Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Humpty Obumpty and the Arab Spring will turn to hunger and dust...

Humpty Obumpty and the Arab Spring will turn to hunger and dust...
By Sprengler

I've been warning for months that Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and other Arab oil-importing countries face a total economic meltdown (see
Food and failed Arab states, Feb 2, and The hunger to come in Egypt, May 10). Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed my warnings.

The leaders of the industrial nations waited until last weekend's Group of Eight (G-8) summit to respond, and at the initiative of United States President Barack Obama proposed what sounds like a massive aid program but probably consists mainly of refurbishing old programs.

The egg has splattered, and all of Obumpty's horses and men can't mend it. Even the G-8's announcement was fumbled; Canada's Prime Minister John Harper refused to commit new

money, a dissonant note that routine diplomatic preparation would have pre-empted.

The numbers thrown out by the IMF are stupefying. "In the current baseline scenario," wrote the IMF on May 27, "the external financing needs of the region's oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13." That's almost three years' worth of Egypt's total annual imports as of 2010. As of 2010, the combined current account deficit (that is, external financing needs) of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia was about $15 billion a year.

What the IMF says, in effect, is that the oil-poor Arab economies - especially Egypt - are not only broke, but dysfunctional, incapable of earning more than a small fraction of their import bill. The disappearance of tourism is an important part of the problem, but shortages of fuel and other essentials have had cascading effects throughout these economies.

"In the next 18 months," the IMF added, "a greater part of these financing needs will need to be met from the international community because of more cautious market sentiments during the uncertain transition."

Translation: private investors aren't stupid enough to throw money down a Middle Eastern rat-hole, and now that the revolutionary government has decided to make a horrible example of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, anyone who made any money under his regime is cutting and running. At its May 29 auction of treasury bills, Egypt paid about 12% for short-term money, to its own captive banking system. Its budget deficit in the next fiscal year, the government says, will exceed $30 billion.

And the IMF's $160 billion number is only "external financing"; that is, maintaining imports into a busted economy. It doesn't do a thing to repair busted economies that import half their caloric intake, as do the oil-poor Arab nations.

Egypt's economy is in free fall. Its biggest foreign exchange earner was a tourist industry that won't come back for a decade, if ever. The IMF's $160 billion doesn't take into account the costs of teaching two-fifths of the Egyptian population to read, or raising crop yields to more than a fifth of American levels, or training university graduates to do more than stamp identity cards and shuffle papers. As the international organization made clear, this is what Egypt and its neighbors require merely to pay for essential imports.

Of course, the IMF's admission that Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen can't meet the majority of their import bill without foreign aid does not increase the probability that these countries will obtain financing on that scale. On May 30, the IMF announced that it would lend $3 billion to Egypt - a tenth of its budget deficit - sometime in June. The G-8 offered the grandiose pledge of $20 billion in their own money along with $20 billion from the IMF, World Bank, and so forth, to support the "Arab Spring", with the dissension of the Canadian prime minister. But it is unclear whether that represents new money, or a shuffling of existing aid commitments, or nothing whatever.

Whatever the Group of Eight actually had in mind, the proposed aid package for the misnomered Arab Spring has already become a punching bag for opposition budget-cutters. "Should we be borrowing money from China to turn around and give it to the Muslim Brotherhood?" Sarah Palin asked on May 27.

"Now, given that Egypt has a history of corruption when it comes to utilizing American aid, it is doubtful that the money will really help needy Egyptian people. Couple that with the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is organized to have a real shot at taking control of Egypt’s government, and one has to ask why we would send money (that we don't have) into unknown Egyptian hands," the former Republican vice-presidential candidate added.

Whether any amount of foreign aid will stabilize Egypt's economic position is questionable, even if the industrial nations and the Arab Gulf states opened their purses, which is doubtful.

From Arab-language online media, it appears that Egypt's economic troubles have metastasized. Last month, rice disappeared from public storehouses amid press reports that official food distribution organizations were selling the grain by the container on the overseas market. Last week, diesel fuel was the scarce commodity, with 24-hour queues forming around gasoline stations. Foreign tankers were waiting at Port Said on the Suez Canal to pump diesel oil from storage facilities, as government officials sold the scarce commodity for cash.

This is the sort of general breakdown I observed in 1992 in Russia, following the collapse of the communist government. As an adviser to finance minister Yegor Gaidar, I heard stories of Russian officials selling unregistered trainloads of raw materials on foreign markets and depositing the proceeds in Swiss banking accounts. Anything of value that could find a buyer overseas was sold. I didn't last long as an adviser; looting and pillaging wasn't my area of competence. Russia, it should be recalled, is largely self-sufficient in food and is among the world's largest oil producers, while Egypt imports half its food. Russia had enormous resources on which to draw. Egypt, Syria and Tunisia have nothing.

For 60 years, the Egyptian army and associated crony capitalists ran the economy as a private preserve. Although the army remains in nominal charge, the public humiliation of Mubarak serves notice on the previous masters of Egypt's little universe that they are as vulnerable as their former patron. Everyone who can get out will and will take with them whatever they can.

Syria is also vulnerable to hunger, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned May 23. "Continuing unrest in Syria will not only affect economic growth but could disrupt food distribution channels leading to severe localized shortages in main markets," according to the FAO. ''Syria hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world, including nearly one million Iraqis who have become more vulnerable because of rising food and fuel prices."

Nearly 700,000 Libyan refugees have reached Libya and Egypt, fleeing their country's civil war. At least 30,000 Tunisian refugees (and likely many more) have overwhelmed camps in Italy, and perhaps a tenth of that number have drowned in the attempt to reach Europe. A large but unknown number of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon and Turkey.

Turkey fears a mass influx of Syrian Kurdish refugees, so that "Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a 'safe area' for Syrian refugees inside Assad's and Asef Shawkat's Mafiosi caliphate." The borders of the affected nations have begun to dissolve along with their economies. It will get worse fast....

A Russian charm offensive in the pipeline wars... Gas key for EU after German atom decision...

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.

A Russian charm offensive in the pipeline wars...

Gas key for EU after German atom decision...

Turkey's Nabucco move prior to polls not reciprocated by Baku yet...

9 day count down until next Nabucco signing ceremony....

Gas will become an even more important energy source for Europe following Germany's decision to shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022, the European Union's energy commissioner said on Monday.

Hence, Merkel is shutting down nuclear plants to increase the importance of Nabucco. This reinforces an aggressive NATO stance toward Central Asia, Iraq and Iran.

Turkey's Nabucco initiative ahead of upcoming elections has found no response from Azerbaijan, leaving the future of the U.S.-backed natural gas pipeline project aimed at pumping Middle Eastern or Caspian gas to Europe in limbo.

Baku has not yet responded to a Turkish invitation to participate in the official signing ceremony on June 8 of an agreement between the participatory governments and the consortium of the Nabucco gas transit pipeline project.

“We have received an invitation from the Turkish side but it is not yet clear if we’ll attend,” an Azerbaijani source speaking on condition of anonymity told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The ceremony on the Project Support Agreement, one of the sub-deals to realize the long-running project, is set to take place in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, the hometown of Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.

Azerbaijan is one of the largest potential suppliers of the project and its non-participation would be a strong signal showing the colors of Baku toward the multi-national project.

"The invitation has been extended to Azerbaijan but, as of now, there has been no [reply]," a Turkish Energy Ministry official said.

Azerbaijan has yet to decide among three other projects, namely the Interconnect Turkey-Greece-Italy, or ITGI, to ship gas from Azerbaijan via Turkey to Greece and Italy; the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, allowing gas to flow directly from the Caspian basin and the Middle East into European markets; and Nabucco, an Azerbaijani source told the Daily News.

“We’ll have to decide between the three and eventually take part in one which will be the most profitable for us,” the source said.

The uncertainties surrounding the European Union’s flagship Nabucco project stemming from a lack of alternative sources to fill the pipeline is causing Baku to have second thoughts about its ultimate involvement. Azerbaijan is reluctant to meet all the gas needs of the project alone and says it would be profitable for it to commit to a project with a narrower volume instead of the multi-national Nabucco project, which is expected to ship 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually when it comes into force in 2015, the source added.

“Different countries are being depicted as an alternative source to fill the Nabucco pipeline but there is nothing concrete yet,” said the source.

Azerbaijan may consider involvement in Nabucco only if it shares full capacity of the pipeline with alternative countries. In the initial stages of the project, Turkey pressed for the Iranian gas to directly flow into the proposed pipeline; however, the ongoing sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic due to its controversial nuclear program have hampered this option.

Currently, Iraqi gas is being considered for the project but energy analysts say Iraq’s involvement requires the construction of a nearly 757-kilometer pipeline, adding that it was unclear who would undertake its construction on the Iraqi side of the border given that the energy fields of the country were in the hands of international companies. Additionally, ongoing political instability in Iraq, as well as a lack of agreement over the hydrocarbon law between the Kurdish regional administration and the central government in Baghdad, makes gas from the country unreliable, according to reports.

“We are ready to support energy projects aimed at shipping gas to Europe but commercial concerns will play a key role in shaping our position,” according to an Azeri source. “But at this current stage, there has been no decision on the part of the Azerbaijani government which project is to be supported.”

