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Wednesday 6 April 2011

The Finnish book-entry register, or 'ceterum censeo tributum commercii esse delendum'

This entry is about an issue in the the up-coming parlamentary elections in Finland. It should be the key issue, but it is not.

The Finnish book-entry register (also known as nominee registration of securities; fi hallintarekisteri; sv förvaltarregister) provides a method of tax evasion, especially with regards to stock investments. This system was created right before the recession in 1991. The book-entry register does not keep a record about the identity of the owner of the shares. Instead, it only registers the bank or body which keeps the shares in custody.

Hitherto, the book-entry services of Euroclear Finland (which has been trusted to keep the Finnish book-entry register) have been open only to foreigners, but now Mari Kiviniemi's government wants to allow also Finnish citizens to register their shares in this way, that is, anonymously and by proxy. Finnish journalists have deplored this, saying that it will become much more difficult than before to reveal Finnish tax evaders and to keep track of e.g. the corporate connections of the politicians. The existence of the book-entry register was already bad enough in itself. It has meant, for instance, that we hardly know who owns Nokia; 85 % of the shares of Nokia's shares are hidden in this register. An unknown number of these and other shares in the book-entry registry certainly also belongs, illegally, to Finns. Now, however, the government of Finland wants to make this kind of tax evasion legal.(1)

My first, spontaneous reaction to this reform, which has yet to be approved by the parliament, is to label it as criminal. Yet I have some difficulty in seeing how a young, vibrant, democratically elected female Prime Minister in a Nordic country could be a simple criminal.

What is and what is not an economic crime in "the era of free movement of capital", where "transferring sums of money from Helsinki to a region such as the Isle of Man requires only a few clicks of a mouse" (2)

Firstly, we would need to know how Mari Kiviniemi &Co are thinking and justifying their own actions. But here the difficulty is, that the present guard of career politicians like Mari Kiviniemi (Center Party), Jutta Urpilainen (Social Democratic Party) or Jyrki Katainen (Conservative Party) are not really supposed to express, or even to have, their own deeper ideas and beliefs. (Or, it is we who are not really supposed to know what the beliefs and ideas of the politicians are, or to require that they have them.)

Regardless of what these ministers and would-be ministers may be thinking in general, their way of thinking on tax justice is deeply problematic. Considering the planned extension of the book-entry services to Finnish nationals , we have to presume that they think like Mr Niclas Virin, the former head of department of the Swedish National Tax Board, who goes around repeating the phrase:

'Ceterum censeo contributum commercii esse delendum.'

In other words, they believe that corporate tax is always harmful and should therefore be got rid of altogether.

Needless to say, I do not agree. However, it is not about whether you or I agree or disagree with Mr Virin and Ms Kiviniemi. It is about how they manage to agree with themselves.

References:

(1) Voima magazine has an excellent article in Finnish about the book-entry register reform, see Jari Hanska: ''Veronkiertotemppu & kuinka se tehdään.'' Voima 3/2011.

(2) See the article Finns dodge taxes. Tax evasion costs Finland at least three billion euros annually, reports the online financial newspaper Taloussanomat. Helsinki Times 29 August 2009.

(3) See Mr Virin's 2006 speech in English ''Why? Why do we tax business income?''.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Libyan war and human (in)security

In OpenDemocracy, Mary Kaldor analyses the ongoing Libyan war. The best scenario is that Gaddafi is removed and democracy is established, but a more likely scenario is a freezing of the current division between east and west Libya. A third possibiity is as in Iraq, a protracted ‘new war’, she writes, and goes on to criticize the military approach of the Western powers:

From a human security perspective, the appropriate course of action is to protect civilians throughout Libya and guarantee their right to peaceful protest. The first task should have been to declare Benghazi and the liberated areas a UN Protected Area or safe haven. International peace-keepers would have had to be deployed to help protect the liberated areas. Humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and support for a democratic political process would also have to be provided so that the liberated areas could provide poles of attraction for other parts of the country. (See Kaldor, Mary: "Libya: war or humanitarian intervention?", OpenDemocracy 29 March 2011)

Kaldor's analysis is sharp and revealing. However, it is one thing to say what should have been done instead of what was actually done, i.e. to deploy UN peace-keepers on the ground instead of starting a war from the air. But what should we do now to improve the worsening situation ? That is another question, and a very urgent one. Because, as Kaldor fears, the outcome of this military "Odyssey" will probably be something like her second, or third scenario.

A pessimist would say that there may be no such "we", which is able to intervene against the economic and political forces of war. Gone are the days of the European Nuclear Disarmament movement, of which Mary Kaldor was one of the most vibrant leaders back in the 1980ies.

But, instead of painting a bleak picture of ourselves, why do we not again boldly put the denuclearisation of Europe on the agenda?

In their article "Nuclear Follies" (OpenDemocracy 13 March 2011) Dan Plesch and Harald Heubaum, reminded the readers of Open Democracy about the the export of French nuclear reactors to Libya, which President Sarkozy and Colonel Gaddaffi agreed and publicized only a few years ago (in the summer of 2007).

"(t)he events in Libya and Japan have one thing in common", Plesch and Heubaum constated. "Each case serves as a powerful reminder of the dangers of nuclear power and the short-sighted, irrational risk analyses of those pursuing the technology."

This parallell between the recklessness of the Japanese nuclear reactor builders and the irresponsibiity of the European nuclear rector exporters also needs to be considered in the analysis of the Libyan war.

Mary Kaldor's article arrived while I was reading the book about human security which she has published together with the American military officer Shannon D. Beebe (The Ultimate Weapon Is No Weapon. Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace, N.Y. 2010). I was actually quoting some of the basic propositions of their excellent work in a message to the mailing list of the European Social Forum. I shall insert a glimpse of those principles here as well, with quotation marks around the words of Beebe and Kaldor. My own remarks I have put within parentheses:

  • "the primacy of human rights"; "the goal is protecting civilians, not defeating an enemy";
  • "legitimate political authority" (this has to be something else than presidents of the republic who gladly act as salesmen for the nuclear and military industries);
  • "a bottom-up approach"; "ultimately, the people who live in areas of insecurity must solve their own problems" ( Well, where I live is probably relatively secure, although the distance from here to the NPP Lovisa, which was built in the 1970ies, is only ca 15 kilometers. Still, I cannot but consider that NPP to be a human security risk) ;
  • "effective multilateralism" (this means yes to UN operations, OK, but humanity has already waited some sixty odd years for the UN to achieve the nuclear disarmament. It just has to start somewhere, has it not? So why not start the nuclear abolition *unilaterally* here in Europe, to begin with? In addition, the UN is part of the problem when it comes to dismantling the nuclear power plants; it is no secret that the IAEA is in favour of constructing more, not less, NPPs.)
  • "regional focus" (so let's focus on the denuclearisation of our region and on the dismantlement of our military-industrial-academic tentacles e.g. the military aircraft industries of the EADS complex);
  • "clear civil command", "this means that the military must operate in support of law and order and under rules of engagement that are more similar to those of police work than to the rules of armed combat" (but this can only be achieved if we strengthen a global offentlighetsprincip, which is the Swedish term for the Freedom Of Information, defend our internet and support WikiLeaks; I keep remembering their "Collateral Murder" movie).

The human security may not be so much about what President Obama or NATO should be doing. Rather, It is about how we, the citizens, could be the change.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Spinelli Group

Happy New Year! The Spinelli Group arranges one of its first its event in Brussels tomorrow, January 12, 2011. The event is called « The United States of Europe – Towards a Transnational Society? », and the main speakers there will be Joschka FISCHER, ancien Ministre allemand des Affaires Étrangères, and Jean-Marc FERRY, Philosophe.

I saw the Spinelli Group on the Net a couple months ago, and decided to join it. Btw, you may want to join it yourself. At the time I joined, there were not many other Finns. MEP Satu Hassi (Green) had joined. She is good. I shall write to her about my group membership and interest in Spinelli's thoughts and legacy.

Another who has joined is Pier Virgilio Dastoli. As you may remember, Dastoli is the former secretary of Spinelli, and he used also to direct the EU's mission to Rome.

