The Globalist http://www.theglobalist.com Daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture Sat, 23 Aug 2014 07:30:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The United Kingdom: The People Behind Poverty Statistics http://www.theglobalist.com/the-united-kingdom-the-people-behind-poverty-statistics/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-united-kingdom-the-people-behind-poverty-statistics/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 07:30:32 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30589 By The Globalist

The unique and compassionate Jones family fight inter-generational poverty

father-jones-family-UK-TOHThe unique and compassionate Jones family fight inter-generational poverty

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By The Globalist

The unique and compassionate Jones family fight inter-generational poverty

father-jones-family-UK-TOH

For 3.9 million children across the United Kingdom, severe poverty is a fact of life. During a brief assignment sponsored by the charity Save the Children, I became aware of the need to provide a personal and human interpretation of such overwhelming statistics.

In the autumn of 2010 I began working with the Jones family — two parents and seven children — in order to collaboratively create a body of work, which speaks about the meaning and experience of intergenerational poverty within the context of a wealthy country.

The Jones family lives in a three-bedroom council house in the industrial city of Wolverhampton, UK. This is the first house that the family has lived in for three generations. The mother and father were brought up in caravans, as were their parents.

The house is precious to the family and holds many memories for them, to the point that despite its extremely limited size they refuse to move into larger council accommodation. Gary, the eldest son was the first in the family to ever go to University. After studying animation he set up his own business company from the bedroom, which he shares with his two other brothers.

I chose to focus on the Jones’s house to unravel the meanings embedded in the material qualities of the environment. The decoration and objects they cherish, as well as the everyday rituals, practices and interactions in which each family member finds personal expression and a sense of autonomy.

The photographs seek to communicate this family’s unique culture, their genuine love and compassion towards each other and playful imagination.

Text by Liz Hingley


1-wolverhampton Enlarge  Stacy’s spring flower (Credit: Liz Hingley)

2-wolverhampton Enlarge  Dad (Credit: Liz Hingley)

3-wolverhampton Enlarge  Reading the paper in the summer (Credit: Liz Hingley)

4-wolverhampton Enlarge  Monopoly (Credit: Liz Hingley)

5-wolverhampton Enlarge  Cutting carrots for Sunday lunch (Credit: Liz Hingley)

The Other Hundred is available for purchase at fine booksellers worldwide and online at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Oneworld Publications.

Liz Hingley‘s photographs and writings are regularly exhibited and published in magazines and journals internationally.

The Other Hundred is a unique photo-book project (order here) aimed as a counterpoint to the Forbes 100 and other media rich lists by telling the stories of people around the world who are not rich but who deserve to be celebrated.

Its 100 photo-stories move beyond the stereotypes and cliches that fill so much of the world’s media to explore the lives of people whose aspirations and achievements are at least as noteworthy as any member of the world’s richest 1,000.

Selected from 11,000 images shot in 158 countries and submitted by nearly 1,500 photographers, The Other Hundred celebrates those who will never find themselves on the world’s rich lists or celebrity websites.

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America’s 50-Year War on Poverty: Who Has It Helped? http://www.theglobalist.com/americas-50-year-war-on-poverty-who-has-it-helped/ http://www.theglobalist.com/americas-50-year-war-on-poverty-who-has-it-helped/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=31096 By The Globalist

Which of the United States' major racial groups has the highest poverty rate?

Credit: Halfpoint - Shutterstock.comWhich of the United States' major racial groups has the highest poverty rate?

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By The Globalist

Which of the United States' major racial groups has the highest poverty rate?

Credit: Halfpoint - Shutterstock.com

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war” on poverty in his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. There is still much work to be done — especially among the country’s minority groups. We wonder: Which of the United States’ major racial groups has the highest poverty rate?

A. White
B. Asian
C. Hispanic
D. Black

A. White is not correct.

In 2012, the poverty rate among white Americans was 9.7%. That was the lowest rate among the four major race categories tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Because white Americans constitute such a large majority (64%) of the U.S. population, they actually comprise the largest group of Americans living in poverty. The 18.9 million poor white Americans accounted for 40% of the 46.5 million Americans in poverty last year.

Among U.S. regions, the poverty rate is highest in the South, where 16.5% of people are considered poor. This compares to 13.3% in the Midwest, 13.6% in the Northeast, and 15.1% in the West.

U.S. poverty rates also vary significantly by age group. In 2012, 21.8% of all Americans under the age of 18 were poor, compared to 13.7% of those aged 18 to 64.

The poverty rate is lowest among Americans 65 and older — at 9.1%. In part, this is thanks to the War of Poverty’s Social Security Amendments of 1965, which — in addition to creating Medicaid and Medicare — expanded social security incomes for retirees.

B. Asian is not correct.

Asian Americans are the smallest of the four major U.S. racial groups, accounting for 5.4% of the population. In 2012, the poverty rate for this group was 11.7% — two percentage points higher than for white Americans. This means that 1.9 million Asian Americans were living in poverty last year, or about 4% of all Americans in poverty.

By comparison, 15% of all Americans — regardless of their racial identity — were poor in 2012, based on the Census Bureau’s official definition of poverty. By this formulation, a household and its occupants are poor if they have a total income of less than three times the cost of a “minimum food diet.”

While the official definition of poverty takes into account the number of people living in the household, it does not take into account other household expenses that may vary significantly from region to region, such as housing, clothing and utilities.

Based on an alternative measure that does factor in these items, the Census Bureau estimates that an even higher percentage of Americans — 16% — now live in poverty. That one-percentage point difference represents more than three million people.

C. Hispanic is not correct.

Hispanic Americans had a poverty rate of 25.6% in 2012. That was nearly three times the poverty rate for white Americans, and more than double the rate for Asian Americans.

Hispanic Americans comprise the second-largest ethnic group in the United States (17.4% of the population), and they are also the second-largest group of Americans living in poverty in absolute terms — at 13.6 million.

Spending by the federal government on the major means-tested programs for low-income Americans — including Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — amounted to $588 billion in 2012.

That was $82.5 billion less than the $670.5 budget for defense-related expenditures.

D. Black is correct.

With 10.9 million black Americans living in poverty, the poverty rate for this group was the highest — at 27.2% — of all major U.S. racial groups. In other words, one in every four black Americans — who account for 13.2% of the overall population — was poor in 2012, according to the official U.S. definition of poverty.

While the U.S. government has invested significant sums of money to reduce poverty or to provide the resources that keep many millions from falling into poverty, it is clear that a key weapon in the War on Poverty is jobs.

In 1973, when the official poverty rate hit its lowest level ever at 11.1%, the average unemployment rate for the year was 4.9%. When the poverty rate hit 11.2% in 2000, the average unemployment was 4.0%.

In 2012, with an official poverty rate of 15%, the average unemployment rate was 8.1%. The poverty rate for full-time workers in 2012 was just 3%, while for part-time workers it was 16% — and for those who had no job, it was 33%.

Editor’s note: With a few exceptions, the data in this feature are from the U.S. Census Bureau. They can be found here, in Table 3. People in Poverty by Selected Characteristics: 2011 and 2012.

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African Americans: The State We’re In http://www.theglobalist.com/african-americans-the-state-were-in/ http://www.theglobalist.com/african-americans-the-state-were-in/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 05:30:04 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=31026 By The Globalist

What is the state of black America fifty years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Credit: Dan Kosmayer - Shutterstock.comWhat is the state of black America fifty years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

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By The Globalist

What is the state of black America fifty years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Credit: Dan Kosmayer - Shutterstock.com

Fifty years ago, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. The landmark law was designed to protect the ability of black Americans to vote, to ensure justice and to improve educational and employment opportunities.

We wonder: Which of the following statements about black Americans are true today?

A. They are unemployed at twice the rate of white Americans.
B. They are more likely to leave high school without a diploma.
C. They have significantly less wealth.
D. They are far more likely to be victims of serious violent crime.

A. They are unemployed at twice the rate of white Americans is correct.

One of cornerstones of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which is tasked with eliminating discrimination in hiring based on race, as well as other forms of workplace discrimination.

Even so, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for black Americans since the 1960s has been between two and 2.5 times that of white Americans.

This gap is apparent in the most recent unemployment statistics. In July 2014, the overall U.S. unemployment rate stood at 6.2%. However, the unemployment rate for white Americans was 5.3%, while it was 11.4% for black Americans.

B. They are more likely to leave high school without a diploma is correct.

From the 1960s to the early 2010s, there has been a marked decrease in the gap between white and black Americans completing a high school diploma. However, there is still a significant gap between the races in terms of on-time graduation.

For the graduating class of 2012, 20% of U.S. teenagers did not finish high school with their peers. Among white Americans, only 14% did not finish on time. By contrast, 31% of black students did not finish with their peers.

Finishing high school on time can be more difficult for teen mothers and for children in single-parent households. Among black women who bore a child in 2011, 68% were unmarried, according to Census Bureau data. The figure for white women was 26%.

C. They have significantly less wealth is correct.

As of 2011, the median household in the United States had $68,828 in net wealth. This means that half of U.S. households had higher net wealth (assets minus liabilities) and half lower.

As with measures of unemployment and educational achievement, this overall number masks significant differences among racial groups.

The median white household in the United States had net wealth of $89,537, according to Census Bureau data. In contrast, the median black household had net wealth of only $6,314 — or just 7% of the median white household.

The median black household had much less debt than white households — $35,000 compared to $75,000. But this largely reflects the fact that black households carry much less mortgage debt than white households. Homeownership among white households is 73%, compared to 43% for blacks.

However, black households carry significantly more debt relative to their household assets than white households.

D. They are far more likely to be victims of serious violent crime is correct.

In 2012, 11.3 of every 1,000 black Americans age 12 or older were victims of serious violent crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault), according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The victimization rate for white Americans was nearly half that — 6.8 per 1,000 people.

Black Americans — especially black males — are also far more likely to be victims of homicide, especially black males. Black males account for about 6% of the U.S. population, but 43% of the country’s homicide victims in 2011, according to the FBI.

Black Americans are also disproportionately incarcerated in the United States. According to BJS data, they accounted for 39.4% of the U.S. federal, state and local jail population in 2009, more than three times their 12.2% percent share of the overall population.

By contrast, white Americans accounted for 34.2% of incarcerated Americans, just over half their share of the population (63.7%).

