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Archive for November, 2010

merkel crash, eu debt crisis, debt crisis, eu financial crisis

Merkel readies herself as she prepares to explode

I’ve been banging on about it for weeks: the measures taken by the EU to repair the current crisis are weak. They won’t work. Why? Because they don’t attack the problem at its root – they don’t deal with ensuring that the debtor economies are strong enough to repay their loans. They’re politically motivated measures – and they’re based on threats. But you can threaten a poor man all you want, say that you’re going to do brutal things to him unless he suddenly becomes rich – but chances are, if he doesn’t have access to money, he’ll probably remain poor.

Well, that’s not a terribly complicated argument – and it seems that even the rather dim, usually hype-prone meta-brain that we mysteriously refer to as ‘the markets’, has copped it too. As Harvinder Syngh of RBS says:

“The market assessment is that the new policy structures, now with a relatively trivial watering down of the private sector restructuring risk, makes little sense.”

Yup, there’s no fooling those markets… it seems that only the markets are able to fool the markets.

So, now ‘the markets’ have begun calling this The Merkel Crash. You know, I fucking hate ‘the markets’ – I think that they’re sheepish and collectively stupid; I also think that they should be regulated into the ground, but I must admit… I love that meme!

The important point here is that ‘the markets’ agree with a rather rational evaluation of the problem – which is a rarity in itself. Now, that leaves the political ground wide open for alternative approaches to the crisis. One commentator that’s responding to this challenge is the radical Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis, who I’ve praised here before.

Varoufakis puts forward some rather sober proposals that EU leaders would be well listening to. But these aren’t ‘spun’ in the Marxist style. Varoufakis makes a case – and even includes some class language:

“[T]he true reason why the proposal here will be fought tooth and nail is terribly simple: it does not comply with the class interests of those in authority– at least not as they perceive them.”

Varoufakis is, of course, spot on. I’ve made this point more generally here before. But now I’ll make another.

I’ve seen the statements being released by certain left-wing parties in this country in the past few weeks and months – and I’ve come to notice that they’re adhering to a very specific conception of the world; one which I consider not simply outdated, but also one that I consider completely unable to formulate policy measures.

At the same time, I see the mainstream media twisting and turning, until it eventually gets caught into a tailspin of negativity. In short: no one knows what the hell to think. But if we followed Varoufakis, we well might.

Varoufakis refers to his policy measures as ‘modest’ – I’d use the adjective ‘Keynesian’, but this matters little… call them whatever you want. What does matter is that these policies are clearly formulated by as many people as possible and thrown into the public sphere so that people can catch onto them. This, I believe, is the challenge currently facing the left in this country. The gauntlet is sitting right there on the ground – the question is: will you pick it up?

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wikileaks, banking leaks, bank collapse, wikileaks banks, wikileaks finance

I’ll keep this short and sweet. Julian Assange – of WikiLeaks fame, and fast becoming my hero – has announced that some of the material they will be drip-feeding us in the coming weeks and months is related to high-profile banks.

Assange:

“We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak… I mean, it could take down a bank or two.”

What looks to be fascinating about this leak is that it promises to give a rare peek into the practices that go on high up the banking executive chain.

Assange:

“Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war…You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.”

Another serving? Yes, please!

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Iran, North Korea, wikileaks cables, nuclear war, war in middle east

Just to highlight some interesting stories that have developed out of the WikiLeaks cables that came out the other day (note while reading this, that various hacks working for various hack publications have condemned the leaks as gossip – perhaps this is due to their shadowy recognition that what they pass off as commentary is, in actual fact, gossip).

First up, Iran. While in Italy, veteran US defence secretary and former CIA chief Robert Gates, issued chilling warnings that, should Iran acquire nuclear capabilities (or, maybe, be perceived to have acquired nuclear capabilities?), a war might spark off in the Middle East – and quite possibly, a nuclear war at that, instigated by an Israeli strike.

The cables also indicate that Iran is not taking this threat lying down. Apparently, they are fighting tooth and nail to gain an upper-hand in the region. This battle – described by US diplomats as the “hegemonic battle of our times” – is being fought, relatively outside of mainstream media attention, all the way from the warzones of Afghanistan and Iraq, to attempts at subversion in Azerbaijan and the Gulf.