As a Spinelli Group member, I got an invitation to the above-mentioned event - from Daniel Cohn-Bendit. But I will not attend the event. Am preparing for a trip to West Africa and the world Social Forum in Dakar 6-11 Februar.

Hierarchies are fluid and merit-based, however and whatever merit means to the peers. This also makes it difficult for established members to continue to hold onto their positions when they stop making valuable contributions. In volunteer organizations, this is often a major problem, as early contributors sometimes try to base their influence on old contributions, rather than letting the organizations change and develop. (Stalder & Hirsch 2002)

Pessimism of the intelligence: It remains to be seen whether the founders of the new group are old authoritarians or capable of following the soft approach to collaborative intelligence.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

WikiLeaks and The Library (continued)

Dear fellow librarian,

thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I can understand and accept your refusal to attaching your library, or your library society, to any single movement, like the WikiLeaks. Also, I cannot but agree when you note that it is not up to the librarians to react to every single country, dilemma or violation of freedom of speech.

Yes, the responsibility "to react" in every single case, rather belongs to the journalists and the citizens than to the personnel of the library or archive.

In the case of WikiLeaks, the journalists have indeed reacted. Fortunately. The fact that they have published, and continue to publish the WikiLeaks, is perhaps their most important general "reaction". And that is how it is supposed to be. As was previously mentioned, the International Federation of Journalists and the Reporters sans frontières, too, have come out to condemn the "desperate and dangerous" backlash over WikiLeaks.

What worries me and a great many people is the general, or should I say, structural, threat to the intellectual freedom which is imminent in the present situation. This is to do with the digital revolution and the necessary transition to a new political world-system which should be as democratic as possible, and where the militancy and warfare of the national states should be stemmed, checked and balanced by the global civil society.

Some are prone to see the present situation as a "cyber war", and others happily haste to engage in the combat. However, the internet must not be conceived as, or become, a war-zone. If the internet ceases to be an open public space, like the library, we will witness a dangerous backlash of democracy both internationally, and within the single nations.

So what ought librarians to do? It is our obligation to maintain and to defend the openness and civic nature of the internet, and of the library itself. No internet sites, or servers, should be blocked, or denied of service, as long as their content is legal. The legality of of information, in so far as it needs to be defined at all, must be judged by independent courts of justice, not by political executives, private corporations or militant groups (not to speak of the military proper).

The above-mentioned decision of the American Library of Congress to block the content of the Wikileaks (or even parts of it, such as the US Diplomatic Cables) , has set a very bad example. Libraries, too, have to conform to the laws and the courts of justice, but they must not allow their intellectual freedom to be arbitrarily restricted and suppressed, nor must they engage in self-censorship.

The intellectual freedom and the freedom of speech are great to have and to celebrate, but only if we use them are they really worth anything. I wish you a good working-day.

- Mika

PS Two additional remarks for the analyses of the WikiLeaks phenomenon . 1) It may be interesting to compare WikiLeaks with Greeenpeace. Isn't WikiLeaks for the political crisis what Greenpeace has been for the ecological crisis? 2) WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks and, more in general, the extension of the public sphere brought by the computers and the internet, is not about a single state such as the USA. It is about the world political system, and every single state in the world. Most probably, its is also about the banks and the financial system. Finally, it is about the libraries, too.

Sunday 5 December 2010

WikiLeaks and The Library

TRUTH WILL OUT (Julian Assange). Poster by By R_SH on Flickr

TRUTH WILL OUT (Julian Assange). Poster by By R_SH on Flickr

Dear librarians and other citizens,

greetings from Finland where I am trying to understand the world, and what I am.

I visit the library. Therefore, I am a citizen. But now my library has blocked WikiLeaks:

"The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information. Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents."

Thus blogged, on December 3, 2010, the Director of Communications of the US Library of Congress (http://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2010/12/why-the-library-of-congress-is-blocking-wikileaks/).

My library? Yes, the US Library of Congress, one of the world's greatest and finest libraries, belongs to US, the peoples. It must not become the Ministry of Truth of the US Federal State!

We are looking for The New Universalism. Well, here it is, in a nutshell: it is the openness of the library.

On closer thought, however, the Universalism of the library is not precisely new. Indeed, it is as old as the famous ancient library which was located in Egypt, Africa, the library of Alexandria, of which we read: "Other than collecting works from the past, the library was also home to a host of international scholars, well-patronized by the Ptolemaic dynasty with travel, lodging and stipends for their whole families".

The open space of the Library of Congress must be re-opened! If it remains closed, our open space of the world social forum, also is in danger. This is the famous "clear and present danger" (cf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear_and_present_danger)!

Of course, the censorship of the LOC is ridiculously easy to circumvent. Its staff and visitors just have to leave the reading rooms of the LOC, and visit the nearest internet café, in order to read the WikiLeaks. Or go to the nearest newsstand to read the the newspapers... However, it is the very principle of the library which has to be defended. Which is to serve us, the citizens, with all the documents, without delay.

On December 2, 2010, the International Federation of Journalists, and the Reporters sans frontières, condemned the desperate and dangerous blockades against WikiLeaks, and expressed its concern against the repressive measures taken against Julian Assange and Bradley Manning:

"The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the political backlash being mounted against the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and accused the United States of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website's host server to shut down the site yesterday. Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the political backlash being mounted against the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and accused the United States of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website's host server to shut down the site yesterday. " "The IFJ is also concerned about the welfare and well-being of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, and Bradley Manning, the United States soldier in Iraq who is under arrest and suspected of leaking the information. Both men are the target of a growing political campaign mounted by government officials and right-wing politicians". http://www.ifex.org/united_states/2010/12/02/wikileaks_backlash/

Now is the time for library and information professionals (LIS) everwhere to join the professional communicators in their defense of WikiLeaks and free speech. Libraries and social forums unite! Provide space forWikiLeaks on the Library's internet servers!

- Mikael

Update: It was asked how, precisely, we can support WikiLeaks. One immediate answer is Mass Mirroring its website.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Fighting Fire with Buckets

Fighting Fire with Buckets is the title of an excellent WEED-paper by Peter Wahl on the attempts of the European Union to reform the financial sector. The text can be downloaded here as a PDF..

The EU itself, as a "frontrunner of the financialisation" of the world economy, "bears a certain co-responsibility for the crisis", which "has deepened the contradictions inside the EU culminating in the Greek crisis", it is constated in the introduction. The paper examines the measures and strategies whereby the EU tries to solve or alleviate the problems:

  • The directive on European supervision of banks, insurance, securities and systemic risk; a compromise "which strengthened the national component and weakened the supranational" was reached at the ECOFIN conference, and approved by the European Parliament in September 2010; it will enter into force in January 2011;
  • EU:s proposal on regulating the Credit Rating Agencies (EU 2009a:2);
  • The projected Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers (EU 2009c), which refers to the regulation of Hedge Funds, Private Equity Funds, real estate funds, commodity funds and infrastructure funds;
  • Regulation of OTC-trading of derivatives like Credit Default Swaps (CDS) , which have been used for speculation at large scale, presented by Commissioner Barnier in September. "The basic idea of the regulation is to establish a central counterparty (CCP) for all trade with derivatives", Wahl writes. This "would be quite a strong instrument and it will be interesting to see, whether it will survive the further law making process" (p 27);
  • Discussion on the subject: Making the finance sector pay for the costs of the crisis. This could lead to the introduction of a Bank Levy, a Financial Activities Tax (FAT) or a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT), or a combination of these.

The forty-page analysis of the pros and cons of these proposals, and their deficiences, ends with these words:

Today, the world is confronted with historically exceptional challenges, such as climate change, hunger, poverty and increasing shortage of important raw materials. Under these circumstances, finance has to meet qualitatively new requirements. The world needs financial markets at the service of sustainable development, of social equity at global level for the coming decades. Tremendous efforts need to be financed. We cannot afford another crisis like the present one, and we cannot afford a financial system, which serves at first place the profit interests of a tiny minority. A new paradigm is needed with regard to finance. In the light of these realities, the EU regulation of finance is like fire fighting with buckets.

