Daily Archives: October 22, 2011

Tunisian Islamists to do well in first "Arab Spring" vote

image

By Andrew Hammond and Tarek Amara

(Reuters) – Islamists are expected to do well in Tunisia‘s first democratic election Sunday, 10 months after the ouster of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising that set off protest movements around the Arab world.

The Ennahda party will almost certainly win a share of power after the vote, which will set a democratic standard for other Arab countries where uprisings have triggered political change or governments have tried to rush reforms to stave off unrest.

Sunday’s vote is for an assembly which will draft a new constitution to replace the one Ben Ali manipulated to entrench his power. It will also appoint an interim government and set elections for a new president and parliament.

Polls open at 2 a.m. EDT and close at 2 p.m.

The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man whose self-immolation last December set off the Tunisian revolt, said the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.

“Now I am happy that my son’s death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice,” Manoubia Bouazizi told Reuters. “I’m an optimist, I wish success for my country.”

Ennahda, banned under Ben Ali who is now in exile in Saudi Arabia, is expected to gain the biggest share of votes. But the Islamist party will probably not win enough to give it a majority in the assembly and will seek to lead a coalition.

The North African country’s elite fear the rise of Ennahda puts their secular values under threat. The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has centered its campaign on stopping the Islamists, vowing to seek alliances to keep it out of power.

Ennahda has been at pains to assuage the concerns of secularists and Western powers, fielding several women candidates including one who does not wear the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, and promising not to undermine women’s freedoms.

Tunisia was a pioneer of secular modernization among Arab and Muslim countries in the post-colonial period, banning polygamy, equalizing inheritance rights, giving women the right to vote and discouraging the veil.

Fundamentalist Islamists known as Salafists have attacked a cinema and a TV station in recent months over artistic material deemed blasphemous. Ennahda says they have nothing to do with them, but liberals do not believe them.

Observers says Ennahda’s intentions are not clear. Its election campaign has scrupulously avoided offering policy details that mark it out as much different from its rivals.

At a final election rally Friday, Suad Abdel-Rahim, the female candidate who does not wear a veil, said Ennahda would protect women’s gains.

But illustrating the party’s contradictions, many of the books on sale on the fringes of the rally were by Salafist writers who believe women should be segregated from men in public and that elections are un-Islamic.

“In the country’s interior, where it’s more conservative, they use different rhetoric,” said commentator Rachid Khechana. “It’s about stopping culture from outside, moral corruption of youth, defending Islam, which they say has Shura (consultation), not democracy.”

“ARAB SPRING” REPERCUSSIONS

An Ennahda victory would be the first such success in the Arab world since Hamas won a 2006 Palestinian vote. Islamists won a 1991 Algerian election the army annulled, provoking years of bloody conflict.

Ennahda’s fortunes could bear on Egyptian elections set for next month in which the Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological ally, also hopes to emerge strongest.

Libya hopes to hold elections next year after a protest movement that transformed into an armed rebellion with NATO backing managed to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Unresolved violent conflict continues in Syria and Yemen, and many other governments have begun reforms to avoid civil unrest.

With so much at stake, there are concerns that even the smallest doubt over the legitimacy of the Tunisian vote could bring supporters of rival parties onto the streets.

Ennahda’s leader, Muslim scholar Rachid Ghannouchi, riled opponents this week when he described the party as Tunisia’s biggest and warned that the Tunisian people would start a new uprising if they suspected any poll rigging.

Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi said in a televised address Thursday that Tunisians should vote without fear of violence or cheating, a feature of Ben Ali’s police state.

“No one can doubt the elections, they will be transparent and clean. Rigging will not be possible. The ballot boxes will be open to everyone,” Sebsi said.

The government says 40,000 police and soldiers are being deployed to prevent any protests escalating into violence. Shopkeepers say people have been stockpiling milk and bottled water in case unrest disrupts supplies.

Source

The son of Africa claims a continent’s crown jewels

image

On 14 October, President Barack Obama announced he was sending United States special forces troops to Uganda to join the civil war there. In the next few months, U.S. combat troops will be sent to South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. They will only “engage” for “self-defense”, says Obama, satirically. With Libya secured, an American invasion of the African continent is under way.

Obama’s decision is described in the press as “highly unusual” and “surprising”, even “weird”. It is none of these things. It is the logic of American foreign policy since 1945. Take Vietnam. The priority was to halt the influence of China, an imperial rival, and “protect” Indonesia, which President Nixon called “the region’s richest hoard of natural resources …the greatest prize”. Vietnam merely got in the way; and the slaughter of more than three million Vietnamese and the devastation and poisoning of their land was the price of America achieving its goal. Like all America’s subsequent invasions, a trail of blood from Latin America to Afghanistan and Iraq, the rationale was usually “self defense” or “humanitarian”, words long emptied of their dictionary meaning.