Baku keeps quiet

Sources said that even if the Azerbaijani side accepted the Turkish invitation to attend the June 8 ceremony, it would not be a criterion for Baku’s participation in the Nabucco project. Azerbaijan’s industry and oil minister, Natik Aliyev, participated in the ceremony of the Nabucco inter-governmental agreement in Ankara in July 2009.

The Nabucco project is being developed by a consortium of six international companies, including Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, Austria’s OMV, Turkey’s BOTAŞ, Romania’s Transgaz, Hungary’s Mol Natural Gas and Germany’s RWE. The companies and government representatives of the participant countries are expected to be present at the event, as well as the EU's energy commissioner.

“This is going to be a standard agreement which every participant country has to sign from a legal point of view,” said a European diplomat. “The ceremony will be one step closer to realize the project; without it the project cannot proceed.”

'Election plot'

A senior energy analyst, meanwhile, criticized the timing of the ceremony that comes just ahead of June 12 elections.

“This is a step geared toward domestic politics. Couldn’t Mr. Minister find an hour of time to travel to Ankara for the signing ceremony, instead of hosting it in his election constituency, Kayseri?” said Mete Göknel, BOTAŞ’s former general manager.

Yıldız is a front-running candidate for the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government from Kayseri.

“No progress has been made regarding the Nabucco project. I cannot understand what this agreement is about. I consider this a political campaign,” said Göknel.

In the corridors of Brussels’ elegant Stanhope Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, the well-turned-out movers-and-shakers of the European energy world were marveling at the sizeable budget and high-profile guest list for the event they were attending.

Soon to share a dais were Günther Oettinger, the European energy commissioner; his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shmatko; Alexei Miller, the chairman of Russia’s Gazprom; and Paolo Scaroni, the chief executive of Italy’s Eni. The ballroom was appointed with flat-screen video monitors and rows of chairs with corporate gift boxes.

The event was a sort of a Brussels coming-out party (and charm offensive) for South Stream, a Gazprom-backed pipeline project that aims to carry Russian and Caspian gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, where it would then fork off to Italy and Austria. South Stream’s backers, which include Eni, and now BASF, are due to decide next year whether or not to push ahead with the €15.5bn investment necessary to complete the sprawling project.

There is one big problem hanging over South Stream: it is a direct competitor to the rival Nabucco pipeline backed by the European Commission. For the Commission, the great appeal of Nabucco is that it would bring Azeri gas to Europe while skirting Russia and Ukraine, thus helping to ease Europe’s dependence on its biggest supplier and transit country, both of which have proven dangerously unreliable in the past.

In Brussels, officials tend to regard South Stream warily as a spoiler devised to thwart Nabucco and extend Russia’s dominance over the European energy market. Hence the fancy party, and the determination to prove that South Stream might be something else.

One after another, Miller, Scaroni and others took turns praising its virtues, arguing that their pipeline would be essential to help quench an ever-increasing European demand for gas, particularly at a time when nuclear energy appears to be in retreat.

Oettinger, whose remarks were the most anticipated, proceeded cautiously, explaining that he had come to the event “to listen and to learn.” South Stream gas could help Europe’s goal of diversification by tapping into new supplies and a new transit route, he conceded. He also promised that the EU would not impose undue administrative burdens on the project.

But, to the disappointment of his hosts, the commissioner insisted that the EU would enforce its energy liberalization rules on any pipeline crossing into its territory. Those rules would require Gazprom to open South Stream to independent suppliers, something the vertically-integrated Russian company is loath to do.

Undaunted, the project’s advocates pressed the case that Europe had nothing to fear from Russia. Shmatko argued that the two parties were, in fact, inter-dependent, since Europe was Russia’s biggest energy customer. In a well-tuned historical reference, he argued that such mutual dependence was at the heart of the peaceful bargain that France and Germany struck when they launched the EU.

Miller, meanwhile, insisted that Gazprom’s pipeline investments were not a threat to EU projects, but a sign of its commitment to be a truly reliable supplier. “In the 21st century, we can supply as much gas to Europe as Europe will demand,” he promised.

The business case for South Stream certainly seems more appealing at a time when Nabucco is being plagued by doubts about its projected costs and whether its backers can round up enough gas to fill the pipe. Just last month, they announced a one-year delay to the project.

Oettinger, however, left early. The most significant message of the afternoon might have come from someone who was not even in the room: it was an email from the commissioner’s assistant, which arrived in the middle of the South Stream presentation, reminding reporters: “EU strategy has not changed. Southern Corridor – including Nabucco – is EU priority.”

Germany's ruling coalition announced the policy reversal on Monday in reaction to Japan's Fukushima disaster. [ID:nLDE74T0GY] "We need more gas. After Berlin's decision gas will be a driver of growth," Guenther Oettinger told a conference in Vienna.

He said the EU-backed Nabucco gas pipeline, which has faced delays and a rise in costs, would be a boon for Austria as well as Europe.

Austria's Baumgarten gas hub is the planned end point for the pipeline which aims to bring gas to Europe from the Caspian region and Middle East from 2017 and reduce dependence on Russian gas.

"If Nabucco happens it will also strengthen Austria's economy and the importance of the Vienna hub," he said. Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI: Quote) runs Baumgarten and is one of Nabucco's six shareholders.

Fresh gas supplies were important because Europe's energy demand was growing but production falling, leaving it very reliant on imports, Oettinger said....

Breaking up Yugoslavia was not about European plans for European unity. Russophobia characterizes both Albright and in particular Zbigniew Brzezinski (of The Grand Chessboard fame). It was more probably about US grand strategic plans to roll back Russian influence in Europe and to control energy flows from Central Asia and in(to) Europe, in which Europeans eagerly collaborated - and if that meant to shatter Yugoslavia, so be it. The final act in this travesty was the US recognition as a state of the frivolity that is Kosovo under Bush.

With Kosovo I really can't say - was it created because the opportunity presented itself or because it was planned like that right from the start? Whatever the motives, the result is clear:

Camp Bondsteel, probably coincidentally guarding a major pipeline route, the planned Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil (AMBO) pipeline, which, once built, will transport the Caspian oil from Bulgaria to Albania via Macedonia. Geo-strategy, or Geo-Strategizing at least....



A Serbian government (close to Russia with cultural, language and religious ties) may not have agreed to a major US base on Serbian territory....

America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy
by Zbigniew Brzezinski...


France BRICS up emerging economies...

France BRICS up emerging economies....
M K Bhadrakumar

Former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger once complained that Europe didn't have a single telephone number. He didn't know who to turn to as the authentic voice of Europe. The same can be said today about BRICS, the grouping that has come to personify the best and the brightest emerging powers in the global order. BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's summary exit from his job as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over allegations of sexual assault has badly exposed the BRICS as an empty vessel that periodically makes a lot of noise.

Hardly six weeks have passed since China hosted the BRICS summit in a trail of glory led by nobody other than President Hu Jintao, while, today, BRICS leaders would turn red in the face with embarrassment if they recalled that the People's Daily hailed their forum as the "anchor of the global economy and politics".

Strauss-Kahn cannot become the president of France, as he was reported to have wanted. But, equally, his contribution to the making of the world order will exceed present President Nicolas Sarkozy's. Thanks to the manner in which he quit his job at the IMF, a mad scramble followed to grab his job, which, in turn, has brought to the surface the fault lines in the international system. But for Strauss-Kahn, the birth pangs of the multipolar world wouldn't have been so audible.

Despite the universal homilies that the world order needs to be democratized, when crunch time came, Western countries rapidly closed ranks and staked their claim in unseemly hurry to keep the IMF job as their exclusive preserve.

Within a matter of 72 hours or so, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde announced her candidacy for the IMF job, European nations rallied behind her, the Group of Eight (G-8) proclaimed its support and she kicked off on a global tour. She posted a triumphant message on her Twitter account on Sunday: "Flying to Brasilia: tomorrow lunch with my colleague Guido Mantega, meeting with governor of the Central Bank Alexandre Tombini."

Acrobatic bear
Yes, Lagarde had lunch in a BRICS capital after securing support from another BRICS country, Russia, which was present at the G-8 summit dinner last Thursday in France.

The irony is, Russia has been perhaps the most ardent votary of the BRICS, but when it sat down at the banquet table at the G-8 summit, it had an identity crisis and it quickly decided it had better be part of the Western world rather than the moth-eaten developing world.

This becomes all too apparent from the stance that Russia took at the G-8 summit on Friday in endorsing Lagarde's candidature. Russia was party to the BRICS's statement on Wednesday that questioned Lagarde's candidature and had sought a "truly transparent, merit-based and competitive process for the selection".

Russia also knew that a G-8 endorsement practically meant that Lagarde would win the race since the G-8 nations account for 42% of the voting electorate. But then, Russia didn't have a candidate of its own qualified enough for the IMF post. More important, the G-8 is one of a handful of symbols that makes Russia feel self-assured that it is still a big power with global influence.

Underlying it all is post-Soviet Russia's craving to be "accepted" as an "equal" member of the Euro-Atlantic community. Whether Russia entered into a Faustian deal over some issue of vital interest to it remains unclear, but it shouldn't come as a surprise, either.