My comments:

One reflection which imposes itself on the reader is that 'the overall economic bias in the process of integration' (which Wahl rightly identifies as the main problem of the EU, p 12) cannot be fully understood with a purely economic analysis, which abstracts from the political and military reality. For instance: can we grasp the real significance of the Greek crisis without taking into account that country's huge imports of fighter jets and similar military hardware from the factories of the transatlantic military-industrial-academic complex? What restrictions did the EU impose - or is it planning to impose - on the military spending and the arms exports of its member countries?

Wahl's analysis admirably highlights the many economic "asymmetries and imbalances within the EU". Will the European integration continue? Or, are we already witnessing the disintegration of the Eurozone and the whole EU? To these questions an economic analysis can not provide any meaningful answers. The question of Europe's Union is, today more than hitherto, a question of its political and military independence from the USA. Will "Europeanism continue to be a relatively superfluous appendage to Atlanticism and will hardly go beyond the economic liberalization of the three Communities", as Altiero Spinelli wrote in Foreign Affairs, (July 1962), or will it become strong enough to create a democratic and independent Federal state?

One of the necessary conditions for a democratic European state is the unilateral denuclearization of Europe. As Spinelli wrote (in that same article): the Americans will have to accept it. So let us think and act as if a free and united Europe already existed.

Friday 15 October 2010

Ufology

Former Air Force Officers allege that UFOs have Tampered With Nuclear Missiles. This story at AOL is widely popular.

However, if we are rationalists, we use Occam's Razor which says that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Therefore, I should like to cut short the explanations which are based on stories from former officers about UFOs, which have tampered with US nuclear missiles. Especially if the US authorities are alleged to have tried, or still try, to keep the stories secret.

When asked for simple explanations, I would present either one of the two following:

1. Sensations bring money to their vendors. There are media magnates out there who earn money on the ufology.

2. Ufology is used in a conspirative way by the military-industrial-academic complex in order to scare and control us, the people. In this particular case, yes, the extraterrestrials do provide an additional pretext, albeit only a vague and unofficial one, for the continuation and further development of the nuclear weapons systems.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

In My Humble Opinion

During the last days, a lot of irritating messages about so called "chemtrails" have arrived in my mailbox. In my humble opinion, "chemtrails" is a diversion, because the evidence for the alleged secret global spraying of the atmosphere is lacking. 

There is, however,  a general tendency towards "geoengineering" the Earth's climate. This was recently described in the Slate-article "Can Space Reflectors Save Us?  Why we shouldn't buy into geoengineering fantasies".  Geoengineering is a fatal strategy, to be resisted and combated like uranium mining and the construction of new nuclear power plants.

The question is: how to deconstruct  the biggest oil burner and polluter of the environment, i.e. the military-industrial-academic complex, in order to achieve the necessary degrowth of production and consumption?

Let 11 September 1906 be our starting point, as it marks the birth of satyagraha in South Africa and India's non-violent liberation movement. And let's find out what really happened on 11 September 2001. The evidence in favor of the hypothesis that WTC in New York was brought down by explosives in the process known as controlled demolition, is already overwhelming. (See The Mysterious Collapse of WTC Seven Why NIST's Final 9/11 Report is Unscientific and False, by David Ray Griffin.)

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Responses to the ETUI Economists (continued)

This is a direct continuation of the discussion in the previous entry.

 

Matti Kohonen:

The open letter did of course address further down from the paragraph issues that I would agree with, one of them being that the Greek Crisis is indeed an European crisis. I'm in some general terms a supporter of European integration, and in many ways i'm a living testament of a generation who have greatly benefited from integration, as it seems not at all odd at the moment that being a Finn, I study in the UK, and work in France while paying taxes in Finland, and getting French social security reimbursed from the Finnish KELA. If I fall ill, I have the same rights as national citizens. I vote in the Finnish Parliamentary and Presidential elections, while for municipal and European elections I can vote in the UK as I have a second residence there due to my studies.

It is really this level of personal mobility, career mobility, and the necessary mobility of social and economic rights that I find one of the best achievements in Europe. Europe has the great advantage over many other continents in this regard, but we still lack further integration in terms of fiscal policy, government accountability, and proper anti-corruption efforts (both in private and public sectors). Europe does all too little to advice its citizens of these rights, and help them achieve them. The so-called 'European Information Bureaus' dotted across the Union, are simply propaganda bureaus about EU institutions, where as they should be helping citizens in getting along with their lives.

One of the reasons is that integration costs money, as the Euro demonstrates that in order to have a common economic area that precisely facilitates the moving around of people, companies, and speeding up cross-border flows the price to pay is that we also have to look after the countries and regions who don't benefit enough from this mobility, as mobility goes both ways, this time the rich Greeks have pulled their money in the recent years, and especially months, out of their own national economy.

The Greek Central Bank in an article in the Daily Telegraph is quoted saying that 3 billion euros left the county in January, and 5 billon euros left in February. Assets in the Greek financial system have flown in particular out through HSBC and Société Générale banks that have branches in Greece. From UK housing market to Swiss bank accounts wealthy Greeks are putting their money outside the country.

"Switzerland, the UK and Cyprus have been the largest recipients of the money, with the wealthiest Greeks looking to move their deposits to Swiss banks accounts to escape the more punitive tax measures many fear will be introduced in the wake of the country's economic crisis. " www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/7557213/Greek-banks-hit-by-wealthy-citizens-mo ving-their-money-offshore.html

Both Switzerland and Cyprus are tax havens, so no use looking for unpaid capital gains taxes on the wealth parked offshore. This is a huge greek tragedy! Transaction taxes should be put up immediately for money entering these secrecy spaces.

In February 2010 the Greek Finance Minister, declared that every cash transaction over 1500 euros would be considered as illegal unless declared. This is good but not enough to tackle informality and corruption. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE61824V20100209

The total Greek banking assets are 245 billion in September 2009, so even relatively speaking in two months, some 4% of all greek assets have been moved away. If the rate continues, Greece would face an Argentinian style capital flight scenario. If it had its own currency, it would most definitively have already gone to a downward spiral, if not already into hyperinflation.

Greek banks cannot be said to be in any way prudent, they have played along with the system of corruption. Corruption in Greece has been rampant, as when Transparncy International surveyed Greek households, 13.5% said they had paid a bribe in that year, on average 1355 euros, ranging from getting a doctor's appointment, a university degree to paying off the tax man to pay less taxes.

This is not an external shock, this is deep corrupting in banking, government and throughout society that caused the Greek Crisis. My answer echoes with what the Argentinians shouted when the Menem government brought down the country "que se vayan todos". I'm sure it's what is already being said in the streets across Greece.

- - - -

Back to the trade union economist. The theory of economic catching up which Greece, Portugal, Spain have done in past 20 years says that it's fine for labour cost to rise as long as it going along with rises in labour productivity. What the ETUI economist is implicitly asking, and this I would support if he were asking it explicitly, is cross-european wage bargaining mechanisms. Meaning that trade unions would start asking for common bargaining across Europe, leading to potentially common european strikes as well.

To tackle corruption, however, EU should have a common prosecution service. This means that a Brussels public prosecutor, when Union public funds are being mispent, or when cases of corruption are being suspected, could simply open an inquiry. The size of the bail-out would justfify the new measure, of giving EU a legal arm to the spending powers of member states. This would be similar to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the US, an essential part of handing out Federal funds. 'Checks' size of 120 billion euros should not come without 'balances'.

After the Greek Bankruptcy, we can't say that EU has no common fiscal policy, as we'll be all paying for this for the next ten years. And yes, why not have common labour policy as the ETUI economist points out in his blog. For that purpose, the trade unions should organise collective actions across Europe. Maybe a European-wide collective bargaining, including potential european-wide strikes?

So I do not still agree that the Greek tragedy is a European-wide strategy made in Germany, for this one you can't blame the Germans. It's a Greek Tragedy, made in Greece due to private and public corruption, it has European implications as the Greek currency can't sink as a result, thus bringing down the Euro as a whole. This calls for a bail-out, and as other countries bail out the Greeks they will ask for checks and balances in Greek corruption.

 

Mikael Böök:

Yes, the trade union economists of the ETUI should ask for cross-European wage bargaining mechanisms. (In my view, they should also explicitely support the creation of European public services such as e.g. a European Post Office.)

Also:

"To tackle corruption [... the ] EU should have a common prosecution service" (Matti Kohonen)

So far so good.

