Archive for June, 2009

The Meaning of National Sovereignty

RebelReports – Iraq’s “National Sovereignty Day” is U.S.-Style Hallmark Hype

In a grotesquely symbolic move, the Iraqi government marked “National Sovereignty Day” by “open[ing] up some of its massive oil and gas fields to foreign firms,” according to the Wall Street Journal: “In a televised ceremony, international oil companies were invited to submit bids for six oil and two gas fields, a process that marked their return to the country over 30 years after Mr. Hussein nationalized the oil sector and expelled the foreign firms. The fields on offer hold about 43 billion of Iraq’s 115 billion barrels of crude reserves — among the largest in the world.” Among the companies bidding were the Western oil giants ExxonMobil and BP (which reportedly won a contract on Tuesday). As The New York Times reported, “A total of 8 of the world’s 10 top non-state oil companies are competing for licenses to help develop six oil fields and two natural gas fields.”

In Which The Guardian Is Very Concerned For The Moral Welfare Of The Ruling Classes

Michael Tomasky: The Honduran coup | Comment is free |

At any rate I don’t think this means we’re entering a new era of instability in Central America. If anything, the larger story here seems to be Chavezismo and how ruling classes should respond to it — like, by trying to do something through normal political means for these countries’ legions of poor people for a change.


Why should one hope for the ruling classes to do anything at all -through normal political means or not- for poor people? The point about the ruling classes is that they rule. If they do something for poor people, they do it only to the extent that it conserves or entrenches their position as rulers. To act in any other way would be to relinquish their position of privilege.

The larger story here, contra The Guardian, is how the legions of poor people should overthrow the ruling classes and take control of their own destiny.


The names of shame | Stephen Bayley | Comment is free |

Right now, in Andalucia, they are selling a local whisky called “Dyck”. Anglophone larrikins enjoy entering bars and asking very loudly for “a big dick”.

In fact, the whiskey is called DYC, short for Destilerías y Crianza, and it’s not local to Andalucia. It’s very popular among people to whom the English word ‘dick’ means nothing. Personally I find it headshrinkingly disgusting, but it was never intended to be targeted at ‘anglophone larrikins’. I’m sure I’m guilty of the same sort of sniggering myself on other occasions, but as a general principle the fact that a word in one language sounds a lot like a rude word in another should never give cause for amusement (cf Aon Focal Eile by Richie Kavanagh). Still, it was funny the time a whole load of French kids started laughing at a guy I know called Shane because his name sounded a lot like ‘chien’.

Salvage Operation

Here, old books stink. The heat does something to whatever adhesive gets used in their binding. And the heat causes the sweat of your hands to mingle with the dried adhesive as you flick through them. Yesterday I spent the afternoon sorting through old books, trying to work out which ones were to go to the local library, which would in turn send them on to prisons and old people’s centres, and which ones were to be simply thrown in the skip because no-one was ever going to read them, and a third lesser category: the ones I would hang onto myself.

There were about 15 volumes of Freud, all in Spanish. Even though Freud in English is a translation from the German, I knew that if I hung onto them I would never read them, out of indolence. But I kept The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and Studies in Hysteria.

Then there was the Arturo Barea’s La Forja de Un Rebelde trilogy on the Spanish Civil War. I lifted that too.

Among the others: a couple of books by Camilo José Cela: La Colmena and Cafe de Artistas.

A great hardback copy of Rayuela by Julio Cortázar, with a photo of him on the front, smoking a fag.

An anthology of studies on Miguel Hernández.

An anthology of essays in homage to José Donoso.

a book on Octavio Paz: Cultura Literaria y Teoría Crítica.

Sin noticias de Gurb by Eduardo Mendoza.

Los que vivimos i.e. We The Living, by Ayn Rand (gulp.) Published in 1959.

Now all I need is long term hospitalisation in order to get the chance to read them. The last one, well, I’m not sure if life is long enough to bother, but I liked the very spartan cover.

Poor Little Rich People

When it comes to the task of dying, ordinary people get the better deal | Irish Examiner

In fact, the rich may suffer more than the poor, in some cases where the seduction of spurious treatment possibilities outweighs sense. The documentary showed Farrash Fawcett paying a fortune for demonstrably ineffective alternative treatments in Germany – and suffering grievously on the return journey to the United States. Some things don’t change. Twenty years ago, the star was Steve McQueen, the location was Mexico and the utterly pointless treatment was a preparation called Laetrile derived from the hard nut in the middle of apricots.

I never tire of reading speculations on how much greater the suffering of the rich can be by comparison with that of the poor. We should not harden our hearts and turn a blind eye to their suffering: rather, we should expropriate and redistribute their wealth. For their own good.