In Africa, says Obama, the “humanitarian mission” is to assist the government of Uganda defeat the Lord’s resistance Army (LRA), which “has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa”. This is an accurate description of the LRA, evoking multiple atrocities administered by the United States, such as the bloodbath in the 1960s following the CIA-arranged murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader and first legally elected prime minister, and the CIA coup that installed Mobutu Sese Seko, regarded as Africa’s most venal tyrant.

Obama’s other justification also invites satire. This is the “national security of the United States”. The LRA has been doing its nasty work for 24 years, of minimal interest to the United States. Today, it has few than 400 fighters and has never been weaker. However, U.S. “national security” usually means buying a corrupt and thuggish regime that has something Washington wants. Uganda’s “president-for-life” Yoweri Museveni already receives the larger part of $45 million in U.S. military “aid” – including Obama’s favorite drones. This is his bribe to fight a proxy war against America’s latest phantom Islamic enemy, the rag-tag al Shabaab group based in Somalia. The RTA will play a public relations role, distracting western journalists with its perennial horror stories.

However, the main reason the U.S. is invading Africa is no different from that which ignited the Vietnam war. It is China. In the world of self-serving, institutionalized paranoia that justifies what General David Petraeus, the former U.S. commander and now CIA director, implies is a state of perpetual war, China is replacing al-Qaeda as the official American “threat”. When I interviewed Bryan Whitman, an assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon last year, I asked him to describe the current danger to America. Struggling visibly, he repeated, “Asymmetric threats … asymmetric threats”. These justify the money-laundering state-sponsored arms conglomerates and the biggest military and war budget in history. With Osama bin Laden airbrushed, China takes the mantle.

Africa is China’s success story. Where the Americans bring drones and destabilization, the Chinese bring roads, bridges and dams. What they want is resources, especially fossil fuels. With Africa’s greatest oil reserves, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was one of China’s most important sources of fuel. When the civil war broke out and NATO backed the “rebels” with a fabricated story about Gaddafi planning “genocide” in Benghazi, China evacuated its 30,000 workers in Libya. The subsequent UN security council resolution that allowed the west’s “humanitarian intervention” was explained succinctly in a proposal to the French government by the “rebel” National Transitional Council, disclosed last month in the newspaper Liberation, in which France was offered 35 per cent of Libya’s gross national oil production “in exchange” (the term used) for “total and permanent” French support for the NTC. Running up the Stars and Stripes in “liberated” Tripoli last month, U.S. ambassador Gene Cretz blurted out: “We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources!”

The de facto conquest of Libya by the U.S. and its imperial partners heralds a modern version of the “scramble for Africa” at the end of the 19th century.

Like the “victory” in Iraq, journalists have played a critical role in dividing Libyans into worthy and unworthy victims. A recent Guardian front page carried a photograph of a terrified “pro-Gaddafi” fighter and his wild-eyed captors who, says the caption, “celebrate”. According to General Petraeus, there is now a war “of perception … conducted continuously through the news media”.

For more than a decade the U.S. has tried to establish a command on the continent of Africa, AFRICOM, but has been rebuffed by governments, fearful of the regional tensions this would cause. Libya, and now Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, provide the main chance. As WikiLeaks cables and the U.S. National Strategy for Counter-terrorism reveal, American plans for Africa are part of a global design in which 60,000 special forces, including death squads, already operate in 75 countries, soon to be 120. As Dick Cheney pointed out in his 1990s “defense strategy” plan, America simply wishes to rule the world.

That this is now the gift of Barack Obama, the “Son of Africa”, is supremely ironic. Or is it? As Frantz Fanon explained in Black Skin, White Masks, what matters is not so much the color of your skin as the power you serve and the millions you betray.

John Pilger is an Australian journalist and documentary maker, based in London. He has twice won Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award, and his documentaries have received academy awards in Britain and the U.S.

by John Pilger

(WWW.Johnpilger.com)

Source

Follow the “MONEY”: A Look at Solyndra’s Lender

image

Written by Bruce Krasting

If you want to find out what happened with Solyndra you have to follow the money. I did. The half billion dollars of taxpayer dough that is probably lost in Sol came from the Federal Financing Bank (“FFB”). It’s worth a look at this bank to see what else is going on.