But these points lead back to the fundamental European problem: An EU which is no more than a common market and, (partly) a common currency, is a house of cards. A more solid EU has to be built on political and military union. Economists, trade unions and social movements have not proved capable to settle for this federal option.  Apparently, the idea of a free and united Europe is beyond their political horizon. They cannot see how the "nuclear issues" are linked to "the Greek crisis" (which is a European crisis). They believe that the review conference on nuclear proliferation and the general strike of Greek workers and employees happen in two separate worlds, which are not causally connected to each other.

And yet these seemingly separate worlds of economics, politics and society are closely interlinked. Is it possible to understand the economic development, including its criminal dimensions (e.g. the tax evasion of the banks and the millionaires,  and other types of financial crime) without taking into account that the present world economy is, generally speaking, a 'permanent war economy'? Can you get a true picture of the economic corruption and bribery, if you turn your eyes from the military-industrial-academic complex?

"Greece remains among the top five largest recipient of major conventional weapons for 2005-2009, but has fallen from third place for 2000- 2004. The transfer of 26 F-16C from the United States and 25 Mirage-2000-9 combat aircraft from France accounted for 38 per cent of the volume of Greek imports."

(http://www.sipri.org/media/pressreleases/100315armstransfers)

<i>Thirty-eight per cent!? </i> How do you relate this astounding figure from the Stocholm Peace Research Institute SIPRI to the Greek financial and budgetary crisis? How much of the famous Greek national debt, which all and everybody are now talking about, is owed to the banks, which financed the military procurements of the various Greek governemnts? Which banks, and in which countries? How many of the millions, which the Greek millionaires have by now moved into safer havens, did they earn through arms transfers? How much did ministers and employees get in the form of bribes and commissions?

Can there be tax justice as long as we have a permanent war economy and a military-industrial-acedemic complex? Is a sound financial system compatible with weapons of mass destruction? Are those persons who decide about the solutions to the Greek crisis any other than those who decide about the nuclear proliferation? Here is a timely quote from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

"The United States spent over $52 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs in fiscal year 2008, but only 10 percent of that went toward preventing a nuclear attack through slowing and reversing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. That is the main finding of Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities, a new study that uses publicly available documents and extensive interviews with government officials and experts to calculate the U.S. nuclear security "budget." (http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/?fa=view&id=22601)

President Obama may be serious about moving towards a world without nuclear weapons, but we need give him a helping hand and act together for the unilateral denuclearization of Europe.That is also absolutely necessary if we want to achieve social and economic justice.

I suppose that the ETUI economists support the demands of the Greek workers and employees who start their general strike tomorrow. At least I do.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Responses to the Open Letter on the Greek Crisis from Economists at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)

Below you may read my message (posted April 29, 2010) to the mailing list of the NIGD and the subsequent reply by Matti Kohonen, plus my reply to Matti Kohonen

Dear NIGD,

after this message, you find a copy of my personal signature to the open letter, which a group of economists, including Andrew Watt at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), has written to European policymakers, criticising their collective failure to address the Greek crisis as a European crisis.

As my "Organisational affiliation", I decided to enter "NETWORK INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL DEMOCRATIZATION".

I can only hope that you will find my behavior to be appropriate and to accept it.

The text of the Open Letter from the trade union economists is found here:

http://www.etui.org/en/Media/Files/Open-letter-to-European-policymakers-The-Greek-crisis-is-a-European-crisis-and-needs-European-solutions

Actually, I am far from enthusiastic about the content of this open letter; I only find it to be barely acceptable as a statement on the immediate Greek financial crisis. An ironical comment on this letter would be, that it represents a tradeunionistic point of view. If there would at this moment exist a European political force with the necessary power and authority to intervene positively and constructively in the present situation, it would no doubt start from the demand that Europe must unilaterally abolish its nuclear weapons.

"Stop there", I can hear some of you object, "and don't mix up things which must necessarily be kept apart!" My answer is, that the widespread mental habit of keeping economics and finance apart from politics and military strategy is based on sheer illusion, and that it shows a lack of intellectual courage, which is unadmissible on the side of those who make their living from research on human history and the social reality.

As the tradeunion economists write, the increased exports of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands has corresponded to a demand expansion in Greece, Spain, Ireland, and other members of the eurozone. "The problem is symmetrical and the solution must be as well."

However, "the solution" requires more than a common market and a common currency. Europe must become a real political union, a democratic federal state. And this, in turn, requires a basic political consensus concerning, in particular, the foreign policy and the military strategy. At the center of this issue are -- since 1945 -- the global weapons systems "of mass destruction".

What is to be done? One thing is clear: we should only undertake such tasks which are in our power to carry out. The denuclearisation of Europe certainly is one such task, because the European nuclear armaments, and the power plants based on the nuclear fuel cycle, are *solely our responsibility*, something which, if you excuse the dramatic example, could never be said about the climate on this earth, or the development of its general temperature.

Therefore, let us raise the demands put forward in the Appeal of Saintes: "

  • # 1. From the Atlantic to the Urals, no nuclear weapon must be stationed or installed in Europe any longer.
  • # 2. Nuclear weapons must not threaten Europe or any other part of the world.
  • # 3. Europe must initiate, pursue in good faith, and bring to a successful conclusion the process of abolishing nuclear weapons everywhere, as required by Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • # 4. The Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament must achieve this result by whatever means are required.
  • # 5. The Vienna-based IAEA must cease its promotion of nuclear energy and devote itself exclusively to monitoring civilian and military nuclear installations, preventing the diverting of fissile materials towards the building of new weapons, and aiding in the dismantling of existing weapons and nuclear plants.
  • # 6. The Vienna-based Organisation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty must become operational.
  • # 7. All possible light must be shed on the real causes and consequences of nuclear catastrophes such as Cheliabynsk and Chernobyl.
  • # 8. The 1959 agreement between the IAEA and the WHO, which forces the WHO to spread disinformation and lies about nuclear matters, must be abrogated.
  • # 9. The EURATOM Treaty must be abrogated and no new nuclear plant must be built.
  • # 10. Europe must become a totally nuclear-free zone, so as to contribute to total denuclearisation of the planet without waiting for similar action by other states or continents.
  • We call on Europe's citizens, NGOs, states and people to unite and take action to achieve these objectives in the shortest possible time.
  • Saintes, France, 11 May 2008 "
  • (http://acdn.france.free.fr/php_petitions/index.php?petition=12)

Who are the European nuclear armaments meant to "deter", if not the peoples of the global South? During a pause in the preparatory seminar in Dakar last November, I shortly discussed the issue of European Nuclear Disarmament (END) with Samir Amin. He agreed vividly to my opinion, that END is very much in the interest of the peoples of the global South, and should be placed high on the political agenda. So let's not be fooled by the efforts of the Western political establishment to focus everybody's attention on the Middle East. As far as "the nuclear issues" are concerned, Europe should still be our focus.

All the best,

- Mikael

Open letter to European policymakers: The Greek crisis is a European
crisis and needs European solutions

We urge you to read this open letter (see below).

If you broadly agree with its content, please manifest your support by
sending the following details to: openletter@etui.org
Please copy and paste this table in your email

First Name* MIKAEL
Family name* BÖÖK (BOEOEK)
E-mail* BOOK @ KAAPELI dot FI
Organisational affiliation
NETWORK INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL DEMOCRATIZATION (NIGD)
Address
EDOEVAEGEN 20, 07750 ISNAES
Country
FINLAND
* Response necessary for us to include you.

 

To the above letter, Matti Kohonen replied as follows:

 

Dear Mikael, and NIGDers,

The Greek crisis is a major step in the global financial crisis as it enters its second year. I fear this the beginning of a second phase of the crisis where major states may start to have serious fiscal difficulties, as the stimulus packages are running out and fiscal deficits show some of the structural weaknesses of the global financial system which caused the Greek crisis, with rampant Greek corruption as the local link.

However I can't sign this petition, it has 100% wrong analysis on the crisis, is based on Neo-classical economics, and I don't agree with the 4 preambules of the petition.

