Viernes, 30 de diciembre de 2011

What does the New Year hold for the global wave of protest that erupted in 2011? Did the surge of anger that began in Tunisia crest in lower Manhattan, or is 2012 likely to see an escalation of the politics of dissent?

The answers are alarming but quite predictable: we are likely to see much greater centralization of top-down suppression – and a rash of laws around the developed and developing world that restrict human rights. But we are also likely to see significant grassroots reaction.

What we are witnessing in the drama of increasingly globalized protest and repression is the subplot that many cheerleaders for neoliberal globalization never addressed: the power of globalized capital to wreak havoc with the authority of democratically elected governments.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 23, 2001, a former senior Iranian intelligence officer,Abolghasem Mr. Mesbahi,learned that Iran’s plan to strike the United States had been activated. Mr. Mesbahi knew it was important and real because he had worked on this plan previously, when he had helped set up Iran’s intelligence service, the MOIS, as far back as the mid-1980s. Mr. Mesbahi – known outside Iran as one of a core of “Assassins”- told German intelligence, which had given him protected status as a key witness in German prosecutions of brutal Iranian assassinations of dozens of dissidents.

On Aug. 13, 2001, Mr. Mesbahi received greater specificity as to the plot.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ten years ago last month, the now-infamous “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, boarded an American Airlines flight bound for Miami from Paris, intending to kill himself and all of the other passengers by detonating an explosive device he had concealed in his shoes. What was unknown at the time is that Reid was not supposed to act alone. Saajid Badat – like Reid a British citizen – was supposed to ignite his own pair of explosive shoes on a different trans-Atlantic flight, but he dropped out in the plot’s final stages.

Two years ago, on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a Northwest Airlines flight in Amsterdam bound for Detroit, intending to kill himself and all 289 passengers onboard by igniting an explosive device – this time hidden in his underwear – as the plane approached Detroit.…  Seguir leyendo »

A months-long campaign against civil-society groups by Egypt’s military leadership came to a head Thursday when Egyptian security forces raided the Cairo offices of Freedom House and several other international and local nongovernmental organizations. These attacks were a major setback to the hopes that emerged this year with the revolution in Tahrir Square. If corrective measures are not taken, the attacks will severely damage Egypt’s long-term stability and prospects for a more democratic future.

The protests in January and February that led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak offered hope to the Egyptian people for the first time in decades. Coming on the heels of the movement that brought down Tunisia’s longtime ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben-Ali, the revolution reflected Egyptians’ pent-up frustration with endless human rights abuses, rigged elections and lack of real economic opportunity.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama backed down from his threat to veto the 2012 defense authorization bill that Congress passed this month. But the legislation takes a position on detainees that is misguided. It should prompt the president to fully exercise the discretion the legislation gives him.

For the first few years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it was not at all clear we were beating al-Qaeda: Terror attacks took place in London, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and the Philippines.

Today, al-Qaeda’s leadership is decimated and its regional affiliates are struggling mightily. The lone-wolf threat remains significant, but lone wolves do not represent strategic threats any more than gang killings represent the crippling of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The last New Year’s Day in human history is here.

You may not believe so, but millions do. They’re convinced that ancient Maya priests calculated Dec. 21, 2012, as the end of the world as we know it. These claims and warnings, prognostications and reassurances are on bookstore shelves, on Web sites, in museum exhibits and in tourist promotions. The global doomsday industry even has a name — 2012ology.

Apocalyptic anxiety is, if anything, reassuringly familiar. This most recent phenomenon taps into a well-established tradition in our society. Just this past year, religious broadcaster Harold Camping took two swings at predicting doomsday, pinpointing one date in May and, when the world emerged unscathed, one in October.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why should we bother reading a book? All children say this occasionally. Many of the 12 million adults in Britain with reading difficulties repeat it to themselves daily. But for the first time in the 500 years since Johannes Gutenberg democratised reading, many among our educated classes are also asking why, in a world of accelerating technology, increasing time poverty and diminishing attention spans, should they invest precious time sinking into a good book?