Since the 1980s, the U.S. Congress has required stiff mandatory jail terms for drug offenders, which is one of the key reasons behind the significant and disproportional increase in the incarceration rate for black Americans.

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Kerry’s Political Theater in Afghanistan http://www.theglobalist.com/kerrys-political-theater-in-afghanistan/ http://www.theglobalist.com/kerrys-political-theater-in-afghanistan/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30984 By Robert Hardy

The power sharing agreement in Afghanistan has no basis in law or popular support.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. (Credit: U.S. Department of State - Flickr.com)The power sharing agreement in Afghanistan has no basis in law or popular support.

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By Robert Hardy

The power sharing agreement in Afghanistan has no basis in law or popular support.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. (Credit: U.S. Department of State - Flickr.com)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently intervened again to try to break the deadlock over the disputed presidential election and the vote audit that was making no progress.

Under the tutelage of Kerry, Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, reportedly agreed to a U.S.-arranged deal for the formation of a national unity government after the results are announced.

However, the two still did not agree on a formula for sharing power, including who is allowed to make ministerial appointments or the power of the executive branch versus the parliament.

Kerry’s intervention was merely political theater. The so-called power-sharing agreement is not supported by the Afghan constitution, any law or the will of the people.

One ominous sign was that Ghani recently said that, if the vote audit proved that he won the election, he would not share power.

Meanwhile, Abdullah’s powerful backer, Atta Mohammed Noor, Governor of Northern Balh Province, said that if Abdullah is not declared the president, there will be a civil uprising.

“We do not want a crisis, but we will defend the rights of our people. We will have a big civil uprising. We will occupy government buildings and institutions. We will boycott the process, and we will not recognize the next government because it will have no legitimacy,” Dawn news reported.

Noble and naive

Kerry’s attempt to arrange an accord between the two candidates, noble as it may have been in terms of intent, thus died almost as quickly as it was formed.

But the U.S. Secretary of State, perhaps for purposes of home consumption, also deluded himself. It is the custom for Asian leaders to smile politely and agree in public with a visiting senior foreign official, so as not to cause him to lose face. This is what the two candidates did during Kerry’s visit.

The two sides clearly reached no agreement. What is at stake in resolving this impasse is the fundamental nature of the system of Afghanistan’s government, as well as its legitimacy.

Kerry’s so-called power-sharing agreement that broke the deadlock even sent a troubling message — that elections and the Afghan Constitution do not matter in selecting a national leader. The fact that the Taliban share this belief clearly indicates the treacherous ground that Kerry is traveling on.

But the lack of depth of understanding of what’s really in play in Afghanistan extends well beyond John Kerry. It is a further indication of the West’s broader naiveté and inability to “manage” Afghanistan.

The bigger picture

Addullah’s protector, Attah Mohammed Noor, is a Tajik warlord and a former commander of the Northern Alliance that faced off against the Taliban in the civil war that was interrupted by the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Abdullah, half Tajik and half Pashtun, was a political leader of the Northern Alliance. His supporters correctly consider that if Ghani, a Pashtun, is declared the winner, his government will treat Tajiks, Uzbeks and ethnic groups other than Pashtuns as second-class citizens.

Here is where things get interesting — and highly troubling from a Western perspective: Ultimately, it is Pakistan that controls the Pashtun, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic community and the support base of the Taliban.

It was in Pakistan’s interest to fix the election in Ghani’s favor. This outcome is key to preserve the country’s greater Pakistan defense strategy – and, crucially, guard against a possible future land attack by the Indian army.

By doing so, Pakistan hoped to defeat the Iran-India-Russian alliance that backed Abdullah. This alliance, for its part, has one clearly circumscribed goal — to keep a post-NATO Afghanistan free from dominance by Pakistan.

Beyond what was bargained for

This battle is the real backdrop of the fight over the outcome of the Afghan presidential elections. The two candidates are really just props for very different geopolitical strategies and outcomes that play out on Afghan soil – far beyond the rather limited Western imagination of what’s at stake in the election recount.

Expect to see Ghani named President before the end of August.

This will lead to a civil uprising, as Governor Noor has promised. It will likely morph into a civil war, because the election of Ghani as president makes the return of the Taliban as a major power in the country inevitable.

That, of course, is not at all what the Americans bargained for, but what they may be getting very soon.

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The Dumbest U.S. Foreign Policy Question Asked This Century http://www.theglobalist.com/the-dumbest-u-s-foreign-policy-question-asked-this-century/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-dumbest-u-s-foreign-policy-question-asked-this-century/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:30:45 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30963 By Richard Phillips and Stephan Richter

What do U.S. politicians mean when they say they want to save Syria?

A young boy with rebel soldiers in Syria.<br />
(Credit: Dona_Bozzi - Shutterstock.com)What do U.S. politicians mean when they say they want to save Syria?

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By Richard Phillips and Stephan Richter

What do U.S. politicians mean when they say they want to save Syria?

A young boy with rebel soldiers in Syria.
(Credit: Dona_Bozzi - Shutterstock.com)

Who lost Syria? This is perhaps the dumbest U.S. foreign policy question so far this millennium.

For starters, was (and is) Syria really America’s to lose?

The American right – which on this issue reaches into the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party – thinks the United States missed an opportunity to hold onto Syria. In their view, the opportunity was missed by failing to provide arms to the Syrian rebels at the outset of the revolution, when Syrian rebels were perceived as moderate.

Had this support been given, the theory goes, the moderate Syrian rebels would not only have defeated Assad. They would also have managed to suppress the rise of radical Islamic factions.

Taking sides in ethnic and sectarian conflicts should not be America’s business. In the past, supplying arms to one side or another in age-old conflicts has only served to give rise to endless internecine warfare.

Afghanistan as an example

Look at Afghanistan — after the Russians left in 1989. A bloody civil war based on ethnic, sectarian and tribal differences ensued. The violence was fueled by a reservoir of arms supplied to the Mujahedeen in a policy instituted under U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

This policy helped bring down the Soviet Union by giving it its own Vietnam, but it left Afghanistan in utter chaos. America’s favorite ally in that conflict, the Mujahedeen, turned out to be a disjointed coalition of warlords, drug lords and religious fanatics. They turned against each other violently as soon as the Russians left.

No real wonder that the Afghan people welcomed the Taliban into this chaotic environment. They were able to bring order out of the chaos.

But, lest we forget, out of this order rose Osama bin Laden.

We see a similar dynamic taking place in Iraq now. A Sunni uprising is empowering an Islamic fundamentalist “vanguard” force — ISIS. In Iraq, it was the U.S. government that dove head first into ethnic, sectarian and tribal conflict — without ever really thinking through the implications of its actions.

Fool me once

And when the United States left, those conflicts immediately rose to the surface, with the pattern of 1980s Afghanistan repeating itself. The U.S. government had provided arms to specific sides in the conflict.

In the current Iraqi case, control of large stocks of those arms has fallen into the hands of ISIS – which the U.S. government has just decided is a global threat to U.S. interests. Consequently, the U.S. served de facto as the armaments provider to ISIS.

Unperturbed, those on the American right, including the Clintons, now propose to do this yet again. They want to provide arms to give this often-irrational hatred a means of violent expression — American weapons against American weapons.

To paraphrase a line made famous in the run-up to the Iraq war: “Fool me once — and shame on you. Fool me twice and my name is George Bush. Fool me three times, and my name is Hillary Clinton.”

Which Westerner really “gets” Syria?

Syria is full of hard to detect cross-currents. There is the Sunni-Shi’a divide. Given all the treacherous entanglements, a central question for U.S. policymakers ought to be: Why do these sects hate each other? No one in the U.S. policy establishment provides an answer. That alone is a compelling reason for non-intervention.

Does U.S. foreign policy even have a prayer in addressing these age-old fault lines – never mind solving them by supplying one side or the other with weapons?

The next battlefield in a blame war

In Syria, Hafez al Assad is holding both ISIS and the more centrist elements of the revolution at bay. In fact, he is winning the war.

And this begs the question: What are U.S. politicians saying when they say they want to save Syria?

The answer to this can only be found in American hubris. Syria is not America’s to save. The reality is that only Syrians can save Syria — just as it is only Iraqis who can save Iraq and only Afghans who can save Afghanistan.

Seeking an answer to the question “Who lost Syria?” is a foolhardy quest on the part of U.S. politicians. Rather than a serious question, it is just another manifestation of Washington’s favorite political sport – blamesmanship.

To fuel this conflict further by supplying one side or the other with arms would be an abrogation of the trust the world has placed in the United States to provide smart leadership. Another round of impulsive decisions are definitely not part of what the world expects.

President Barack Obama seems to believe that leadership must be moral, not interventionist. On this issue, Obama is spot on.

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What Stock Markets Tell Us About Russia http://www.theglobalist.com/what-stock-markets-tell-us-about-russia/ http://www.theglobalist.com/what-stock-markets-tell-us-about-russia/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 09:00:03 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30929 By Alexei Bayer

If economy is king, then Russia may be weaker than it seems.

Vladimir Putin (Credit: Frederic Legrand - Shutterstock.com)If economy is king, then Russia may be weaker than it seems.

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By Alexei Bayer

If economy is king, then Russia may be weaker than it seems.

Vladimir Putin (Credit: Frederic Legrand - Shutterstock.com)

I can certainly understand Vladimir Putin’s frustration. I am sure he expected world financial markets to swoon in panic — and gold and other safe-haven investments to skyrocket — after he announced the annexation of Crimea in March.

But it didn’t work out that way. There were a couple of short-lived dips in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in March and April. But they were more closely correlated with U.S. Federal Reserve policy moves than with anything Mr. Putin had done.

Since then, there has been a relentless ascent to fresh all-time highs. Even a more recent drop in July has not been frightening and represents a natural bout of profit-taking after a very robust rally.

How to explain that markets are unperturbed by the shenanigans conducted by a former superpower? Well, America is far away.

Maybe we should look at Europe then? Indeed, the Stoxx index of 600 European blue chips fell between early July and early August, losing 10% of its value. But that’s hardly indicative of a panic. European stocks are up nearly 60% since the eurozone crisis moved out of its acute stage in late 2011.

Russia: An economic dwarf

The truth is that Russia, to Mr. Putin’s chagrin, is not a modern economic power. Its economy is worth around $2 trillion, but the United States and the European Union together make up nearly 40% of world GDP, compared to Russia’s 2%. Without oil and gas, far less than that.

