defined Darfur for more than seven years. Here are some of the details of what happens when real “militant proxies” are at work.
Following the April 2005 attack on Khor Abeche, the UN and African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS, the predecessor to UNAMID), declared on the basis of their investigation that the sustained assault on this civilian village was “savage,” “pre-meditated,” and ultimately a function of “deliberate official procrastination” by Khartoum, which prevented the deployment of AU observers who might have been able to forestall the clearly impending attack. For this was one of the many occasions on which the Janjaweed worked hand-in-glove with the SAF. The UN and AU both declared their “utter shock and disbelief of the relentless daylong attack on Khor Abeche.” Two years of fully comparable violence, amply chronicled by human rights organizations, should have forestalled both “shock” and “disbelief.” But certainly it would have been difficult to become accustomed to what occurred at Khor Abeche:
“[The Janjaweed proceeded to] rampage through the village [of Khor Abeche], killing, burning and destroying everything in their paths and leaving in their wake total destruction” (“Joint Statement by the African Union Mission in Sudan and the UN Mission in Sudan,” April 7, 2005)
The “Joint Statement” was unusually explicit in assigning responsibility for the destruction wrought by “militant proxies”:
“The African Union had been engaged in discussions with the Wali [Khartoum-appointed governor] of South Darfur and Nasir al Tijani Adel Kaadir [commander of the Arab militia/Janjaweed force] on several occasions in the past on how to maintain the security situation in the area. Indeed, the AU had prepared to deploy its troops in Niteaga and Khor Abeche since 3 April , to deter precisely this kind of attack, but was prevented from acting by what can only be inferred as deliberate official procrastination over the allocation of land for the troops’ accommodation.” (“Joint Statement by the African Union Mission in Sudan and the UN Mission in Sudan,” April 7, 2005)§§
As we approach the final countdown to the South Sudan self-determination referendum—with many critical issues unresolved, including the status of Abyei—the Obama administration continues to indulge a broad policy of “moral equivalence” that can have only one effect, and that is to encourage the Khartoum regime to remain intransigent while the U.S. does its diplomatic dirty work. And dutifully Secretary of State Clinton has recently insisted that the Southern leadership “compromise” on the contested Abyei region (http://blogs.state.gov/sudan/index....
). But this apparent evenhandedness ignores the very significant compromises that the SPLM has already made, particularly on Abyei. Such pressure is deeply counter-productive at this point and makes clear just how dangerous “moral equivalence” can be in defining U.S. Sudan policy. And yet Gration, Clinton, and Obama himself seem incapable of rising above this disabling distortion. The consequences for Sudan—in the South as well as Darfur—may well be disaster. By virtue of its misguided and expedient policies, the Obama administration has surrendered most of the leverage it once wielded, and has no evident plan for regaining it.
Genocide in Darfur
In July 2010 the International Criminal Court issued a second warrant for the arrest of NIF/NCP President Omar al-Bashir—this one for three counts of genocide in Darfur. Gration—who had declared without rebuke that there were only “remnants of genocide in Darfur”—responded to the announcement with extraordinary cynicism: the ICC decision "will make my mission more difficult and challenging” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...
). And perhaps it will: dealing with génocidaires can be diplomatically challenging, and it is certainly not al-Bashir alone within the regime who will face indictment for atrocity crimes in Darfur. But are we and the ICC to remain silent about what has occurred and continues to occur in Darfur? Must impunity continue to reign, at terrible human cost, so that Gration’s fatuously hopeful diplomacy may proceed? This again is a formula for continued conflict, not peace, and signals to Khartoum that it may proceed with its exceedingly ominous “New Strategy for Darfur” (September 2010), which is nothing less an effort to legitimize a renewed campaign of genocidal counter-insurgency, beginning with the further attenuation of humanitarian capacity (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/onli...
). The plan has been “strongly supported” by Gration, who had expressed his general frustration with Darfuris last March by means of an implicit threat: there is “not going to be a lot of [diplomatic] bandwidth to be doing Darfur and negotiations [after the April 2010 elections],” Gration declared (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...