The Problem

Via A Tiny Revolution.

Slippery Slope

When I first lived in Spain more than a decade ago, there was an annoying ad on TV for a particular Danone product -Natillas, which taste a bit like cold custard- with an annoyingly catchy jingle, featuring Atlético Madrid player José Luis Pérez Caminero, or Caminero for short. The guy looked strangely awkward when on the pitch, but he was a superb passer, and could belt the ball pretty well too. Well, he’s just been busted by the Guardia Civil as part of an operation against drug trafficking and money laundering. Which just goes to show you that Danone products are a gateway to far more serious substances. One week you’re knocking back the odd Actimel, next thing you know you’re out on the railway tracks with a big bag of glue.

Out Of The Depths

Why is there a coup in Honduras?

Zelaya: el FMI “no es ni mi papá, ni mi mamá” – Economía –

El presidente hondureño, Manuel Zelaya, arremetió este viernes contra el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) y reiteró que “no hay ninguna obligación de tener ningún tipo de acuerdo” con el organismo financiero.

“El Fondo no es mi padre, ni mi papá ni mi mamá, para venirme a decir a mí lo que tengo de hacer en Honduras”, expresó el mandatario al regresar tras su viaje a Cuba.

Desde el 24 febrero se encuentra en Tegucigalpa una misión del FMI evaluando las cifras económicas para ver si amplía un acuerdo ‘stand by’ cuya vigencia de un año finaliza este mes.

Pero a la llegada de la misión, Zelaya dijo que “Honduras no tiene necesidad de un acuerdo con el FMI, Honduras ha superado todos los indicadores de un país que puede sostenerse sin el aporte del Fondo”.

Allow me to translate.

The Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, this Friday strongly criticised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and reiterated that “there is no obligation to have any type of agreement” with the financial organisation.

“The fund is not my father, not my dad and not my mum, to come and tell me what I have to do in Honduras”, said the leader on his return from his trip to Cuba.

Since the 24th February an IMF delegation has been in Tegucigalpa weighing up the economic figures to see if it will extend a ‘stand by’ agreement whose period of one year ends this month.

But on arriving at the delegation, Zelaya said that “Honduras has no need for an agreement with the IMF, Honduras has surpassed all the indicators of a country that can look after itself without the support of the Fund.”

FMI cuestiona la adhesión de Honduras al Alba

A la polémica adhesión de Honduras a la Alianza Bolivariana de las Américas (Alba) se ha sumado el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) que ha pedido explicaciones sobre las repercusión económica que tendrá dicha incorporación y sus consecuencias con su antiguo socio EEUU.

El FMI se ha sumado a la quejas anteriormente realizadas por el Consejo de la Empresa Privada (Cohep) junto con algunos partidos políticos y la Coalición Patriótica sobre las consecuencias futuras de la próxima incorporación de Honduras que se cree que podrá perjudicar en las relaciones con su actual socio estadounidense.

Gracias a Petrocaribe, el presidente venezolano, Hugo Chávez suele proponer a sus socios la creación y fortalecimiento de Banco del Sur, como una opción para prescindir de los organismos de financiamiento liderados por el Banco Mundial (BM), el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) o el mismo FMI, afirmó el representante FMI, Mario Garza.

Ayer, ya el (Cohep) de Honduras, criticó la adhesión del país a Alba, al considerar que la operación podría “incomodar” a EEUU y las relaciones comerciales entre ambos países. Entre otros, los países miembros del organismo sonb Venezuela, Bolivia y Cuba.

El ente empresarial calificó el Alba como una alianza política y militar que conspira contra el ejercicio de las libertades individuales y la libre determinación de la sociedad. Opinión que ha sido apoyada por el Partido Liberal y el propio presidente del Congreso, Roberto Micheletti, que afirmaron que no firmarían el tratado.

Let me translate once more.

IMF Questions Honduras Ties To ALBA

The IMF has joined in on the question of the controversial entrance of Honduras to the Bolivarian Alliance of The Americas (ALBA), asking for explanations on the economic repercussions which the aforementioned incorporation will have and its consequences with its old partner the United States.

The IMF has joined the complaints previously made by the Council of Private Enterprise (Cohep) along with some political parties and the Patriotic Coalition on the future consequences of the upcoming incorporation of Honduras which it is believed could damage its relations with its US partner [hollow laughs at Honduras and US as ‘partners’ – HG].

Thanks to Petrocaribe, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, usually proposes to its members the creation and strengthening of the Bank of The South, as an option to do away with the financial organizations led by the World Bank, the Interamerican Development Bank or the IMF, said the IMF representative, Mario Garza.