Anyway, the upshot is that Russia almost overnight turned its back on BRICS, whereas it has been swearing all this while from the Kremlin ramparts that the grouping is the best thing that ever happened in the post-Cold War international system.

The West and the rest
The US traditionally headed the World Bank and Europe the IMF. The race over the IMF job underscores that the West simply can't contemplate any other way the world financial system can be run. The Western attempt to hustle the nominations to the IMF post by June 10 and to draw up the schedule of election almost unilaterally in a weekend meeting without even giving time for all executive directors to assemble in Washington indeed underscores that might is right. The IMF is expected to announce the candidates for its top post by June 17 and select its next managing director by June 30.

All this is happening despite the commitment made in 2007 at the time of the selection of Strauss-Kahn by the Euro group that "the next managing director will certainly not be a European" and that "in the Euro group and among EU [European Union] finance ministers, everyone is aware that Strauss-Kahn will probably be the last European to become director of the IMF in the foreseeable future".

On the other hand, the Europeans argue with a straight face that a fellow national at the head of the IMF at the present juncture is an imperative as the 17-nation eurozone struggles to cope with financial problems in Portugal, Greece, Spain and Ireland.

Within BRICS, all eyes are on China and India. (Japan remains strangely indifferent despite holding the second-largest share.) Can China and India tango although they have shared interests? That should have been the big question. But it isn't. What is apparent is that both China and India have taken an unusually noisy stance but neither is doing anything by way of concretely challenging Lagarde's candidacy.

Neither China nor India has any credible candidate for the IMF post. So, both have taken a "principled" position for purpose of record. Beyond that, there appears to be no real coordination between them, nor is either of them inclined to work out a consensus candidate.

Interestingly, neither Beijing nor Delhi has so far given a date for Lagarde to drop by and formally push her candidature. Beijing has also kept silent on Lagarde's unilateral claim that she enjoys China's support or her candidature. In reality, though, it is clever tactic while both China and India seem to be preparing themselves after riding the high horse for a few days to endorse Lagarde's candidature. For both, it will be a loss of face. But then, both countries are hardened "realists".

Dragon slithers away ...
All three major Chinese newspapers carried editorials/commentaries. The Xinhua commentary that was carried by People's Daily and China Daily drew vicarious pleasure that a joint statement by BRICS representatives at the IMF last week is "a much-needed example of coordination among these leading emerging economies".

It exhorted the BRICS countries to be "more confident in asserting their common position, even if that may annoy others". The commentary was in an obviously self-congratulatory mood but it turned out to be hyperbole.

The Global Times featured a forceful editorial attacking the "backroom deal between Europe and the US to respectively head the IMF and the World Bank". It said: "Dominating the global financial layout, the US and Europe are grabbing colossal benefits in international labor division." But then it went into an apologetic mood, explaining that China lacked the clout to put up a fight against Western dominance:
Besides, due to historical and practical reasons, BRICS countries still have misunderstandings and divergences among themselves, which may be taken advantage of by the US and Europe to disintegrate the group ... It may take a few decades before the BRICS are able to bring substantial changes to the ingrained financial order ... It is still early to stress the status of the BRICS members in the IMF.

China is not even cautiously optimistic about a candidate from the emerging economies making it to the top job in IMF at this juncture. Beyond paying lip service to the BRICS, it is obviously playing for the long haul in terms of its national interests. China doesn't want to rock the boat at present. Its current preference is to secure more representation on the IMF's governing bodies and for that to happen, Beijing needs Europe's help.

To be sure, China takes a long-term view and is more concerned about the reforms in the IMF, which would be possible in exchange for supporting Lagarde, and at a faster pace than under an emerging market candidate. China stands on the threshold of being admitted into the higher management of the IMF and its interest lies in deftly handling its equations with the United States and the European Union and thereby inserting itself into the decision-making process in the international economic system.

Thus, a fundamental contradiction arises insofar as BRICS symbolizes a vaguely revolutionary spirit of challenging the established order, whereas China is in actuality an unabashedly a status quo power.

... and elephant stomps its feet
Equally, India also went into contradictory stances. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in New Delhi on Thursday, "I am in touch with some of the finance ministers of developing countries and emerging economies ... We are trying to consolidate our position where we can take a view."

But on the contrary, India's executive director in the IMF Arvind Virmani was forthright: "Unless the voting shares which various countries hold in the IMF are changed to reflect new economic realities, it is going to be extremely difficult for any non-European candidate to win the election."

Finally, a definitive position did come from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but he took the high ground. Couched in pious homilies and in a note of resignation, Manmohan told the Indian media on Saturday:
We would like to remind the industrialized world that there is a tacit agreement that top positions in international financial institutions must go to specific countries as a matter of right ... but the best talent in the world should be available to man these institutions, that is our general position. The struggle for a better, balanced and more equitable world order, including the management of global institutions like the IMF, World Bank, [United Nations] Security Council is going to be a long haul, I am afraid.
Manmohan echoed Mukherjee's hope that a consensus would emerge and that India was in touch with various countries, but that is merely for the record. Delhi has decided to emulate Beijing's game plan. For India, in particular, France has emerged as a major partner country with which it is building a profound military relationship and to administer a snub to Gallic pride at this point is the last thing on Delhi's mind.

Besides, Delhi is counting on robust support from France for its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group - France, in fact, is sponsoring the proposal - and the United Nations Security Council.

Keeping a low profile indeed suits India's interests at this juncture. India has a long way to go to be part of global decision-making and all it can do for the present, as Manmohan has wisely done, is to keep calling attention to the unequal and unjust world order, which bypasses the collective voice of a billion people on the planet with an economy that is surging, and then turn to do business with the existing order.

The best thing that can happen for India out of this experience is that Delhi might finally comprehend that despite its growing economy and the manifest flattery by the West, its interests continue to be intertwined with those of developing countries rather with China or Russia's, which are post-communist countries grappling with a crisis of identity.

Manmohan discovered during a recent six-day African tour that India is still a sentimental journey for African countries.

Joker in the pack
With Russia having "defected" without even bothering to consult any of its BRICS partners; with Russia, China, India and Brazil not even bothering to take note that South Africa, another BRICS partner, indeed has put forth a candidate; and, now, with Brazil having hosted a lunch for Lagarde, BRICS increasingly looks like a joker in the pack in the international system.

How did matters come to this sorry pass? Certainly, it is not a question of dearth of suitable candidates. Look at the impressive list of potential candidates from emerging economies who are by any reckoning as well-qualified for the IMF post as Lagarde could be:
  • Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's finance minister and deputy prime minister
  • Agustin Carstens, current governor of Mexico's central bank
  • Arminio Fraga, former governor of Brazil's central bank
  • Sri Mulyani Indrawati, former finance minister of Indonesia
  • Trevor Manuel, South African finance minister

    So, where is the problem? It all boils down to what BRICS has been about - a selective bonding by a clutch of highly ambitious countries with vastly disparate self-interests on the sole basis of acquiring leverage to secure a place at the high table of the world economic and political order.

    Is this the end of the road for BRICS? The IMF saga has certainly bruised BRICS and dented its credibility and it is doubtful if it will easily recover its verve in time for the Delhi summit meeting in 2012. However, its constituents will probably continue to see tactical advantages in maintaining the pretence of a BRICS process, although that may exist only paper.

    The point is, BRICS will remain a shelter for Russia so long as it stands excluded from a common European home. China will have use for BRICS to ostentatiously empathize with developing countries and indeed to pretend it is one among them. BRICS has never been more than a half-way house for India, where India takes a break now and then as it treks wearily toward the rich man's club. BRICS enables Brazil to momentarily step out of the American shadow in the Western hemisphere.

    Lagarde would say with a trademark smile on her face, "Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!" - "The King is dead. Long live the King."

  • Christine Lagarde is a well known US Asset within the Zioconned Sarkozy MOSSAD Zoo!
    French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who has close links to the CIA/USA....

    Christine Lagarde once worked as an intern at the United States Capitol, as William Cohen's congressional assistant. (
    Christine Lagarde - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    William Cohen was US Defense Secretary.

    Christine Lagarde now hopes to become boss of the IMF.

    Voltaire Network has reported on Christine Lagarde's links to US Corporations.

    IMF Regime Change: With Christine Lagarde, US Corporations Enter the French Government)

    According to Voltaire:

    "Only a few years ago, she was defending the interests of US multinationals to the detriment of French companies."

    In 1981, she joined the giant Baker & McKenzie law firm, in Chicago, and made a career in the United States.

    As a lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, she 'worked in the interests of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin to the detriment of the interests of Airbus and Dassault'.

    She is a member of the CSIS, the think tank of the oil lobby in the United States.

    As a member of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, she co-presided over its Poland commission along with Zbigniew Brzezinski; she was in charge of the USA-Poland Defense Industries working group (1995-2002); she 'represented US interests'.

    In 2003, Lockheed-Martin sold 48 F-16 jet fighters to Poland for 3.5 billion dollars....

  • Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Why the Rich Love High Unemployment so much...

    Guest Post by Mark Provost. Mark has more than ten years experience as an equity analyst, specializing in the semiconductor and wireless industry. Mark writes regularly about the US economy for Dollars & Sense, ZMag, Truthout, and Global Research.