In early August, Mr. Putin banned imports of all agricultural and food products from countries that imposed sanctions on Russia, including the EU.

Surely that was a major blow. After all, half of all European agricultural exports went to the Russian market. Or was it? In 2013, the EU exported to Russia less than $7 billion worth of agricultural products.

Even if no other markets for those products are found, the sum represents less than 0.05% of Europe’s GDP. Annual price fluctuations cost European farmers more than the total ban on exports to Russia.

Moreover, Mr. Putin chose the worst time to hit farmers – if that was his intention. Food prices have been elevated and farmers have had a number of fat years. Moreover, technology has allowed farmers to raise yields, while financial markets provide hedges against adverse weather conditions and price fluctuations.

Energy alternatives

True, Russia is a major oil exporter. It supplies world markets with around 7 million barrels a day, which is second only to Saudi Arabia. Russia’s exports represent around 10% of world supply.

Russia also supplies around 30% of Europe’s natural gas, and countries in Eastern Europe and others like Greece and Germany have an even heavier dependence on its supplies. A disruption in energy supplies could lead to a sharp increase in oil prices and could keep the Europeans shivering next winter.

But, once again, the timing for Mr. Putin to start an energy war is not propitious. After 15 years of high energy prices, new sources of supply are popping up everywhere.

If worse came to worst, a spike in fossil fuel prices could only accelerate the shift to renewable wind and solar power, which Northern Europe is undertaking in any case.

On the other hand, an energy war is not something Russia can easily afford. Its energy exports – half of which go to Europe – represent 30% of its GDP and taxes on such exports account for 50% of federal budget revenues. Cutting oil and gas sales to Europe would push Russia into bankruptcy within three months.

Not surprisingly, oil prices dropped some 10% in recent weeks and are now close to their six-month lows.

Russia talking up war

But what about the actual war? For the past six months, talk in Russia has been remarkably bellicose. Just the other day, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the – obviously mislabeled — Liberal Democratic Party, the third-largest in the State Duma, announced that the decision on whether there will be World War III has been made in the Kremlin and that, if the war comes, the Baltic States and Poland will be annihilated.

Should this talk scare investors? During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its allies had an overwhelming advantage in tanks and military personnel in Europe. Its forward armored divisions, deployed to East Germany and other Warsaw Pact nations, threatened all of Western Europe. It was a NATO assumption at the time that an invasion by conventional forces could not be stopped.

Things have changed dramatically. Now, NATO — including the United States — has gained an overwhelming superiority over Russia in every aspect, ranging from a tenfold advantage in the air to a 2.5 times larger number of tanks. NATO soldiers are professional, well-trained, dedicated and battle-hardened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Russia, on the other hand, experts note lack of motivation and discipline, poor training and hatred for superior officers. Despite all the glitz and show put on at Ukraine’s border, in reality thievery, graft and corruption, which deeply permeate Russian society, are all even worse in its military.

And then, there is the difference in the quality of armaments. The United States has been spending heavily since the early years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency to upgrade and modernize its weaponry. Russian soldiers still use armaments developed by the Soviet Union. That puts NATO two generations ahead in most military hardware.

Nuking the market

In short, international investors can be forgiven if they dismiss Mr. Putin’s threats of taking on NATO on the battlefield. If he actually follows through, let us not be duped by the voices of the military industrial complex in Washington that never wants to miss an opportunity to push defense sales even higher. NATO would make short work of the Russian Army.

And yet, at least in one respect, Russia remains a superpower. The number of its nuclear warheads may be smaller than the combined arsenal of the United States, Britain and France. And Russia’s means of delivery may be obsolete. But with 7,900 warheads Mr. Putin has enough firepower at his fingertips to destroy life on earth many times over.

As long as we are talking economics and conventional warfare, there is no reason for world financial markets to panic. But the moment talk shifts to nuclear confrontation — and in recent weeks Russia has been talking of an all-out confrontation — we’ll see investors run for cover.

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An End to Presidential Term Limits? http://www.theglobalist.com/presidential-term-limits/ http://www.theglobalist.com/presidential-term-limits/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 07:00:58 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=28904 By Stephan Richter

How modern U.S. politics incapacitates itself.

Credit: larry1235-ShutterstockHow modern U.S. politics incapacitates itself.

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By Stephan Richter

How modern U.S. politics incapacitates itself.

Credit: larry1235-Shutterstock

This may be the unlikeliest of times to suggest an end to the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the term limit for U.S. President — or the best moment ever to give it serious consideration. Barack Obama is despised by Republicans who are counting down the days before he leaves the White House. And ever more Democrats are getting the Hillary itch.

Nobody can argue right now that the issue is raised for purposes of partisan politics. Rather, it is a matter of governability and political effectiveness.

The overarching question is this: Why should U.S. Presidents, if they so choose, be denied to stand for a third term? Admittedly, the prospect for that to happen isn’t very high. After all, being President of the United States must be among the world’s most thankless jobs.

The current mindset in the U.S. establishment actually runs in the opposite direction. Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary and Harvard President, recently opined that single terms for Presidents, of say six years, might be better. In a rare case of hemispheric harmony, the United States would thereby draw closer to the political practice Latin America, but it would do so at a time when those countries are actually moving away from term limits.

As it stands, the U.S. body politic — by not allowing a president, should he or she desire to do so, to run again — actually willfully emasculates its chief executive. Come the sixth year of a reelected president’s second term, he is automatically considered a “lame duck,” even though they are still very much vested with the pomp and ceremony that comes with the Oval Office.

That glitziness cannot mask the fact that the office of the office at that point is increasingly an emperor without clothes. What is of concern here, of course, is not so much the fate of the individual as the effect this has on the nation as a whole, as well as the U.S.’s standing in the world.

Here is a breathtaking calculation: Including the fact that it takes a successor in the White House a year to stand up his or her administration, the two-term limit means that the United States may effectively be without a President that is considered a serious negotiating partner for at least three out of every nine years.

Democratic countries like Germany and the UK would never incapacitate their own democratically elected leaders that way. It is a form of self-crippling that other powers like the Chinese — where a collective leadership gets to rule for a span of ten years — must love, because it reduces the U.S.’s political agility and effectiveness.

Why stymie successful Presidents?

The 22nd Amendment was proposed by a Republican Congress in 1947 and rapidly rammed through the state legislatures. It had the ostensible purpose of ridding the United States for the future of another four-term President, as the recently deceased Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt had been. It holds that

“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”

The consideration that mere physical death (FDR had notably died less than three months into his fourth term, after 12 years into office) could provide an effective solution to the issue apparently did not enter much into the minds of the Congressional deliberators as they rushed it ahead.

The amendment’s backers also did not seem to consider the fact that it is a rare feat for any executive to be reelected so many times over a long span, whether in the United States or in other advanced democracies. France’s Fifth Republic managed to survive presidents who served more than one seven-year term. (François Mitterrand’s 14 years exceeded Roosevelt’s actual 12.)

Nor did the amendment’s hasty proponents weigh the fact that continuity can be vital in politics, especially a political landscape that is so fractious as the American one.

Why marvel at lame ducks?

That U.S. politicians and opinion leaders embrace the lame duck concept so readily is baffling. The United States is otherwise so keen on action and dynamism that one must wonder why everyone is prepared to disempower their own political chief executive.

That is a riddle that no foreigners will ever understand. What they do see with clear eyes, though, is the devastating effect of this peculiar institution of disempowering presidents.

It is as if the United States is aiding its global detractors by embracing the principle of political inefficiency. Never mind that, during those “lame duck” years, the very real concerns of real people get effectively postponed.

Domestic legislation moves even more glacially in those years than it does in general. That makes it all the harder to understand that the lame duck quasi-sabbatical turns further inaction into an (almost) constitutionally approved choice.

Madness as method?

Why the deeply anti-democratic instinct that shines through the two-term limit for U.S. Presidents? Is the goal to rule out the emergence of a rare transformative figure, somebody who really manages to shake up the U.S.’s painfully frozen political formulas and overall landscape — as FDR certainly did?

In the real world of elections, there can be no talk of a “power grab.” Anyone getting to a third term must, after all, be dutifully elected — and would be thus legitimized by the American people as a whole.

Moreover, it is already a significant feat for a President even to get reelected once. So far, 18 of the 43 men who have held the office have done so (22 if one counts those elected to their own terms after taking over after a predecessor’s death).

Franklin D. Roosevelt was only the fifth person to attempt a bid for even a third presidential term (let alone a fourth) – and the first to succeed in winning one. That his spectacular achievement owed much to an ongoing world war – who wants to change leaders in wartime? – is by now conveniently forgotten.

Horse race vs. people’s business

Consider the current spectacle of launching the jockeying for the U.S. presidential race in 2016. Americans are being treated to two full years of a strange spectator sport that may fascinate political insiders in Washington. Has Hillary Clinton broken with the sitting President? Who is emerging in the other party?

Focusing on these horse race aspects has its fascination for America’s self-absorbed political class and its media sidekicks. However, what gets bumped to the sidelines in such a world where everyone is exploring who’s up and who is down, and members of Congress and campaign financiers are figuring out whom to associate with and whom to abandon, is “the people’s business,” the real-life concerns of the population at large

It is one thing to obsess about who’s going to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. But even in the case of those races for the Triple Crown to find the fastest horse in the United States, the speculation with who might win at best only lasts for a week before the event, as far as the general public is concerned.

The U.S. public is not so lucky when it comes to the race for the White House. Already, Hillary Clinton’s real or perceived health issues take on more sizzle than the much closer 2014 midterm elections, let alone what the forgotten White House incumbent may be choosing to do or not do.

The world on hold?

The other big irony in the current constitutional set-up is the assumption, widely held in the U.S. body politic, that the second terms of U.S. presidents are suitably devoted to their seeking their place in history – by pursuing big-sky initiatives on the global map.

This is a triple fallacy. First, the U.S. being as immobile politically as it is, for any President to have a lasting mark on the ever more pressing domestic reform needs will at least require two full terms in office. Only then could the grandiloquent talk of a “legacy” even begin to make sense.

Second, rarely is the implicit arrogance of U.S. commentators and columnists more readily visible as when they make the pronouncement about a “global” legacy. That can’t be fashioned, Madison Avenue-style. It has to earned earned.