" Greece's fiscal catastrophe has four causes. First, there is the past fiscal weakness of the Greek state, in particular the inability to generate tax revenues, as a share of GDP, in line with its European neighbours, but also inexcusable statistical manipulation. Second, Greece's relative competitiveness has steadily worsened, especially within the euro area, as reflected in a sustained current account deficit as a result of above-average increases in unit labour costs and prices and a stronger economic growth dynamic. Third the economic crisis - which, given the country's conservative banking sector was a classic external shock - has ravaged public finances, just as in other countries. And last but not least, fourth, the interest cost burden has dramatically increased, as genuine concerns about fiscal sustainability combined with speculation and misinformation to dramatically raise the rate of interest on new Greek government bonds."

  1. fiscal weakness of the Greek state is true, it has a tax per GDP of 32%, and only 8% for direct taxation while e.g. Germany manages to collect 12% in direct taxation (this explains the main part of the gap). This points to rampant corporate and self-employed tax evasion, meaning that the crisis in greece is of their own making in great part.
  2. since when are NGOs and trade unions asking for a reduction in unit labour costs, current account deficit may not be good, depending how much foreigners have your bonds and at what interest rate. Calling for lower labour cost for me is out of line.
  3. this is 100% wrong, the Greek banking system is rotten to core, as most banking systems in Europe that facilitate criminal capital flight to tax havens, and support offshore banking centres like Cyprus that is also a flag of convenience with little or no regulation on shipping labour, tax, safety, etc. The Greek banks have happily opened offshore accounts for Greek millionaires and billionaires assisting them to pay no tax, there you have the Greek 'tax gap'. Sure they don't have their own banking crisis based on lending, maybe this is the 'conservative' side of it, but for me I'd call that 'prudent' which is a virtue in banking, but 'conservatism' means you assist the wealthy to do what they want.
  4. speculation may have a role, but the rating agencies have done right to downgrade bonds of a government that runs a long-standing fiscal deficit without any idea of how it's going to be paid, it's a recipe for disaster. The problem is that they do it so abruptly, and not gradually as the secretive public finances in Greece, helped with Goldman Sachs have assisted in hiding the debt mountain, just like Lehman did in the banking world. This is totally corrupt from the Greek government's side, and they should be the ones responsible.

Just like the financial crisis in Finland in the early 1990s, Asian financial crisis in late 1990s, and now esp. the East European countries where salaries have been cut to bring fiscal balances... it's the ordinary people who are suffering from this, with unemployment, lower wages, so we should call for an end to the casino economy that plays on the fortunes of ordinary citizens.

This petition doesn't address the issues, and I have to say that trade unions should stop hiring orthodox economists so that we'd get better advocacy material to work on.

Mikael's petition seems much better on stopping the nukes!

Best,

Matti

 

My reply to Matti's answer follows here:

 

Hello Matti and all,

the open letter from the trade union economists addresses one issue, which you seem to miss completely, namely, that "The Greek crisis is a European crisis and needs European solutions". Would you agree that "a coordinated [European] economic policy" is needed? Or do you (and I do not mean only you, Matti) think that it would be better if the European Union disintegrated and disappeared altogether?

It also seems to me that you (Matti) misinterpret the economic analysis of the trade union economists, not taking into account their main argument, which concerns the economic imbalances within the EMU. They write:

"Due to strong differences in wage setting, Greek nominal unit labour costs increased by more than 30% since the start of EMU - and the increases in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland were even higher - whereas in Germany they rose by just 8%."

The ETUI economists here join the analysis of former German deputy finance minister, UNCTAD economist Heiner Flassbeck, who is of the opinion that Germany has for long been outcompeting the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) by means of wage dumping. (Read the short article "The Greek Tragedy and the European Crisis, Made in Germany", by Heiner Flassbeck in the webzine of Monthly Review 13 March 2010, http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/flassbeck130310.html ).

As far as I can understand, the ETUI economists are not, as you seem to suppose, calling for a reduction in the wages of Greek workers and employees. They write:

"Greece must not be forced into massive demand deflation: having avoided the mistakes of the Great Depression at European level it makes no sense to repeat them at national level. On the contrary it is in Europe's vital interests to resolve the Greek crisis on the basis of rising incomes across the continent and to put in place the needed machinery to cope with competitive and fiscal imbalances in the future."

However, my own critique of the ETUI is based on my conviction that many of the economic and financial problems of the EU and its members are political and military in nature, starting from "the nuclear issues" (which also have strong ecological dimensions). Thus it is simply not possible for the EU to formulate a "coordinated economic policy" until it has settled for an independent foreign policy and security policy. Independent from the USA, that is. Denuclearization is not the panacea, it would not bring the solution to all problems, but it is a keyword, and the condition without which no favourable European economic, political and cultural solutions will be found.

In the discussion on the present Greek financial crisis, the excessive military spending of the Greek governments is rarely analyzed more closely. The ETUI economists do not even mention that 4-6 percent (?) of the Greek budget has for years been reserved for the military, e.g. for buying fighter jets and high-tech systems from coporations like Lockheed and Raytheon for thousands of millions of dollars. All too often, trade union economists avoid taking on the military-industrial complex, because the complex "creates jobs". For similar reasons, they keep silent about the necessary denuclearisation.

The weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the missile defence and space war systems which have been constructed around the WMD, form the heart of the military-industrial-academic complex which plays such a big role in our social, economic and cultural life. That monster has to be killed.

Greetings from Finland,

- Mikael

PS "Greece remains among the top five largest recipient of major conventional weapons for 2005-2009, but has fallen from third place for 2000- 2004. The transfer of 26 F-16C from the United States and 25 Mirage-2000-9 combat aircraft from France accounted for 38 per cent of the volume of Greek imports." (SIPRI ).  Aucun rapport avec la crise financière et budgétaire de la Grèce ?

Friday 2 April 2010

RE: An Open letter to EU Foreign Minister on depleted uranium and HAARP

A year ago, the "Capodistrias-Spinelli-Europe Initative" was launched with a declaration signed by, among others, Mr Wayne Hall from Aegina (Greece) and myself. Referring to the ideas and actions of two noble European unity builders from the past, namely Ioannis Capodistrias (1776-1831) and Altiero Spinelli (1907-1986), we expressed our belief "that the unification of Europe is today necessary and more feasible than in any other preceding period of history", and that this "is a matter which moreover concerns not only all of our continent, its peoples and its citizens, but humanity as a whole".

We also stated, in particular, that: "A united Europe cannot but be a Europe of peace and ecology, independent of the United States, nuclear-free, in solidarity with poorer countries, establishing relations of mutual friendship and collaboration with all countries, and particularly those in its immediate vicinity."

Today, however, I have decided to dissociate myself publicly from the Capodistrias-Spinelli initiative. This is because of the content of an Open Letter, which Wayne Hall has posted yesterday to Catherine Ashton, the newly appointed Foreign Minister of the EU, and signed in the name of the "Capodistrias-Spinelli-Europe initiative" together with Peter Vereecke of "The Belfort Group" and Aliki Stefanou, representing the "Greek Movement against Chemical Aerial Spraying". A draft of the said Open Letter to Ashton is found here; you have to scroll down a bit on the page to see it.

Explanation: I have seen no evidence to prove that a planetary Chemical Aerial Spraying is being secretly carried out on behalf of unknown authorities; nor do I wish to contribute to the spreading of disinformation about an alleged use of electromagnetic "earthquake weapons" by the US military in order to trigger the recent natural disaster in Haiti. .

Of course, I shall remain committed to

  • educating the people on Ioannis Capodistrias and Altiero Spinelli, and
  • building a free, united, democratic and denuclearized European state approximately on the political lines drawn by these two fellows.
Lovisa, Finland 2 April, 2010.