    Christina Romer, former member of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, accuses the administration of "shamefully ignoring" the unemployed. Paul Krugman echoes her concerns, observing that Washington has lost interest in "the forgotten millions." America's unemployed have been ignored and forgotten, but they are far from superfluous. Over the last two years, out-of-work Americans have played a critical role in helping the richest one percent recover trillions in financial wealth.

    Obama's advisers often congratulate themselves for avoiding another Great Depression - an assertion not amenable to serious analysis or debate. A better way to evaluate their claims is to compare the US economy to other rich countries over the last few years.

    On the basis of sustaining economic growth, the United States is doing better than nearly all advanced economies. From the first quarter of 2008 to the end of 2010, US gross domestic product (GDP) growth outperformed every G-7 country except Canada [5].

    But when it comes to jobs, US policymakers fall short of their rosy self-evaluations. Despite the second-highest economic growth, Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press (AP) reports: [6] "the U.S. job market remains the group's weakest. U.S. employment bottomed and started growing again a year ago, but there are still 5.4 percent fewer American jobs than in December 2007. That's a much sharper drop than in any other G-7 country." According to an important study by Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin, the US boasted one of the lowest unemployment rates in the rich world before the housing crash - now, it's the highest.[1]

    The gap between economic growth and job creation reflects three separate but mutually reinforcing factors: US corporate governance, Obama's economic policies and the deregulation of US labor markets.

    Old economic models assume that companies merely react to external changes in demand - lacking independent agency or power. While executives must adapt to falling demand, they retain a fair amount of discretion in how they will respond and who will bear the brunt of the pain. Corporate culture and organization vary from country to country.

    In the boardrooms of corporate America, profits aren't everything - they are the only thing. A JPMorgan research report [7] concludes that the current corporate profit recovery is more dependent on falling unit-labor costs than during any previous expansion. At some level, corporate executives are aware that they are lowering workers' living standards, but their decisions are neither coordinated nor intentionally harmful. Call it the "paradox of profitability." Executives are acting in their own and their shareholders' best interest: maximizing profit margins in the face of weak demand by extensive layoffs and pay cuts. But what has been good for every company's income statement has been a disaster for working families and their communities.

    Obama's lopsided recovery also reflects lopsided government intervention. Apart from all the talk about jobs, the Obama administration never supported a concrete employment plan. The stimulus provided relief, but it was too small and did not focus on job creation.

    The administration's problem is not a question of economics, but a matter of values and priorities. In the first Great Depression, President Roosevelt created an alphabet soup of institutions - the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) - to directly relieve the unemployment problem, a crisis the private sector was unable and unwilling to solve. In the current crisis, banks were handed bottomless bowls of alphabet soup - the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) - while politicians dithered over extending inadequate unemployment benefits.

    The unemployment crisis has its origins in the housing crash, but the prior deregulation of the labor market made the fallout more severe. Like other changes to economic policy in recent decades, the deregulation of the labor market tilts the balance of power in favor of business and against workers. Unlike financial system reform, the deregulation of the labor market is not on President Obama's agenda and has escaped much commentary.

    Labor-market deregulation boils down to three things: weak unions, weak worker protection laws and weak overall employment. In addition to protecting wages and benefits, unions also protect jobs. Union contracts prevent management from indiscriminately firing workers and shifting the burden onto remaining employees. After decades of imposed decline, the United States currently has the fourth-lowest private sector union membership [8] in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    America's low rate of union membership partly explains why unemployment rose so fast and, - thanks to hectic productivity growth - hiring has been so slow.

    Proponents of labor-market flexibility argue that it's easier for the private sector to create jobs when the transactional costs associated with hiring and firing are reduced. Perhaps fortunately, legal protections for American workers cannot get any lower: US labor laws make it the easiest place in the word to fire or replace employees, according to the OECD. [9]

    Another consequence of labor-market flexibility has been the shift from full-time jobs to temporary positions. In 2010, 26 percent of all news jobs were temporary [10] - compared with less than 11 percent in the early 1990's recovery and just 7.1 percent in the early 2000's.

    The American model of high productivity and low pay has friends in high places. Former Obama adviser and General Motors (GM) car czar Steven Rattner argues [11] that America's unemployment crisis is a sign of strength:

    Perversely, the nagging high jobless rate reflects two of the most promising attributes of the American economy: its flexibility and its productivity. Eliminating jobs - with all the wrenching human costs - raises productivity and, thereby, competitiveness.

    Unusually, US productivity grew right through the recession; normally, companies can't reduce costs fast enough to keep productivity from falling.

    That kind of efficiency is perhaps our most precious economic asset. However tempting it may be, we need to resist tinkering with the labor market. Policy proposals aimed too directly at raising employment may well collaterally end up dragging on productivity.

    Rattner comes dangerously close to articulating a full-unemployment policy. He suggests unemployed workers don't merit the same massive government intervention that served GM and the banks so well. When Wall Street was on the ropes, both administrations sensibly argued, "doing nothing is not an option." For the long-term unemployed, doing nothing appears to be Washington's preferred policy.

    The unemployment crisis has been a godsend for America's super-rich, who own the vast majority of financial assets - stocks, bonds, currency and commodities.

    Persistent unemployment and weak unions have changed the American workforce into a buyers' market - job seekers and workers are now "price takers" rather than "price makers." Obama's recovery shares with Reagan's early years the distinction of being the only two post-war expansions where wage concessions have been the rule rather than the exception. The year 2009 marked the slowest wage growth on record, followed by the second slowest in 2010.[2]

    America's labor market depression propels asset price appreciation. In the last two years, US corporate profits and share prices rose at the fastest pace in history - and the fastest in the G-7. Considering the source of profits, the soaring stock market appears less a beacon of prosperity than a reliable proxy for America's new misery index. Mark Whitehouse of The Wall Street Journal describes [12] Obama's hamster wheel recovery:

    From mid-2009 through the end of 2010, output per hour at U.S. non-farm businesses rose 5.2% as companies found ways to squeeze more from their existing workers. But the lion's share of that gain went to shareholders in the form of record profits, rather than to workers in the form of raises. Hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, rose only 0.3%, according to the Labor Department. In other words, companies shared only 6% of productivity gains with their workers. That compares to 58% since records began in 1947.

    Workers' wages and salaries represent roughly two-thirds of production costs and drive inflation. High inflation is a bondholders' worst enemy because bonds are fixed-income securities. For example, if a bond yields a fixed five percent and inflation is running at four percent, the bond's real return is reduced to one percent. High unemployment constrains labor costs and, thus, also functions as an anchor on inflation and inflation expectations - protecting bondholders' real return and principal. Thanks to the absence of real wage growth and inflation over the last two years, bond funds have attracted record inflows and investors have profited immensely. [13]

    The Federal Reserve has played the leading role in sustaining the recovery, but monetary policies work indirectly and disproportionately favor the wealthy. Low interest rates have helped banks recapitalize, allowed businesses and households to refinance debt and provided Wall Street with a tsunami of liquidity - but its impact on employment and wage growth has been negligible.

    CNBC's Jim Cramer provides insight [14] into the counter-intuitive link between a rotten economy and soaring asset prices: "We are and have been in the longest 'bad news is good news' moment that I have ever come across in my 31 years of trading. That means the bad news keeps producing the low interest rates that make stocks, particularly stocks with decent dividend protection, more attractive than their fixed income alternatives." In other words, the longer Ben Bernanke's policies fail to lower unemployment, the longer Wall Street enjoys a free ride.

    Out-of-work Americans deserve more than unemployment checks - they deserve dividends. The rich would never have recovered without them.

    1. "The Massive Shedding of Jobs in America." Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin. Challenge, 2010, vol. 53, issue 6, pages 62-76.

    2. David Wessel, Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2010. "Wage and Benefit Growth Hits Historic Low" [15]; Chris Farrell, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 5, 2010. " US Wage Growth: The Downward Spiral." [16].

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    "Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic - Bill Gates, Rockefeller and the GMO giants know something we don’t...

    "Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic - Bill Gates, Rockefeller and the GMO giants know something we don’t...


    One thing Microsoft founder Bill Gates can’t be accused of is sloth. He was already programming at 14, founded Microsoft at age 20 while still a student at Harvard. By 1995 he had been listed by Forbes as the world’s richest man from being the largest shareholder in his Microsoft, a company which his relentless drive built into a de facto monopoly in software systems for personal computers.

    In 2006 when most people in such a situation might think of retiring to a quiet Pacific island, Bill Gates decided to devote his energies to his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest ‘transparent’ private foundation as it says, with a whopping $34.6 billion endowment and a legal necessity to spend $1.5 billion a year on charitable projects around the world to maintain its tax free charitable status. A gift from friend and business associate, mega-investor Warren Buffett in 2006, of some $30 billion worth of shares in Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway put the Gates’ foundation into the league where it spends almost the amount of the entire annual budget of the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

    So when Bill Gates decides through the Gates Foundation to invest some $30 million of their hard earned money in a project, it is worth looking at.

    No project is more interesting at the moment than a curious project in one of the world’s most remote spots, Svalbard. Bill Gates is investing millions in a seed bank on the Barents Sea near the Arctic Ocean, some 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole. Svalbard is a barren piece of rock claimed by Norway and ceded in 1925 by international treaty (see map).