Third, it is not as if the world were waiting for the U.S. political calendar to turn around to a President’s (domestic) lame-duck stage. Never mind that the emergence of global trouble spots simply does not align with that peculiar U.S. calendar. Moreover, a U.S. President who really wants to tackle bigger foreign-policy issues must still have considerable political capital in order to get the national legislature to go along with whatever deal s/he wants to conclude.

Self-immolation as national strategy?

Foreign-policy considerations aside, the biggest problem with the disastrous legacy of the 22nd Amendment is that it emasculates what is otherwise described by Americans as the most powerful leader on earth.

Meaningful domestic reform initiatives are basically put on hold unnecessarily. Even legislators from the President’s own party become rebellious, more concerned about positioning themselves with the current officeholder’s potential successors, rather than supporting their man or woman in the White House.

Furthermore, the evidence is that some Presidents, Obama notably included, may only come into their full potential by the time the third term rolls around. Why preclude that process?

Or consider Bill Clinton, the 42nd U.S. President. Why should he not be able to run again, 16 years older and wiser, but not lamer?

The system works well enough

Finally, let’s look at the U.S. political system in the — for now, imagined — absence of the 22nd Amendment. It turns out that this system is pretty effective at checking excess. Modern Presidents Truman, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush II have all faced potentially career-ending crises and unpopularity by the middle of their second terms.

Truman was too unpopular to seek a third term when he tried. Nixon was forced to resign. Clinton was impeached – and Reagan was nearly impeached. George W. Bush probably would have been laughed out of office, had he been able to try to seek a third term.

Only a truly popular and effective president with a clear mandate to continue would be able to pull off a second re-election effort.

All in all, the 22nd Amendment has not strengthened U.S. democracy. It undermines it. It contributes to putting the circus-like aspects of politics ahead of the pursuit of solid accomplishments.

And it is distinctly not an illegitimate power grab if a person gets freely reelected to the Presidency for a third time. Only those who are deadly afraid of “government of the people, by the people and for the people” would seriously say so. That, however, has been a vital concern of America’s elites ever since the times of the founding fathers. They were very nervous about “the tyranny of the masses.”

That this spite still prevails centuries later says something pivotal about the unreformed state of American politics. It is far from the global vanguard. In the world of democratic nations, it is the rearguard, the most 19th century regime still projecting itself into the 21st.

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Global Travel Champion http://www.theglobalist.com/global-travel-champion/ http://www.theglobalist.com/global-travel-champion/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 07:00:09 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30744 By The Globalist

Which nation spent the most on international tourism in 2013?

Credit: Brian A Jackson - Shutterstock.comWhich nation spent the most on international tourism in 2013?

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By The Globalist

Which nation spent the most on international tourism in 2013?

Credit: Brian A Jackson - Shutterstock.com

The peak summer travel season is well underway in the northern hemisphere. This means that shopping districts from Los Angeles to London to Berlin are full of people with their dollars and pounds and euros. We wonder: Which nation spent the most on international tourism in 2013?

A. United States
B. Germany
C. China
D. Russia

A. United States is not correct.

The United States ranks second when it comes to spending on international tourism. In 2013, U.S. tourists spent a total of $86.2 billion overseas, according to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization.

The amount that Americans spend on international tourism, however, is only a small fraction spent on domestic tourism. According to estimates by the U.S. Travel Association, Americans spent almost nine times more on travel to destinations in the United States ($748.3 billion) than they spent on tourism abroad.

That is at least partly a reflection of the United States’ continental size. By contrast, Europeans — who enjoy a similar level of prosperity as Americans — can travel to foreign destinations more easily and less expensively by car or low-cost flights.

Stay-at-home Americans will share their vacation spots with many foreign travelers, however. The United States ranks behind only France as the most popular destination for international tourists. In 2012, the United States attracted just under 70 million foreign tourists, while France drew in 83 million.

International tourists spent $139.6 billion in the United States last year. By comparison, receipts from tourism in the second- and third-ranked nation — Spain ($60.4 billion) and France ($56.1 billion) — were less than half the amounts spent in the United States.

B. Germany is not correct.

Germans spend more than any other nation in Europe on international travel. In 2013, they spent a total of $85.9 billion abroad — the third-highest of any nation.

Since the mid-20th century, the number of international tourists has grown steadily. Back in 1950, international tourist arrivals totaled 25 million — equal to only about 1% of the world’s population at the time. By 1980, the number had jumped ten-fold to 278 million — or about 6% of the world population.

According to the World Tourism Organization, 1.09 billion people traveled abroad in 2013 — or almost one in every seven people on Earth.

C. China is correct.

Until the early 1990s, China’s government prohibited holidays abroad. Two decades later, in 2012, China — the world’s most populous country — also became the world’s largest spender on international tourism.

At $129 billion in 2013, China’s international tourists outspent second-ranked United States and third-ranked Germany by more than $40 billion. That amount represents a ten-fold increase over the $13.1 billion Chinese tourist spent abroad in 2000.

Divided by the 1.36 billion Chinese, the country’s per capita spending on international tourism — at $94 — is very small compared to the United States and Western European nations.

However, the actual amount spent by each Chinese tourist abroad is far higher — especially those traveling to Western Europe and the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the 1.8 million Chinese visitors to the United States in 2013 spent $9.8 billion — or more than $5,400 per person.

The relatively lavish spending by Chinese travelers in the West helps explain why, for example, upscale department stores in cities such as New York and Frankfurt have begun staffing their sales counters with Mandarin-speaking clerks.

Chinese travelers have an incentive for making their luxury purchases abroad — circumventing China’s high taxes on such purchases at home.

D. Russia is not correct.

Three of the five BRICS nations — the rapidly growing emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are among the top ten highest-spending nations when it comes to international travel.

After China, Russia is the second-highest spending BRICS nation. Like China, citizens of the Soviet Union faced severe restrictions on traveling outside the country. These restrictions began to loosen in the 1980s under Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, or openness.

In 2013, Russia spent $53.5 billion on international tourism, just edging out the United Kingdom ($52.6 billion) to rank fourth among all nations. New U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia — for its involvement in Crimea, Ukraine and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — limit the ability of wealthy Russians to travel in the West. This will almost certainly lead to a lower overall level of spending by Russians on international travel in 2014.

Rounding out the top ten spenders on international tourism are France ($42.4 billion), Canada ($35.2 billion), Australia ($28.4 billion), Italy ($27 billion) and Brazil ($25.1 billion).

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China: Radical Transformations – From Middle Kingdom to Global Sea Power http://www.theglobalist.com/china-radical-transformations-from-middle-kingdom-to-global-sea-power/ http://www.theglobalist.com/china-radical-transformations-from-middle-kingdom-to-global-sea-power/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30561 By Jean-Pierre Lehmann

China from Mencius to Mahan - through Marx, Mao and Market Leninism.

An unidentified soldier stands guard in front of a portrait of Mao. (Credit: Hung Chung Chih - Shutterstock.com)China from Mencius to Mahan - through Marx, Mao and Market Leninism.

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By Jean-Pierre Lehmann

China from Mencius to Mahan - through Marx, Mao and Market Leninism.

An unidentified soldier stands guard in front of a portrait of Mao. (Credit: Hung Chung Chih - Shutterstock.com)

Confucius (551-479 BCE) never wrote anything. His teachings were transmitted orally. His most influential disciple was Mencius (c 372-289 BCE) who compiled his teachings in writing. Thus, what is called Confucianism is in great part derived from the writings of Mencius.

Mencius

Both Confucius and Mencius lived in periods of political and social disorder in China. Order was to be achieved through harmony. Harmony, in turn, required respect for a strict social hierarchical order.

The same hierarchical perspective that Mencius brought to society — for example, the tenets upheld in the “five basic relationships,” — also applied to the traditional Chinese view of the world. China (the Middle Kingdom) is the center of universal civilization, surrounded by concentric circles of “barbarians.” The further they are from China, the more barbarian.

The Chinese perspective was buttressed by the fact that their country historically had long been the world’s wealthiest nation. Just before the Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860), China accounted for 33% of global GDP.

However, with the emergence of the “new world” and the agricultural, scientific and industrial revolutions in Europe, that reality was changing profoundly. It effectively rendered the traditional Chinese perspective of the world obsolete.

In the imperial court, however, “Mencius” thinking continued to prevail. China’s rigid conservatism prevented it from embarking on transformative reforms, as its century of humiliation (from the Opium Wars to the Liberation in 1949) and socio-economic collapse ensued.

Marx

By the turn of the 20th century China was in a mess, plagued by internal warfare, economic collapse and social upheaval, while humiliatingly pummeled by the West and Japan.

In the “new culture movement” that emerged among modern reformist Chinese intellectuals, Confucius was seen as the source of the collapse. The reformers were virulent in their anti-Confucianism.

In the search for a guiding ideology, the Chinese communist party (CCP) was founded in 1921. Down with Confucius, hail Marx!

The beginnings of the CCP were not auspicious for many reasons — not the least of which was internal theoretical dissension. Marx had envisaged that the communist revolution would take place in advanced industrialized capitalist societies (e.g., Germany) and would be led by the urban industrial proletariat.

In order to justify theoretically the revolution in Russia, Lenin had devised the concept of the “weak link in the chain of capitalism.” Whereas Russia might have been the weak link of capitalism, in China capitalism hardly existed in even embryonic form.

As a result, the Chinese urban industrial proletariat had insufficient critical mass to be a viable revolutionary force. In the “Shanghai massacre of 21 April 1927,” the military forces of the Chinese nationalist party led by Chiang Kai-shek virtually annihilated the CCP.

Mao

In the same year, Mao Zedong wrote what would become a seminal work with vast reaching implications. It was entitled: Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan.

While China’s urban industrial proletariat was very small, it had masses and masses of disaffected peasants. Mao asserted these should become the vanguard of the Chinese communist revolution.

Though Mao never renounced Marxism, his thinking represented a clear case of theoretical heterodoxy, indeed heresy when viewed inside the edifice of Marxist thought. Little wonder that it took Mao almost a decade before he was finally able to impose his leadership on the CCP, which he retained until his death in 1976.

While, as noted, Confucius wrote nothing (nor did Deng Xiaoping), Mao was a prolific writer. The Selected Works amount to some ten volumes (four of which can be found on the shelves of my library).

