Monday, November 30, 2009

Is the Chinese economy overheating?

The overproduction in China is partly a result of the global recession that has caused demand for exports to be very much reduced. However, China will attempt to compensate to some degree for this by increasing domestic demand. The domestic market itself could be huge and no doubt there could be much greater demand within that market if credit is made available to Chinese consumers. However, Cowen could be correct that there still may be a bubble that will burst. However, I think that it is the US that needs to worry more about its economy than China at this stage and it is the US not China that needs to worry about debt!

The New York Times / November 29, 2009

Economic View
Dangers of an Overheated China


PRESIDENT OBAMA’S recent trip to China reflects a symbiotic
relationship at the heart of the global economy: China uses American
spending power to enlarge its private sector, while America uses
Chinese lending power to expand its public sector. Yet this
arrangement may unravel in a dangerous way, and if it does, the most
likely culprit will be Chinese economic overcapacity.

Several hundred million Chinese peasants have moved from the
countryside to the cities over the last 30 years, in one of the
largest, most rapid migrations in history.

To help make this work, the Chinese government has subsidized its
exporters by pegging the renminbi at an unnaturally low rate to the
dollar. This has supported relatively high-paying export jobs;
additional subsidies have included direct credit allocation and
preferential treatment for coastal enterprises.

These aren’t the recommended policies you would find in a basic
economics text, but it’s hard to argue with success. Most important,
it has given many more Chinese a stake in the future of their society.

Those same subsidies, however, have spurred excess capacity and
created a dangerous political dynamic in which these investments have
to be propped up at all cost.

China has been building factories and production capacity in virtually
every sector of its economy, but it’s not clear that the latest round
of investments will be profitable anytime soon. Automobiles, steel,
semiconductors, cement, aluminum and real estate all show signs of too
much capacity. In Shanghai, the central business district appears to
have high vacancy rates, yet building continues.

Chinese planners now talk of the need to restrict investment in
sectors that are overflowing with unsold products. The global market
is no longer strong, and domestic demand was never enough in the first

Regional officials have an incentive to prop up local enterprises and
production statistics, even if that means supporting projects or
accounting practices that are not sustainable. For an individual
business, the standard way to get more capital resources is to put
forward a plan for growth. Because few sectors are mature, and growth
has been so widespread, everyone can promise to be profitable in the

Over all, there is a lack of transparency. China’s statistics on its
gross domestic product are based more on recorded production activity
than on what is actually sold. Chinese fiscal and credit policies are
geared toward jobs and political stability [unlike, say, in the
U.S.?], and thus the authorities shy away from revealing which
projects are most troubled or should be canceled.

Put all of this together and there is a very real possibility of trouble.

China has had a 30-year run of stellar economic growth. But it’s only
human nature for such expansion to breed too much optimism,
overextending an entire economy. Americans have found this out the
hard way in their own financial crisis.

History has shown that no major economy has grown into maturity
without bubbles, crises and possibly even civil strife or civil wars
along the way. Is China exempt from this broader pattern?

The notions of excess capacity and malinvestment were common in
business-cycle theory of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when
growing Western economies had frequent crashes of this kind. Numerous
writers, from the Rev. Thomas Malthus to [Karl Marx to] the Austrian
economist Friedrich A. von Hayek, warned about the overextension of
unprofitable capital deployments and the pain from the inevitable
crashes. These writers may well end up being a guide for understanding
China today.

What will the consequences be for the United States if and when the
Chinese economic miracle encounters a major stumble? A lot of Chinese
business ventures will stop being profitable, and layoffs and unrest
will most likely rise. The Chinese government may crack down further
on dissent. The Chinese public may wonder whether its future lies with
capitalism after all, and foreign investors in China will become more

In economic terms, the prices of Chinese exports will probably fall,
as overextended businesses compete to justify their capital
investments and recoup their losses. American businesses will find it
harder to compete with Chinese companies, and there will be
deflationary pressures in both countries. And even if the Chinese are
selling more at lower prices, they may be taking in less money over
all, so they may have less to lend to the United States government.

In any case, China may end up using more of its reserve funds to
address domestic problems or placate domestic interest groups. The
United States will face higher borrowing costs, and its fiscal
position may very quickly become unsustainable.

That’s not so much a prediction as a very possible contingency, and we
should be prepared for it. For now, we should avoid two big mistakes.
The first would be to assume that just because borrowing costs are now
low, we can postpone fiscal responsibility and keep running up the tab
— with the aid of Chinese lending, of course. The history of financial
crises shows that turning points can come swiftly and without much
warning. [I don't get this.]

The second mistake would be to demand too many concessions from the
Chinese. What we see in the numbers today are a growing China and a
somewhat ailing America. Yet there’s a real chance that, soon enough,
Chinese economic weakness will be a bigger problem than was Chinese
economic strength.

Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

The Lobo victory in Honduras

Another wealthy rancher is president of Honduras but presumably this one has enough sense not to alienate fellow members of the elite by raising the minimum wage etc. While as the article mentions many countries will still shun Honduras they can rest easy in that the US and its allies do recognise the elections and will soon declare that everything is on the up and up and the aid pipeline will be turned back on and also the military co-operation. The US never did withdraw troops or even its ambassador. The entire negotiations were a complete fraud. The negotiations were supposed to negotiate the return of Zelaya to the presidency but instead they negotiated the Micheletti plan of never allowing him to return and of legitimizing the presidential elections. This is the new smart diplomacy.

Victory declared in Honduras poll
November 30, 2009
By Rory Carroll

• Rancher Porfirio Lobo takes presidential election
• While some party, others vow to fight on for Zelaya

Within hours of the polls closing the celebrations began. Cavalcades of honking cars raced up and down Boulevard Morazan. The Hotel Maya filled with cheering people in blue T-shirts. The media fell into paroxysms of delight.

A wealthy rancher named Porfirio Lobo had just won Honduras's presidential election, heralding a "democratic fiesta". By dawn today the revellers were heading home, perhaps stopping for breakfast at one of Tegucigalpa's myriad Pizza Huts, Burger Kings and Wendy's.

"This is a wonderful day. The country has regained its equilibrium," beamed Ana Gomez, 29. After days of grey skies even the tropical sunshine returned.

But not everyone was minded to party. Honduras is in crisis: internationally isolated, shunned by investors and aid agencies. The president ousted in a June coup, Manuel Zelaya, is besieged in the Brazilian embassy, the compound ringed by barbed wire, police and soldiers. "These elections are illegitimate," he said.

Foreign governments lined up to condemn the vote as a whitewash. Many boycotted it and vowed "continued resistance". The homeless children who sleep on rubbish dumps in Tegucigalpa's slums were too hungry or high on glue to care.

How did it come to this? How did a sleepy central American backwater known for coffee and Maya ruins become a dangerously polarised international pariah?

Miguel Alonzo, sifting through the debris of his office, had an answer. "We are run by an oligarchy, that's how." The root of the crisis, he said, was the fact that an elite made up of little more than 10 families runs Honduras. "They control the economy and they control politics."

On Saturday Alonzo's civic association, Comal, paid the price of backing Zelaya's boycott campaign. Police and soldiers stormed the office and carted away computers, cash and documents. They said they were looking for weapons.

That, and the violent crackdowns on pro-Zelaya rallies, seemed anachronistic. Latin America had supposedly left repression behind in the 1980s and embraced progressive democratic governments.

"Honduras is different!" Roberto Micheletti, the de facto president, boasted last week. He was talking about its defiance of international pressure to restore Zelaya to power, but was right in other ways. From the late 19th century Honduras was turned into a giant banana plantation by US fruit corporations. They dominated the economy and made and broke governments. US marines intervened in central America more than 30 times, and in Honduras seven times, between 1900 and 1934. The US supported friendly despots on and off until 1981, when democracy replaced military rule. Power alternated between the National and Liberal parties, but an Americanised conservative elite pulled the strings.

The 10 most powerful families, many descended from Palestinian and Jewish immigrants, dominate banking, insurance, manufacturing, telecommunications and media, including TV and newspapers.

Half the population of 7.6 million still lives on less than $2 a day. "Hondurans are not being well served by their institutions," Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations thinktank said with understatement. Slums such as Cementerio, a fetid sprawl of shacks with human scavengers and mangy dogs, resemble a Hogarth sketch. Armed gangs make it one of the deadliest places in Latin America.

Unlike the rest of central America, however, during the cold war no leftist insurgency arose in Honduras, a placidness which neighbours mocked as doziness.

Zelaya changed that. Elected in 2005, he was an improbable revolutionary. A wealthy logger and part of the ruling elite, in 2007 he veered left and embraced Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chávez. An ideological conversion or tactical ploy, depending who you ask.