But with or without diplomatic “bandwidth” available for Darfur, the region’s agony continues. Today, this very day in Darfur, humanitarian reach and capacity are more restricted than ever, chiefly because of Khartoum’s continuing expulsions of aid workers and organizations, bureaucratic obstructionism, and engineered insecurity. Fearing Khartoum’s response, UN officials don’t dare release figures for malnutrition, according to the senior UNICEF official for the region (http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/4997
). And there has been a major upsurge in violence and displacement over the past year, again much of it ethnically defined. On September 2, 2010, for example, more than 50 Fur men and boys were executed by Arab militia forces in Tabarat village, North Darfur; scores more were wounded, many seriously (some later died of their wounds); thousands fled their homes (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw....
). There was no public comment from the Obama White House, nor a public report from UNAMID—and the silence was heard clearly in Khartoum. Elsewhere, Radio Dabanga remains our last thread of real-time information from the ground in Darfur, and reports constantly on the rape of girls and women; the deliberate destruction of crops in the fields; torture, murder, and imprisonment of political leaders from the camps; and relentless aerial bombardment of civilian targets. Special envoy Gration and the White House are willing to “de-emphasize” and “de-couple” such events.
As I write these words the headlines at Radio Dabanga are numbingly familiar: “Air strike in Darfur kills 10, including 5 children,” in Khazan Jadeed, South Darfur (December 28, 2010, http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/7664 ). There was no evidence of a military presence in this area, and the bombing took place at 2am, when there was no light to guide the bombers to military targets (in any event, the Antonovs deployed have no real bomb-sighting capability: they are crudely retrofitted Russian cargo planes from which barrel bombs are simply rolled out the back bay):
“Among the dead was the farmer Hamada Abdelrahman Dualbeit, 30 years of old, and with his wife and his three sons; and Muriam Ismail Abakr, student at the University of Nyala, in addition to her son; and Nasreddin Ahmed Bushara, and his wife and baby.”
Candidate Barack Obama professed to be outraged by such atrocities; President Obama has put in place and supported a special envoy who seems all too willing to ignore them—the real meaning of “de-emphasizing” and “de-coupling.” Candidate Obama professed to be distressed to see the CPA endangered by diplomatic lethargy, and the lives of millions of Southern Sudanese put at gratuitous risk; President Obama is guided by policies that have in many ways increased that risk. Whatever the failings of his appointees, too many in Sudan have died, too many suffer outrageously, and too many are in acute danger for overall responsibility to rest anywhere but with the chief executive—a President now, not a candidate.
Free speech is under attack in Denmark. Please help us preserve it.
Those who have been following the Danish cartoon crisis and several subsequent attempts by radical Muslims to kill and bomb Danes and Danish institutions may be excused for believing that Denmark is in the forefront of the battle for free speech. And indeed it used to be that way.
No longer. For the past year the Danish public prosecutor has been waging a lawfare offensive against outspoken critics of Islam and Muslim practices.
On December 3, 2010, Member of Parliament Jesper Langballe was convicted of "hate speech" – or as the judge in the lower court of Randers put it: "racial discrimination" – for having called attention to honour killings in Muslim families.
Next in line is Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Press Society and The International Free Press Society, who will stand trial in the lower court of Frederiksberg on January 24, 2011.
His crime has been to point to the great number of family rapes in areas dominated by Muslim culture. This well documented fact has brought him an indictment under the Danish penal code's "racism" clause: Article 266b.
Both MP Langballe and Lars Hedegaard have long ago emphasised that they did not intend to accuse all Muslims or even the majority of Muslims of such crimes. This has made no impression on the public prosecutor.
We fear that the public prosecutor intends to stifle open debate on Islam and Muslim culture. And we fear that he is doing so with the tacit approval of the governing parties, which first signalled their intention to remove the racism clause from the penal code but have recently recanted.
If the authorities succeed in silencing such critics as Jesper Langballe and Lars Hedegaard, who will dare speak out?
We must put a stop to these attempts to undermine free speech if we wish to preserve Denmark as a free country. And where Denmark – that former beacon of free speech – goes, the rest of the West may follow
You can help us.
Please send a few words to [email protected] in defence of Lars Hedegaard's freedom of expression. We will then publish them in The Free Press Magazine, Sappho.dk.
Please do what you can to spread the word about the trial of Lars Hedegaard.
Vice President, The Danish Free Press Society