Mao made two major theoretical contributions to the theory of revolutions: the first was how to mobilize the peasantry into a revolutionary force in poor pre-industrial countries.

His second contribution was in guerrilla warfare. Revolutionary independence leaders of decolonizing countries in Africa and Asia flocked to Beijing to seek Maoist instruction specifically on these two themes.

Mao undertook radical reforms with the twin aims of ridding China of feudalism and imperialism, the two yokes from which Chinese people were to be liberated.

Much of the war on feudalism consisted of attacks on Confucianism. For example, while Confucianism accorded females a subordinate lowly status, Mao described women as holding up half the sky. Wives were granted the right to divorce, which was not only unprecedented in China, but indeed in most countries, including in the West at that time.

It is true as well that Mao built up a personality cult and his policies were driven by ideology. The ideas contained in the Little Red Book were not only meant to be memorized and recited, but also implemented.

The results, most vividly illustrated in the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, were disastrous, devastating the country and costing tens of millions of lives.

Market-Leninism under Deng

By the time Mao died, the country was on the brink of collapse. After a relatively short succession battle, a new leadership emerged under Deng Xiaoping. Mao and Deng were in many respects direct opposites.

The contrast is above all noticeable in that, while Mao was a theorist, Deng was a pragmatist. There is no such thing, no body of knowledge known as “Dengism.” It is said that when Margaret Thatcher asked Deng what was meant by “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” he enigmatically replied “anything you want it to.”

While this anecdote is almost certainly apocryphal, it nevertheless encapsulates the pragmatism with which the reforms were undertaken.

In stark contrast to the catastrophic consequences of Maoism, the reforms undertaken by the new leadership brought about the greatest economic transformation in human history. Among other things, it brought the greatest reduction in poverty ever.

China’s ascension to global economic power in just three decades is breath-taking. This was achieved by implementing market-oriented reforms and promoting trade and investment, while maintaining strict political control over society and the economy. Hence the term “market-Leninism” – a road to growth that was also successfully emulated by Vietnam.

To fill the ethical social vacuum left by the end of Maoism, recent years have witnessed the quite startling revival of Confucianism – albeit a Confucianism à la carte to generate dynamic social harmony between tradition and modernity.

Notwithstanding occasional rhetorical lip-service, fundamentally both Marx and Mao are out. Market-Leninism, however, is seeking to restore Mencius. Perhaps that symbiosis provides a portrait of 21st century China – the answer to Maggie Thatcher’s question!

Mahan

As for the fifth “M,” we have to look back for a moment to the maritime exploits of Admiral Zheng He in the early 15th century. His advances were followed by a move to turn China inward and renounce sea power, indeed even sea presence, for the ensuing centuries.

But when the Chinese economy reached dizzying heights early this century, the question emerged whether China’s rise was that of another great power. The initial Chinese response was contained in an article by the Chinese thought-leader Zheng Bijian, published in 2005 and entitled China’s Peaceful Rise to Great Power Status.

In the ensuing nine years, the world and China have changed a lot. China is a global economic superpower with interests extending to literally all continents (including the Arctic).

China needs open access to markets, but even more so it needs open access to its vital sources of supply in food, raw materials and energy. It also sees a world in geopolitical mutation. The U.S. hegemon is both retreating and threatening, while ultra-nationalism is resurgent in Japan.

Compulsory reading among the CCP leadership is the seminal work of Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914), the U.S. naval admiral and geo-strategist. His The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783 published in 1890, remains the most influential text on the geopolitical imperative of sea power.

While economic development was the major Chinese goal of the last three decades – and while economic development clearly remains paramount – it seems likely that naval development will be the major goal in the next three decades.

Especially as the Chinese, inspired by Mahan, recognize that China’s global economic superpower status can only be sustained by being a global naval superpower.

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The West: A Minority Club http://www.theglobalist.com/the-west-a-minority-club/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-west-a-minority-club/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:38:39 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30805 By Chandran Nair

Why not hold the West as well as the Rest accountable for their actions?

Protest on Gaza-Israel border in 2009. (Credit: ChameleonsEye - Shutterstock.com)Why not hold the West as well as the Rest accountable for their actions?

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By Chandran Nair

Why not hold the West as well as the Rest accountable for their actions?

Protest on Gaza-Israel border in 2009. (Credit: ChameleonsEye - Shutterstock.com)

The governments of the West are all connected by their European heritage and culture. They are an exclusive club of the minority who used to rule the world and now continue to seek to perpetuate that order with the leader of the pack being the United States.

For the Europeans, this is also convenient in many ways. First and foremost, it allows them to continue to enjoy all the privileges of dominance without having to spend heavily on a military.

Meanwhile, not least owing to overstretched public budgets and having learned bitter lessons from the Second World War, they maintain a veneer of pacifism.

This is true — except perhaps for the British. Having been victorious in the Second World War, but then losing all their colonies, they still hang on to some notion of retaining military might, not least by clinging to the coattails of the mighty U.S. military that much harder.

But ultimately, the “glory” of sharing in the West’s global leadership has come at a price for the Europeans — that of subservience to the United States. Even if there has been the occasional ruckus within the ranks of the Western tribe — for example, concerning the illegal invasion of Iraq — the tribe so far has always reassembled and stuck together.

This has been painfully evident in the West’s positions in the events that have led to the unfolding disasters in Syria, Libya and Egypt (not to mention Afghanistan) — all of which it is conveniently washing its hands now.

Europeans may have had an idea that much of the American rhetoric was just hollow, self-serving and ultimately futile. The fact remains that they did not take the logical step — of denying the United States followership into a series of impending disasters.

Not just Europe fell for it

This narrative of the West’s inherent moral superiority that was carefully crafted to conceal a centuries-old appetite for global dominance has been so well spread through sophisticated propaganda in the post-colonial era that even the formerly oppressed have bought into it, mainly its elites.

Even so, now that the emperor’s clothes are slowly but surely being stripped away, the Rest wakes up to the lies.

For non-westerners, it is clear that the glue that so obviously creates the notion of the West is not its much trumpeted values (after all, all societies have different values), but its ties through race, religion, ethnicity and a shared history.

The other key element that holds the tribe together is its shared military might, as represented by NATO. There is no other group of nations or regions that even vaguely resembles this type of organization — an unmatched ability to unleash organized violence against all deemed to be non-compliant or a threat.

And if other nations do try to set up similar military alliances, they will be challenged with military threats disguised as moral arguments about the need to protect global peace. This is often done in the grand old tradition of imperialism — divide and rule.

The West’s group think and loyalty to each other, at the expense of everyone else, is a trap of the West’s own making and its Achilles heel.

This is unfortunate, as the West has a great deal to offer the world in the 21st century. But it seems wedded to its insecurity, rooted in centuries of dominance, privilege and entitlement. That ultimately is what does not allow it to come to terms with sharing power with its former subjects.

The western alliance coming apart?

The events of the past few weeks and months have put into sharp focus the shallowness of western group think, the nature of its tribal mentality and how oblivious it is to global opinion.

The events have made it clear once more that the West intends to carve a geopolitical position that pits it against the Rest to maintain its dominance and it is being led by the United States.

This is an especially acute issue for Europe. Many citizens and an increasing number of leading politicians there have a growing sense of unease about the strategic direction and acumen of the U.S. government. This applies regardless of its respective political stripes. Democrats and Republicans evidently don’t differ much on foreign policy.

In this context, consider the disastrous events that appear to be leading to the breakup of the Middle East as we know it. The West, led by the United States, is trying hard to wash its hands of the sad breakup of the state in Iraq, Libya and Syria — as if it had nothing to do with it.

And yet, the evidence is clear for all to see. All one has to do is to surf the internet and search for pronouncements by Western leaders going back a couple of years — and one will see how engaged they were in de-stabilizing these countries.

All we have now is silence or lectures about how Arab governments are incompetent (which is true), how Arab unity is essential for peace (sadly a too-hard-to-deny indictment of the Arab world) and that Arabs should learn to live with each other and resolve their differences.

Alas, many of these differences have also been exacerbated by decades of Western — especially U.S. and UK, but also French — interference.

Western interference is not new

This is not a new phenomenon. From Iran to Iraq to Egypt and for well over 100 years, Western nations have used sectarian differences to interfere in the right to self-determination of these nations, with the last half century being the worst period, given the pursuit of energy.

There are other painfully short-sighted double standards in play. The West, both openly and covertly, supplied arms to all and sundry regimes in the Middle East, including corrupt and ruthless governments. These arms exports resulted in the deaths of thousands.

The shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine resulted in outrage in the West and the tightening of sanctions against Russia, which was deemed to be responsible. There was no similar outrage in 1988 when the United States shot down an Iranian passenger plane resulting in the deaths of over 250 Iranians.

At the same time, the West — led by the United States — has been the main supplier of arms and much more to Israel. The same week that Shaymah died, the U.S. Senate agreed to resupply weapons to Israel and approved further funds for its Iron Dome project to the tune of $250 million.

In case anybody wonders, these are the same weapons that killed little Shaymah and 1,000 other Palestinian civilians. There has not been a single European government that has called for war crimes proceedings — as has been the case with Russia. Why?

To call for war crimes against Israel is to break the sacred code that holds the Western tribe together. It would be a case of supporting the argument for a member of the tribe and the tribal leader, the United States, to be potentially taken to the ICC (even if it is not a signatory).

To do this is to betray the pack leader and would be seen as ungrateful to the United States, not least for its help in rebuilding Europe.

And lastly, the Europeans — especially the Germans, who have far greater reservations about militarist attitudes than most other large European nations — dare not risk taking any such step for fear of being accused as being anti-Semitic.

Meanwhile, the silence in the Chief Prosecutor’s Office at the ICC in The Hague is deafening.

To the Chief Prosecutor the message has to be clear: “Mr. Prosecutor, in the interest of the international community, not just the West, please proceed to take action immediately to bring a case against all parties implicated in war crimes in Gaza — even if they are not signatories.”

Holding all sides accountable

This would send a strong message to all countries, especially western powers. Taking this step would free the court from the longstanding claim that it is mostly a convenient Western tool to deal with war crimes in Africa.

From the perspective of the Rest, not the West, it is really quite easy. Ensure the case is built to hold all sides accountable (IDF and Hamas) as well as those responsible for supplying the weapons of war.

