Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for August 23rd, 2011

Beneviolent Middle Kingdom

Posted by Charles II on August 23, 2011

Following up on the remarkable comment by the Chinese ambassador to South Africa to the effect that China is just a wonderful, peace-loving, benevolent trader bringing prosperity and culture to the benighted nations of the earth (assuming you ignore their actions in the Spratlys or Senkaku), this story emerges.

Briefly: Cosco, the Chinese shipper, chartered 17 or 18 ships from the Greek company DryShips and other companies owned by George Economou at a cost of half a billion dollars. Then the Chinese decided they didn’t want to pay for them. So, they didn’t. But they continued to use them, telling the world that it is withholding the money to maximize shareholder value.

Economou had one ship seized and several other Cosco ships have been “arrested” by other furious owners.

Presumably Cosco feels they’re getting screwed because the price of shipping dropped so radically after the onset of the Bush II Recession and that they’re playing hardball to get Dry Ships to re-negotiate. But maximizing shareholder value by freebooting whole container ships takes “poor socialization skills” to a whole new level.

By the way, the story of the remarkable 15th century circumnavigation of the earth by Zheng He, which the ambassador referred to, is not described quite as the ambassador would like. From Wikipedia: “a contemporary reported that Zheng He ‘walked like a tiger’ and did not shrink from violence when he considered it necessary to impress foreign peoples with China’s military might. … He also waged a land war against the Kingdom of Kotte in Ceylon, and he made displays of military force when local officials threatened his fleet in Arabia and East Africa.” The records of his voyages were all but obliterated, possibly because they were believed to have brought China disaster. In any case, an edict was issued (Hai jin), which severed Chinese communication from foreign nations and forced all coastal inhabitants to abandon their homes and move inland.


Posted in China, wrong way to go about it, WTF? | 9 Comments »

Earthquake In Eric Cantor’s District

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 23, 2011

Right next to a nuke plant.

What was that about not needing government and regulations, Mr. Cantor?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Phone hacking scorches Coulson

Posted by Charles II on August 23, 2011

It wasn’t income. It was tips. Andrew Sparrow and Polly Curtis, The Guardian:

The Electoral Commission is being asked to investigate whether News International payments to Andy Coulson after he started working for the Conservative party may have broken the law.

MPs on the committee are also angry because the reports appear to contradict evidence given to it by Coulson himself.

On Monday night, the BBC’s Robert Peston said Coulson had received several hundred thousand pounds from News International after he started working for Tories.

Coulson was known to have received a payoff after he resigned from the News of the World in January 2007 following the conviction of the journalist Clive Goodman and the investigator Glenn Mulcaire for phone hacking.

But Peston said Coulson received his severance pay in instalments, and that he continued receiving money from News International until the end of 2007. Peston also said Coulson continued to receive his News International work benefits, such as healthcare, for three years and that he kept his company car.

The report casts doubt on the reliability of the evidence that Coulson gave to the culture committee in 2009. Coulson, who at the time was working for the Conservative party on a reported salary of £275,000 – roughly half what he was thought to have been earning at the News of the World – said he did not have any “secondary income”.

In other excellent news for Murdoch, Calum Best, and very likely Kerry Katona will be suing Murdoch’s defunct NoTW.

Posted in Rupert Murdoch, wiretapping | 3 Comments »

It ain’t over till it’s over, Libya edition/updated with amazing China quote

Posted by Charles II on August 23, 2011

I’ve held off commenting on Libya, because it’s very unclear to me what is actually happening. Obviously, getting rid of Qaddafi is a good thing, but (a) he’s not gone, and (b) it’s not clear what follows him. In the Egyptian uprising, getting rid of the Mubarak was a lot easier than getting rid of the military dictatorship that Mubarak represented. In Libya, getting rid of Qaddafi is a lot easier than getting rid of the oilyocracy on which Libya has been so long dependent. So, comments by Phyllis Bennis are a useful counterpoint to the triumphalism one hears throughout most of the western press:

we have to look at the speech, for example, of the Leader of the National Transitional Council, who spoke yesterday at a very celebratory press conference, I think rather prematurely, in which he thanked the international community as a whole for their support but went on to specifically single out the countries that had provided specific support to the TNC and to the opposition in Libya and indicated very directly that they would be given—they would not be forgotten. They would be given, presumably, special privileges in the future, if the TNC, when the TNC, in his view, should take power. The assumption I made was that his reference is to privileged access to oil contracts, privileged access to perhaps bases, to the very strategic location of Libya, that all of that would be made available in a more privileged way to those countries that had played such a direct role in this civil war.