Mikael Böök

Sunday 21 February 2010

9/11 information ethics

Peter Barber is the deputy comment editor of Financial Times (London). On June, 7, 2008, Mr Barber published the article "The Truth is Out There", which is a report on on the 9/11 Truth Movement. Senior medical librarian Elizabeth Woodworth's "evidence-based response", together with Mr Barber's article in annex, appeared in Global Research (Toronto) on June 11, 2008. I found this example of a 'thesis' and an 'antithesis' on a blog called "Campaign for Cooperation in Space" and tried to enter some comments of my own there. However, the comments section of the blog (more precisely, to the entry http://peaceinspace.blogs.com/911/2008/06/globalresearchc.html) said: "We're sorry, we cannot accept this data". Below, please find the comments I wanted to add:

A comment by a foreigner who does not speak English at home

I think it is a bit unfair to call Barber's article an 'ad hominem approach to a critically serious matter'. Journalism, after all, is not science; and the journalist must be allowed to spice his stories with details of human interest, lest the reader be bored to falling asleep. So when, for instance, Mr Barber mentions Dr Griffin's dogs, it is not yet to be classified as an attack on the venerated philosopher's personal integrity.

Mr Barber, on the other hand, although his report on the 9 / 11 TM is unusually sharp and meticulous, fails to mention the identity of the person, or group, which he calls 'the author of one of the most rigorous of the websites that aim to debunk the conspiracy theories, Debunking911.com', with whom he, as he reveals in his article, has been in contact by email. A journalist of course has, and should have, the right not to reval his sources, but is it allright to expose the intellectuals of the 9 / 11 TM in public while letting their 'debunkers' remain in anonymity? The 'author of Debunking911.com' should indeed tell who he is on his website, but, as far as I can see (I hope to be corrected, if I am wrong), he does not do that.

As already noted above, Mr Barber's article is not (at least not in my view) attacking any individual person in an unjust way, but he comes close to making the members of the public who lend an ear to 9 / 11 truthers collectively responsible for unforgivable naivety, or stupidity: 'they believe that the key to the mystery is hidden somewhere within the pictures', he states, although it becomes clear from his own article that the intellectual aim of the 9 / 11 TM is, precisely, to penetrate beyond the false appearances, that is, 'the pictures'.

'Gage, who had worked himself into a fever, exhorted the audience to stand up and be counted', Barber reports from an event with the architect Richard Gage as main speaker. Well, I was not there in San Francisco to listen to Gage, but still I wonder if this assembly of the truthers' community really was like a prayer night meeting of some evangelical free church.

These comments notwithstanding, I find that the writings by Elizabeth Woodworth* and Peter Barber on the 9/11 Truth Movement both provide much food for thought, to say the least. Therefore, I for one have put both on my list of recommended readings on the difficult subject of information ethics.

Mikael Böök

Lovisa, Finland

www.kaapeli.fi/book; blog.spinellisfootsteps.info

  • See also:

Elizabeth Woodworth: The Media Response to the Growing Influence of the 9 /11 Truth Movement Reflections on a Recent Evaluation of Dr. David Ray Griffin http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16505

Elizabeth Woodworth: The Media Response to the Growing Influence of the 9/11 Truth Movement. Part II: A Survey of Attitude Change in 2009-2010 http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17624

Saturday 30 January 2010

Enough of Blair, Bush and Berlusconi! Long live the 911 Truth Movement!

W,

you wrote:

It might be my imagination but I have been sensing a despondency or at least a lack of optimism in your e-mails.

We must try to be beyond optimism and pessimism, like in the famous Romain Rolland quote (a favourite of Gramsci's):'pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will'. Ernst Bloch's Prinzip Hoffnung points in the same direction.

And Gandhi said something like this: what we do probably completely lacks significance, but it is very important that we do it anyway.

So let's hope that the Spinelli component is gaining strength from day to day. Let me give you some examples: only recently, there appreared a first scholarly biography of the man (the one by Graglia). And, by the way, yourself and myself also illustrate the growing importance of Spinelli : only 5 years ago, I had hardly heard about the guy; by now I have already managed to spread the word abt his Ventotene manifesto and 1984 draft constitution to several friends and foes, via email, www and printed articles. And then, look at all those, young and old, intellectuals and activists, who are soooo bitterly anti-EU. The time is approaching when they are bound to (re)discover Spinelli...

Finally, let's not forget that Spinelli is dead and that we must try to supersede him. He certainly had an inkling about 'the atomic age', yes, when we compare him with the contemporary zombies of Paris, Berlin, London and Brussels:

Contemple-les, mon âme; ils sont vraiment affreux! - Baudelaire

But Spinelli did not yet know of the nanotech, biotech and robotics based weapons systems of the 2010s; nor did he, on the other hand, have any first hand experience of the new superpower of the cyberlibrary, which is now offered to us.

And then, W, you also wrote:

I have been wondering what solutions might be possible.

You commented, perhaps not without irony, that people (read: myself) would not be ready to change their attitude. On the contrary, people (including myslf) will not be die-hard if you manage to document your view in a convincing manner. However, in the case of the 'chemtrails', what you have said so far leads me to ask: would you be ready to part from the truth, if that would help to mobilize the people for our goals?

No, lying must be condemned in politics, even when no other "solution" seems available. Enough of Blair, Bush and Berlusconi! Long live the 911 Truth Movement!

All the best.

- Mika

PS Do you need more grounds for hope? Here comes:

""What the election and the global embrace of Obama's brand proved decisively is that there is a tremendous appetite for progressive change - that many, many people do not want markets opened at gunpoint, are repelled by torture, believe passionately in civil liberties, want corporations out of politics, see global warming as the fight of our time, and very much want to be part of a political project larger than themselves.

Those kinds of transformative goals are only ever achieved when independent social movements build the numbers and the organizational power to make muscular demands of their elites. Obama won office by capitalizing on our profound nostalgia for those kinds of social movements. But it was only an echo, a memory. The task ahead is to build movements that are - to borrow an old Coke slogan - the real thing. As Studs Terkel, the great oral historian, used to say: "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."

Quoted from Naomi Klein's new preface to the 10th anniversary edition of her book No Logo which has been published a week ago.

Saturday 2 January 2010

A Comment on the Real Top Ten Stories of the Past Decade

Yesterday, Robert Freeman listed "The Real Top Stories of the Past Decade". The stories are:

# The Supreme Court hijacking the 2000 presidential election. # Bush knew of 9/11 long before it actually happened. # Iraq was all premised on lies, yet we're still there. # The Global War on Terror. # The fact that 2/3 of all economic growth went to top 1%. # The Neo-Feudalization of the American economy. # The surrender of civil liberties. # The failure of "the free market" to sustain prosperity. # The collapse of the media. # The meaninglessness of elections.

Freeman ends his article with the question: "Did I tell you about the big move to locally-grown produce?" Below, I copy my response.

Hello Robert,

and Happy New Year. No, you did not tell about the big move to locally-grown produce. Do you mean people have begun to turn themselves into small farmers? Last year, I heard something similar from a young traveller to Philadelphia (USA). Hopefully, there is a real trend towards local food production and self-subsistence. It would be interesting to hear more about it.

Agreed, your top stories are more real than those which have been poured out by the media. And not only by the media. The intellectuals alike have preferred to close their eyes to the truth that the Bush government knew about 9/11 in advance and did nothing to stop it. The people has been manipulated by the media, and betrayed by the intellectuals.

According to you, Obama has betrayed everything he ran on. Not everything, I would say. Did he not fight for the domestic health care reform? Did he not change the tone of the foreign policy?

If Obama were a new Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, he would be less US-centric than his predecessors. But Obama is not ahimsa. Nor is he free.

When I read your stories, Robert, I conclude that your perspective, too, is US-centric. "Historians will look back on the Naughts as the time when Americans Lost Their Country", you write. Why do you isolate your decade in your country from our decade in our countries? Anyway, I wish you a good start of the new lustrum. Let's help each other (and Obama) to avoid the catastrophe.

- Mikael

Tuesday 15 December 2009

The damage done to his psyche

“It is a shadow underneath everything” (Robert Jay Lifton, in ''The Planet'')

"I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people." (Barack Obama, in his Nobel Speech)

"Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms." (Obama, in the Nobel Speech)

"He reserves the right to act unilaterally, to intervene militarily, to make exceptions, to lead the world. Multilateralism when we can, Bill Clinton declared, unilateralism when we must: This, too, is the Obama doctrine. There is some wiggle room as we saw in his speeches in Cairo and Prague. But, as the brilliant style and problematic content of his Nobel speech demonstrated, he remains an exceptional politician working in an exceptionalist tradition. " (John Feffer on Obama, in World Beat)

A thin layer of snow covers the newly formed ice on the little bay of the Gulf of Finland. As the weather grows colder and the days become shorter (although the snow already gives more light), I meditate on the saying: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul. τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖ ἄνθρωπον κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον καὶ ζημιωθῆναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ.