Mel, as he is universally known, lowered school fees and raised the minimum wage. The implementation was clumsy and in some cases backfired, costing jobs, but the poor embraced Zelaya.

The constitution constrained him: to avoid lapsing back into authoritarian rule Honduras limited the executive to one term. It was the "world's worst constitution", according to Costa Rica's president, Óscar Arias. Zelaya tried to change it by holding a non-binding referendum in June. The elite and middle class, already alarmed by the president's leftist shift, revolted. "He was going to perpetuate himself in power, just like Chávez, we had to stop him," said Romero Alguilera, owner of a taxi fleet.

With the blessing of congress, the supreme court and Zelaya's own party, masked soldiers seized and exiled him on 28 June. The world condemned the coup – even the Obama administration, which had no love for a Chávez ally. Governments withdrew ambassadors, aid was frozen and investment evaporated. The de facto rulers seemed unaware that coups were no longer acceptable: the US resisted full-blown sanctions but cut aid and visas for the elite.

The 10 families, with Micheletti as their frontman, fought back. They hired Washington lobbyists to woo Republicans and Democrats. The tactic was to run down the clock until Sunday's election, intended to cement Zelaya's loss of power.

The authorities closed pro-Zelaya media and curbed civil liberties. Security forces snuffed out protests with teargas, clubs and in some cases live rounds, leaving hundreds injured and several dead.

Zelaya sneaked back into the country in September but failed to rally mass support. Local media, controlled by the ruling elite, ran false stories that Cubans, Iranians and Venezuelans were hiding in the Brazilian embassy. One newspaper even reported there were Martians.

"Resistance" rallies dwindled and the ubiquitous grafitti – "Mel is coming!" – looked ever more wishful. As the elections loomed, the White House broke ranks with the region and hinted it would recognise the result, emboldening Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Colombia to follow suit. Canada and the EU are expected to do the same.

Lobo, the president-elect, ran on a slogan of change, but the well-heeled revellers in the Hotel Maya spoke of equilibrium restored. "Things will get back to normal," smiled Luis Gomez, a business graduate. Honduran normal, that is.

Obama Smart Power strategy legitmized Honduran coup

It is interesting that Costa Rica will recognise the elections a sure sign that Arias immediately gave in to US pressure after having been rebuffed and made to look like a fool by Micheletti and company. Micheletti has managed to outsmart the OAS. In the case of the US it appears the idea was that it should be outsmarted all along since its avowed policy of rejection of the coup was a facade for an actual policy of accomodating the coup government.

Sunday, November 29, 2009
Obama's "Smart Power" Helps Legitimize "Smart Coup" In Honduras?

Henry Kissinger said in the seventies, "if we can't control Latin America, how can we dominate the world?" This imperial vision is more evident today than ever before. Obama's presence in the White House was erroneously viewed by many in the region as a sign of an end to US aggression in the world, and especially here, in Latin America. At least, many believed, Obama would downscale the growing tensions with its neighbors to the south. In fact, he himself, the new president of the United States, made allusion to such changes.

But now, the Obama administration's "Smart Power" strategy has been unmasked. The handshakes, smiles, gifts and promises of "no intervention" and "a new era" made by President Obama himself to leaders of Latin American nations last Spring at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad have unraveled and turned into cynical gestures of hypocrisy. When Obama came to power, Washington's reputation in the region was at an all-time low. The meager attempts to "change" the North-South relationship in the Americas have made things worse and reaffirmed that Kissinger's vision of control over this region is a state policy, irrespective of party affiliation or public discourse.But the Organization of American States (OAS) and Carter Center, hardly "leftist" entities, have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate and refused to send observers. So has the United Nations and the European Union, as well as UNASUR and ALBA.

Washington stands alone, with its right-wing puppet states in Colombia, Panamá, Perú, Costa Rica and Israel, as the only nations to have publicly indicated recognition of the electoral process in Honduras and the future regime. A high-level State Department official cynically declared to the Washington Post, "What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?" Well, Washington has sat for 50 years and refused to recognize the Cuban government. But that's because the Cuban government is not convenient for Washington. The Honduran dictatorship is.
What we are witnessing is the economic hit men of the West hard at work. This is a battle for the region. The West is trying to bring back, and or hold their grasp on what used to be

The predictable US response to Honduran vote.

There will be inflated reports about turnout and no mention of the withdrawal of the independent candidate. No doubt the Honduran Congress will now be emboldened to not ratify the agreement that would return Zelaya to power. The agreement has long been dead anyway since the Zelaya side interpreted it as involving the Congress voting before the election to restore him and then a unity government would be formed. Micheletti delayed the vote until after the election and had no intention ever of reinstating Zelaya. The US went along with this circus. The US will be able to dragoon a few allies in Latin America to join in recognising the results and over time no doubt others will cave in as well but there will be a lasting rancorous relationship between the US and many Latin American countries at this diplomatic farce on the part of the US. This is from hondurascoup.

Monday, November 30, 2009
State's Rich Fantasy Life
The US State Department has weighed in on the election results in Honduras this morning, and indeed there are no surprises here.

Honduran Election

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 29, 2009

We commend the Honduran people for peacefully exercising their democratic right to select their leaders in an electoral process that began over a year ago, well before the June 28 coup d'etat. Turnout appears to have exceeded that of the last presidential election. This shows that given the opportunity to express themselves, the Honduran people have viewed the election as an important part of the solution to the political crisis in their country.

Except that the turnout appears not to have exceeded the turnout in 2005, according to the TSE's own firm hired to make the statistical projections and do exit polling. They report a turnout of 47.6% versus the TSE's claim of a 61.3% turnout. Their report has a 2% confidence interval (accurate at 98% level) whereas the TSE's claim is just an assertion, with no numbers presented to back it up. Both sets of results were presented at the 10 pm TSE press conference, but notice who the State Department decided to listen to.

The Honduran people overwhelmingly expressed themselves. Forced democracy where they could not choose candidates who represented them was not the solution for them. It was status-quo or "no go" and they didn't go in droves, despite the State Department's blind eye. Anyone who thinks the election resolved anything in Honduras is naive.

We look forward to continuing to work with all Hondurans and encourage others in the Americas to follow the lead of the Honduran people in helping advance national reconciliation and the implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Significant work remains to be done to restore democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, but today the Honduran people took a necessary and important step forward.
One wonders what fantasy world the State Department lives in that the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord will ever be implemented. I hate to tell you, but its dead. The ink wasn't even dry on the signatures when Thomas Shannon publicly agreed to recognize the results of the elections no matter what, nailing its coffin shut. You've made half-hearted efforts to resurrected it, but you're not Merlin. Its not going to come back to life.

So what's the likely US policy going forward? We've now recognized the sham election where exit polling suggests that fewer than half of the electorate actually participated. If the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord is dead and buried, as I contend, then I can only see the State Department returning to its practical, unprincipled stand, exemplified by Lew Anselem's comments on the elections, and a swift return to the status quo, a complete white-wash and acceptance of a 21rst century coup by our government. What a sad bunch of politicians.
Posted by rns at 6:09 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: elections, US State Department
Sunday, November 29, 2009
TSE announces 61.3% Participation; other estimates range lower
(Corrected at 8 AM EST) The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) headed by Saul Escobar, reported in national broadcast at 10:00 pm, that turnout was 61.3%. He also reported they had preliminary, unaudited, results, from about 8,600 polling places (out of 15,300), that they had counted 1.7 million votes for all offices so far.

However, these were unaudited results because the system they had set up to verify the numbers transmitted by cell phone, which appears to have been to make a digital recording of the call, failed, so they have not been able to check that the numbers digitized and entered into the vote counting computers matched the numbers called in by the various polling places.

The TSE is spinning this turnout as just what you would expect given the recent trends, which they said was in line with a 6% per election decline in each of the last several elections, even though this is a supposed increase.

Already, La Prensa reports in their Minute by Minute column a turnout of 61.3 % which would be an increase, not a decrease, from the previous election. This would lead one to expect approximately 2.8 million votes.

So, what does this mean in terms of legitimacy of the election and effectiveness of the call for boycott by the Frente de Resistencia? Even by the TSE's numbers, which are unaudited and preliminary, and don't match with press reports, that's a 38.7% abstention rate.

The TSE had hired a polling firm to do exit polling. They presented a report the TSE conference as well. They sampled 1000 polling places (of the 15300) and reported only a 47.6% participation rate (at a 98% confidence level). This report is more in line with what the Frente de Resistencia. The polling firm further reported they saw a 7% decline in voting over 2005. The results reported by the TSE are based on their sample precincts.