The beginnings of an answer lie in the same technology that has posed the question. Psychologists from Washington University used brain scans to see what happens inside our heads when we read stories.…  Seguir leyendo »

Inmersos como estamos en una profunda crisis económica que está sacudiendo los cimientos del mismo proyecto europeo, es muchas veces difícil detenerse a reflexionar y analizar con calma las consecuencias profundas que esta grave situación provoca. La crisis ha irrumpido en una era cultural donde lo que importa es siempre lo nuevo, incluso aquello que aún no ha acontecido pero somos capaces de adelantar en la imaginación. Algunos describen este fenómeno como la colonización que ejerce el futuro sobre el presente: vivimos por adelantado lo que aún no somos, consumimos lo que no hemos llegado a producir… No hay tiempo para mirar atrás ni para pararnos a preguntar algo tan esencial como es saber de dónde venimos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por naturaleza soy bastante optimista, pero la primera década del siglo XXI ha puesto enormemente a prueba esa tendencia natural. El secuestro en 2000 de las elecciones presidenciales estadounidenses por parte del Tribunal Supremo, supuesto garante del orden constitucional en Estados Unidos; el crimen contra la humanidad del 11 de septiembre de 2011, que cometieron unos terroristas islamistas; la invasión de Irak, amparada en ideas completamente equivocadas sobre la responsabilidad de ese país en los atentados y sobre su supuesto arsenal de «armas de destrucción masiva»; la negativa a tomar medidas de relevancia para minimizar el cambio climático o la decidida eliminación por parte de Wall Street y de los funcionarios del Gobierno federal de los necesarios controles a la especulación introducidos por el New Deal en la década de 1930, son solo algunos de los fenómenos que, por decirlo de forma suave, me han hecho dudar de las motivaciones y mecanismos mentales de nuestros dirigentes políticos.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Un intelectual no está jamás en su sitio». Con estas palabras, lejos de lamentar este desajuste original, el poeta Havel, en la huella de Beckett, Ionesco y Lou Reed, instaura el desarraigo como moderna norma de vida y estrategia de pensamiento. No se trata de una pose. Disidente nada convencional, presidente bohemio, su negativa inexorable a considerarse un Mesías conductor de pueblos fue una forma de cortar de raíz con las pretensiones de los comprometidos de otras épocas. En los últimos tiempos de la Revolución Francesa, Joseph de Maistre sostenía que el poder espiritual y temporal de un Papa era lo único que podía salvar Europa.…  Seguir leyendo »

El año 1979 fue clave para el asentamiento en España de un proyecto encarnado por el PSOE. Los socialistas españoles iniciaron el 1 de marzo su 28º Congreso Federal. Felipe González ocupaba, desde el Congreso de Suresnes, la Secretaría General del PSOE. Se habían celebrado las primeras elecciones generales en 1977 y el PSOE obtuvo un buen resultado, 118 escaños que fue superado en las del 1979 con 121. Los resultados consolidaban a los socialistas como la primera fuerza parlamentaria de izquierdas, pero los dejaba muy lejos de la mayoría necesaria para formar Gobierno en España. El 28º Congreso se celebró precedido de un gran debate sobre la conveniencia de que se aprobara una resolución en la que el partido quedaba definido ideológicamente como marxista.…  Seguir leyendo »

This is a holiday season the people of Kazakhstan will not soon forget. On Dec. 16 security forces in the western city of Zhanaozen killed and wounded hundreds of unarmed demonstrators, mostly striking oil workers, occupying a public square. Officials claim only 15 people died but reports from local people — impossible to confirm — say the death toll was higher. A startling video on YouTube — blacked out in Kazakhstan — shows police firing on fleeing civilians.

The incident, coming after a long period of relative stability, presents Western policy makers with difficult choices. People in Kazakhstan who seek greater freedom look to Washington and European capitals for support, but the West has soft-pedaled human rights concerns because of other important interests — from energy production to the elimination of nuclear and biological weapons to the transit of vital NATO supplies to Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

When I first met Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, now the chairman of Libya’s Transitional National Council, in April 2009, he was the beleaguered justice minister in Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya, virtually the sole brave voice among senior officials demanding accountability from the country’s security services.