Underneath everything President Obama does and says is a shadow. The shadow is cast by the damage done to his psyche. Some people believe that the Norwegian newspaper just spread another urban legend when it published an article on the nuclear briefcase, which the President's aide brought to Oslo. But no, the world is really all that is the case. At the climate conference in Copenhagen, somebody should tell the President that he carries a global warmer in his luggage.

Multilateralism is fine, like in multilateral nuclear disarmament. Unilateral nuclear disarmament would also be very OK, to start with.

Monday 14 December 2009

SWIFT Action Needed

Yesterday, I invited a number of people to join the Facebook-group "Keep our banking data private - no automatic SWIFT data transfer to the US!". I added that it would be a different story if all those SWIFT data were available from the public library. One of my Facebook-friends replied:

Mikael I have so little money in the bank that this is not a group I would spontaneously join unless someone could provide me with pretty persuasive reasons why I should.

As an introduction to the issue, I suggested to read the article in Der Spiegel, 27 November :

"As part of the war on terror, American intelligence services have been monitoring European bank transactions since 2001. When the EU found out about it in 2006, they were outraged. But now it looks like the bloc will agree to a controversial deal that will allow the covert data transfer to continue".

At the beginning of this millennium, Ernest Backes and Denis Robert published an inquiry into the activities of Clearstream in Luxemburg. The book also contains interesting facts and thoughts about SWIFT, and about banking in general (se Robert & Backes: Révélation$ (Les Arènes, Paris 2001) this book was followed by La Boîte noire (2002), and other books by Denis Robert). Perhaps because I have worked with computer-mediated communication since the middle of the 1980s, Révélation$ made a stronger impression on me than on many others. The story which was told by Backes and Robert bears witness on the extent to which the world's financial system has become a software project. And this, in turn, gave the sociologist and librarian in me some food for thought.

As the banks increasingly become digital information management centers, how shall we distinguish between what is called "a database", or a "data bank" (a collection of databases) and what we intend with an "archive" or a "library" ? The digitalization of money and financial securities (documents concerning property and ownership) makes it necessary to re-think not only our concepts of 'bank' and 'library', but also the relation between these two old institutions. In the so called information society, who are to be the guardians of information: The private bankers or the public librarians? Or the secret intelligence agents of the USA?

In ATTAC, we call for regulation of the financial system, and for greater transparency. We need to remember, however, that the lack of transparency is not absolute. What the citizens, their political representatives, and the reporters of the financial press do not know, is indeed knowable and known by certain book-keepers and the CIA. The management of the financial data with fast computers and sophisticated software actually raises the financial transparency to an unprecedented level - for those who have access to the "collected works" of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

The questions concerning the availability of, and the access to, the huge financial libraries of SWIFT and Clearstream is undoubtedly of immense social and political importance. These questions are closely related to our proposals on financial transactions taxation to aid the Citizen. In order to collect the tax properly, many loopholes must be filled, and the tax havens abolished. This can only be achieved if SWIFT, Clearstream and other central financial archives are controlled by the peoples. The private, digital, financial libraries should be turned into public ones. The transition from transparency for the few to transparency for everybody will no doubt require a thorough public debate and much democratic decision-making.

The de facto spying on the SWIFT books by the CIA has been known for some time, more precisely since the Bush administration loudly bragged about it in June 2006. What is at stake in the "SWIFT agreement" between the EU and the US, is not primarily if the CIA has or does not have access, but whether that agency shall henceforward be allowed that access by European law-makers.

The distinction between what is actually done, and what is done legally and thus with explicit consent from the representatives of the people, is by no means unimportant. Do we continue our fight to change our government and its malpractice? Or do we give up and give away the rights we are granted by our basic laws? On 1 December this year, the European constitution changed a little in this respect when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. The European Parliament should now greater power to stop the "SWIFT agreement" than previously, if there is a will to do it.

I enclose a couple of passages from the well-informed "Brussels blogger" 26 November 2009:

"SWIFT is now moving all its data centers outside the EU and the US, to Switzerland. In order to continue allowing the US authorities accessing all banking data a high level agreement between the EU and the USA is currently being negotiated. It is likely to be agreed on in the EU council of minister meeting next Monday, 30 November 2009.

The move of SWIFT the data server to Switzerland would be an excellent opportunity to stop the nearly unlimited access of US authorities on EU bank transactions. But EU justice and interior minister are apparently keen agree a deal as soon as possible, on 30 November. Why 30 November? Because one day later, on 1 December 2009, the EU's Lisbon Treaty will be in force and would allow the European Parliament to play a major role in the negotiations of the deal with the USA. A deal one day before will be a slap in the face of democracy in the EU.

SWIFT handles 15 mio bank transactions daily for more than 9000 banks worldwide. Nearly every transnational bank transaction within the EU is recorded in the SWIFT data centers, including amount, sender, recipient, and transaction comments. The agreement will even allow to transmit "other personal data". "

See also the press release from the Council of the EU, Nov 2009, which says:

By the end of 2009, SWIFT will implement its new "systems architecture". For this purpose SWIFT will retain its existing EU-based and U.S. servers and will bring into operation a new operating centre in Switzerland. The net effect of this new arrangement is that a significant volume of the data which are currently received by the U.S. Treasury Department under the TFTP will no longer be stored in the United States. In order to ensure that the TFTP continues to produce the above- mentioned EU - and wider global – security benefits, it is necessary to put in place an international agreement that allows for data needed for the TFTP to continue to be made available to the U.S. Treasury Department. This is why in July of this year the 27 Member States of the European Union unanimously gave the EU Presidency a mandate to negotiate an agreement with the United States to ensure the transfer of the data and thereby the continuation of the TFTP. In July, it was not known when or indeed whether the Lisbon Treaty would come into force. Accordingly, the mandate is based on the legal mechanism of the EU Treaty which will cease to exist on 1 December when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force. To ensure that the European Parliament is able to exercise its new powers under the new Treaty in this regard, the envisaged Agreement is for a maximum duration of 9 months. The Commission will come forward with a new proposed mandate in early 2010 for a subsequent agreement based on the Lisbon Treaty. In the meantime, an interim agreement is needed to ensure that there is no lapse in TFTP coverage that would deprive the EU of important information related to terrorist attacks or investigations.

TFTP = the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme of the the United States Department of the Treasury

Friday 11 December 2009

On the declaration of Klimaforum09

The final version of the declaration (which is now up at the site of Klimaforum09) is better than the second draft in several regards. To begin with, the document is slimmer and more readable than the previous one. After what I wrote above (here) I am also especially happy to note that a whole paragraph has been included on the necessity to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, yes, to take on the military-industrial complex. The latter is now explicitly mentioned in the text! Yet the declaration still does not point out that the WMD must be abolished because of the fatal effects their use could have on the climate; still less does it direct our movement towards local and regional campaigns for unilateral nuclear disarmament, which, by the way, would not be "pacifism", or any other "-ism", but would show elementary respect for life and mother earth. This hole in the text is is a measure of its overall lack of seriousness. It means that the movement for "climate justice" still has to become aware of the fact that WMD are at least as serious a threat aginst the climate as the AGW. (just give a thought about the global "nuclear winter", which probably would be the inevitable consequence even of a regional "nuclear exchange" between any of the states which maintain NW, or have access to the "buttons" which could launch them.)

However, as one who follows the Klimaforum09 only from my home I wish to end this comment with congratulations to you who are in Copenhagen for having produced this common written statement. As a promoter of the initiative "Capodistrias-Spinelli-Europe", I also felt that I want to sign this declaration, and so I have done.

Recommended: Read the Declaration of Klimaforum09 now at http://www.klimaforum09.org/Declaration. You may want to sign it there, too.

Thursday 10 December 2009

A serious comment on the draft declaration

These are my comments on the second draft of the declaration of the ongoing Klimaforum09 in Copenhagen. (A preliminary version of the comment is also found here..)

I would like to sign the declaration as an individual, and I will probably do so, although I think this declaration is far from saying what needs to be said right now.