Thus we can expect a great deal of interpretation being projected into the void.

El Tiempo, in a story projecting Pepe Lobo as winner, reported that the TSE had counted 570,954 votes from 4159 polling places "selected strategically to have the tendency in all the country". This is a sample of 27.2% of the planned polling places. While it would not scale directly (since other polling places could have larger numbers of voters) it is curious to see 1/3 of the polls yield only 500,000 votes, and still have claims for 62% turnout, which would project 2.8 million votes overall.

This would be implied by the turnout estimate Bloomberg reports, citing TSE magistrate Danny Matamoros (although it is unclear when Matamoros made this statement, whether before the 10 PM announcement over radio that we report on here, or after). Matamoros is widely quoted as claiming long lines of voters led to the indelible ink running out, which makes him seem rather invested in portraying this as a huge electoral turnout. As in most elections, we are likely to need to wait sometime for official figures, and meanwhile, unofficial claims will likely be taken up and repeated as if they were established facts.

The next thing to watch for are reports of the differences between votes cast and valid votes, to detect any effect from deliberate null voting.

For now, if the TSE projection reported at 10 PM can be taken at face value, there was no massive turnout of Honduran voters yearning to use the ballot box to move beyond the coup. At best, there was a continuation of the long-established gradual discouragement of eligible voters about the worth of voting, which we have previously suggested is itself a kind of unorganized protest against elected government.

But it is also reasonable to propose that there was a measurable effect from the campaign to boycott the vote, whether we use Boz's numbers (and say that about 100,000 voters stayed home in protest) or suggest a different target number would have been reasonable in such a politicized election year.

That the results would favor Porfirio Lobo was never in question. The actual numbers are unvailable on the TSE website as of 8 am this morning, and the website for vitural observers that gave access to the cameras, is not broadcasting images of the count.

So much for the TSE's promise that they had a triple backup system that would prevent any delays in delivering the results

Sunday, November 29, 2009

US Air Force Document altered to Disguise Intentions of Colombian military accord

This analysis is quite revealing in that an analysis of the relevant Air Force documents provided by the US government itself shows clearly that the US intends to use the Colombian bases to project US military power throughout Latin America. It is not surprising that countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and others are concerned about the situation. Historically the US has attempted to control South America and considers it an important US sphere of influence but some Latin American countries are asserting more independence from the US than the US can countenance. There is no new policy change by the Obama administration just a change in rhetoric. The most that has happened are minor changes in the relationship with Cuba. This is from Venezuelanalysis.

Washington Alters U.S. Air Force Document to Hide Intentions Behind Military Accord with Colombia

November 27th 2009, by Eva Golinger
In an explicit attempt to hide Washington’s military objectives in South America, a U.S. Air Force document submitted to Congress in May 2009 that provoked deep concerns in the region has been modified and re-published on November 16, 2009. The official U.S. Air Force document, revealed and denounced by this author on November 4th, explained the justification for a $46 million request to improve the military installations in one of the seven bases Washington will occupy under the military accord signed on October 30th between Colombia and the United States. The modified document has eliminated all mention of war and military operations in the region, as well as offensive language directed at Colombia’s neighbors, Venezuela and Ecuador. Nevertheless, Washington’s intentions remain the same.

The original Air Force document dated May 2009 outlined the importance of the military base in Palanquero, Colombia to enable “full spectrum military operations” in South America. The original military document also detailed the necessity of investing $46 million to improve the airfield, ramps and other essential installations on the base, converting it into a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) for U.S. military missions in the region.

Original U.S. Air Force document, May 2009:

“Establishing a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero best supports the COCOM’s (Command Combatant’s) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our commitment to this relationship. Development of this CSL provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-U.S. governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”

The U.S. Air Force document dated November 16, 2009 and sent to the Congress under the title, “Addendum to reflect terms of the U.S.- Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement signed on 30 October 2009,” alters the original controversial language, eliminating key terms and references that provoked grave concerns in the region. The November 16th Air Force document makes no mention of establishing a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero, Colombia, however it does consistently refer to Palanquero as a “location”, retaining the original intentions. Furthermore, the monetary request is reduced by a mere $3 million to $43 million, evidencing that the original project remains almost 100% in tact. Congress had previously approved the initial $46 million request made by the Pentagon last Spring, conditioning the funds on the final signing of the U.S.- Colombia military accord, which was solidified on October 30th. But the November 16th U.S. Air Force document makes a clear attempt to disguise the original intentions by eliminating the provocative language referring to “full spectrum military operations in a critical sub-region… where security and stability is under constant threat from… anti-US governments.” That language in particular sparked immediate concerns and accusations regarding Washington’s intentions to utilize Colombia as a launching pad to attack countries such as Venezuela, considered erroneously “anti-U.S.” by many.

The modified U.S. Air Force document of November 16, 2009:

“This project at Palanquero best supports the Combatant Command’s (COCOM) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our commitment to this relationship [with Colombia]. Development of this project provides a unique opportunity to support an important partner in a region of the western hemisphere where security and stability are under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”

The original U.S. Air Force document identified Palanquero as the perfect place to enable the implementation of the U.S. global mobility strategy because it “provides access to the entire South American continent.”

Original U.S. Air Force document from May 2009:

“Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Colombia. Its central location is within reach of…operations areas…its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the U.S. military profile. The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the U.S. ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost. Palanquero supports the mobility mission by providing access to the entire South American continent with the exception of Cape Horn…”

The modified document dated November 16, 2009 eliminates all references and language referring to the “mobility mission” and “access to the entire South American continent”. However, the global mobility strategy remains an official military policy and defense strategy of the Pentagon, evidenced in the White Paper: Global en Route Strategy of the Air Mobility Command of the U.S. Air Force, and the Pentagon’s budget request and justification submitted in early 2009. Both documents specifically refer to the urgency and necessity of occupying the Palanquero base in Colombia in order to guarantee U.S. global mobility for military operations and missions.

The modified U.S. Air Force document of November 16, 2009 additionally erases all original language referring to Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations that would take place from the Palanquero base. Furthermore, all references to “regional access”, “theater security cooperation” and “expeditionary warfare capability” in the region have been eliminated.

Original U.S. Air Force document, May 2009:

“Development of this CSL will further the strategic partnership forged between the U.S. and Colombia and is in the interest of both nations…A presence will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation and expand expeditionary warfare capability.”

Modified U.S. Air Force document, 16 November 2009:

“Access to Colombia will further its strategic partnership with the United States. Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Colombia. Its central location is within reach of counter narco-terrorist operations areas; the runway and existing airfield facilities will reduce construction costs; its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the U.S. military profile. The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the U.S. ability to respond rapidly to crises, and assure access and presence at minimum cost. The taxiway and ramp/apron areas are deficient and in their current configurations severely limit the operational capabilities of this location. Additionally, the operations and support facilities need to be expanded to service a wide array of aircraft that mutually agreed activities may entail.”

Despite the modifications to the U.S. Air Force document more than six months after the original was sent to Congress, the intentions behind the U.S. military agreement with Colombia remain the same. No evidence exists demonstrating a change in the Pentagon’s global mobility strategy - it is an official state policy included in the Global Defense Posture Strategy, in place at the present time. The military base in Palanquero, Colombia has been identified several times in different Pentagon documents as the perfect site – a unique opportunity – to guarantee continental access in South America, facilitating “full spectrum military operations” in Latin America.

Washington can try to erase its language regarding intentions of war, espionage and military operations in Latin America, but the U.S. can’t erase the truth. The original U.S. Air Force document from May 2009 remains the principal justification behind the U.S.-Colombia military accord.

Original U.S. Air Force document, May 2009, in English:

Traducción no oficial al español:

Modified U.S. Air Force document, 16 November 2009 original and translation available at:

Mike Whitney: Blame Larry Summers for Double-Dip Recession

Whitney believes that there should be another stimulus package to create jobs but that since this is politically unsaleable as well as other reasons economic advisors such as Summers have changed their own positions and opted for the typical more conservative tactic of helping small business with loans and also tax cuts. Whitney should have noted that the AFL-CIO also wants more money devoted to loans for small business. This policy is more saleable than another stimulus. The earlier stimulus did not produce that many jobs and also did not keep unemployment from rising above 8 per cent. Indeed it is over ten per cent so it is not surprising that Summers changed gears. Personally I think that although there may not be a double dip recession that there will be a stock market correction and that recovery will be very slow in the US. It is countries such as India and China that are already doing reasonably well that will lead the way out of recession. The US will be drowning in debt and a low dollar and low wages will make imorts expensive and the standard of living in the US will decline.

Soaring Unemployment and Double-dip Recession?
Blame N.W.O. Larry

By Mike Whitney

November 26, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- Barack Obama's chief economic advisor, Lawrence Summers, is determined to sabotage a second round of stimulus. And, he's getting plenty of help, too. Congressional Democrats are dragging their feet because they're worried about the political backlash and midterm elections, the GOP deficit hawks are looking for a way they can derail the Obama agenda and reestablish their bone fides as fiscal conservatives, and the bailout-traumatized American people are simply opposed to anything that generates more red ink. Even Obama has joined the fray and started badmouthing stimulus stressing the importance of living within our means and trimming the deficits. So it looks like a done-deal; no more stimulus. There's only one problem, without another blast of stimulus the economy is headed for the skids.

Summers knows this because he is an extremely bright and competent economist. With Summers, the issue is loyalty, not intelligence. To prove this point, consider Summers comments in a Washington Post editorial (September of 2008) where he explains what needs to be done to put the economy back on track:

"Indeed, in the current circumstances the case for fiscal stimulus -- policy actions that increase short-term deficits -- is stronger than ever before in my professional lifetime. Unemployment is almost certain to increase -- probably to the highest levels in a generation. Monetary policy has little scope to stimulate the economy given how low interest rates already are and the problems in the financial system. Global experience with economic downturns caused by financial distress suggests that while they are of uncertain depth, they are almost always of long duration.

The economic point here can be made straightforwardly: The more people who are unemployed, the more desirable it is that government takes steps to put them back to work by investing in infrastructure or energy or simply by providing tax cuts that allow families to avoid cutting back on their spending. ("A Bailout Is Just a Start", Lawrence Summers, Washington Post)

To repeat: "Monetary policy has little scope to stimulate the economy given how low interest rates already are and the problems in the financial system."

Bingo. Zero-percent rates don't get any traction in a liquidity trap. That's why economists push for fiscal stimulus; jobs programs, state aid, and extended unemployment benefits. That's the only way to narrow the output gap and rev up economic activity. Summers doesn't even challenge the idea, in fact, he makes the case for fiscal stimulus. Of course, that was then, and now is, well, now. Here's another clip of Summers stirring up the masses at the Brookings Institute with his thundering Fidel Castro impersonation:

"Between 2000 and 2007 – a period of solid aggregate economic growth – the typical working-age household saw their income decline by nearly $2000. The decline in middle-class incomes even as the incomes of the top 1% skyrocketed has a number of causes, but one of them is surely rising asset prices and the fact that financial sector profits exploded to the point to where they represented 40% of all corporate profits in 2006.

Confidence today will be enhanced if we put measures in place that assure that the coming expansion will be more sustainable and fair in the distribution of benefits than its predecessor."

Larry Summers carrying-on about "distribution of benefits"? Huh? So how does the Redistributionist-in-Chief feel about stimulus now? Here's a clip from Thursday's Wall Street Journal:

"The White House is lukewarm about proposals by congressional Democrats to introduce broad legislation to create jobs, instead favoring targeted measures that would be less likely to inflate the deficit, administration officials said.

Mr. Obama is keen to avoid any measures suggestive of a second, big-ticket stimulus. With about half of the February stimulus spending spoken for, the measure has created about 640,000 jobs, fewer than the number of jobs lost in January alone.

"There is no discussion of a package like a second stimulus, but we are working closely with Congress and consulting with outside experts to determine the right policies and the right steps," said White House deputy press secretary Jennifer Psaki. ("Weighing Jobs and Deficits", Elizabeth Williamson, Wall Street Journal)

Apparently, Summers has had time to rethink his populism and do a 180. Team Obama plans to create jobs by initiating tax credits and lending to small businesses. Sound familiar? In other words, the only way that millions of dejected workers will get any relief is if private industry can be enriched in the process. That's why "there is no discussion of a second stimulus." Because Summers is an industry rep who primary task is to ensure the smooth transfer of public wealth to corporate plutocrats. He even opposed the extension of unemployment benefits believing that greater hardship would push wages down even further. Here's an excerpt from Arianna Huffington at Huffington Post:

"The problem for the White House and for the Democratic Party -- and, most importantly, for the country -- is that the administration's response on jobs is being led by Summers, who actually opposed the extension of unemployment benefits Obama just signed. At this point you have to wonder what Obama's attachment to Summers and Geithner is.....

Back in February, when the $787 billion economic stimulus bill was signed, Summers and company promised that it would keep the unemployment rate from going any higher than 8.5 percent. With another 3.4 million jobs lost since then -- and the official unemployment rate at 10.2 and rising -- what does Summers say now?

"I think we got the Recovery Act right." ("Will the unemployment disaster be Obama's Katrina?", Arianna Huffington,

Indeed, from Summers point of view, the America Rescue and Recovery Act has worked out just dandy. The unions are getting walloped, 8 million people are out of work, the labor market is in the worst shape it's been since the Great Depression, and the blood-flow of stimulus is about to get choked-off sometime in the next two quarters. Hey, it's morning in America!

But, as we noted earlier, Summers is a superb economist, so maybe there is an economic reason for his opposition to more stimulus. Could it have to do with the output gap? Since Lehman Bros collapsed, the output gap (which is the difference between an economy’s actual output and its potential output) has been at record lows. That means that there is not sufficient demand to take up the slack in the economy. The only way to resolve that problem (when the Fed is in a liquidity trap and consumers are slashing spending) is to get money into the hands of people who will spend it. That means more government spending, thus, more stimulus. But how much more?

Here's economist Robert Skidelsky with an answer:

"But how large must such a stimulus be? The United States Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that American output will be roughly 7% below its potential in the next two years, making this the worst recession since World War II. American unemployment is projected to peak at 9.4% towards the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010, and is expected to remain above 7% at least until the end of 2011.

The US government has pledged $787 billion in economic stimulus, or about 7% of GDP. Superficially this looks about right to close the output gap – if it is spent this year . But it is in fact a three year-program. Some $584 billion is allocated for 2009-2010, leaving perhaps $300 billion of extra money for this year. Even so, it is not clear how much of that will be spent.

....A double round of stimulus packages is needed to counteract the real prospect of a double-dip recession.

The time to start worrying about inflation is when the recovery is entrenched. To pay back the debt without strain, we need a booming economy. Talk of government spending cuts is premature. ‘A boom not a slump is the right time for austerity at the Treasury’ said Keynes. He was right." ("Is Stimulus Still Necessary?" Robert Skidelsky. Project Syndicate)

Surely, Summers made the same calculations as Skidelsky, but decided to go with a smaller stimulus package for political reasons. Fair enough. He was probably afraid that a larger bill wouldn't get through congress. That's reasonable, but it doesn't change the fact that more stimulus is needed now. The White House should be preparing itself for a major public relations campaign spearheaded by President Persuasion, the charismatic orator who could charm a hungry dog off a meat-wagon. But there's no PR campaign on the drawing board at all; just more blabber about cutting deficits and reducing long-term government spending. ( attack on Social Security) So as soon as this stimulus-injection wears off, the economy will slip into a coma once again. Here's Paul Krugman breaking it all down:

"Second estimate of third-quarter GDP out; growth rate marked down to 2.8%.
This is really quite grim. At this growth rate it’s far from clear that we’re doing anything to reduce the output gap — the gap between what the economy could produce and what it’s actually producing. Correspondingly, there’s no reason now for even a bit of optimism on unemployment.

When the 3.5% advance number came out, I took to warning people that even if the economy continued to grow at that rate, we wouldn’t see anything like full employment until late in Sarah Palin’s second term. Given the latest number, the date at which we can expect to see a return to full employment is … never.

And that’s if growth continues at this rate. The odds are good that growth will slow down next year: the stimulus has already had its peak effect on growth and will turn into a net drag in the second half, the inventory bounce — which was a major factor in 3rd quarter growth, such as it was — will fade out. Basically, we may be in a technical recovery, but we’re not recovering. (Paul Krugman, "Gee, that’s De Pressing" The Conscience of a Liberal, New York Times)

There's no recovery. Figure it out. Bank profits went up last quarter, but lending went down significantly. Now, that's a neat trick. How did they manage that?

They did it with the money they're getting from the Fed. Bernanke has provided broken banks and other financial institutions with trillions of dollars that are being diverted into high-risk assets, carry trades (with the zero-rate dollar as the funding currency) and speculative derivatives bets. The same bubble that just blew up a year ago has been reflated thanks to Bernanke's largesse and gigantic re-leveraging. Main Street is in a Depression, but Wall Street is doin' just fine.

Even so, there is no sign of inflation anywhere and the government is able to borrow capital at record low costs. Last week 3-month Treasuries went negative while the 2-year T-bill has fallen off a cliff. Why? Because Bernanke ended the guarantee on money markets so investors are fleeing to safety again. Ordinary retail investors who can't do bigtime cross-border currency transactions or High Frequency Trading, need a place to hide. Hence, USTs. They're forking over their money to Uncle Sam for under 1 percent interest. It's highway robbery. At the same time, consumer credit is shrinking, bank lending is down, and 1 out of 4 homeowners is upside-down. Money is not moving and the economy is on a ventilator. We need more stimulus.

But there won't be another round of stimulus because Summers and his sniveling companion Geithner won't allow it. They have other plans. Oh yeah, Wall Street and the banking Goliaths will still get as much monetary stimulus as they need (under the phony moniker of "quantitative easing", liquidity swaps, or excess reserves) But as for the working slob---nada, zippo, zilch.

Summers assignment is to bring the broader economy to its knees; to crush big labor by keeping unemployment high, to force state and local and governments to privatize more public assets and services, and to generate as much human misery as possible. In short, Summers is laying the groundwork for structural adjustment within the US, a policy which reflects his ongoing commitment to multinational corporations and neoliberalism. It's the shock doctrine redux. These people are monsters.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pakistan PM fears Afghan escalation will destabilize Balochistan

The U.S. does not really care about the difficulties the surge may cause for Pakistan. They will insist that Pakistan battle the many militants who will simply cross the border into Pakistan. However, Pakistan already is facing a separatist threat in Balochistan. If the separatists team up with militants from Afghanistan there could be real trouble for Pakistan. Pakistan already worries about having sufficient troops for offenses against the Taliban in the tribal regions and also to guard the border with India. No doubt the cozy relationships the US is developing with India will not go down well in Pakistan and will create an even stronger anti-American sentiment in the country.

News From -
Pakistan PM: US Escalation in Afghanistan Will Destabilize Balochistan

Posted By Jason Ditz

Speaking just days before President Obama unveils a massive new escalation in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani warned that he is increasingly concerned that the escalation could imperil Pakistan’s Balochistn Province.

“This is the concern that we already discussed with the US administration,” Gilani noted. The US is expected to commit additional troops to Helmand Province, along the border with Pakistani Balochistan.


Governor's son charged in Philippine Massacre

The slaughter seems to have been quite indiscriminate. If the article is correct that 29 journalists were killed this would be a record of sorts I am sure. One wonders why 29 journalists would be covering this event even if the election convoy was of considerable interest locally. That the perpetrators thought they could get away with this unscathed is remarkable. Even Arroyo probably cannot protect her loyalists when they engage in actions such as this.

Governor’s Son Charged With Leading Philippines Massacre

Posted By Jason Ditz

Andel Ampatuan Jr, the mayor of a town in the Maguindanao Province and son of the province’s governor, has turned himself in today and will face murder charges for his alleged role in this week’s massacre of 57 people in an election convoy.

The Ampatuan family is politically powerful in Maguindanao and Andel Ampatuan Sr. held the governorship unopposed for three consecutive terms. Andel Jr. reportedly led local police and militia members to stop the convoy carrying family members and supporters of the opposition candidate, and the group slaughtered 57 people including dozens of journalists and the opposition candidate’s wife and two sisters. Andel Jr. denies having played any role in the attack and insists he only turned himself in to prove his innocence.

The Ampatuan family has close ties with Philippines President Gloria Arroyo and was warned that if they did not turn over Andel they faced attack by the nation’s military.

Reporters Without Borders has put the number of journalists killed in the massacre at 29, making it reportedly the single deadliest attack on members of the press in the history of mank

Friday, November 27, 2009

US Left not protesting Obama's Afghan war.

Raimondo has a point. Of course one could also ask what the left was doing supporting Obama in the first place given his position on the Af-Pak war. He was gung-ho from the get go. But the imagination of the majority of the US left is bounded by the two party system a sign that the US left like the two party system and the great divide between liberal and conservative is all part of the framing of a system designed to keep the capitalist ruling class firmly in power. While there are differences between liberals and conservatives Democrats and Republicans they all work within the system and challenge only at the periphery but offer no alternative to the system itself. That system as it is now is a type of developing oligopolistic capitalism with the US playing a hegemonic role and making the world safe for global capitalism. Raimondo sees the libertarian movement as mounting an antiwar campaign but the numbers of libertarians who might be involved would be small and some libertarian oriented groups tend to support US imperialism. But at least an alliance of libertarian with other antiwar activists including disgruntled Democrats might lead to more middle of the road Americans joining the struggle since the negatives for Americans in a continued attempt to keep or even expand US influence far outweigh any advantages. This is from

Who Will Protest Obama’s War?

Posted By Justin Raimondo On November 24, 2009 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized 31 Comments

Here we are on the verge of a momentous announcement – President Obama’s unveiling of his "comprehensive plan" for escalating the war in Afghanistan – and where is the so-called antiwar movement? Missing in action, as this news report reveals:

“‘There’s this trust that he’s going to fix it all,’ said Shara Esbenshade, 19, a sophomore at Stanford University and member of Stanford Says No To War. She says there are no antiwar marches on her campus, only vigils, educational events, and occasional protests against Condoleezza Rice, who has returned to Stanford after serving as George W. Bush’s secretary of state. ‘We’d really like to start doing more about Afghanistan,’ she added. ‘But students here rising up? I really don’t see that happening.’"

No need to ask who "he" is: it’s the Dear Leader, of course, the Big O: He Who Can Fix Anything. Well, I’ve got some really, really bad news for you, Shara, honey: he is getting ready to send somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 more troops to the Afghan front, and not only that, but he’s come up with a brand-new strategy, one that means they’ll be sending a lot more troops that way pretty damned soon.

What it boils down to is this: saying no to war entails saying no to Obama – and I have the distinct feeling that, forced to make a choice between their ostensibly antiwar sentiments and their devotion to the Dear Leader, Shara and her privileged, politically correct friends will reflexively choose the latter. Indeed, they already have, which is why Stanford Says No to War is lazing around, only stirring itself when a Republican rolls into view. But for how much longer can they rank on Condi Rice, who may indeed be a reprehensible warmonger but has, since the end of her tenure at State, been rendered relatively harmless?

Oh, but it’s too easy to go after a clueless 19-year-old: after all, why should it fall on Shara’s fragile shoulders to challenge the dominant political orthodoxy? Why blame her for the unlikelihood of her fellow students "rising up" anytime soon?

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems Ms. Esbenshade and her confreres are generally on the Left, and what’s left of the Left has a political conflict of interest when it comes to opposing U.S. military intervention overseas, as the above-cited article makes all too sadly clear:

"Mounting economic and academic pressures on today’s youth, intimidation by authorities, online distractions, and conflicted views about the ‘good’ war in Afghanistan, not to mention other causes such as health care and slashed school budgets clawing for attention, have conspired to snuff out antiwar activism on campus, experts and students say.

"They acknowledge, too, that U.S. President Barack Obama has paradoxically hampered the movement because many of the largely leftist protest groups haven’t wanted to openly oppose him so early in his first term."

Intimidation by authorities? Really? Will their professors give them a failing grade if they go out in the streets with signs proclaiming "Stop Obama’s War"? You’d think we were living in China, where all expressions of dissent are illegal and an unauthorized demonstration can earn you a free trip to the gulag. Yet even if there were indeed some real intimidation, then wouldn’t that in itself provoke a wave of defiant protest – as it has, say, in Iran?

No, this is excuse-making: the piece is closer to the truth with its invocation of "the good war" as a phrase that meaningfully relates to Afghanistan. As we begin to hear more and more about the potential goodness of this war – e.g., from feminists, such as Code Pink, who have now decided that withdrawal from Afghanistan would not be good for the cause of equal pay for equal work – we begin to hear more about the war’s potential usefulness in advancing the Obamaite big-government agenda. Here’s Matt Yglesias, over at the Center for American Progress – the epicenter of Obama worship – musing over the prospect of a "war surtax":

"I’d like to see Paul Krugman or other advocates of more stimulus weigh-in on whether debt-financed escalation of military effort would have a beneficial impact on the labor market situation. I think it’s deplorable that U.S. political culture tends to regard military-related appropriations as exempt from normal budgetary considerations, but it’s possible that that’s a loophole worth taking advantage of in this case. All those new weapons purchases the Pentagon doesn’t want to estimate are manufacturing jobs for someone, right? Obviously this shouldn’t the primary consideration in dictating military strategy, but I do think a comprehensive look at the macroeconomic impact of defense policy choices – both the costs and benefits of hugely expensively military undertakings – is a necessary element of the strategic consideration."

How to balance the costs of the Afghan war – the thousands of Afghan and American lives lost, the horrific destruction wreaked on Afghan society, the screams of the horribly wounded, and the tears of mourners – against what Yglesias and his fellow Keynesians imagine will be the "benefits" of spending all that government moolah and doling it out to their political allies and corporate patrons?

These soulless policy wonks may believe this kind of calculus has no moral import, but for the rest of the human race the profoundly immoral and frankly repulsive nature of this arithmetical exercise is readily apparent. Yglesias himself has criticized our policy in Afghanistan and is skeptical of plans to escalate the conflict, yet he unhesitatingly unpacks the doctrine of military Keynesianism in order to advance his big-government agenda. He may think this is harmless, but as John T. Flynn presciently pointed out as World War II was ending:

"The great and glamorous industry is here – the industry of militarism. And when the war is ended the country is going to be asked if it seriously wishes to demobilize an industry that can employ so many men, create so much national income when the nation is faced with the probability of vast unemployment in industry. All the well-known arguments, used so long and so successfully in Europe … will be dusted off – America with her high purposes of world regeneration must have the power to back up her magnificent ideals; America cannot afford to grow soft, and the Army and Navy must be continued on a vast scale to toughen the moral and physical sinews of our youth; America dare not live in a world of gangsters and aggressors without keeping her full power mustered … and above and below and all around these sentiments will be the sinister allurement of the perpetuation of the great industry which can never know a depression because it will have but one customer – the American government to whose pocket there is no bottom."

The economic benefits Yglesias points to, however, come with some strings attached. As Flynn accurately predicted:

"Embarked … upon a career of militarism, we shall, like every other country, have to find the means when the war ends of obtaining the consent of the people to the burdens that go along with the blessings it confers upon its favored groups and regions. Powerful resistance to it will always be active, and the effective means of combating this resistance will have to be found. Inevitably, having surrendered to militarism as an economic device, we will do what other countries have done: we will keep alive the fears of our people of the aggressive ambitions of other countries and we will ourselves embark upon imperialistic enterprises of our own."

Keynesian militarism means a foreign policy shaped by a constant propaganda of fear. In order to justify outsized military spending, it is necessary to conjure threats of comparable stature, but once we take this path, there is no return to normalcy. For our own economic normalcy will come more and more to depend on generating a constant stream of foreign crises and an ever ready supply of enemies who cannot be safely ignored.

There are, in the long run, no net benefits to be had from the policy of military Keynesianism: our debt-driven military buildup can only end in bankruptcy and universal ruin. Yes, in the short run, certain workers and employers do indeed derive benefits from our foreign policy of unrelenting aggression, but their "jobs" are not in any sense productive: indeed, they are engaged in the "business" of wholesale destruction – of human lives and resources – so while their "work" benefits them, it hurts the rest of us immeasurably.

Of course, the Keynesians will have none of this. They believe that if the government pays us to build pyramids, blows up the finished product, and pays us to rebuild them, then they’re "kick-starting" the economy. So why not start a world war – wouldn’t that deliver a swift kick to our stubbornly mulish economy and save the Obamaites’ rapidly sinking political fortunes?

Well, because that would be morally indefensible, now wouldn’t it? Yet that is precisely what the administration is getting ready to do, as the announcement of Obama’s Afghan "surge" looms closer. The president won’t argue that the war will be good for the economy; he’ll leave that dirty job to his proxies over at the Center for American Progress, who, if they do good work, just might get invited to the latest "must attend" White House event.

All in all, we face a depressing prospect: the Left brain-dead with Obama idolatry, the Right neoconized beyond redemption – and no one left to oppose a futile, draining, and horrifically destructive conflict, a war we cannot afford and which directly contravenes our real interests as a nation.

No one, that is, except a clear majority of the American people, who, according to polls, think the battle for Afghanistan is not worth it. Here is a clear instance in which ordinary, everyday Americans are radically out of sync with partisan activists of both the Right and the Left – thus creating a huge opening for libertarians, particularly the campus arm of the movement..

The premier libertarian youth organization, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), is the fastest-growing political group on campus, these days, and no task would suit them better than assuming the leadership of the moribund, leftist-dominated antiwar movement. As Obama’s zombie-like cult follows him down the road to war – a war on a scale the much-reviled Bush administration never dared attempt – YAL can fill the vacuum, swell its own ranks, and, more importantly, dramatize the moral and political bankruptcy of the current administration, while drawing a clear and very dramatic line of demarcation between libertarians and Sean Hannity-type conservatives..

I have my issues with the organized libertarian movement, such as it is, and I have never endorsed any organization. YAL, however, is a different story: born out of the surge in libertarian activism generated by the Ron Paul campaign, it exemplifies the same staunch anti-imperialism married to (and derived from) a hard-core libertarian economic perspective. What I love about Rep. Paul is his obvious delight in mixing in denunciations of Obama’s domestic boondoggles with his informed and trenchant opposition to our global empire-building project.

If we’d only give up the empire, Paul averred during his presidential campaign, the savings would give us the resources to repair our decaying infrastructure, fund healthcare, and ameliorate a good many of the ills liberals say need fixing. Rather than do that, however, liberal Democratic members of Congress want to impose a war surtax and make us pay for the war on top of all the other nonsense.

Liberalism, in its modern incarnation, is intellectually bankrupt, and has been for quite some time, but it took the ascension to power of a decidedly liberal administration to highlight the demise of its moral authority. Young people looking for a comprehensive view of life, a principled perspective on the events shaping their world, are not going to find it in the cost-benefit analyses of dried-up Washington policy wonks who balance the economic "benefits" of mass murder against the weight of the dead.

Nor will they find it in the cynical pontifications of neoconservative militarists, who think they can pursue a "freedom agenda" while supporting a foreign policy that requires a huge and highly centralized federal Leviathan, one that eats up a good portion of the national income.

Libertarianism alone represents a coherent alternative to the tired, worn-out ideologies of the Right and the Left, and the war issue can underline this uniqueness like no other. If any organization has the spirit, and the numbers, to attempt this, it is YAL: growing by leaps and bounds, springing up on campuses coast to coast, its principled opposition to overseas intervention is exemplary.

Don’t wait for the sleepy-eyed Left to wake from its slumber. That may be a long time coming. If there are other groups on campus you can work with, fine, but libertarians must take the initiative – not only to make political gains, but because it is a moral imperative that we act.

Don’t be taken in by the "no one cares" meme, which invariably pops up in journalistic accounts of how the antiwar movement is in the doldrums. There is a populist anger out there that is easily attached to any issue, whether it be healthcare or the Afghan war. The "tea parties" showed us that.

Don’t wait for lightning to strike. You can start a prairie fire all on your own. The sagebrush is dry, and the weather is amenable: what’s needed is a spark. Has anybody got a match?


Once again, we come to the end of a fundraising campaign, and as I write this, we still have a few thousand bucks to go. Which tells us, yes, the recession is still hitting hard – but no, our readers haven’t abandoned us.

To all who gave, enduring days – nay, weeks – of rude hectoring and endless reminders of our impending doom, I have to say my gratitude is boundless. Every time I sit down to write another column, as I have been doing for more than a decade now, I remember this extraordinary generosity, which has endured lo these many years, and it gives me the energy to soldier on – and do it with gusto!

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Honduran sham election.

This article is interesting in that it not only gives a history of the coup negotiations recently but also notes some of the splits within those who support the coup. The parts about the military are particularly frightening. It remains to be seen if anything such as descrribed really happens. In the US there is virtually no discussion of the issues and the whole Honduran farce is off the radar of mainstream media. The article should have mentioned that the US brokered agreement was quite vague and had no timetable for a decision to be made by congress on Zelaya's re-instatement but of course it was understood that it would be before the formation of a unity government and the the Honduran Congress would simplify ratify the agreement. If it did not do this then the agreement would be null and void. But Micheletti stalled and now the congress will not meet until after the elections and also an opinion has been received from the Supreme Court that Zelaya cannot be legally re-instated. This whole affair has shown the US to be just as it was under Bush as far as Latin American policy is concerned just the rhetoric has changed but the reality remains the same as reactionaries such as Jim Demint are able to force the Obama administrations hand and get them to recognise the coup elections. Of course this may have been what the Obama administration wanted anyway.

Honduras en lucha!

Honduras' sham election
Shaun Joseph analyzes the upcoming elections in Honduras--a sham vote orchestrated by the coup regime after it broke its commitment to restore Manuel Zelaya.

November 24, 2009

JUST OVER five months since the June 28 coup d'etat against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, elections scheduled for November 29 will complete the current phase of the struggle over Honduras' future--but only by opening another, perhaps darker, period.

A "peaceful" resolution to the Honduran drama was widely expected after October 30, when U.S. negotiators brokered the Tegucigalpa/San José Accords between representatives Zelaya and the golpista (coup-maker) government headed by Roberto Micheletti.

But Washington's hands-off behavior in the following week allowed Micheletti to break the agreement by unilaterally announcing the formation of a "unity government," headed by himself, while the golpista-controlled Congress deliberately dithered on the question of restoring Zelaya to office, which was the prime condition of the opposition to the coup regime to recognize the elections.

Although the Accords are obviously in tatters--members of the "unity government" aren't even known, nearly three weeks after they were supposed to be installed--the U.S. insists on acting as if everything is still going according to plan. This is because the agreement, were it not a fiction, would legitimize the upcoming elections and lead to the normalization of Honduras' international relations, which is important for North American corporations, especially in the fruit, textile and mining sectors.

For more on the situation in Honduras, Spanish speakers can find live streaming video from the Venezuelan TV station TeleSur. The Honduran TV network Cholusat Sur and radio station Radio Globo also provide live streams, although both are frequently pulled off the air by the golpistas.

English speakers can find frequent updates at the excellent Honduras Oye!, Honduras Coup 2009, Honduras Resists and Quotha.

The Facebook page Miguel and Shaun in Honduras also posts frequent updates from a variety of sources in both languages.

Although the concessions to Zelaya--which were actually minor and largely symbolic--have been voided by the golpistas, the U.S. wants to retain the provisions dear to its own capitalist interests.

But while the U.S. plans to recognize the November 29 elections, it has so far found no other country willing to join it, at least publicly. On the contrary, a number of Latin American countries have openly stated that they won't recognize elections carried out under the golpista dictatorship. These countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

It will be difficult for the U.S. to carry any Latin American countries with its line, even traditional allies. Not only is Latin American popular opinion solidly opposed to the Honduras coup, but a section of the region's elite also understands the toppling of Zelaya as an attack on attempts to build capitalist links independent of U.S. imperialism. The Organization of American States (OAS), traditionally a U.S. instrument, has refused to send observers or provide technical assistance for the elections.

So the Obama administration--supposed advocates of "smart power" in contrast to the Bush presidency--have demonstrated their "smartness" by devising a diplomatic fiasco in Latin America much worse than anything its predecessor ever bumbled into.

Of course, U.S. imperialism's priorities of defending American power limit its prospects for success in any circumstance. But the Obama administration has cut a sorry figure, even on the tactical level.

The clearest statements on Obama's Honduras policy seem to be funneled through Republican senators: Jim DeMint of South Carolina was first to announce Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's promise to recognize the Honduran elections, regardless of Zelaya's status, and Richard Lugar of Indiana announced that the State Department would fund "election observation missions" organized by the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute (international fronts of the Democratic and Republican Parties, respectively).

In the meanwhile, the administration had no response to two letters from Zelaya himself, despite the fact that he is Honduras' legitimate head of state, according to every nation and international body in the world.

The Obama administration seems to think it can erase five months of dictatorship through a ready-to-order election. In reality, they are inviting a more severe crisis.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE CALL of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat to boycott the coming elections has been widely taken up across Honduran civil society. A letter renouncing the elections signed by over 300 candidates was delivered by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky to Obama, although the names haven't been released due to fear of reprisals from the golpista regime.

Among those known to have withdrawn from the vote are independent presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes; Rodolfo Padilla Sunceri, the incumbent Liberal Party mayor of San Pedro Sula, Honduras' second city; Elvia Argentina Valle Villalta, the incumbent Liberal Congress deputy from Copán; and Margarita Zelaya de Elvir, the Liberals' vice presidential candidate. There have been resignations by candidates of all parties--including, incredibly, at least one from the center-right National Party.

Unfortunately, the leftist Democratic Unification Party (UD), which previously associated itself with the anti-coup resistance, made the astonishing decision to participate in the elections, affirmed a party conference on November 21.

UD claims that it doesn't want any offices vacated by its members to fall into golpista hands. But in the unlikely event that UD kept all its positions, or even gained more, its officials would have zero effect in a regime spawned by a military dictatorship.

To be sure, as the sole organized party of the left, UD would lose a great deal by withdrawing from the elections, as the party would certainly be stripped of its legal status. But now, UD will lose something far more precious: the respect of the most politically conscious militants in Honduras. (Some individual UD candidates have withdrawn from the vote.)

Naturally, the boycott question is forcing everyone in and around the anti-coup resistance to take sides. More surprising, however, is that the elections, instead of giving the oligarchy's leadership the opportunity to regroup and reorient, seem to be tearing them apart. The key fault lines lie between the two major parties on the one hand, and between the politicians and the military on the other.

Both Zelaya and Micheletti are members of the Liberal Party. After the coup, a "melista" (Zelaya-supporting) faction of the Liberals went over to the resistance, where it tended to constitute a more conservative, compromising wing of the grassroots opposition to the golpistas.

If the Accords had been implemented, the melistas would have been a natural bridge back to electoralism and rapprochement with the Liberal mainstream. In the face of golpista intransigence, though, the Liberal Party is now hopelessly split--its presidential candidate, Elvin Santos, is running a distant second to Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo of the National Party.

Unfortunately for Lobo, the fact that the elections will not be monitored by any credible organizations, but a motley crew of pro-coup kooks and flunkies, greatly increases the chances for fraud. Suspicious results could have the two golpista parties at each others' throats.

The second, perhaps graver, division is between the politicians and top military officers. As Andrés Pavón of the Honduran human rights organization CODEH said in a statement on November 14:

The military command feels profoundly nervous about the current situation they confront, as the politicians have left them alone for weeks, and [the commanders] have sniffed out, with good reason, the incapacity of the new government, which will be derived from the fraudulent electoral process, to completely protect them from the consequences of their criminal actions at the national and international levels.

No government in Honduras will willingly accept economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed on the country just to protect military officers from jail. So the military could become convenient scapegoats to calm cries for justice in the wake of the election.

Pavón says that inside sources leaked to him plans for a military provocation on November 29--with paramilitary units, disguised as a fictitious "Armed Command of the Resistance," committing a massacre. The massacre will then be used as justification for a campaign of terror against the National Resistance Front. The plan is said to have been devised by Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, head of the Honduran military and a graduate of the School of the Americas.

Pavón's credibility is impeccable, so it is likely that this heinous scheme is at least being discussed in military circles. The Front apparently considers it a serious threat and referred to the plot specifically in its most recent communiqué.

Indeed, there is a distinct possibility of a "coup within a coup," with the military taking direct power and demagogically blaming the politicians for the crisis. Micheletti's bizarre declaration that he intends to "absent [himself] from the exercising of [his] public functions" from November 25 to December 2 increases the chances of such a military seizure of power.

This would truly take Honduras back to the dark ages, turning the clock back further than even the golpistas intended.

Repression everywhere, plans for possible bloodbaths, rumors of coups, free speech trampled, an election that promises more violence than voting--and the U.S. government clings to the idea that the November 29 elections will be a step forward for stability and democracy!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY is critical--the resistance needs the time and political space to reorient itself for a new period in the struggle.

Simply exposing the plans for provocations can help defeat them, since they require some degree of secrecy to work. Activists in the U.S. should also agitate against recognition of whatever regime emerges after November 29, against special trade status for Honduras (such as membership in CAFTA), and against all international aid (including "humanitarian" aid that cannot be trusted to an anti-popular regime).

One remarkable victory for international solidarity came November 17, when Russell Athletic agreed to rehire 1,200 Honduran workers who had been fired after they formed a union at their factor. The victory was a result of a campaign by United Students Against Sweatshops, which got several universities to sever licensing deals with Russell and exposed the company's misdeeds at a series of public events. This should serve as an inspiration.

The stakes are much higher in the struggle over the coup. It involves not just an economic struggle in one factory, but the political class struggle nationally and internationally.

Still, for all its power, U.S. imperialism is isolated, exposed and discredited in Latin America today. An international resistance can win.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Approval of Obama going down in the dumps.

These polls are not all that surprising. I thought that even more would be for withdrawal from Afghanistan. On most of his domestic policies there seems to be a concerted and successful opposition led by conservative groups. On Afghanistan Obama will probably find the toughest opposition will come from his own party although many on the left in the Democratic party are not that enamoured of his health care bill either. On Afghanistan it seems as if Obama will basically follow a middle road that will hardly please anyone. No doubt he hopes to get more troops from other NATO allies but they are not likely able to muster too many because the war is unpopular in every NATO country!