He had been brought in as a concession to the restive western city of Benghazi, where he was a judge for many years. Abdel-Jalil minced no words in denouncing the corruption of the Interior Ministry, which operated outside the law to detain and abuse Libyans with impunity. Commenting on the fledgling reforms under Qaddafi, he characterized Libya as a country “going through the difficult and painful pangs of birth.” Little did he know how utterly transformed Libya would find itself just over two years later.…  Seguir leyendo »

EL último número de la Revista de Occidente está dedicado a la «Moda, el poder de las apariencias» y, casi unánimemente, los artículos y ensayos que allí se publican otorgan a las modas, cualesquiera que sean, un valor profundo, un valor filosófico. Ortega y Gasset lo explicaba así en un artículo escrito en 1926: «Las modas en los asuntos de menor calibre aparente —trajes, usos sociales, etcétera— tienen siempre un sentido mucho más hondo y serio del que ligeramente se les atribuye». «La simple moda hoy triunfante de llamarse de “tú” las personas a poco que se aproximen, implica, para quien sepa mirar, todo el resto de los cambios políticos y éticos que se avecinan».…  Seguir leyendo »

As if undermining the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of global free-trade talks was not bad enough (the last ministerial meeting in Geneva produced barely a squeak), the United States has compounded its folly by actively promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). President Barack Obama announced this with nine Asian countries during his recent trip to the region.

The TPP is being sold in the US to a compliant media and unsuspecting public as evidence of American leadership on trade. But the opposite is true, and it is important that those who care about the global trading system know what is happening.…  Seguir leyendo »

Desde hace dos años, una tras otra las cumbres europeas han terminado con garantías de que -al final- se habían tomado las medidas necesarias para controlar la crisis de deuda soberana de la eurozona. A la mayoría se las retrató públicamente como grandes avances, aunque en la realidad no lo eran. Por lo general, pasaban unos tres días hasta que los mercados se daban cuenta y la crisis entraba en una nueva ronda.

Como los líderes políticos de Europa no han podido manejar la crisis de manera efectiva, el costo de terminar con ella aumentó. De hecho, se dejó que una crisis financiera en Grecia, que podría haberse controlado fácilmente, se convirtiera en una cuestión de vida o muerte para los estados de la periferia sur de la Unión Europea- y para todo el proyecto europeo en general-.…  Seguir leyendo »

Twenty years ago, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, the Soviet Union ended, and Russia began an imperfect transition to democratic capitalism – a transition that has proven to be far more difficult than expected. And yet the recent protests – somewhat similar to those that preceded the end of the Soviet Union – provide grounds for cautious optimism about the future.

So, what lessons can we draw from the successes and failures of Russia’s last two decades of post-Soviet transition? And what lies ahead?

The first lesson is that market competition, responsible macroeconomic policy, and private enterprise generally work. Market reforms eventually resulted in historically high growth rates.…  Seguir leyendo »

Actualmente, millones de europeos sienten miedo y frustración al afrontar el desempleo, la pérdida de ahorros y pensiones, unas prestaciones sociales radicalmente reducidas y otras penalidades económicas. Sus temores están justificados, porque la crisis financiera actual está socavando la propia unión que se creó para curar las heridas de Europa al final de la segunda guerra mundial.

Pero, en medio del sufrimiento general, se ha pasado por alto a un grupo: los romaníes. Millones de romaníes, la minoría étnica mayor y más desfavorecida de Europa y que cuenta con una población como la de Grecia, están atrapados en la extrema pobreza y la ignorancia, agravadas por la discriminación generalizada.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia is not Egypt. And Moscow is not on the eve of revolution as Cairo was less than a year ago. Indeed, Russia’s powerful have at their disposal assets that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime lacked.

As an energy superpower, Russia can open its coffers to appease, at least in part, the humiliation that it has inflicted on its citizens by falsifying the country’s recent legislative election results. And not all Russians are in the streets. We should beware of the “zoom effect,” which made many people believe that the young protesters of Cairo’s Tahrir Square were fully representative of Egyptian society.…  Seguir leyendo »

On matters of sex, the citizens of mostly Roman Catholic Latin America often proclaim one thing and practice something very different. On matters of monetary policy, Latin central banks often also fail to live up to what they preach.

In theory, monetary authorities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay adhere to the modern orthodoxy of inflation targeting, which holds that price stability is the main (perhaps the only) goal of monetary policy, the short-term interest rate should be the only instrument used to achieve the inflation target, and the exchange rate ought to float freely.

But the actual practice of all six central banks bears only a passing resemblance to this orthodoxy.…  Seguir leyendo »