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Monday, January 19, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





"Last week, I wrote about the crisis of Islamic radicalism and the problem of European nationalism. This week's events give me the opportunity to address the question of European nationalism again, this time from the standpoint of the European Union and the European Central Bank, using a term that only an economist could invent: 'quantitative easing.'
European media has been flooded for the past week with leaks about the European Central Bank's forthcoming plan to stimulate the faltering European economy by implementing quantitative easing. First carried by Der Spiegel and then picked up by other media, the story has not been denied by anyone at the bank nor any senior European official. We can therefore call this an official leak, because it lets everyone know what is coming before an official announcement is made later in the week. The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing. The United States did this in 2008. In addition to government debt, the Federal Reserve also bought corporate debt. The hyperinflation that some had feared would result from the move never materialized, and the U.S. economy hit a 5 percent growth rate in the third quarter of last year. The Europeans chose not to pursue this route, and as a result, the European economy is, at best, languishing. Now the Europeans will begin such a program — several years after the Americans did — in the hopes of moving things forward again. The European strategy is vitally different, however. The Federal Reserve printed the money and bought the cash. The European Central Bank will also print the money, but each eurozone country's individual national bank will do the purchasing, and each will be allowed only to buy the debt of its own government. The reason for this decision reveals much about Europe's real crisis, which is not so much economic (although it is certainly economic) as it is political and social — and ultimately cultural and moral. The recent leaks have made it clear the European Central Bank is implementing quantitative easing in this way because many eurozone governments are unable to pay their sovereign debt. European countries do not want to cover each other's shortfalls, either directly or by exposing the central bank to losses, a move that would make all members liable. In particular, Berlin does not want to be in a position where a series of defaults could cripple Europe as a whole and therefore cripple Germany. This is why the country has resisted quantitative easing, even in the face of depressions in Southern Europe, recessions elsewhere and contractions in demand for German products that have driven German economic growth downward. Berlin preferred those outcomes to the risk of becoming liable for the defaults of other countries." (STRAFOR)




"Call them the Davos Ironmen. Of the 2,500 people participating in this year’s confab, dozens have been making the pilgrimage to Europe’s highest town for decades. Wilfried Stoll of Germany’s Festo Holding GmbH is the champion: He has participated in all 36 conferences since his first one in 1979, according to the forum’s organizers.  No. 2 on the list is Indian billionaire Rahul Bajaj, who is attending the meeting -- this year it’s Jan. 21-24 -- for a 35th time. Dutch real estate consultant Cornelis van Zadelhoff is back for a 34th year, which edges him ahead of German fertilizer producer Helmut Aurenz’s 33. 'Everyone asks me why I go, and my answer is I go not to do business,' said Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto Ltd. 'I go there because I learn a good deal. I meet old friends and make new friends and enjoy myself.' Eighty people had been registered for 20 or more conferences as of last year, and almost 1,000 have attended more than 10 times; the latter get a crystal lapel pin to wear alongside the badge that grants them access to panels and meals. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers now has 22 under his belt. Billionaire investor George Soros has 21. Bill Gates hits the 20 mark this week. Founder Klaus Schwab, of course, has been to all 45 meetings since the first gathering in Davos’s then-newly-opened conference center in 1971. At the time, it was called the European Management Forum and included about 500 participants from 31 nations. At least a few of them stuck around for the full two weeks of the gathering.The event has since ballooned in size and cost -- companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their executives to participate. Hotel, travel, food and drink can double the bill. The price tag leads some critics to say the forum has become little more than a celebration of the wealthy and free markets - - something its organizers and many participants deny." (Bloomberg)

Iranian Gen. Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi killed on Golan
Iranian Gen. Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi killed on Golan

"The dominant IDF assessment Monday, Jan. 19, is that Hizballah will not hold off its rejoinder for the Israeli helicopter missile strike on the Golan Sunday, which targeted an advance guard and caused the deaths of five Hizballah and six Iranian army officers. Tehran confirmed Monday that Gen. Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi was among the officers killed in the Israel attack.. Iran’s National Security Adviser Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani responded with a pledge of punishment for the death of Gen. Allah Dadi. 'The resistance will respond by force at an appropriate time and place for the 'Zionist terrorist entity’s aggression,' he said. Israeli military chiefs are gearing up for an early Hizballah cross-border attack on Upper or Western Galilee and have instructed local security units to stand ready, open up emergency shelters and prepare their firearm arsenals. At Monday noon, Galilee district commander Brig. Gen. Amir Baram assembled Galilee mayors and local council heads at his Biranit headquarters and issued them with crisis directives for the population of a quarter of a million under their jurisdiction. Even more than a Hizballah rocket attack, this population is gravely concerned by fear of terrorist tunnels running under the border from Lebanon and coming out under their homes. The IDF has never confirmed the existence of these tunnels and may not have located them. However, since last summer’s Operation Defensive Edge against the Palestinian Hamas, and the discovery of their uncharted tunnels snaking under the Gaza-Israeli border into neighboring kibbutzim, people living in the north dread that Hizballah has taken a leaf out of Hamas’ book of terror. They found confirmation for their dread in statements Monday in the Lebanese Hizballah mouthpiece Al Akhbar: 'Israel will not be able to prevent Hizballah from sending its forces into Galilee' and 'We shall hit back for the Quneitra strike very soon.' But, barring the unlikely eventuality of Hizballah opening up a full-front assault on Galilee, the pro-Iranian Shiite terrorist group has two options for sending send its forces across the border into Galilee, DEBKAfile’s military experts report: By seizing control of a single Israeli location or district close to the Lebanese border, or pushing a force into Israel through prepared tunnels." (DEBKA)


In the film, "Selma," King is portrayed by David Oyelowo and LBJ by Tom Wilkinson.


"Selma got tanked by Washington, and by “Washington” I really mean stealth insider factions of DC, Austin and New York, and if you connect the dots you will see they lead to President Lyndon B. Johnson and his family and inner circle, who took history and used it as leverage. But, again, with the finesse of dark arts. With the exception, perhaps, of Joe Califano’s editorial in The Washington Post, 'The Movie ‘Selma' Has A Glaring Flaw,' there are not a lot of fingerprints or even overt finger pointing from the people who protect LBJ’s legacy. The media has done it for them. That’s how it works in an effective campaign and, lest we forget, this is still the capital of campaigns. The lesson in this episode is that Washington and Hollywood have the presumption of a BFF relationship. They bask in each other’s glow. When it’s useful, it’s very useful. Go ahead and enjoy that illusion. But Hollywood should never underestimate the power here, especially when the subject gets deadly serious (knock knock, Sony) or in how it relates to presidents and their legacies and, in particular, their families. Just Google the Eisenhower Memorial." (NYSD)





DPC and Amanda Vaill at Michael's.

"I was having lunch with Amanda Vaill, author of 'Hotel Florida; Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War,' one of the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2014, and also a Specatator magazine (UK) Book of the Year. The book focuses on three couples: photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kulcsar (press officers), and Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, his third wife whom he married in 1940. Amanda has also written two other biographical studies on Gerald and Sara Murphy, the famous American expatriates of the 1920s in France, and a biography of Jerome Robbins ('Somewhere: the Life of Jerome Robbins'), as well as a biography of famous jewelry designer Seaman Schepps, who was her maternal grandfather. Amanda and I share a vivid interest in public personalities as well as social and political culture, and so there is never a moment of silence between us. A good deal of the time was devoted to personalities Amanda has been thinking of writing about next, as well as our own lives, where we live and lived in New York." (NYSD)




"This is a good time to write about a nation’s resilience in the face of calamity. I am referring to the stoic discipline with which the Japanese bore hardship and the death of 15,000 people in March 2011 following a 9-magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever known to have hit Japan. I can remember the TV coverage as if it were yesterday. Very young and very old Japanese forming a long orderly line for disaster supplies. No looting whatsoever, à la in Los Angeles or New Orleans; no weeping on camera for the world to send more funds, just plucky resolve (gaman in Japanese) and ganbaru, to endure with pride. As anyone who is familiar with Japan knows, tenacity is highly celebrated both as an individual and as a collective trait. The recent outrages in Paris, and the collective dignity of the millions who marched following the murders of innocents, brought back memories of Japanese stoicism, a national trait that has served the country well, especially after the disastrous end of World War II. Just about the time the earthquake hit Japan, my friend Peter Livanos gave me a gift that is probably the one I treasure the most of all my possessions, a samurai sword of rare value and provenance, one that embodies the samurai’s code of Bushido, and one of the most outstanding examples of Japan’s highly skilled craftsmanship. The workmanship and quality of Peter’s gift far surpasses that of Western Damascus and Toledo blades, and for my last birthday his gift to me was an Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral’s flag, finished by hand, and as rare as the sword, as there were apparently a total of only 32 officers who reached Admiral’s rank between 1897 and 1945. I keep both gifts in one room, along with any medals I may have won throughout my life in sport, alas, not in war. Peter Livanos is a very generous man whose father was a friend of mine and whose mother I’ve known since childhood. (Although rich from both sides, he is a self-made man, and that really is rare, and certainly not a trait found in my family.)" (Taki)

Gambia's ruler, Yahya Jammeh, arrives at the Élysée Palace in Paris for a summit on Africa in 2013.ENLARGE
Gambia's ruler, Yahya Jammeh, arrives at the Élysée Palace in Paris for a summit on Africa in 2013. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

"As rebels fought last month to overthrow Gambia’s autocratic leader, reporters who cover Africa frantically called Gambian government landlines for comment, with no luck. But one source had the information they sought: a Facebook page for President Yahya Jammeh. 'Rest assured that the Enemies of the People have been defeated,' it proclaimed.  Unfortunately for the numerous media houses that cited the page, it was a fake—a parody account with posts invented by two Canadians in their 30s. Jay Bahadur wrote the much-cited post while sitting across the continent in his home in Nairobi, Kenya, in his basketball shorts. The Canadian-American journalist and consultant says that a high school buddy of his created the page and that both of them post to it as a gag—a way to lampoon the eccentric dictator of Africa’s smallest country. Many reporters weren’t in on the joke. Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera and the British Broadcasting Corp. all used the fake statement, as did other media outlets. Reporting on Africa, a huge continent staffed thinly by Western media, has never been easy, and in the Internet age, reporters face pressure to gather news quickly from uncooperative regimes thousands of miles apart, from Burkina Faso to Lesotho to Eritrea. Most of these governments aren’t online and rarely speak out, and there is usually little demand to hear from them. But some African states and leaders, such as Rwandan President Paul Kagame, have begun to raise their online profiles and wade into today’s give-and-take public discourse. The reporter’s challenge is determining who is behind these accounts." (WSJ)



"Over the last two months, large opposition protests have rocked the small West African nation of Togo. In November, thousands of opposition protesters marched through the streets of the capital Lome, where two were injured in clashes with security forces. A few weeks later, women with brooms took to the streets of Sokode, the country’s second-largest city, chanting that it was time to 'sweep' out the current regime. Building on this momentum, opposition and civil society groups called for massive nationwide protests on Jan. 5 to demand political reforms ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in March.President Faure Gnassingbe came to power only in 2005, but together he and his father have ruled Togo for nearly five decades, and many Togolese have had enough. The key opposition demand is a constitutional amendment that would introduce presidential term limits and prevent Gnassingbe from running again. Though the Jan. 5 protests were postponedafter the president made some concessions, they were rescheduled for January 13 after this key demand was not met. While the details remain unclear, local reports say that security forces blocked a planned march through the streets of Lome and have made several arrests.The opposition has called for daily protests to continue. So will Togo, a sliver of a country with 6 million people and a small but growing economy, follow the path of its neighbor Burkina Faso, where Blaise Compaore, president for 27 years, stepped down in October after a week of widespread protests? Togo and Burkina Faso share several characteristics: both are impoverished, Francophone countries with semi-authoritarian leaders and a history of military coups. But a regime change in Togo appears unlikely for several reasons." (ForeignPolicy)

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