I think that access to oil contracts was very much a part—it wasn’t the only part, but it was one part—of the reasons that this war went ahead. It wasn’t directly a war for oil, in the sense that the U.S. and European oil companies, all these international companies that you just mentioned, already were in bed with the Gaddafi regime. They were already giving—getting enormous access to Libyan oil. So it wasn’t simply to get access. It was in recognition that there was a change underway.

they want to position themselves in a way to get continuing access to those oil contracts. It’s not about access to the oil itself. That will be on a global market. It will be part of it. It’s about control. It’s about controlling the terms of those contracts. It’s about controlling amounts that are being pumped at different times. It’s about controlling prices. It’s about controlling that crucial resource.

What I was saying earlier, I think, is crucial about the lack of clear support for the TNC from many different sectors in Libya, including important sectors of the revolutionary forces themselves, the opposition forces, the rebels, whatever we want to call them. The anti-Gaddafi forces are themselves incredibly divided. And in that situation, the U.S. and its allies have honed in on one sector of that opposition force, the TNC, the Transitional National Council, and said, “We’re going to anoint you the officials.” And, of course, by doing so, they give them even more power.

There’s now talk of releasing frozen Libyan assets that are in U.S. and European banks, in the billions of dollars, billions of euros. And if that money is immediately released and turned over to this unrepresentative TNC, it’s going to empower them, disempower other forces within the opposition movement, and set the stage for ongoing and very serious chaos…

Gaddafi never had an official title other than Brother Leader or Colonel sometimes. He wasn’t officially the president. There was no presidency. So, the institutions of governance never really existed.

So, there you have it. Bennis says
1) The dictator is gone, but the country has no experience with government.
2) The people the West is supporting represent a small fraction of the population, and they probably represent the ones the West thinks it can control.
3) It’s a recipe for continuing civil war and fragmentation similar to what we see in Iraq.

As in Egypt, this will take months or, more likely, years before we see clearly what has been wrought in our name. Much will probably depend on whether the people of Egypt can force the Arab spring in their country into a full harvest of democracy. May God guide all the people of MENA.
Update: My concern about what is actually going on is heightened by this, from Tanya Branigan, The Guardian:

China is seeking to reaffirm its ties with Libya as it looks ahead to a future without Gaddafi, calling for its investments to be protected after rebels suggested they might freeze out countries that had not supported them.

“China’s investment in Libya, especially its oil investment, is one aspect of mutual economic co-operation … and this co-operation is in the mutual interest of both the people of China and Libya,” a commerce ministry official told reporters on Tuesday.

China and the West are jousting for global power. The overthrow of Qaddafi represents an opportunity for the West to displace China from access to Libyan oil. I found this truly amazing quote about China’s oil operations in Sudan, where it supported the bloody suppression of the Darfur region to keep the oil flowing:

To fend off growing criticisms, Chinese officials say they are emulating the policy of Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator, who travelled to more than 30 countries in Asia and Africa 600 years ago.

“Zheng He took to the places he visited tea, chinaware, silk and technology. He did not occupy an inch of foreign land, nor did he take a single slave. What he brought to the outside world was peace and civilisation. This fully reflects the good faith of the ancient Chinese people in strengthening exchanges with relevant countries and their people. This peace-loving culture has taken deep root in the minds and hearts of Chinese people of all generations,” Liu Guijin, Chinese ambassador to South Africa, told the African Business Leaders Forum in Johannesburg in October 2006.

If you think American leaders are delusional, welcome to Alternative Reality 6.0.

Posted in China, Conflict in the Middle East | 4 Comments »

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