Approval of Obama on Afghan war dives
By Susan Page, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Public approval of President Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan has plummeted, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, amid rising pessimism about the course of the conflict.
The nation is divided over what to do next: Nearly half of those surveyed endorse deploying thousands of additional U.S. troops, while four in 10 say it's time to begin withdrawing forces.

The mixed picture comes as the president weighs a request from the top U.S. commander for about 40,000 more troops. Obama said Tuesday he would announce his decision after Thanksgiving.

"It is my intention to finish the job," he said.

His extended deliberations may be taking a toll: 55% disapprove of the way he is handling Afghanistan and 35% approve, a reversal of his 56% approval rating four months ago.

"He's being held responsible for a deteriorating situation and relentlessly bad news," says political scientist Richard Eichenberg of Tufts University. "But Americans continue to believe doing something about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was the right thing to do."

On a series of fronts, Obama is moving against headwinds:

• By more than 2-1, Americans say the United States shouldn't close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, as Obama has promised.

• By 49%-44%, they oppose passing a health care bill in Congress this year, which he calls critical.

• A majority are against holding the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York, and nearly six in 10 say the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind should be tried in a military rather than a civilian court. That's at odds with the decision announced this month by Attorney General Eric Holder.

When it comes to seven specific areas, Obama no longer commands majority support on any. On only two — energy policy and global warming — does he have a net positive rating. On the economy, health care, jobs and Afghanistan, a majority disapprove of how he's doing. There's an almost even divide on his handling of terrorism: 45% approve, 47% disapprove.

Even so, his overall approval remains at 50%, about where it has been since the first week of October.

The question is whether his personal appeal will help him rally support for less popular policies, or if the public's opposition to individual policies eventually will drag down his personal approval.

The poll of 1,017 adults, taken Friday through Sunday by landline and cellphone, has a margin of error of +/–4 percentage points.

On Afghanistan, a record two-thirds say things are going badly for the United States, but six in 10 say the decision to send troops wasn't a mistake.

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Check the box to include the list of links referenced in the article.

Copyright 2009 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Blackwater's secret war in Pakistan

This is from thenation. An entry on the JSOC can be found in Wikipedia. Officials continue to deny that Blackwater--now renamed Xe--is involved in Pakistan at all although numerous sources have provided evidence that they are. This is just typical denial. The US does not even officially own up to drone attacks in Pakistan and of course Israel officially refuses to admit they have nuclear weapons.

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan By Jeremy Scah
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

.Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan Blackwater
Jeremy Scahill: Inside sources reveal that the firm works with the US military in Karachi to plan targeted assassinations and drone bombings, among other sensitive counterterrorism operations.
.Blackwater Attempted to Bribe Iraqi Officials Blackwater
Jeremy Scahill: Top Blackwater staff authorized attempted bribes of Iraqi officials in the wake of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, the New York Times has reported.
.Pentagon Investigating Iraq Electrocution Death US Military
Jeremy Scahill: Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Carol Shea-Porter argue that since Adam Hermanson died while working on a Defense Department contract, the DoD is obliged to investigate.
..The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."

"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Honduras election sets return to business as usual.

The article mentions little about the conditions under which the elections are taking place. It is a criminal offence to recommend boycotting the elections among other things and rallies can only be had with permission of the coup government. The US will no doubt recognise the elections no matter what. It seems that Senator Demint's agreement to allow the nomination of the ambassador to Brazil and of Arturo Valenzuela to go through was conditional upon the US recognising the Honduran presidential elections. This will put the US at odds with the Rio group. There is going to be more and more conflict between the US and many Latin American countries but with some such as Panama and Colombia seeking to ally themselves with the US. No doubt Honduras will also do so. Honduras was a springboard for anti-Sandinista operations funded by the US.
This article seems to think that there might be some accommodation between the new president and Zelaya but that seems unlikely although perhaps this might be useful in gaining recognition from other Latin American countries. This is from

Honduras election sets return to business as usual

Zelaya platform dead as Honduras presidential election marks return to business as usual

AP News

Nov 22, 2009 14:38 EST

The coup last summer in this tiny, Central American country blew up into an international incident, with thousands of Hondurans taking to the streets while everyone from Barack Obama to Fidel Castro lined up behind ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Now, with Zelaya still holed up in the Brazilian Embassy, voters will choose a new president Nov. 29 from the political establishment that has dominated Honduras for decades.

No one is pushing the leftist agenda of the ousted leader, who said he was trying to lift a country where seven in 10 people are poor.

That's because Zelaya was disturbing a deeply conservative society that has long cherished peace and stability.

"It's a risk-averse culture," said Manuel Orozco, a Central America expert with the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue.

The months of turmoil as Zelaya pressed for his reinstatement, the negotiation and U.S. shuttle diplomacy are about to be overtaken by business as usual — Honduran style.

Even many of the poor who supported Zelaya as he aligned himself with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Latin America's new left say they will vote for conservative front-runner Porfirio Lobo, a 61-year-old wealthy businessman who is ahead by double digits in the polls.

"I will vote for the one who can fix this and give us work right now, because those suffering are the poor," said Reina Gomez, 53, a single mother who washes clothes for a living and who supported Zelaya in 2005.

Zelaya, a commanding figure whose standard uniform includes a white cowboy hat, was prohibited by the constitution from running for more than one term — even before the military whisked him out of the country at gunpoint in the June 28 coup.

His opponents said he wanted to follow in Chavez's footsteps and revise the constitution to extend his time in office. Zelaya denies any such intention.

Honduras has always been run by a handful of families who control the news media, economy and every power sphere from the military to the Supreme Court.

As many of Central America's conservative governments battled leftist insurgencies from the 1960s to the 1980s, Honduras had no civil war and served as a key staging area for U.S.-backed Contras fighting Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.

But in one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nations, gaunt workers in torn shoes and worn clothing trudge from their hillside shanty towns past Tegucigalpa's gleaming shopping malls to work in garment factories or American fast food restaurants.

Most survive on $250 a month.

"Here the politicians don't appreciate the people. They promise you all kinds of things but one comes in and then the next, and things are still the same," said construction worker Mario Espinal, 52, whose work diminished by half when international loans were cut off in the political crisis.

Like his counterparts from Nicaragua to Ecuador, Zelaya began preaching reform that favored the poor. He raised the minimum wage by 60 percent and pulled in Venezuelan aid that included free tractors and $300 million a year for agricultural investment.

"President Zelaya gave us hope that the people of Honduras would finally be able to emancipate themselves from a group of oligarchs that have kept this country subjugated through a constitution that was shaped to protect their interests," said Andres Pavon, a human rights activist.

While many Hondurans want reform, they were reluctant to trust Zelaya, a wealthy rancher elected from one of the two major conservative parties.

Orozco notes that other Latin American leftist leaders — from Chavez to Bolivia's Evo Morales and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil — grew up poor. They also spent years building their grass-roots movements, while Zelaya — with support from a couple unions and student groups — started shooting from the hip late in his term.

Zelaya "belongs to the elite, and he chose to dismiss his own peers and paid the price for that," Orozco said. "Those leaders have a hard time communicating their message. They think that because you like the poor, the poor are going to like you."

According to the CID-Gallup Poll, Zelaya's job-approval rating dropped steadily from 2007 to just 38 percent in October 2008, though it had rebounded to 53 percent by February and has held steady around 50 percent since. But beyond the first week of his ouster, he had a hard time amassing large numbers of supporters demanding his return.

Meanwhile, the left in Honduras is divided into small parties with few resources — and without a charismatic leader to unite them into a movement strong enough to challenge the conservative stronghold.

Presidential front-runner Lobo, who lost to Zelaya in 2005, is campaigning on a return to normalcy and blames Zelaya's Liberal Party for thrusting the country into international turmoil. His main opponent is the Liberal Party's Elvin Santos, a construction magnate.

The U.S-brokered pact with the interim government of Roberto Micheletti leaves the decision to reinstate Zelaya with the Honduran Congress, which has yet to vote. Zelaya has said he would not return to the presidency if Congress votes to restore him after the elections because that would legitimize the coup. The new president chosen in next week's elections will not take office until January.

But some say Zelaya might have done just enough to awaken a leftist movement in Honduras — either led by him or someone else.

"I can see Lobo setting something up and smoothing over things with Zelaya because he wants to ensure Zelaya won't be a nuisance," said Heather Berkman of the Eurasia Group. "I don't think his political career is over. I can see him coming back in some shape or form."


Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Facebook loses more users in Europe last quarter but is growing elsewhere

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