Yesterday, the Council of Private Enterprise criticised the country’s joining ALBA, considering that the act could ‘unsettle’ the US and the commercial relations between both countries. Among others, the member countries of the organization are Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba.

The business body described ALBA as a political and military alliance that conspires against the exercise of individual liberties and the free determination of society (hollow laughs once more – HG). This opinion has been supported by the Liberal Party, and the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, who said that they would not sign the treaty. Other sectors believe that ALBA will last for what remains of Zelaya’s mandate, until January 2010.

Protesters demand return of ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya | World news |

The 56-year-old president, looking dishevelled but calm, said he had been expelled by “rightwing oligarchs” and promised to return to Honduras.

Zelaya, who had been in office since 2006, was ousted after clashing with the judiciary, congress and the army over proposed constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election.

The US and European Union joined Latin American governments in denouncing the coup.

In Honduras, however, the establishment rallied around the army’s action.

Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, who announced an immediate curfew for Sunday and Monday nights. The country’s leading court said it had authorised the toppling of the president.

I think it’s fairly obvious why there has been a coup in Honduras.

Sticking Up For Ireland

When the government starts slashing welfare payments and they say it’s because maintaining market credibility is simply comme il faut, there will be even more talk about how Ireland’s welfare payments are more generous than other countries, with maybe even a hearty nod and wink to the Sunday Independent’s campaign of lamenting the fate of millionaire speculators whilst simultaneously shouting Stop Thief! and pointing at the nasty immigrants.

I saw someone argue a wee while back, somewhat chastened after erroneously claiming -after regurgitating Department of Finance briefings- that Ireland’s welfare payments were the most generous in the EU that it is wrong to compare Ireland’s system of welfare payments to that of other countries, because it is… oh fuck it. Get this.

I bought myself a big packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes in the supermarket the other day. There is no Organic Weetabix in Spain, and ordinary Weetabix combined with UHT milk tastes like shite. I figured a packed of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes would be sufficiently nutty and sweet delicious to suspend my knowledge of the fact that I am shovelling UHT milk into myself.

So I had my first bowl, and it was delicious.

But I didn’t close the box properly, and several hundred battallions of bastard ants made their way in from the patio, climbed the sideboard and the wall, and into the box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, which I then had to throw out, crestfallen and resigned to the fact that it would be back to cardboard Weetabix and shite milk this morning (don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely milk-ist: I think UHT is totally fine for milky coffee).

Now it seems to me that Ireland may be deficient in many things. It may have a collapsing economy, a culture of exalting mediocrity and unquestioning genuflection to technocratic crackpot realists and corporate bullies. Its hospitals may be dilapidated, its GPs may rip you off every time you get sick, its beaches may be filthy and its weather appalling.

But at least you don’t get ants crawling into your fucking Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

Lifestyle Supplements

You know how it is in post-Tiger Ireland. You go to a dinner party and they’re using ordinary olive oil on the placenta instead of Extra Virgin. The man of the house, who up until recently you would see in diamond-encrusted loafers down at the yacht club, is out in the garden on all fours, licking the decking and dousing himself in Steiger lager. The once perky Pekinese is slumped with its paws in the air atop the Brabantia bin, having exhausted itself in its attempts to hump the leg off the architect’s wife from up the street, his underbelly matted brown with the fake tan she’s had to resort to now. Three holidays a year in Marbella gave way to one trip a month to Chartbusters spray booths, and now that that’s gone to the wall, ever the resourceful type, she’s been draining off the excess liquid from the organic bins into a brownish paste, and started glazing her now-flabby calves (the gym membership expired some months back) with a pastry brush. What can get really galling is the one-upmanship of the whole thing. At the same dinner party, the hostess tried to make a show of her generosity. While the rest of us were struggling cheerfully with the plastic knives and forks, tucking into our (surprisingly delicious) Aldi tinned ham fritters, she grandiosely produced a garden greip and a hoe. Oh don’t mind me, I can manage, I’m afraid we can’t afford any more cutlery. Sure.

One former banker guest seemed rather perturbed and red-faced by the sniggers that accompanied the host reading aloud an Irish Times account of an unnamed former banker who had started up a ‘discrete personal service’ provided to the pets of rich old dowagers in the South Dublin area. “I don’t know how the hell she meets these people” laughed one. “Yah, it’s as if she makes it all up” laughed another. The former banker launched into a stinging disquisition on the morality of providing sexual stimuli to animals. “Imagine you were the last man on earth, lonely and ontologically redundant, with no prospect of sensual consolation from another being. Are you seriously saying that you would reject the tender advances of another creature, even if it was an 11ft praying mantis from the planet Zarg? Your bourgeois morality disgusts me.”

I on Twitter

June 2009