FFB is a bank that is owned and controlled by the US Treasury. The chairman of the Board is the TSec. (Tim Geithner). With the (big) exception of the Post Office all of the loans at FFB are guaranteed by government agencies. Technically speaking, FFB has no risks on loans guaranteed by an agency like the DOE. But I don’t think that should absolve Tim Geithner of any responsibility regarding the losses the country faces with Solyndra. If he, (or anyone else at Treasury) puts their pen to a ½ billion loan, they better well know where the taxpayers money is going. That didn’t happen.

FFB has been around for 40+ years. I believe it has always been a bank that has been used and abused by whoever happened to be running the show at Treasury. For example; from 9/30/2008 (Pre – Tim and O) to 9/30/3009 (Post – Tim and O) the FFB lent out $17.1 billion to the nice folks at the National Credit Union Administration’s “Liquidity Fund”. NCU is the guarantor of the deposits in the country’s Credit Unions (similar to FDIC). They were up against it in 2009. They had had no money left in the till to insure that those deposits would be safe. A bailout was needed to avoid a crisis. But rather than have a public debate about this, the FFB just borrowed some money and wrote a check to NCU. Problem solved.

The following are the balance sheet assets of the FFB for fiscal year end 2008 and 09. Note that there were no outstanding loans guaranteed by the DOE in 08. But a year later the number had jumped up to nearly a Bil. It was clear back then that the FFB was rapidly becoming a policy tool of the new administration. By June 30th 2011 the DOE guaranteed loans at FFB has grown to $5.2B. Clearly the Administration is (was?) using the bank to facilitate its objectives.

Federal Financing Bank

The borrowers identified as the beneficiaries of the FFB’s deep pockets include:

Abound Solar
Arizona Solar – UNC
Beacon
Great Basin Transmission
Kahuku Wind Power
Solyndra
Solar Partner I
Solar Partner II
And Solar Partner(s) III – VIII

The names on this list are the problems to be for the DOE. (I can’t wait to find out who we are partnering up with on the I – VIII deals)

The FFB/DOE has also been lending big bucks to some well know names.
Fisker Automotive, Inc.
Tesla Motors, Inc.
Ford Motors

These successful companies owe the FFB a total of $3.8 billion. There is one company that I don’t recognize. But they got $35mm in May at a real fine rate:

Diagram 2

The Post Office has $12.9 large out with FFB. The PO has a debt limit of $14b. They will hit that in 2012 (and then go broke). The FFB has been funding the operating deficits at the PO for years. When O took office it was $7b. Playing, “Hide the losses at the PO” is a very old game in D.C.

The FFB also has an active role in providing the much needed lucre for Foreign Military Sales. As of June 30 there was $349mm of IOU’s. (I wonder who those “I”s are. Probably stable governments, right?) If you’re keeping score, the amount outstanding when Bush left office was 50% higher than today.

$33 billion (61% of FFB’s book) is out to Rural Electrics. It would appear that many parts of the country don’t have adequate utilities. Nor do they have the resources to fix the problems. The solution has been to lend them dirt-cheap money with functionally no maturity. This is just a silly accounting game to avoid recognizing that needed infrastructure expense(s) should have been on the budget long ago. This is a close-up of a section of the FFB report:

FFB Report

Note the long maturities and % rates. 35-year money for Lake Land (sounds like a nice place) at Treasuries +30. The following is a pic of all the re-financing’s for May and June. I shrunk it because it would just clutter the page; it’s that long. Blow it up on your own or go to the FFB site and look up Press Releases. This goes on every month of the year. This stinks of boondoggle and pork. What are the administrative costs to oversee this? There has to be a better way.

I’m all for education. We’re dead in the water without it. I think there is a role for the government to assist in this. But the FFB? Why are they making loans? Is this just another way to avoid an expense? What are these guy’s in D.C. thinking? Is everything “on the arm” down there? Again, a close up and the totals for two months. This is silly, right?

FFB Totals
FFB May and June

A minor bad loan is the $493mm of Hope Now Bonds. A good chunk of this is still in cash. But not for long. Treasury is going to use some of this money for the big mortgage ReFi that is in the offing. When that happens there will be no hope of repayment of the Hope Bonds.

There is one more attractive feature for the Chairman of the FFB. With the exception of the notes from the PO, it’s all off balance sheet. When the “Debt to the Penny” calculation is made by the Treasury, the (net of PO) $33b at FFB borrowings are excluded.

In Wall Street terms, that makes the FFB a SPIV and it’s a whorehouse.

Note: I’ve written about the FFB before. I smelled trouble with this bank. My nose was working.

By. Bruce Krasting

Source: http://brucekrasting.blogspot.com

Source: Oil Price

%d bloggers like this: