News from Moscow
Vladimir Putin Makes a Strong Case for National Renewal

On New Year’s Eve, 2000, Boris Yeltsin surprised his country and others one last time. Before his regular period of office ended, he handed his power over to his prime minister, Vladimir Putin. During his last public appearance on Russian television he affirmed he had wanted only the best for Russia and its people, even if much had turned out quite differently. His successor assured him life-long immunity from any possible prosecution; an assurance the ex-president obviously is in need of. Since then, Mr. Putin has been head of the Kremlin. And he immediately publicized a devastating diagnosis as to the state of affairs in Russia, of which the surprising thing was less the diagnosis itself but the fact that the head of the state no longer deludes himself about the situation…

General Pinochet Arrested
A Didactic Drama About the Relationship Bewteen Politics, Law, and Morals

Democratic public opinion is ambivalent about how to treat the Pinochet affair. Professional warners point to the explosive nature of the matter and the unwanted diplomatic complications it involves. They also raise the fundamental question of what would happen if a precedent was set. On the other hand, the less commentators are guided by diplomatic calculations, the further away they are from governments when discussing the politico-moral dimension of the case, the more pleased and satisfied they tend to be. Regardless of any ideological differences between "liberal," "left," or "right," they largely agree that Pinochet's arrest was the "right signal" and the "unmistakable message" for the world community to aim at all present or future "dictators" or "criminals" as a deterrent.

Three remarks on the "crisis in Japan"

The Japanese national economy is sliding into recession. It is shrinking instead of growing.

The facts of the case are rather banal, since recession is a periodically recurring "phenomenon" of a capitalistic economy. Capitalistic entrepreneurs, with their investment strategies, extend social production beyond the extent to which their commodity can be profitably sold, attempting to win the competition for revenue and profits. Investment is financed by credit in expectation of future returns. At some point, sales slump and traders and producers run out of cash. Capital advanced no longer yields a profit, credit granted and taken is no longer converted into capital, and debtors go bust, hurting creditors as well. By and large, financial difficulties increasingly occur among firms as well as between firms and banks, raising demand for credit, which is decreasingly met for exactly the same reason, so that difficulties to make payments become general. Production plants, which have been flourishing and expanding up to now, are closed down and the employees depending on them are laid off, because profit can no longer be realized.

Stock market crash and currency turbulence in East Asia: Thailand
The ups and downs of an "emerging market" and their basis in a worldwide over-accumulation

For years Thailand has been the subject of international admiration. "Sensational growth rates," a building boom sending Bangkok into the ranks of the great metropolises in the shortest period of time, a never-ending rise on the stock-market, the baht as one of the most stable currencies in Southeast Asia, and annual capital inflows of billions of dollars were taken as a proof of trust in the country. It was unanimously held that the success of this "emerging market" was owed to a government that had carried out all the correct policies demanded by the G7 countries and the IMF, namely, "liberalization," "free capital movements" and a market economy. Thailand was considered a "model" that not only other "developing countries" but even Germany could learn from, especially when it came to cheap labor ; so said German president Herzog during an Asian trip. During the spring of 1997, though, "worries in the kingdom of growth" suddenly grew. Foreign investors withdrew money, the stock market slid, and speculators bet on the depreciation of the national currency. The government tried to stop the trend by wasting some billions of dollars defending the baht's peg to the American currency. After surrendering to the money market, the Thai currency lost more than 35 percent of its value within three months. Internal demand collapsed, business and banks went bankrupt, foreign producers closed plants. Moreover, the worst was still to come, as the government had to face losses of 14 billion dollars from foreign currency exchange contracts expiring at the end of the year.

Northern Ireland
A British colonial heritage that means nothing but trouble

After almost two years of peace in Northern Ireland, during which there was already talk of an upswing in investment and the population's growing support for the "peace process," everything has gone back to the way it was. In February 1996, the IRA resumed their war of liberation with bombings in England. In June, the Protestants again announced their "marching season," the traditional victory marches through Catholic districts. The — Protestant — police at first prohibited the marches or suggested less provocative alternative routes to the marchers and blocked the street through the Catholic district in Portadown. After three days of uninterrupted demonstrations at the roadblock they gave up their resistance against the Orange Order, clearing the way for the men with bowlers and orange sashes by beating the Catholics back, for a change. The chief constable justified giving in to pressure from the street on the grounds that the explosive atmosphere made him fear for human lives. When the Catholics rioted in answer to the Orangemen's permission to march, the law-and-order standpoint triumphed once again over the saving of lives. A Catholic was run over and killed by an armored police vehicle during the dispersal of the rioters. Public opinion in Britain and Europe now views the "peace process" to be breaking down.

Old Hunger — New Hunger

The current flurry about the increasingly miserable food situation is kind of odd. After all, hunger has its permanent place in the modern world, is regularly brought into the headlines by humanitarian organizations on public holidays, is entrusted to private charity, and just as regularly taken off the agenda in favor of other topics. Nor has this particular conflict, which is centered on the price of food and arouses the current indignation, come into the world in the year 2008. Millions of people — redundant figures of the global market economy — have long since had trouble paying for their food. Statistical data exist aplenty, and are pulled out again in view of current events, as to how many millions of “households” in how many countries spend their “income” for the most part on food. Even the insight that “anyone who survives on less than a dollar can hardly feed himself, even in the face of smaller price increases” could have been had earlier.

“Land Grabbing” — News from International Capitalism
States buy up other states’ territories for the cultivation of ‘strategic agricultural goods’ — without being invited by the established global economic powers!

Political powers and the business people empowered by them “grab land” — this is hardly news. Tapping natural resources in any part of the world is a matter of fact. Developing and exploiting mineral resources requires land rights, on which claims are laid. The cultivation of crops in regions privileged by nature characterizes the modern form of agriculture practiced and propagated by North American and European multinationals. Running plantations requires a sufficient supply of water and extensive land, roads, and ports at one’s disposal. The transportation of liquid and gaseous energy resources to the centers of capitalism, which uses and markets them, requires a global system of pipelines, for which entire states are defined and treated as transit territories. “Land grabbing” takes place all the time for all these cross-border politico-economic needs. And as a further rule, money is paid whenever land under foreign dominion is acquired — proof of a ‘fair deal.’ The current “battle over the Arctic” and over sea beds that have a rich potential in natural resources but no owners also shows that intentions to annex territory politically are not dying out at all — they still belong to the national rights that states both claim and deny each other.

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