Noviembre de 2011

James Madison, father of the Constitution, warned, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.” Abraham Lincoln had similar thoughts, saying, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

During war, there has always been a struggle to preserve constitutional liberties. During the Civil War, the right of habeas corpus was suspended. Newspapers were closed. Fortunately, those actions were reversed after the war.

The discussion now to suspend certain rights to due process is especially worrisome, given that we are engaged in a war that appears to have no end.…  Seguir leyendo »

William Hague had little choice. The hand of the Iranian regime was pretty visible in the ransacking of both the British embassy compound and the northern Tehran UK staff residences. Safety required the pulling out of British diplomats, and diplomatic pride required that he demand the expulsion of their Iranian counterparts in London.

But while right may seem to have been done, these tit-for-tat expulsions rarely end well for either side. Broader objectives get put aside as time-consuming negotiations to restore full diplomatic ties displace more serious business. Without embassies the basic function of diplomacy – keeping some kind of dialogue going even when views are diametrically opposed – is essentially suspended.…  Seguir leyendo »

Germany ought to be able to debate its eurozone partners on the shape of needed economic reform without conjuring up historical fears of hegemony. After all, the European Union experiment has produced for its members the most sustained period of peace and prosperity they have ever enjoyed. But as time passes and the euro crisis escalates, the conversation is increasingly fraught.

On the one side, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble and the Bundesbank resolutely oppose a greater rescue role for the European Central Bank, condemning that as a temporary fix that would spur inflation and undermine the institution’s credibility while leaving unchecked spending by member governments.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Egyptian elections have begun despite the many attempts to abort, obstruct or derail them. Millions of voters are electing a parliament to express their will and authority. We are about to accomplish the most important aims of the revolution: the building of a real democratic system, after getting rid of – or almost – the repressive dictatorship.

The military council has so far honoured its pledge to hold elections and protect them. It should continue the process to the end and accept the results, and the rights and powers of parliament. It is impossible for millions of Egyptians to go to the polls and vote for a parliament without authority.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imagine a world in which U.S. and allied forces had to travel thousands of extra miles to defend vital interests in the Middle East.

Imagine how pleased the Iranians would be if they knew their navy could have uncontested access to anywhere in the Gulf without fear of an immediate response.

If that’s not the kind of world you want to confront, then you should care greatly about continuing the incredibly important U.S. partnership with Bahrain.

As former Middle East force commander and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William Crowe, has said, Bahrain is “pound for pound, man for man, the best ally the United States has anywhere in the world.”

Bahrain has been there for us during good times and bad since the end of World War II.…  Seguir leyendo »

A veces las películas de Hollywood suscitan controversias que poco o nada tienen que ver con sus rasgos puramente cinematográficos. Algunas, por su contenido, ofenden a tal o cual minoría étnica o religiosa; otras adoptan una clara postura política o moral que va en contra de las creencias o intereses de sus críticos; de vez en cuando los historiadores lamentan errores o anacronismos en los guiones de ciertas producciones… Sin embargo, todos reconocemos que Hollywood es una factoría de entretenimiento sin excesiva obligación de respetar la verdad. Es curioso, por tanto, que el reciente estreno de Anonymous, una nueva película sobre la vida de Shakespeare, haya incitado a los estudiosos más enterados del tema a publicar encendidas críticas contra el filme en los medios de comunicación del mundo angloparlante -y, por ende, a dar publicidad gratuita a un producto que a lo mejor no hubiera alcanzado tanto interés entre el público sin la intervención de esas denuncias-.…  Seguir leyendo »

En el año 2005 la iniciativa europea de transparencia lanzaba su Libro Verde, con tres objetivos: la transparencia del lobbying, la lucha contra el fraude y que se implantasen estándares éticos y control de los legisladores. Poco tiempo después, en el Congreso de los Diputados se discutían diferentes iniciativas para avanzar hacia un registro de lobbies, lo que permitiría tener un sistema de incompatibilidades efectivo después del escandaloso paso del señor Taguas de la oficina económica de La Moncloa a Seopan, el grupo de representación y presión de las grandes empresas constructoras del país. Pero dichas iniciativas siempre contaron con el rechazo compartido de PSOE, PP, CiU y PNV.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tiempos primaverales de las economías sudamericanas, en los dos últimos años prácticamente todos los Gobiernos han ganado las elecciones: Colombia, Brasil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay y, últimamente, Argentina. En Perú no hubo candidato oficialista y en Chile hubo cambio pero hacia una opción más conservadora. Además del buen humor connatural a una economía expansiva, estos Gobiernos han tenido a su disposición enormes recursos para atender programas sociales, muchas veces usados con eficacia clientelística. Las llamadas “transferencias condicionadas”, cuya teoría parece razonable (brindar subsidios a los necesitados a cambio de que aseguren educación y salud a sus familias), se han corrompido fácilmente mediante una explotación que, en vez de servicios o alimentos, brinda dinero sin un adecuado control de la contrapartida.…  Seguir leyendo »