    On this God-forsaken island Bill Gates is investing tens of his millions along with the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation and the Government of Norway, among others, in what is called the ‘doomsday seed bank.’ Officially the project is named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard island group.

    The seed bank is being built inside a mountain on Spitsbergen Island near the small village of Longyearbyen. It’s almost ready for ‘business’ according to their releases. The bank will have dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls of steel-reinforced concrete one meter thick. It will contain up to three million different varieties of seeds from the entire world, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future,’ according to the Norwegian government. Seeds will be specially wrapped to exclude moisture. There will be no full-time staff, but the vault's relative inaccessibility will facilitate monitoring any possible human activity.

    Did we miss something here? Their press release stated, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future.’ What future do the seed bank’s sponsors foresee, that would threaten the global availability of current seeds, almost all of which are already well protected in designated seed banks around the world?

    Anytime Bill Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto and Syngenta get together on a common project, it’s worth digging a bit deeper behind the rocks on Spitsbergen. When we do we find some fascinating things.

    The first notable point is who is sponsoring the doomsday seed vault. Here joining the Norwegians are, as noted, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the US agribusiness giant DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of the world’s largest owners of patented genetically-modified (GMO) plant seeds and related agrichemicals; Syngenta, the Swiss-based major GMO seed and agrichemicals company through its Syngenta Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation, the private group who created the “gene revolution with over $100 million of seed money since the 1970’s; CGIAR, the global network created by the Rockefeller Foundation to promote its ideal of genetic purity through agriculture change.

    CGIAR and ‘The Project’

    As I detailled in the book, Seeds of Destruction1, in 1960 the Rockefeller Foundation, John D. Rockefeller III’s Agriculture Development Council and the Ford Foundation joined forces to create the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, the Philippines. By 1971, the Rockefeller Foundation’s IRRI, along with their Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and two other Rockefeller and Ford Foundation-created international research centers, the IITA for tropical agriculture, Nigeria, and IRRI for rice, Philippines, combined to form a global Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR).

    CGIAR was shaped at a series of private conferences held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s conference center in Bellagio, Italy. Key participants at the Bellagio talks were the Rockefeller Foundation’s George Harrar, Ford Foundation’s Forrest Hill, Robert McNamara of the World Bank and Maurice Strong, the Rockefeller family’s international environmental organizer, who, as a Rockefeller Foundation Trustee, organized the UN Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972. It was part of the foundation’s decades long focus to turn science to the service of eugenics, a hideous version of racial purity, what has been called The Project.

    To ensure maximum impact, CGIAR drew in the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Development Program and the World Bank. Thus, through a carefully-planned leverage of its initial funds, the Rockefeller Foundation by the beginning of the 1970’s was in a position to shape global agriculture policy. And shape it did.

    Financed by generous Rockefeller and Ford Foundation study grants, CGIAR saw to it that leading Third World agriculture scientists and agronomists were brought to the US to ‘master’ the concepts of modern agribusiness production, in order to carry it back to their homeland. In the process they created an invaluable network of influence for US agribusiness promotion in those countries, most especially promotion of the GMO ‘Gene Revolution’ in developing countries, all in the name of science and efficient, free market agriculture.

    Genetically engineering a master race?

    Now the Svalbard Seed Bank begins to become interesting. But it gets better. ‘The Project’ I referred to is the project of the Rockefeller Foundation and powerful financial interests since the 1920’s to use eugenics, later renamed genetics, to justify creation of a genetically-engineered Master Race. Hitler and the Nazis called it the Ayran Master Race.

    The eugenics of Hitler were financed to a major extent by the same Rockefeller Foundation which today is building a doomsday seed vault to preserve samples of every seed on our planet. Now this is getting really intriguing. The same Rockefeller Foundation created the pseudo-science discipline of molecular biology in their relentless pursuit of reducing human life down to the ‘defining gene sequence’ which, they hoped, could then be modified in order to change human traits at will. Hitler’s eugenics scientists, many of whom were quietly brought to the United States after the War to continue their biological eugenics research, laid much of the groundwork of genetic engineering of various life forms, much of it supported openly until well into the Third Reich by Rockefeller Foundation generous grants.2

    The same Rockefeller Foundation created the so-called Green Revolution, out of a trip to Mexico in 1946 by Nelson Rockefeller and former New Deal Secretary of Agriculture and founder of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Seed Company, Henry Wallace.

    The Green Revolution purported to solve the world hunger problem to a major degree in Mexico, India and other select countries where Rockefeller worked. Rockefeller Foundation agronomist, Norman Borlaug, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work, hardly something to boast about with the likes of Henry Kissinger sharing the same.

    In reality, as it years later emerged, the Green Revolution was a brilliant Rockefeller family scheme to develop a globalized agribusiness which they then could monopolize just as they had done in the world oil industry beginning a half century before. As Henry Kissinger declared in the 1970’s, ‘If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.’

    Agribusiness and the Rockefeller Green Revolution went hand-in-hand. They were part of a grand strategy which included Rockefeller Foundation financing of research for the development of genetic engineering of plants and animals a few years later.

    John H. Davis had been Assistant Agriculture Secretary under President Dwight Eisenhower in the early 1950’s. He left Washington in 1955 and went to the Harvard Graduate School of Business, an unusual place for an agriculture expert in those days. He had a clear strategy. In 1956, Davis wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review in which he declared that “the only way to solve the so-called farm problem once and for all, and avoid cumbersome government programs, is to progress from agriculture to agribusiness.” He knew precisely what he had in mind, though few others had a clue back then--- a revolution in agriculture production that would concentrate control of the food chain in corporate multinational hands, away from the traditional family farmer. 3

    A crucial aspect driving the interest of the Rockefeller Foundation and US agribusiness companies was the fact that the Green Revolution was based on proliferation of new hybrid seeds in developing markets. One vital aspect of hybrid seeds was their lack of reproductive capacity. Hybrids had a built in protection against multiplication. Unlike normal open pollinated species whose seed gave yields similar to its parents, the yield of the seed borne by hybrid plants was significantly lower than that of the first generation.

    That declining yield characteristic of hybrids meant farmers must normally buy seed every year in order to obtain high yields. Moreover, the lower yield of the second generation eliminated the trade in seed that was often done by seed producers without the breeder’s authorization. It prevented the redistribution of the commercial crop seed by middlemen. If the large multinational seed

    companies were able to control the parental seed lines in house, no competitor or farmer would be able to produce the hybrid. The global concentration of hybrid seed patents into a handful of giant seed companies, led by DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto’s Dekalb laid the ground for the later GMO seed revolution. 4

    In effect, the introduction of modern American agricultural technology, chemical fertilizers and commercial hybrid seeds all made local farmers in developing countries, particularly the larger more established ones, dependent on foreign, mostly US agribusiness and petro-chemical company inputs. It was a first step in what was to be a decades-long, carefully planned process.

    Under the Green Revolution Agribusiness was making major inroads into markets which were previously of limited access to US exporters. The trend was later dubbed “market-oriented agriculture.” In reality it was agribusiness-controlled agriculture.

    Through the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller Foundation and later Ford Foundation worked hand-in-hand shaping and supporting the foreign policy goals of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and of the CIA.

    One major effect of the Green Revolution was to depopulate the countryside of peasants who were forced to flee into shantytown slums around the cities in desperate search for work. That was no accident; it was part of the plan to create cheap labor pools for forthcoming US multinational manufactures, the ‘globalization’ of recent years.

    When the self-promotion around the Green Revolution died down, the results were quite different from what had been promised. Problems had arisen from indiscriminate use of the new chemical pesticides, often with serious health consequences. The mono-culture cultivation of new hybrid seed varieties decreased soil fertility and yields over time. The first results were impressive: double or even triple yields for some crops such as wheat and later corn in Mexico. That soon faded.

    The Green Revolution was typically accompanied by large irrigation projects which often included World Bank loans to construct huge new dams, and flood previously settled areas and fertile farmland in the process. Also, super-wheat produced greater yields by saturating the soil with huge amounts of fertilizer per acre, the fertilizer being the product of nitrates and petroleum, commodities controlled by the Rockefeller-dominated Seven Sisters major oil companies.

    Huge quantities of herbicides and pesticides were also used, creating additional markets for the oil and chemical giants. As one analyst put it, in effect, the Green Revolution was merely a chemical revolution. At no point could developing nations pay for the huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They would get the credit courtesy of the World Bank and special loans by Chase Bank and other large New York banks, backed by US Government guarantees.

    Applied in a large number of developing countries, those loans went mostly to the large landowners. For the smaller peasants the situation worked differently. Small peasant farmers could not afford the chemical and other modern inputs and had to borrow money.

    Initially various government programs tried to provide some loans to farmers so that they could purchase seeds and fertilizers. Farmers who could not participate in this kind of program had to borrow from the private sector. Because of the exorbitant interest rates for informal loans, many small farmers did not even get the benefits of the initial higher yields. After harvest, they had to sell most if not all of their produce to pay off loans and interest. They became dependent on money-lenders and traders and often lost their land. Even with soft loans from government agencies, growing subsistence crops gave way to the production of cash crops.5

    Since decades the same interests including the Rockefeller Foundation which backed the initial Green Revolution, have worked to promote a second ‘Gene Revolution’ as Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway termed it several years ago, the spread of industrial agriculture and commercial inputs including GMO patented seeds.