Yes, a system change is needed, and each of the dozen or so proposed "Concrete steps towards a sustainable transition" is desirable. However, the word 'military' occurs only once in the draft text. Are its authors at all considering what the realities behind that word mean to the climate and the global warming in addition to what it does to the peoples? What 'system change', or 'transition', can we hope for if we do not take on the world's military-industrial complex?

It would certainly be more politically effective to ask the negotiators at the COP15 to agree on a convention on nuclear disarmament than to require them to look for "a bright future beyond Capitalism" (I refer here to the text on poster for the demonstration 12 December). Hell, the nuclear weapons are precisely what has kept and continues to keep the global economic and political Capitalist system together ever since 1945. A break with Capitalism requires first of all a break with the WMD-powered great power syndrome. Each one of them - USA, Russia, China, France, UK and India (and maybe even Israel or Pakistan) - could actually initiate the necessary 'transition' and 'system change' just by unilaterally, without waiting for the others, abolishing their own WMD. The WMD are entirely human generated, their existence and development are totally dependent on our will. So what is more likely: that we get rid of the WMD, or that we stop the global warming? And then: how can we be so naive as to believe that we can stop the global warming without getting rid of the WMD, which are the wrongest of all our wrong habits?

The CO2 emissions from all fossil fuel burning are, of course, also very wrong. Between 2003 and 2007 the war in Iraq alone was responsible for "at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent"; this "equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US" (quoted from the report "A Climate of War. The war in Iraq and global warming".) But the threat of nuclear war and of the climate change which be caused by the "nuclear winter" after the nuclear war has not gone away although the consciousness about the dangers of man-made global warming may have increased. The new genetics, robotics and nanotech based weapons systems which are underway may be still worse than the existing nuclear weapons and space war systems. However, the latter are already bad enough, aren't they?

How can those of us who live in Europe even imagine that the EU will reduce its CO2 emissions with one or another percentage, but at the same time let some of its members go on modernizing their submarine-launched missiles and 'Oceanic' warheads, while others make SOFA agreements with the USA about new military bases and missile defense systems?

What our European politicians say (1) is that our values are so high and our way of life is so superior that they have the right to wipe out as many millions of human beings as they like if needs be. Now that the Cold War between the USA and the USSR has ended, the European WMD are in fact exclusively directed towards the peoples of the global South. They are the purest expression of the European racism and imperialism. As long as those multi-billion (euro) European WMD, dual-purpose space industries (the EADS company, for instance) and missile defense systems continue to be maintained and modernized, we shall hardly be believed, or be able to believe in ourselves, when we speak of "climate justice"!

"All these social, political, economic and ecological issues are closely interrelated. A coherent strategy must therefore address them all, which indeed is the central idea behind the concept of sustainable transition", the draft declaration says. And rightly so.

Therefore, it is also necessary to speak about Europe, and the need to create a real European Union, which is based on the denuclearization of Europe. The European citizens must make a real contribution to the climate (both in the environmental and in the political sense of the word) namely, through unilateral nuclear disarmament. That might eventually kick off the sustainable transition and paradigm shift we are all dreaming of. That would indeed be a real revolution of the particular system of thought, which is criticized in the draft declaration. So, let us reform our "economic man"; however, that will most probably take quite some time. Therefore, as a preliminary step, let's at least strip him of his atomic bombs, which should be possible to achieve within a couple of years.

I am born in a European country, and I live in the part of the world which is called Europe. Therefore, I have to take a particular responsibility for the European nuclear disarmament; this is comparable to the duty in the preceding period of history to combat dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. To some individuals it has been obvious ever since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 1945 that nuclear disarmament must be a primary task. For others, including the present writer, it took a longer time to understand. I wonder what Lady Ashton, the new foreign minister of the EU, thinks of the matter in these days. "CND was an organisation that democratically marched for what it believed in", she is reported to have said, recently, when she was accused by some British reactionaries for having functioned as the treasurer of the said movement at the beginning av the 1980s. Does Lady Ashton still believe in the necessity to campaign for nuclear disarmament? Or has she betrayed herself and us all?

I hope that Don't Nuke the Climate! will become the slogan which unites all of us who long for another political and economic system.

Greetings from Finland,

- Mikael

Reference:

(1) Cf, for instance, “THE UNITED KINGDOM’S NUCLEAR DETERRENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY”. SPEECH BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE. KING’S COLLEGE LONDON. 25 January 2007. (http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Politics/documents/2007/01/25/Nucleardeterrentspeech.doc)

Mikael Böök * book -at- kaapeli.fi * gsm +358(0)-44 5511 324 * http://www.kaapeli.fi/book/ * http://blogi.kaapeli.fi/book/ * http://blog.spinellisfootsteps.info/

Monday 23 November 2009

No Federation without Denuclearization


Part of a Conference organized 21 November 2009 by Radicali italiani in the library of the Italian Senate on "The Legacy of the Manifesto of Ventotene. Federalisms, confederalisms, autonomy, or independence: can the Nation State provide a viable model to ascertain individual rights? The case of China and Indochina, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
This video shows the speech at a roundtable by the keeper of this blog. On the first frames: Marco Pannella, former European Pariamentarian.
Watch the introductions by Sen. Emma Bonino and Prof. Giuliano Amato, and the roundtables at
www.radioradicale.it/scheda/291509 - Italian version
www.radioradicale.it/scheda/291640/leredita-del-manifesto-di-ventotene-e-seconda-giornata-del-consiglio-generale-del-partito-radicale-nonviol - English version

Friday 13 November 2009

What Europe should mean. Two letters to an Australian.

Letter to W. 12 November

Dear W.,

I am not fond of 'Pan-European', because Europe has gone everywhere on this planet, and 'pan' also means everywhere. Therefore, to say 'Pan-European' is like saying everywhere-everywhere.

On the other hand, it is like M.K.Gandhi famously said: Europe would be a good idea, but it has not yet been put into practice. The respect for the individual human being, for instance - it may be typical today to speak about it, but still it is not typical.

Now, I am not reproaching you personally, but the Europeans did not respect the original inhabitants of your Continent.. 'Killing the brutes' has been the typically European practice. It has to come to an end.

You speak European languages, and the habits of your mind have always been European. So it is with myself, a Finn; because my country, too, has been europeanized. Even our bodies are European. But they would not need to be, because 'European' is not a bodily feature. 'European' is a spiritual thing. The European spirit has by now conquered the whole world through the British, French, Dutch, Belgian etcetera colonial Empires and the more recent American business Empire, with its 1000 military bases outside the USA. The European spirit even rules in China, through Marxism-Leninism, which is the synthesis of Classical German Pilosophy, English Political Economy, and French Enlightened Utopianism, plus some Asian Despotism. What could be more European than that combination? The teachings of Jesus Christ, perhaps (if they would be followed), but was not Jesus a Jew, or an Arab, rather than a European?

My conclusion is that, because 'Europe' is both everywhere and nowhere, it means everything and nothing. Europe is a contradiction, which it is up to us to solve.

Therefore, let Europe mean denuclearization. Not as an ideal, nor as a geographical area, but as the unilateral realization of the good idea, of which Gandhi sarcastically reminded us.

- Mikael

Letter to W. 13 November

Dear W.,

my previous letter was one-sided. Of course, we also must think of Europe as a geographical area, which you can leave and to which you can return, for instance, from Australia. But I wanted to underline the omnipresence of Europe in the philosophical sense. Philosophically speaking, Europe is everywhere, and there is no return to the time when it was limited to a certain geographical area.

Secondly, that "pan-Europe" has reached another point of no return, where it has to change or perish. From being 'nuclearized' it must become 'denuclearized'. To achieve that metamorphosis is the challenge of our time. Neither the global warming, nor mass starvation nor the emerging GNR-technologies (genetcis, nanotech, robotics) and the potential new GNR-based WMD, will make that challenge go away. On the contrary: the transformation from 'nuclearized' to 'denuclearized' is necessary precisely to stop the global warming, to organize the production and distribution of food for all, and to steer the technological development towards peaceful and beneficial purposes. And it has to start somewhere.

As you quoted: "How can you sleep when the beds are burning?"

Yours,

 - Mikael

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