Durante los últimos nueve meses las autoridades iraníes se han afanado por ofrecer su propia versión de las revueltas árabes. El presidente Mahmud Ahmadineyad declaró que los levantamientos de Egipto y Túnez se inspiraban en la actitud “desafiante” de Irán frente a las potencias occidentales. Por su parte, el líder supremo iraní, el ayatolá Alí Jamenei, elogió las revueltas de Bahréin, Egipto y Túnez, calificándolas de “despertar islámico” con “objetivos y orientación islámicos”.

Esa línea argumentativa tiene solo un problema: es difícil que el experimento iraní, caracterizado por una problemática situación económica, un creciente aislamiento, una población descontenta y profundas fracturas políticas, pueda ser un modelo para los tunecinos, los sirios, los libios y los egipcios.…  Seguir leyendo »

Defenders of freedom in South Africa are deeply worried these days. The health of one of the world’s most celebrated democracies, which emerged after decades of struggle against apartheid, is under threat. And any rollback of freedom here will have profoundly negative consequences for other nascent democracies across Africa.

Last week, the ruling African National Congress used its legislative majority to pass the Protection of State Information Bill in one of the two houses of Parliament. If signed into law, the “secrecy bill,” as many here call it, would criminalize the possession and disclosure of classified information, no matter by whom, and no matter why.…  Seguir leyendo »

Global leaders are meeting in Durban, South Africa, in an attempt to figure out how to continue their fight against “climate change” when the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period ends in 2012. Since I’m sitting here in the dark with the heat off, perhaps they’d grant me the temporary moral authority to offer a few suggestions for their agenda.

•Don’t waste any time fiddling with the planet’s thermostat. So the big achievement of the previous summit in Cancun, Mexico, was agreeing that the Earth’s temperature must not be permitted to increase by 2 degrees Celsius? Look, I’ve been in European gyms with air conditioning that can’t even be controlled within the space of a few thousand square feet, despite regular intervention by head-scratching specialists.…  Seguir leyendo »

En pocos países el pasado necesita tanto tiempo. Sin duda existe un tipo de pasado, específicamente español, con el que demostramos tener una relación muy compleja: aquí es donde la memoria histórica se regula por ley, donde somos mucho más inconformistas con el pasado que con el presente, hasta el punto de que nuestra incapacidad de adaptación a la propia historia ha llegado a generar una disciplina única y original en universidades extranjeras, denominada hispanismo.

Recientemente, una sentencia en el circuito de apelación en EE.UU. vino a otorgar a nuestro país la responsabilidad sobre el pecio de un naufragio, el de la fragata «Mercedes», que no hemos buscado, al menos fuera de los tribunales, cuyas circunstancias se mantenían en buena medida inéditas y que acogía en silencio el último hogar de mas de doscientos héroes, españoles de dos hemisferios, europeos y americanos, que nadie recordaba.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s warning last week of measures Russia will take if the United States and NATO continue with their missile-defense program in Europe, while sounding tough, is not the end of the U.S.-Russian reset. It is more of a pre-election recess of Russian-American diplomacy.

But his statement, and more broadly the state of U.S.-Russian arms-control efforts, reveals a broad gap in how the nuclear powers perceive each other’s importance. For Washington, Russia has fallen far down on the list of priorities. The Russian political and security establishment, by contrast, continues to be obsessed with the United States.

In the televised statement, Medvedev warned that should the United States continue with plans to base antimissile systems in Europe, Russia would arm its ballistic missiles with advanced defense-penetration systems, deploy tactical missiles on the border with Poland, and possibly withdraw from the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’Europe est prise dans des turbulences dont la dangerosité ne fait plus aucun doute pour personne. Pourtant, même si beaucoup pressentent une menace sourde et proche, la plupart avouent n’y rien comprendre.