    Gates, Rockefeller and a Green Revolution in Africa
    With the true background of the 1950’s Rockefeller Foundation Green Revolution clear in mind, it becomes especially curious that the same Rockefeller Foundation along with the Gates Foundation which are now investing millions of dollars in preserving every seed against a possible “doomsday” scenario are also investing millions in a project called The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

    AGRA, as it calls itself, is an alliance again with the same Rockefeller Foundation which created the “Gene Revolution.” A look at the AGRA Board of Directors confirms this.

    It includes none other than former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as chairman. In his acceptance speech in a World Economic Forum event in Cape Town South Africa in June 2007, Kofi Annan stated, ‘I accept this challenge with gratitude to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and all others who support our African campaign.’

    In addition the AGRA board numbers a South African, Strive Masiyiwa who is a Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. It includes Sylvia M. Mathews of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Mamphela Ramphele, former Managing Director of the World Bank (2000 – 2006); Rajiv J. Shah of the Gates Foundation; Nadya K. Shmavonian of the Rockefeller Foundation; Roy Steiner of the Gates Foundation. In addition, an Alliance for AGRA includes Gary Toenniessen the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation and Akinwumi Adesina, Associate Director, Rockefeller Foundation.

    To fill out the lineup, the Programmes for AGRA includes Peter Matlon, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation; Joseph De Vries, Director of the Programme for Africa’s Seed Systems and Associate Director, Rockefeller foundation; Akinwumi Adesina, Associate Director, Rockefeller Foundation. Like the old failed Green Revolution in India and Mexico, the new Africa Green Revolution is clearly a high priority of the Rockefeller Foundation.

    While to date they are keeping a low profile, Monsanto and the major GMO agribusiness giants are believed at the heart of using Kofi Annan’s AGRA to spread their patented GMO seeds across Africa under the deceptive label, ‘bio-technology,’ the new euphemism for genetically engineered patented seeds. To date South Africa is the only African country permitting legal planting of GMO crops. In 2003 Burkina Faso authorized GMO trials. In 2005 Kofi Annan’s Ghana drafted bio-safety legislation and key officials expressed their intentions to pursue research into GMO crops.

    Africa is the next target in the US-government campaign to spread GMO worldwide. Its rich soils make it an ideal candidate. Not surprisingly many African governments suspect the worst from the GMO sponsors as a multitude of genetic engineering and biosafety projects have been initiated in Africa, with the aim of introducing GMOs into Africa’s agricultural systems. These include sponsorships offered by the US government to train African scientists in genetic engineering in the US, biosafety projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank; GMO research involving African indigenous food crops.

    The Rockefeller Foundation has been working for years to promote, largely without success, projects to introduce GMOs into the fields of Africa. They have backed research that supports the applicability of GMO cotton in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa.

    Monsanto, who has a strong foothold in South Africa’s seed industry, both GMO and hybrid, has conceived of an ingenious smallholders’ programme known as the ‘Seeds of Hope’ Campaign, which is introducing a green revolution package to small scale poor farmers, followed, of course, by Monsanto’s patented GMO seeds. 6

    Syngenta AG of Switzerland, one of the ‘Four Horsemen of the GMO Apocalypse’ is pouring millions of dollars into a new greenhouse facility in Nairobi, to develop GMO insect resistant maize. Syngenta is a part of CGIAR as well.7

    Move on to Svalbard

    Now is it simply philosophical sloppiness? What leads the Gates and Rockefeller foundations to at one and the same time to back proliferation of patented and soon-to-be Terminator patented seeds across Africa, a process which, as it has in every other place on earth, destroys the plant seed varieties as monoculture industrialized agribusiness is introduced? At the same time they invest tens of millions of dollars to preserve every seed variety known in a bomb-proof doomsday vault near the remote Arctic Circle ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future’ to restate their official release?

    It is no accident that the Rockefeller and Gates foundations are teaming up to push a GMO-style Green Revolution in Africa at the same time they are quietly financing the ‘doomsday seed vault’ on Svalbard. The GMO agribusiness giants are up to their ears in the Svalbard project.

    Indeed, the entire Svalbard enterprise and the people involved call up the worst catastrophe images of the Michael Crichton bestseller, Andromeda Strain, a sci-fi thriller where a deadly disease of extraterrestrial origin causes rapid, fatal clotting of the blood threatening the entire human species. In Svalbard, the future world’s most secure seed repository will be guarded by the policemen of the GMO Green Revolution--the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, Syngenta, DuPont and CGIAR.

    The Svalbard project will be run by an organization called the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). Who are they to hold such an awesome trust over the planet’s entire seed varieties? The GCDT was founded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Bioversity International (formerly the International Plant Genetic Research Institute), an offshoot of the CGIAR.

    The Global Crop Diversity Trust is based in Rome. Its Board is chaired by Margaret Catley-Carlson a Canadian also on the advisory board of Group Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, one of the world’s largest private water companies. Catley-Carlson was also president until 1998 of the New York-based Population Council, John D. Rockefeller’s population reduction organization, set up in 1952 to advance the Rockefeller family’s eugenics program under the cover of promoting “family planning,” birth control devices, sterilization and “population control” in developing countries.

    Other GCDT board members include former Bank of America executive presently head of the Hollywood DreamWorks Animation, Lewis Coleman. Coleman is also the lead Board Director of Northrup Grumman Corporation, one of America’s largest military industry Pentagon contractors.

    Jorio Dauster (Brazil) is also Board Chairman of Brasil Ecodiesel. He is a former Ambassador of Brazil to the European Union, and Chief Negotiator of Brazil’s foreign debt for the Ministry of Finance. Dauster has also served as President of the Brazilian Coffee Institute and as Coordinator of the Project for the Modernization of Brazil’s Patent System, which involves legalizing patents on seeds which are genetically modified, something until recently forbidden by Brazil’s laws.

    Cary Fowler is the Trust’s Executive Director. Fowler was Professor and Director of Research in the Department for International Environment & Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. He was also a Senior Advisor to the Director General of Bioversity International. There he represented the Future Harvest Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in negotiations on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. In the 1990s, he headed the International Program on Plant Genetic Resources at the FAO. He drafted and supervised negotiations of FAO’s Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources, adopted by 150 countries in 1996. He is a past-member of the National Plant Genetic Resources Board of the US and the Board of Trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, another Rockefeller Foundation and CGIAR project.

    GCDT board member Dr. Mangala Rai of India is the Secretary of India’s Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), and Director General of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). He is also a Board Member of the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which promoted the world’s first major GMO experiment, the much-hyped ‘Golden Rice’ which proved a failure. Rai has served as Board Member for CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), and a Member of the Executive Council of the CGIAR.

    Global Crop Diversity Trust Donors or financial angels include as well, in the words of the Humphrey Bogart Casablanca classic, ‘all the usual suspects.’ As well as the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, the Donors include GMO giants DuPont-Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta of Basle Switzerland, CGIAR and the State Department’s energetically pro-GMO agency for development aid, USAID. Indeed it seems we have the GMO and population reduction foxes guarding the hen-house of mankind, the global seed diversity store in Svalbard. 8

    Why now Svalbard?

    We can legitimately ask why Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation along with the major genetic engineering agribusiness giants such as DuPont and Syngenta, along with CGIAR are building the Doomsday Seed Vault in the Arctic.

    Who uses such a seed bank in the first place? Plant breeders and researchers are the major users of gene banks. Today’s largest plant breeders are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow Chemical, the global plant-patenting GMO giants. Since early in 2007 Monsanto holds world patent rights together with the United States Government for plant so-called ‘Terminator’ or Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). Terminator is an ominous technology by which a patented commercial seed commits ‘suicide’ after one harvest. Control by private seed companies is total. Such control and power over the food chain has never before in the history of mankind existed.

    This clever genetically engineered terminator trait forces farmers to return every year to Monsanto or other GMO seed suppliers to get new seeds for rice, soybeans, corn, wheat whatever major crops they need to feed their population. If broadly introduced around the world, it could within perhaps a decade or so make the world’s majority of food producers new feudal serfs in bondage to three or four giant seed companies such as Monsanto or DuPont or Dow Chemical.

    That, of course, could also open the door to have those private companies, perhaps under orders from their host government, Washington, deny seeds to one or another developing country whose politics happened to go against Washington’s. Those who say ‘It can’t happen here’ should look more closely at current global events. The mere existence of that concentration of power in three or four private US-based agribusiness giants is grounds for legally banning all GMO crops even were their harvest gains real, which they manifestly are not.

    These private companies, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical hardly have an unsullied record in terms of stewardship of human life. They developed and proliferated such innovations as dioxin, PCBs, Agent Orange. They covered up for decades clear evidence of carcinogenic and other severe human health consequences of use of the toxic chemicals. They have buried serious scientific reports that the world’s most widespread herbicide, glyphosate, the essential ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide that is tied to purchase of most Monsanto genetically engineered seeds, is toxic when it seeps into drinking water.9 Denmark banned glyphosate in 2003 when it confirmed it has contaminated the country’s groundwater.10

    The diversity stored in seed gene banks is the raw material for plant breeding and for a great deal of basic biological research. Several hundred thousand samples are distributed annually for such purposes. The UN’s FAO lists some 1400 seed banks around the world, the largest being held by the United States Government. Other large banks are held by China, Russia, Japan, India, South Korea, Germany and Canada in descending order of size. In addition, CGIAR operates a chain of seed banks in select centers around the world.

    CGIAR, set up in 1972 by the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation to spread their Green Revolution agribusiness model, controls most of the private seed banks from the Philippines to Syria to Kenya. In all these present seed banks hold more than six and a half million seed varieties, almost two million of which are ‘distinct.’ Svalbard’s Doomsday Vault will have a capacity to house four and a half million different seeds.

    GMO as a weapon of biowarfare?

    Now we come to the heart of the danger and the potential for misuse inherent in the Svalbard project of Bill Gates and the Rockefeller foundation. Can the development of patented seeds for most of the world’s major sustenance crops such as rice, corn, wheat, and feed grains such as soybeans ultimately be used in a horrible form of biological warfare?

    The explicit aim of the eugenics lobby funded by wealthy elite families such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harriman and others since the 1920’s, has embodied what they termed ‘negative eugenics,’ the systematic killing off of undesired bloodlines. Margaret Sanger, a rapid eugenicist, the founder of Planned Parenthood International and an intimate of the Rockefeller family, created something called The Negro Project in 1939, based in Harlem, which as she confided in a letter to a friend, was all about the fact that, as she put it, ‘we want to exterminate the Negro population.’ 11

    A small California biotech company, Epicyte, in 2001 announced the development of genetically engineered corn which contained a spermicide which made the semen of men who ate it sterile. At the time Epicyte had a joint venture agreement to spread its technology with DuPont and Syngenta, two of the sponsors of the Svalbard Doomsday Seed Vault. Epicyte was since acquired by a North Carolina biotech company. Astonishing to learn was that Epicyte had developed its spermicidal GMO corn with research funds from the US Department of Agriculture, the same USDA which, despite worldwide opposition, continued to finance the development of Terminator technology, now held by Monsanto.

    In the 1990’s the UN’s World Health Organization launched a campaign to vaccinate millions of women in Nicaragua, Mexico and the Philippines between the ages of 15 and 45, allegedly against Tentanus, a sickness arising from such things as stepping on a rusty nail. The vaccine was not given to men or boys, despite the fact they are presumably equally liable to step on rusty nails as women.

    Because of that curious anomaly, Comite Pro Vida de Mexico, a Roman Catholic lay organization became suspicious and had vaccine samples tested. The tests revealed that the Tetanus vaccine being spread by the WHO only to women of child-bearing age contained human Chorionic Gonadotrophin or hCG, a natural hormone which when combined with a tetanus toxoid carrier stimulated antibodies rendering a woman incapable of maintaining a pregnancy. None of the women vaccinated were told.

    It later came out that the Rockefeller Foundation along with the Rockefeller’s Population Council, the World Bank (home to CGIAR), and the United States’ National Institutes of Health had been involved in a 20-year-long project begun in 1972 to develop the concealed abortion vaccine with a tetanus carrier for WHO. In addition, the Government of Norway, the host to the Svalbard Doomsday Seed Vault, donated $41 million to develop the special abortive Tetanus vaccine. 12

    Is it a coincidence that these same organizations, from Norway to the Rockefeller Foundation to the World Bank are also involved in the Svalbard seed bank project? According to Prof. Francis Boyle who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 enacted by the US Congress, the Pentagon is ‘now gearing up to fight and win biological warfare’ as part of two Bush national strategy directives adopted, he notes, ‘without public knowledge and review’ in 2002. Boyle adds that in 2001-2004 alone the US Federal Government spent $14.5 billion for civilian bio-warfare-related work, a staggering sum.

    Rutgers University biologist Richard Ebright estimates that over 300 scientific institutions and some 12,000 individuals in the USA today have access to pathogens suitable for biowarfare. Alone there are 497 US Government NIH grants for research into infectious diseases with biowarfare potential. Of course this is being justified under the rubric of defending against possible terror attack as so much is today.

    Many of the US Government dollars spent on biowarfare research involve genetic engineering. MIT biology professor Jonathan King says that the ‘growing bio-terror programs represent a significant emerging danger to our own population.’ King adds, ‘while such programs are always called defensive, with biological weapons, defensive and offensive programs overlap almost completely.’ 13

    Time will tell whether, God Forbid, the Svalbard Doomsday Seed Bank of Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation is part of another Final Solution, this involving the extinction of the Late, Great Planet Earth.


    1 F. William Engdahl, Seeds of Destruction, Montreal, (Global Research, 2007).
    2 Ibid, pp.72-90.
    3 John H. Davis, Harvard Business Review, 1956, cited in Geoffrey Lawrence, Agribusiness, Capitalism and the Countryside, Pluto Press, Sydney, 1987. See also Harvard Business School, The Evolution of an Industry and a Seminar: Agribusiness Seminar,
    4 Engdahl, op cit., p. 130.
    5 Ibid. P. 123-30.
    6 Myriam Mayet, The New Green Revolution in Africa: Trojan Horse for GMOs?, May, 2007, African Centre for Biosafety,
    7 ETC Group, Green Revolution 2.0 for Africa?, Communique Issue #94, March/April 2007.
    8 Global Crop Diversity Trust website, in
    9 Engdahl, op. cit., pp.227-236.
    10 Anders Legarth Smith, Denmark Bans Glyphosates, the Active Ingredient in Roundup, Politiken, September 15, 2003, in organic.com.au/news/2003.09.15.
    11 Tanya L. Green, The Negro Project: Margaret Sanger’s Genocide Project for Black American’s, in
    12 Engdahl, op. cit., pp. 273-275; J.A. Miller, Are New Vaccines Laced With Birth-Control Drugs?, HLI Reports, Human Life International, Gaithersburg, Maryland; June/July 1995, Volume 13, Number 8.
    13 Sherwood Ross, Bush Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons for Offensive Use,’ December 20, 2006, in

    Sayonara, Washington cocooning, the Whole country is up in arms...

    Sayonara, Washington cocooning, the Whole country is up in arms...
    By Martin Hutchinson

    My apologies, first, for the hiatus in columns last week - I was moving from Vienna, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC to Poughkeepsie, a semi-suburb 73 miles (117 kilometers) from New York City. Many have clearly regarded this as an eccentric choice, and much of the motivation stems from things like hating the Washington summer more than the Poughkeepsie winter that are personal to each of us. Nevertheless, there is also a philosophical background for the move, in that I believe the rapid growth of the Washington area to be profoundly unhealthy.

    Washington's unhealthiness has been highlighted during the Great Recession, for example by the housing market. Other regions of the country suffered a severe real estate price decline in 2006-09, except for a few places such as Houston that had not previously enjoyed a boom. The Washington area enjoyed an extraordinary 150% price gain in 2000-06 according to the S&P Case-Shiller data, third after the Miami and Los Angeles areas and more than Phoenix, San Francisco or Las Vegas. Unlike those other regions, however, its price decline in 2006-09 was considerably less, 33% compared to 47% in Miami, 56% in Las Vegas and 42% in Los Angeles. Then after 2009, the recovery in Washington was considerably stronger than in other areas, with prices now up 10% from the bottom and still continuing to rise while house prices in most other areas decline.

    The explanation, of course, is that Washington is not on the same economic cycle as the rest of the country. There was some pretense in the late 1990s that northern Virginia had developed a substantial tech sector, but the reality was that most of the sector was either evanescent (like AOL), or highly dependent upon government contracting or, like MicroStrategy, both. The reality is that when government expands, Washington does well, and vice versa.

    You can see this in its local real estate market also. There is very little housing dating from the 1920s, a major real estate boom era around most East Coast cities, but a period of well-run, economical government. Conversely, there is a vast amount of housing, generally rather small and unattractive with very mean rooms, dating from the New Deal and wartime 1930s and 1940s. The 1960s, genesis of the two houses we lived in around Vienna, produced the Great Society and another housing boom of rather larger houses, most of them shoddily built. Then the 1980s was another period of recession, when Washington house prices were far below those around New York and little building took place. Finally the Bush years, stretching into the Obama years, saw a massive building boom and the apotheosis of the Washington area McMansion - huge, shoddily built and packed tightly together on the suddenly expensive land.

    Whereas the modest and unattractive 1940s housing was inhabited mostly by government bureaucrats when first built, as were the larger 1960s offerings and some of the more reasonable sized modern housing stock, the true market for McMansions was not those working in government, let alone private sector entrepreneurs, but the parasites, the swarm of lobbyists (whose numbers doubled under the supposedly limited-government Bush) and lawyers who have come to dominate the big money around Washington. Like Detroit in 1900-1915, Washington in recent years has been a boomtown, and the creaking infrastructure and monstrous traffic delays are the result of this.

    The other special feature of Washington life is the nature of its inhabitants. They have far higher academic qualifications than the rest of mankind, even those lucky residents of the up-market suburbs around New York and San Francisco. Fairfax County, Virginia has 55% college graduates, compared with 41% in Westchester County, New York and 51% in Marin County, California. Fairfax residents would argue that this factor justifies them in having the nation's highest average household income - $107,000, compared with a mere $79,000 in Westchester and $90,000 in Marin.

    Washington area residents will argue that their greater qualifications justify their higher earnings, but from inspection the percentage of college graduates is not sufficiently higher in Fairfax than in the very affluent Marin County for any such premium to be justified. Furthermore, there is no living cost differential that would justify the income differential; indeed rather the opposite as the average owner-occupied residence in Marin is valued at $514,600 compared to $233,000 in Fairfax. Fairfax County real estate is overpriced - this was another reason for leaving the place - but is nothing like as lunatic economically as the fancier bits of California - or indeed southeast England.

    As I have remarked before in these columns the Washington area is a kind of anti-Hollywood. Whereas Hollywood is full of people with room-temperature IQs but attractive looks and winsome personalities, the Washington area is full of PhD-credentialed trolls. Thus not only are the academic qualifications of Fairfax County not sufficiently superior to those of Marin County to justify their higher earnings, but Washington-area people are often seriously lacking in other qualifications that make for a commercially successful existence, such as looks, charm, salesmanship and workaholism. Plenty of insurance, real estate and used car salesmen lack substantial academic qualifications, but are nevertheless sufficiently well endowed in other respects to make very large amounts of money indeed, whatever their defects would be as GS-15s.

    Washington is thus a region whose inhabitants are paid more than their qualifications are worth, do particularly well in recessions, and often lack the qualities that make them attractive to others. It is thus not surprising that they have little empathy with the travails of those outside Washington whose lives are entangled in the maelstrom of this very serious and damaging recession.

    Far from maintaining sound monetary and fiscal policies, which would enable ordinary businesses to recover their footing and begin to grow again, they pursue a chimera of negative real interest rates and gigantic budget deficits that produces high bureaucrat employment, a surface health in financial markets, and long-term unemployment for everyone else.

    Far from realizing that in a globalized world market, less skilled and older workers are especially vulnerable, they persistently refuse to enforce immigration laws, producing a large illegal immigrant population that can satisfy Fairfax County's insatiable demand for maids and gardeners, while driving down wages and job opportunities for low-skill labor to Third World levels.

    Far from attempting to relieve burdens on small business and allow them to produce the jobs that are needed, they produce a series of health, environmental and labor regulation schemes that impose massive additional costs on the businesses that produce the country's wealth.

    These impositions are not particularly generated by one or other political faction; they are the result of Washington's cocooning from the rest of its countrymen. Washington insiders like Newt Gingrich, who has lived within the Beltway for thirty years, cross party lines to support these economically damaging schemes. Conversely a few ''blue dog'' Democrats whose ties remain outside Washington oppose them, like Joe Manchin (D-W Va) who while campaigning for his West Virginia Senate seat took a hunting rifle to a copy of his own party's cockamamie environmental legislation.

    It is not surprising that outsiders find US politics dysfunctional; it is dominated by a pampered super-class of lobbyists, lawyers, most politicians and senior bureaucrats, all of which are not only protected from the economic forces that afflict the rest of the economy but actually benefit, both relatively and in absolute terms, from hard times in the US economy as a whole and the ''stimulus'' schemes for which they provide an excuse. The same effect can be seen in Brussels. When I knew it in the 1970s it was a very pleasant modestly wealthy capital of a small country with good restaurants, a fine banking system and legendarily affluent ''Belgian dentists” who were the major investing force behind the early Eurobond market. Needless to say, Brussels is today richer per capita, but its wealthy now are not dentists but bureaucrats, lawyers and lobbyists, sleek, pampered and utterly cut off from the people for whom they invent damaging regulations.
    The idea, pioneered by the Founding Fathers, of a capital city inhabited only by statesmen and bureaucrats, without any other significant economic base, is a very dangerous one. While government is small, it produces the quirky charm of nineteenth century Washington or 1949-99 Bonn - lacking as they did most big-city amenities, they were universally detested by their inhabitants, who left them on weekends whenever possible. However as government grows, it becomes itself a sufficiently large employer to finance a major city - with amenities like the Kennedy Center and the Washington Metro that can easily be paid for by beyond-Beltway taxpayers who gain no benefit from them. Eventually they become bureaucrat Xanadus, like Brasilia, Napyidaw (Burma) or Astana (Kazakhstan), in which government, freed from significant outside pressure, can indulge its fantasies at the expense of a people kept safely remote.

    My new abode, New York's Dutchess County, is only half as rich as Fairfax County, with commensurately lower house prices (yippee!) and only half the proportion of university graduates. While it has a couple of large businesses and several colleges, most of its richest inhabitants are successful used car dealers and realtors, whose depredations extend only to their customers. I look forward eagerly to its modest amenities....

    Robert Mundell’s Deflation Warning...
    David Goldman

    I’ve been warning about the deflationary implications of a broken credit-creation mechanism and a partially broken system of government credit (the PIIGS, American state and local governments). This is what I talked about last night on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report.

    A small minority of other analysts have echoed such warnings, but none with the authority of Robert Mundell–in my view the greatest mind in economics of the post-World War II era. Here is a report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (behind paywall):

    Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell—says dollar weakness is not his main concern. Instead, he fears a return to recession later this year when QE2 ends and the dollar begins its inevitable rise. Deflation, not inflation, should be the greater concern. Avoiding the recession is simplicity itself: Just have the U.S. Treasury fix the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro.

    Mr. Mundell’s surprising statement came at a March 22 conference in New York sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, The Wall Street Journal and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. His economic predictions carry great weight because, unlike most economists of his generation, he is often right. His analysis of international economics has revolutionized the field, making him the euro’s intellectual father and a primary adviser to China’s economic policy makers.

    Nevertheless, with gold around $1,500 and oil above $100 a barrel, supply-siders are scratching their heads: How can he possibly see deflation ahead? How can dollar weakness not be the problem?

    The key to Mr. Mundell’s view is that exchange rates transmit inflation or deflation into economies by raising or lowering prices for imported items and commodities. For example, when the dollar declines significantly against the world’s second-leading currency, the euro, commodity prices rise. This creates U.S. inflationary pressure. Conversely, when the dollar appreciates significantly against the euro, commodity prices fall, which leads to deflationary pressure.

    From 2001-07, he argues, the dollar underwent a long, steady decline against the euro, tacitly encouraged by U.S. monetary authorities. In response to the dollar’s decline, investors diverted capital into inflation hedges, notably real estate, leading to the subprime bubble. By mid-2007, the real-estate bubble had burst. In response, the Fed reduced short-term interest rates rapidly, which lowered the dollar further. The subprime crisis was severe, but with looser money, the economy appeared to stabilize in the second quarter of 2008.

    Only with great trepidation would I take issue with Prof. Mundell, but I believe that he underrates a factor that he was the first to identify in the economics literature: the fact that balance of payments deficits arise from differential savings rates among countries, which in turn arise from differential demographics. The Chinese, for example, were massive buyers of US securities, including mortgages, because the US was the only market offering sufficient investment instruments to satisfy China’s bottomless supply of savings. And the Chinese were saving half their income (an unprecedented level) because a rapidly-aging population restricted to one child per couple required a huge buildup of financial assets.

    I am also less concerned about QE2, and more concerned about the fact that issuance of bonds linked to private credit risk is still down by half from the peak, while total loans and leases at US commercial banks continue to fall (forget the dead-cat bounce in C&I loans). This is an institutional breakdown; the Fed wants inflation and says so, but may not be able to get it, because the Fed’s largesse isn’t translated into lending to the private sector. That’s a Japan-style pushing-on-a-string problem. Even if the Fed stops buying Treasuries, there is huge demand for securities from the banks.

    The markets, as I said last night, are oscillating between fear that the Fed might succeed, and fear that it might fail–thus the huge volatility in the price of inflation hedges.

    Mundell’s solution?

    Nevertheless, Mr. Mundell views QE2 as the wrong solution for the problem. Instead, the U.S. and Europe simply should coordinate exchange-rate policies to maintain an upper and lower limit on the euro price, say between $1.30 and $1.40. Over time, the band would be narrowed to a given rate. Further quantitative easing would be off the table.

    With a fixed exchange rate, prices could move free from the scourge of sudden deflation and inflation, allowing investment horizons and planning timelines to expand along with production levels on both sides of the Atlantic. To supercharge the U.S. recovery, he also recommends permanently extending the Bush tax rates and lowering the corporate income tax rate to 15% from 35%.

    Again, it seems presumptuous to disagree with the great man, who among other things is the intellectual father of the Euro. But the southern European fiscal crisis seems to prejudice the Euro as a lodestar for monetary policy. An agreement to stabilize the dollar against a group of Asian currencies, starting with a convertible Chinese yuan, would seem to make more sense. I’ve been advocating that since late 2008.

    These quibbles aside, Robert Mundell’s deflation warning should be taken seriously. To reiterate: don’t sell your bonds, and don’t sell your gold. We have a gold bubble and a government debt bubble, and we don’t know which will pop first....