This continuing silence on the part of the West has sent a chilling reminder to the Rest that the West is duplicitous, despite all its pious preaching.

The present state of affairs only reinforces a growing belief that the same sense of impunity and arrogance that led the West to dominate so many countries around the globe for so long continues to have a firm foothold in its psyche.

With one big difference: That superiority now mostly exists just in moral narratives which it continues to relentlessly spread through its control of key global media platforms, backed by military might.

But to the Rest of the world, the West’s silence on the war crimes being committed in Gaza is deafening.

The Rest also realizes that this is not just about the Middle East or Africa. Many nations in Asia are still recovering from similar interventions, for example, Pakistan, India (Kashmir), Myanmar and Vietnam.

No doubt, all the Arab states need to have a reality check of their own and come to their senses. They must stop fuelling sectarian conflicts, which will eventually engulf too many.

The United States’ foreign policy choices

But the rest of the world should no longer sit back and be horrified spectators to what is going on. In fact, they need to stop being passive and take action.

This is necessary despite the reluctance of the West to accept other intermediaries for fear of losing its self-serving global influence and self-appointed global role as moral guardians.

The fastest path to stop the bloodbath in Gaza is for the United States to come to its senses. It should realize that what is going on is yet another massive wave of radicalization of a people as a result of a U.S. foreign policy choice.

Usually, the choice the United States makes is to intervene, often for ill-considered, short-term purposes that prove disastrous soon after. In Israel’s case, the choice is not to intervene, likely with the same result.

This puts the Europeans into quite a bind. They have seen the disastrous consequences of America’s “strategic” thinking and the immense failures of its vast intelligence machinery all too often. Continued silence — or standing by their “man” (aka the U.S.A.) — will not just cost the people in affected countries dearly, it will also cost the Europeans and ultimately the Americans as well.

Breaking news: Palestinian mother gives birth to quadruplets in a hospital treating the wounded bringing a little bit of joy to Gaza. Babies and mother are fine and it is to be hoped the hospital will not be bombed.

It is also hoped all four will be brought up in world where they can claim their right to freedom.

But if they choose to resist the oppression of an occupying army, they would be following in the tradition of some of the greatest leaders of the Rest. This includes Nelson Mandela who supported the armed struggle — and therefore for many years was branded a terrorist by the West before being embraced as its darling.

All of us have a choice to make: We can remain silent and act as compliant bystanders — or we can seek to create a better-balanced world that is not rooted in the presumption of the superiority of one culture.

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The West Against the Rest http://www.theglobalist.com/the-west-against-the-rest/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-west-against-the-rest/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:37:07 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30792 By Chandran Nair

A short history of geopolitical dominance by the West.

President's podium at the White House. (Credit: spiritofamerica - Shutterstock.com)A short history of geopolitical dominance by the West.

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By Chandran Nair

A short history of geopolitical dominance by the West.

President's podium at the White House. (Credit: spiritofamerica - Shutterstock.com)

Imagine a bomb going off in a European or U.S. city — and a pregnant mother being killed by the blast.

The unborn baby is somehow saved and in critical condition in a hospital. The mother is buried and her family pins all hopes on the baby living so that the mother’s death is not in vain. Five days later, the little one’s struggle — to live, carry the bloodline and give some meaning to the memory of her mother’s life — is over.

Last breath taken, blood turns from warm to cold, eyes hardly open, never having the chance to get used to the glare of light, the harshness of the brutal world or the sweetness of her mother’s love.

Does anybody care?

This happened just last week and you should be shaken out of your complacency and start wondering why your sources of breaking news – the global news channels and social media – did not reach you with this story as part of their usual 24-hour news coverage.

You never heard about it because the mother (she wore a veil) and the baby were not from a western nation. They were Palestinians.

Remember Boston, London, and Bali? All outrageous acts of violence against innocent civilians. When it concerns the lives of Americans, Europeans or Australians, the international media coverage of each deceased is endless. Every last little detail is talked about, over and over.

But you will not hear much about Shaymah (age 23) and her baby also named Shaymah (age 5 days). No flowers for them. No condolence books and no pious, emotion-laden speeches by political leaders anywhere in the West.

There are many more such stories from the recent attacks on Gaza: A mother, father and son, all three lost both legs in a bomb attack, their only other child, a girl, badly burnt. All remain nameless to us because they are not what we are led to believe are innocent civilians – they are collateral damage in a “just war.”

It is as if, because they are Arab Palestinians, they are by extension complicit jihadists and supporters of terrorists, which makes their lives not as valuable as those of other people. In reality, they are simply pawns in a proxy war.

Mindless consumers of — partial — news

So how did we get here? How did we become mindless consumers of news? Why did we write off our sense of humanity – or apply it so selectively? Why do we give in so easily to lies and distortions?

Coming to terms with our very selective perception starts with understanding the nature of the geo-political struggle of the last three centuries between the West and the “Rest.”

The events of the last few weeks and months provide an opportunity to outline a quick tour of recent history and how we got to live in such a world, dividing humanity into the West against the Rest.

Asking questions about this is long overdue — especially for those trapped in sound bites, too busy tweeting, addicted to “likes” rather than “thinking” about things and other impulses so as to not confront reality. It is a reminder, too, to all those also in denial, who shut off the world, quite literally.

For starters, it is not just recent incidences where Western media, and especially American ones, have carefully crafted very selective versions of the past, present and future.

It is curious that, as the West (and not the Rest) commemorates the start of the First World War in 1914, so little is being said about the broader global canvas on which this war took place.

On the broader canvas, the warring European states were at the same time masters of much of the world and dominating hundreds of millions of people. For example, almost 90% of Africa was ruled by European powers in 1914.

And yet, there are no commemorations for these millions of Africans who were subjects of the empires and worse – slaves. In addition, thousands of Chinese, Indians and other subjects of the various empires died fighting worthless wars.

No Asian, African or Arab country was party to this script expect arguably Japan. Why? These nations were the oppressed majority whose resources were needed to enrich the West and create the modern world.

This is true even if one is willing to accept the controversial arguments of some in the West who suggest colonialism was a net gain for the colonies. Native Americans, indigenous communities in South America, millions of Africans and aboriginal Australians were stripped of their rights by colonial Europeans.

Genocide was committed in the name of progress. The rights of the West to control the world were deemed unquestionable and even morally supported by the western religious institutions of the time.

After the great wars of the 20th century, an exhausted and bankrupt Europe was forced to allow for the end of colonialism and the liberation of hundreds of millions in the developing world.

The United States: benevolent hegemony or empire?

They handed over the keys of global leadership to the United States — and the “Rest” had no say in the matter. In the ensuing 50-60 years, the United States, with all its media power, led a global narrative about a new era of peace and world order that was made in its image and by its rules.

A grateful Europe, rising form the ashes, became its partner made easier by its shared history, religion and culture.

Having learned from the lessons of the colonial experience of its European friends, the U.S. attempted to paint a picture of a benevolent hegemony. It was successful in this endeavor despite growing evidence that it had evolved into an empire and, in that process, had also made Europe a subservient partner to its increasingly unpopular foreign polices around the world.

With Europe in tow, the U.S. government set out to create global institutions and rules for how the world should work. The proposed course of action was dictated by self-interest.

And so it was that the U.S. dollar became the reserve currency of the global economic system. Institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and the WTO were set up. All of this gave the United States what has been called an “exorbitant privilege.”

The West believing its own rhetoric

But whatever the original intentions of the United States, like all other great powers it drank too much of its own kool-aid. In its current state today, it is viewed by many around the world as the greatest threat to world peace given its disastrous foreign policy (Gallup survey).

All of this puts a real question mark behind the suggestion so readily advanced in the global media of the West as a force for good and the upholders of superior values and morality.

This is a generalization, but broadly a correct one. There are many in the West who would agree with this analysis and this criticism is not leveled against them. Rather, it is directed against Western governments and political leaders who have for too long believed their own rhetoric.

Nonetheless, the Western public is still the beneficiary of the global dominance of the alliance of their governments.

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Africa’s Electricity Divide http://www.theglobalist.com/africas-electricity-divide/ http://www.theglobalist.com/africas-electricity-divide/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 14:20:46 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30816 By The Globalist

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest rates of access to electricity in the world.

africa-electricity-infoSub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest rates of access to electricity in the world.

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By The Globalist

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest rates of access to electricity in the world.

africa-electricity-info

africa-electricity-info

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9 Key Facts: Black-White Wage Gap in the United States http://www.theglobalist.com/9-key-facts-black-white-wage-gap-in-the-united-states/ http://www.theglobalist.com/9-key-facts-black-white-wage-gap-in-the-united-states/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:54:41 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30754 By The Globalist

Since 2000, the wage gap between white and black Americans has increased dramatically.

Credit: Christopher Hall - Shutterstock.comSince 2000, the wage gap between white and black Americans has increased dramatically.

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By The Globalist

Since 2000, the wage gap between white and black Americans has increased dramatically.

Credit: Christopher Hall - Shutterstock.com

1. In 1980, a decade and a half after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the median income of black households in the United States was only 57.6% of the median income of white households.

2. A decade later, in 1990, the gap had closed by 2.2 percentage points to 59.8%.

3. Between 1991 and 2000, the income gap between whites and blacks decreased in seven of the 10 years.

4. By 2000, the median black household had income equal to 67.6% of the median white household.

5. That was 10 percentage points higher than in 1980 — and is the narrowest the gap has ever been.

6. Between 2001 and 2010, the income gap widened in seven of the 10 years.

7. In 2010, the median black household earned only 62.1% of the income earned by the median white household.

8. As of 2012, the most recent year available, the percentage was virtually unchanged, at 62.0%.

9. The income gap widens more quickly when the U.S. economy is in recession, with black households suffering larger drops in income than whites.
 

The Upshot

By 2012, the gap between the median wages of black Americans and white Americans had increased back to where it was in the mid-1990s.

 

Data source: U.S. Census Bureau. Analysis by The Globalist Research Center.

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Should Obama Quit His Job? http://www.theglobalist.com/should-obama-quit-his-job/ http://www.theglobalist.com/should-obama-quit-his-job/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 14:45:14 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30685 By Richard Phillips

The job of president of the United States is impossible for anyone holding that office.