Que se passe-t-il ? Une conjonction inédite de cinq facteurs.

1. Des Etats européens presque tous très endettés. Rétrospectivement, la complaisance à l’endettement est stupéfiante. Ce qu’il aura fallu de naïveté, de court-termisme, de déni et au total d’irresponsabilité pour emprunter toujours plus sans se préoccuper de la création de richesses en regard apparaît aujourd’hui choquant et inacceptable.

Mais, pour étendre notre Etat-providence encore et encore, que n’aurait-on pas fait ?…  Seguir leyendo »

Before the Copenhagen climate-change summit two years ago, the two of us sat together in Cape Town to listen to five African farmers from different countries, four of whom were women, tell us how climate change was undermining their livelihoods. Each explained how floods and drought, and the lack of regular seasons to sow and reap, were outside their normal experience. Their fears are shared by subsistence farmers and indigenous people worldwide – the people bearing the brunt of climate shocks, though they played no part in causing them.

Now, two years later, we are in Durban, where South Africa is hosting this year’s climate-change conference, COP17, and the situation for poor people in Africa and elsewhere has deteriorated even further.…  Seguir leyendo »

La economía de China está dando ahora su nuevo gran salto adelante: algunas partes de su sector manufacturero están subiendo por la cadena del valor añadido y saliendo del país. La amenaza china es ahora mundial.

Las razones no son difíciles de entender. Los costos de producción (salarios, alquileres de oficinas, tierras, capital, etcétera) en las provincias costeras de China, donde están radicadas la mayor parte de la producción manufacturera y de servicios del país y la inversión extranjera directa, han ido aumentando rápidamente. Tan sólo desde el año pasado, los salarios mínimos en nueve de las doce provincias costeras (incluida Beijing) aumentaron más del 21 por ciento por término medio:

Al mismo tiempo, el renminbi se está apreciando, con lo que la producción nacional de bienes y servicios destinados a la exportación resulta aún más cara.…  Seguir leyendo »

Historic transformations often happen when least expected. Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalizing policies of glasnost and perestroikain the Soviet Union emerged at one of the Cold War’s darkest hours, with US President Ronald Reagan pushing for strategic missile defense and the two sides fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Deng Xiaoping’s economic opening followed China’s bloody – and failed – invasion of Vietnam in 1978. And South Africa’s last apartheid leader, F. W. de Klerk, was initially perceived as just another apologist for the system – hardly the man to free Nelson Mandela and oversee the end of white minority rule.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the West ratchets up its economic pressure on Iran to halt its drive to develop nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic’s rulers are not sitting idly by. Since Iran lacks the soft power and the economic capacity to counter Western pressure, it is likely that its leaders will resort to threats, and even to force, to prevent the West from cracking down further, as the recent attack on the British embassy in Tehran shows.

Iranian authorities claimed that angry “students” spontaneously stormed the embassy. While inside, they seized documents and set others alight, and took six embassy employees hostage. It was only much later that the crowd came under police control and the hostages were set free.…  Seguir leyendo »

Via a circuitous Internet chain – Paul Krugman of Princeton University quoting Mark Thoma of the University of Oregon reading the Journal of Economic Perspectives– I got a copy of an article written by Emmanuel Saez, whose office is 50 feet from mine, on the same corridor, and the Nobel laureate economist Peter Diamond. Saez and Diamond argue that the right marginal tax rate for North Atlantic societies to impose on their richest citizens is 70%.

It is an arresting assertion, given the tax-cut mania that has prevailed in these societies for the past 30 years, but Diamond and Saez’s logic is clear.…  Seguir leyendo »

The 17th conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, popularly known as COP-17, is taking place in Durban, South Africa, at a critical moment, as the historic 1997 Kyoto Protocol is set to expire next year. But, like the climate-change conferences in Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancún in 2010, COP-17 can be expected to spend much and produce little.

Indeed, the extravagance of these conferences seems to grow, rather than shrink, as their dismal results become more apparent. COP-15 in Copenhagen lasted 12 days, and is estimated to have attracted 15,000 delegates and 5,000 journalists. The carbon emissions created by so many people flying to Denmark was real, while the emissions targets that the conference sought remained beyond reach.…  Seguir leyendo »