U.S. President Barack Obama (Credit: Pete Souza - White House)The job of president of the United States is impossible for anyone holding that office.

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By Richard Phillips

The job of president of the United States is impossible for anyone holding that office.

U.S. President Barack Obama (Credit: Pete Souza - White House)

Does this happen in other countries? The President of the United States gets to take a four-day family vacation — and the opposition party attacks?

It probably does happen in other countries. Even so, while watching the news, I decided that — if I were Barack Obama — I would resign.

Why would I do that? The simple reality is: “President of the United States” is a lousy job to have these days.

As President, you face an opposition party that is fueled by populism, but never even considers the consequences of all the often wholly contradictory initiatives it suggests.

This includes cries for stronger American intervention on behalf of potentially unreliable partners in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya and South Sudan. In all these crisis zones, the American right wants to position the United States squarely on one side or the other of centuries-old – sometimes millennia-old — ethnic and sectarian strife.

As President, one would have to wonder if anyone in the opposition had really thought these policies through in terms of their impact on the way they would stretch the country’s already stretched military, on the way they would undermine the country’s fiscal soundness and on how they would extract a potentially disastrous human toll at home and abroad?

Domestic and international expectations – at loggerheads

Balancing this, you, as President, must also face a world that expects the United States to play a central role in sustaining global stability, but at the same time expects America to adhere to certain limits on the use of its power.

The world does not want to be ruled by America. It wants America to lead it into a more optimistic future, where the Four Freedoms of Franklin Roosevelt provide the North Star, the guiding light toward the realization of pluralistic, multicultural dreams and ambitions.

These two views are diametrically opposed. They are polar opposites In the United States and around the world.

The President of the United States must nonetheless manage U.S. foreign policy through these two prisms.

As if that weren’t enough of a practical challenge, the list of global hot spots that a U.S. President is expected to “fix” is long. Currently, it includes

    ■  The most recent eruption of the Israel-Palestine conflict

    ■  The emergence of China as a global power

    ■  Iran’s nuclear ambitions

    ■  Regional territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea

    ■  The handover of Afghanistan

    ■  Global weather anomalies that are raising environmental red flags

    ■  A potentially catastrophic drought drawing near in the Western US

    ■  An Ebola outbreak in West Central Africa — and

    ■  Desperate children under arrest at United States’ southern border.

Of course, the opposition party mercilessly finds a way to attack the President on each and every one of these issues, while always keeping their eyes on the important stuff, like Benghazi.

Some might suggest that dealing with all of these complex issues and being second-guessed every step of the way by an often irrational domestic opposition is asking too much of any President. But then, just when you were getting fed up with dealing with all of this, they say you can’t take a vacation!

Mr. President, I would just quit if I were you. But while you consider this, you have my permission to take a few days off.

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6 Facts on Unemployment Among African Americans http://www.theglobalist.com/unemployment-among-african-americans/ http://www.theglobalist.com/unemployment-among-african-americans/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:00:30 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=29673 By The Globalist

Black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of whites.

(Credit: michaeljung - Shutterstock.com) Black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of whites.

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By The Globalist

Black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of whites.

(Credit: michaeljung - Shutterstock.com)

1. Since the 1960s, the unemployment rate for black Americans has been between two and 2.5 times higher than that of white Americans.

2. As of June 2014, the unemployment rate for all Americans stood at 6.1%.
 

3. The unemployment rate for white Americans was 5.3% — nearly a full percentage lower than the overall nationwide rate.

4. The unemployment rate for black Americans was 10.7% — more than double the rate for white Americans.

5. For young white Americans (ages 16-19), the unemployment rate in June 2014 was 18.9%.

6. For black Americans aged 16-19, the June 2014 unemployment rate was 33.4% — well above peak national unemployment rate of 25% during the Great Depression.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Economic Policy Institute, with additional data analysis by The Globalist Research Center.

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London-grad: British Capital Under Russian Influence http://www.theglobalist.com/london-grad-under-how-much-russian-influence-is-the-british-capital/ http://www.theglobalist.com/london-grad-under-how-much-russian-influence-is-the-british-capital/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 09:00:09 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30628 By Denis MacShane

Britain looks to move away from Russia, but London stands in the way.

david-cameron-400Britain looks to move away from Russia, but London stands in the way.

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By Denis MacShane

Britain looks to move away from Russia, but London stands in the way.

david-cameron-400

“Hand Back the Roubles, Dave” screamed the front-page headline of the Daily Mail, Britain’s best-selling middle class tabloid. It was a reference to the oddest tennis game ever in England – and a matter of concern to Prime Minister David Cameron. He needs the Daily Mail’s readers to vote Tory — if he is to win a second term in 2015.

What had happened? At a Conservative Party fund-raiser, Mr. Cameron had offered to play a doubles match, partnered by his rival Boris Johnson. That enticing offer was taken up by the wife of a Russian oligarch and former Putin minister. Mrs. Lubov Chernukhin paid $250,000 (£160,000) for the privilege.

The problem for Cameron was that he took the Russian money and agreed to the tennis game just a few weeks before Russian rockets downed the Malaysian airliner over East Ukraine. Ten British citizens were among the victims.

The Daily Mail is angered by the fact that Cameron and his party are hanging on to the $250,000, as they build up a war chest for the general election to be held in May 2015. Opinion polls are still giving the victory narrowly to the Labour Party, currently in opposition.

London for sale – to Russians

The episode is part of the decade long love affair between the Conservative Party and Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps the most amazing consequence of this romance is that the British capital is now known as Londongrad. Many Brits do not like the fact that their capital city has become the city of choice for oligarchs. It is a place where Russian money has bought political influence openly and crudely.

Even Vladimir Putin mocks London as the place where “the oligarchs have bought Chelsea,” a reference to Roman Abamovich, the owner of the top soccer club. Another oligarch, Evgeny Lebvedev, is the owner of two key newspapers, the Independent, and the respected London Evening Standard, as well as a London TV station.

One in ten of all London homes with a price exceeding $1.5 million was bought by a Russian last year. Mrs. Chernukin and her husband, Vladimir, a former director of Aeroflot, live in a $12 million dollar apartment.

Another Russian donor to the Conservative Party, Andrei Borodin, has fled to London after accusations of a $370 million fraud in Russia. He lives on a $235 million estate near London and paid $67,000 for a portrait of Margaret Thatcher at a Tory fundraiser last year.

The UK Electoral Commission reports $1.5 million in donations from rich Russians to Conservative funds last year. The UK has given visas to 433 Russians since 2008 who invested more than $1.5 million in Britain.

Russians send their children to be educated in elite private boarding schools. The daughter of the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is a student at the London School of Economics.

Like Putin’s daughters who live outside Russia, the Russian elites have no confidence in their own society. They are adamant about making sure that their offspring can live outside the reach of Russia’s security firms and secret police.

London courts are also where Russian oligarchs fight out their legal battles. London lawyers earned an estimated $150 million from just one court fight between Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky. Lawyers say that 60% of all the cases now heard by London senior commercial courts are linked to disputes over spoils from the ex-Soviet Union.

Another attractive legal market is divorce fights. Londoners have gaped at the fierce legal fallout as elderly Russian oligarchs trade in their wives for slimmer, younger beauties.

For all the Russians’ strong embrace of British law in these various circumstances, none of this has prevented Putin’s agents from turning up in London to silence, quite literally and for good, those deemed enemies of the Russian state.

The most notorious is the Alexander Litvinenko case. The former FSB agent was poisoned by polonium poured into his tea by two Russians in 2006. British police have named their chief suspect, Andrey Lugovy, and asked Moscow for his extradition.

Not very principled

True to his character, which is rooted in oppositional defiance, Putin’s response was to put Lugovy in the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. There, he is protected by parliamentary immunity, in addition to the fact that the two countries have no extradition agreement.

Under constant pressure from the press and MPs, Mr. Cameron and his recently fired Foreign Secretary, William Hague, have had to raise the Litvinenko assassination with Putin. But they have done their best to slow walk any investigations.

After the annexation of Crimea, one of Cameron’s top Foreign Office advisers went into Downing Street carrying a position paper which was caught by long-range cameras. It said Britain “should not, for now, support trade sanctions.”

No wonder a New York Times op-ed by Ben Judah argued that “Britain is ready to betray the United States to protect the City of London’s hold on dirty Russian money.” The accusation that a Conservative government would “betray” Washington was frank — and it hurt.

Britain faces serious economic fall-out if Russia decides once and for all it does not like London. Oligarchs can relocate to Switzerland, conveniently outside the European Union, or to Dubai.

But since the Swiss go to bed at 10 p.m. every night and the maximum bet that can be placed outside big city casinos is just $25, the country is not much of an attraction for, shall we say, the vulgar end of the Russian nouveau-riche. They find London so much more attractive.

The British establishment, having hitched its fortunes uncomfortably closely to Russia’s, has other reasons to be concerned about a possible fallout for the UK if strife with Russia continues.

Britain’s flagship oil firm BP has a 20% stake in Rosneft, the Russian company which the Putinites set up to take over Yukos’ assets. Rosneft has had a $50 billion fine slapped on it by an international arbitration court in the Hague over its seizure of Yukos’ assets.

Why would that be a headache for Cameron? Here is why: BP dividends pay 15% of all income going into UK pension schemes and Rosneft’s financial obligations diminish key financial flows to BP.

Joined at the hip

British commoners are only slowly becoming aware of how closely their country’s elites are joined at the hip to big Russian money.

But the loss of income to lawyers, real estate agents, luxury goods providers, private schools and top-end universities is enormous, if Russia continues to be sanctioned.

Scores of retired British ministers, serving parliamentarians, royal household courtiers and even the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, have served as board directors or consultants pocketing large sums from Russian oligarchs.

No wonder that Mr. Cameron, who is otherwise so quick to talk principled and advocate a principled course of action, has refused to take any action that might hurt the Kremlin.

True to form, Cameron has attacked the French decision to sell a Mistral class helicopter ship to Russia, a deal negotiated by Nicolas Sarkozy when president of France.

But a House of Commons committee recently revealed that the UK has 285 arms contracts with Russia worth more than $200 million. That makes Cameron’s criticism of France completely hypocritical.

Fraternizing with the Russians

Another astonishing symbol of the degree to which the British Conservative Party is willing to fraternize with the Russians is in the Council of Europe. It has 47 member states, including Russia.

Hard though it may be to believe, British Conservative MPs formed a joint political group with the Putin-controlled Russian Duma deputies in the Council’s parliamentary assembly.

Instead of working with other center-right European parties like Angela Merkel’s CDU, Cameron and the Conservative Party preferred to align themselves with Russia.

How did Cameron get away with that, you wonder? Questions were raised in London about these Putin-Tory links, but issues of international affiliation among political parties are too esoteric for the average UK political reporter to worry about.

It only became a story when Cameron, wising up at long last, abruptly ordered his Conservative MPs to break away from the Russians after the annexation of Crimea.

Like Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s who only woke up to just what authoritarian politics entailed after years of appeasement, Cameron has not known how to deal with Putin or even understand what Putin represents.

To be sure, in recent months, circumstances have changed considerably, whether due to the annexation of sovereign territory of a European state or seeing innocent British lives lost thanks to a Putin-supplied missile.

The resulting fury is changing Britain’s views about Russia. Cameron understands this, as he is no fool.

But taking the Grad out of Londongrad is not easy. Meanwhile, Britain’s prime minister continues to train for a tennis match to justify the payment of $250,000 from a dubious Russian oligarch to Conservative Party funds.

Vital lessons about principles and sheer decency still need to be learned.

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8 Facts on U.S. Incarceration: Still a Very Unequal Nation http://www.theglobalist.com/u-s-incarceration-still-a-very-unequal-nation/ http://www.theglobalist.com/u-s-incarceration-still-a-very-unequal-nation/#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 12:00:35 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=29676 By The Globalist

Incarceration of black Americans is over three times their 12.2% share of the U.S. population.

(Credit: oneword - Shutterstock.com)Incarceration of black Americans is over three times their 12.2% share of the U.S. population.

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By The Globalist

Incarceration of black Americans is over three times their 12.2% share of the U.S. population.

(Credit: oneword - Shutterstock.com)

1. In 2012, 11.3 of every 1,000 black Americans age 12 or older were victims of violent crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault).

2. The victimization rate for white Americans was nearly half that — 6.8 per 1,000 people.

3. Black Americans — especially black males — are more likely to be victims of homicide.

4. Black males account for about 6% of the U.S. population, but 43% of the country’s homicide victims in 2011.

5. 39.4% of the U.S. federal, state and local jail populations were black Americans (as of 2009).

6. Black Americans are incarcerated more than three times their 12.2% share of the overall population.

7. White Americans account for 34.2% of incarcerated Americans, just over half their share of the population (63.7%).

8. Since the 1980s, the U.S. Congress has required stiff mandatory jail terms for drug offenders, a key reason behind the disproportional increase in the incarceration rate for black Americans.

Source: The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with analysis from The Globalist Research Center.

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The State of Black America http://www.theglobalist.com/the-state-of-black-america/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-state-of-black-america/#comments Sun, 10 Aug 2014 08:00:25 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30647 By The Globalist

Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, how much progress have black Americans made?

african-american-infographFifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, how much progress have black Americans made?

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By The Globalist

Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, how much progress have black Americans made?

african-american-infograph

african-american-infograph

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7 Facts on African Americans and Education http://www.theglobalist.com/african-americans-and-education/ http://www.theglobalist.com/african-americans-and-education/#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 07:00:33 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=29665 By The Globalist

The education gap between black and white students is still large.

(Credit: Aaron Belford - Shutterstock.com)The education gap between black and white students is still large.

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By The Globalist

The education gap between black and white students is still large.

(Credit: Aaron Belford - Shutterstock.com)

1. From 1960 to 2010, there was a marked decrease in the gap between white and black Americans completing a high school diploma.

2. However, there is still a significant gap between white and black Americans in terms of on-time graduation.

3. For the graduating class of 2012, 20% of U.S. teenagers did not finish high school with their peers.

4. Among white Americans, only 14% did not finish on time.

5. By contrast, 31% of African American students and 27% of Hispanic students did not finish high school with their peers.

6. This gap persists through college. Among students who started college in 2004, 58.3% had completed a bachelor’s degree within six years.

7. The percentage of white students who completed a college degree was 61.5%, while only 39.5% of black students did so.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education

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A Black President? http://www.theglobalist.com/a-black-president/ http://www.theglobalist.com/a-black-president/#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 07:00:13 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30537 By Stephan Richter

In too many ways, African Americans aren't much better off today than 50 years ago.

U.S. President Barack Obama in Accra, Ghana, in 2009. (Credit: Pete Souza - White House)In too many ways, African Americans aren't much better off today than 50 years ago.

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By Stephan Richter

In too many ways, African Americans aren't much better off today than 50 years ago.

U.S. President Barack Obama in Accra, Ghana, in 2009. (Credit: Pete Souza - White House)

It was a historic day when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009.

The fact that a black man reached that nation’s highest office was a remarkable achievement. This is all the more gratifying when viewed against the backdrop of the often brutal oppression of blacks in the United States that had come to another violent culmination only four decades earlier.

The intriguing question, though, is this: What difference for African Americans has Obama really made in office, after reaching that initial milestone?

In his close to five and a half years in the Oval Office so far, Obama has been very hesitant to delve into African American issues with any depth. Some would even say that he has run away from them, in order not to get stigmatized or appear to play favorites.

True, in February 2014, he finally launched the “My Brothers’ Keeper” campaign. It is designed “to help young minority men to succeed at critical stages in their lives from early childhood to college and career.”

Whatever the merits of that initiative, it has come too late. Washington is already full of talk of a “lame duck” president.

Meanwhile, in the nation at large, a certain self-satisfaction about electing a black man as president prevails. It is as if many people believe that checking that box unmade all the sins of the past.

On a symbolic level, having a black man as president may be important, but on a practical level, African Americans’ very real problems remain. At best, Obama’s election can only be considered an interim point in a healing process that must continue.

The core issue by which to measure progress is the actual situation of African Americans in the United States. On that front, the news is anything but positive. The social and economic status of African Americans today actually is, truth be told, rather catastrophic.

For example, the unemployment rate for black Americans is more than twice the rate for whites. Black teenagers are more than twice as likely not to finish high school with their peers than white teens.

And perhaps most shocking of all is the fact that black Americans are incarcerated in jails and prisons nearly six times the rate of white Americans. According to the NAACP, blacks account for about one million of the 2.3 million Americans currently imprisoned in the United States.

Legal rights vs. economic status

True, in a purely legal context, African Americans are now formally equipped with the same rights as whites. And without any doubt, the unvarnished racist hatred and unbelievable violence against them that marred America in the 1960s has been pushed out of view and toward the fringes.

But there are many subtler forms of discrimination that can hardly be squared with living in the 21st century. The constant needling by the governors, legislatures and courts of many U.S. states to suppress the black vote is a constant reminder of one fact of American life:

The level of violence and outright criminality in the white establishment may be gone, but the eagerness to discriminate in any other available form is not.

Hope no more?

It is especially instructive to look at documentaries from the 1960s, the heyday of the struggle for civil rights. Despite all the unfathomable oppression that blacks experienced when they stood up for their rights, there was also a lot of hope, especially in young black people’s eyes. They were hoping for a better future, solid education, a solid lifestyle.

That hope has now vanished for many African Americans. The only thing that provides comfort about the 72.1% of young African American children born out of wedlock is that they are no longer alone in dealing with that challenge. The corresponding rate for white children now is 29.3%.

Republican opposition to any real social reforms that would improve these children’s lot is fierce. That is no surprise.

Mr. Nice Guy

What is a surprise is that, even when a historic date is celebrated, providing the opportunity to do some much-needed truth telling to the nation, Mr. Obama mainly tries to make nice.

Consider the speech he gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 2013, at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Here was finally an opportunity to tell the nation that all is not well with African Americans, far from it.

Who other than a black man who had taught constitutional law and serves as President of the United States could have spelled out on that occasion what urgently needs doing?

And yet, Mr. Obama did not do so at all. He did not even blush in limiting himself to offering mellifluous words. And he dismissed any critics “who suggest … that little has changed.”

Instead, he offered such niceties, as “There have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half century ago.”

The closest he got to laying out the real issues was his remark that Americans must ensure that “the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails.” However, he did not delve into that key social and economic reality any further.

Contrast Mr. Obama’s relative nonchalance with the fierceness of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States and the man who managed to get both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed by Congress in 1964 and 1965, respectively.

The remarkable Mr. Johnson

Johnson was from Texas, not exactly a particularly hospitable territory for blacks at the time — and definitely not a state known for widespread enlightenment. Even so, LBJ rose to the occasion, even against the advice of his own staff.

Considered a masterful operator of the political machine, he was believed to have no moral compass. The Kennedys, in contrast, John F., the late President, and Robert F., the Attorney General, were considered to own political morality because of their refined upbringing.

In reality, it was the other way around. The Kennedys were quite squishy and only dealt with the civil rights issue when there was absolutely no other choice. Johnson, faced with a series of shocking events, focused on the issue squarely.

As he said on the occasion of the signing of the Civil Rights Bill on July 2, 1964:

We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet, many Americans do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet, millions are being deprived of those blessings — not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.

Those were remarkably clairvoyant words under any circumstance. And then he continued:

But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.

What made his remarks before a national television audience so much more powerful was the fact that, in his physiognomy, Johnson actually resembled the roughhewn, if not somewhat nasty looks of some of the most oppressive Southern officials.

Subliminally, that sent a message of healing. The President showed great compassion and true backbone standing up for the rights of those oppressed Americans.

All the more so because he knew the heavy political price that he would pay for his courage — the loss of the South as a key power region for the Democratic Party. Today, few state houses and governorships there are in the hands of the Democrats.

The other crucial point Johnson highlighted as he signed the 1964 law was that it is not enough to proclaim equal rights and principles.

The mile versus the marathon

Americans have a bad habit of celebrating at the mile marker, instead of finishing the marathon. It was necessary to take bold action in the 1960s to make full the hollow words of the Declaration and the Constitutional amendments adopted after the U.S. Civil War.

Likewise, the election of President Obama was an important milestone, but not a crowning achievement in itself.

The United States must still meet the promise of that event and work to correct the insidious and less visible violations of civil rights — and the economic imbalances that are the legacy of past misdeeds — and that still persist across the country.

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