On this issue, the US appear to manifest a dangerous Cold War mentality. They see Iran as a ‘fascist state’ – in what sense other than simply as a pejorative, that is not clear. They also do not seem averse to engaging Iran in what can only be described as bully tactics – ganging up with other powers in the region to increase the pressure on the country ad infinitum. Finally, there seems to be the same Strangelove-esque tendency we saw throughout the Cold War to absorb misinformation on Iran as truth. Simon Tisdall at The Guardian puts it as such:

“Much of the US surveillance of Iran is channelled through its so-called “Iran regional presence office” at the US consulate in Dubai, a sort of grandiose listening-post-cum-embassy-in-exile. The IRPO produces long cables full of political and economic news, Iranian media reports, and information gleaned from Iranian sources, foreign businessmen and exiles. But every US embassy in the countries around Iran (and further afield) appears to have its designated “Iran watcher”.”

Needless to say, information ‘gleaned from Iranian sources [presumably dissident], foreign businessmen and exiles’ is likely to be skewed at best, outright lies at worst. And if the US – while in Cold Warrior mode – have shown themselves apt at anything, it is self-deception.

Next up, Korea. In my opinion, this leak is far less ominous than the previous one. It appears that China is willing to accept a reunification of Korea, with leadership falling to Seoul. This news comes short on the heels of the North Korean artillery fire on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong – followed by news of China backing North Korea in public by calling for multi-party talks.

In my estimation North Korea are a far more problematic country than Iran. While the problems with Iran stem in part from the US’s dodgy alliance with an increasingly crazy Israel and could potentially be solved through some sort of diplomatic means – I’m not wholly convinced that the US’s attitude toward North Korea needs such a wholescale readjustment. North Korea are too insular, too back-against-the-wall-crazy, too much, as the Chinese aptly put it in the leak, of a ‘spoiled child’.

So, it seems promising that China would – under certain conditions – accept a reunification. Up until now the Chinese have been critical of the US stance toward North Korea – but after North Korea’s nuclear tests last year, it would seem that Beijing are getting sick and tired of this veritable nuisance in their backyard. The younger generation in the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) in particular, no longer see North Korea as a useful ally.

US ambassador Kathleen Stephens reported in one cable, that the-then South Korean vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo told her that:

“[He] dismissed the prospect of a possible PRC military intervention in the event of a DPRK collapse, noting that China’s strategic economic interests now lie with the United States, Japan and South Korea – not North Korea.”

He also said that Beijing found that it could no longer talk North Korea out of pursuing her blatantly self-destructive policies.

US ambassador to Kazakhstan, Richard Hoagland reported that:

“[H]is Chinese counterpart, Cheng Guoping. was “genuinely concerned by North Korea’s recent nuclear missile tests. ‘We need to solve this problem. It is very troublesome,’ he said, calling Korea’s nuclear activity a ‘threat to the whole world’s security’.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this all quite promising.

One last point. Do you now see how pathetic those commentators are that claim the leaks are just ‘gossip’ or ‘vandalism’? Whenever you see those words being bandied around you can be sure that they’re coming from one of two sources: (1) some politician or (2) a servile hack-writer with no interest in journalism.

UPDATE: China make official statement to The Guardian saying that it will support Korean unification – but then the WikiLeaks documents weren’t real journalism… right? Those silly kids were just gossip-mongering and mischief-making… right?

UPDATE 2: Another interesting nuclear-related leak. Most major world powers seem to be – quite justifiably – terrified of the nuclear situation in Pakistan. Ambassadors paint the country as highly unstable, with the president preparing to be assassinated by Islamist elements within the military at any time. Meanwhile, the country is churning out nuclear weapons at the fastest rate of any country in the world. There have also been major concerns raised that nuclear material might be smuggled out by terrorist sympathisers and used to construct a weapon.

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stock bubble, stock market bubble

I’ve alluded to it a few times before on this blog, but always gently – I’ve also, in the past few months, been telling my nearest and dearest to be very careful about plowing their money into the stock market… but now I think that I can make this point definitively.

Here’s how I figured the game was being played. Governments – most notably the US government – have been jamming money into banks through various schemes. These schemes are generally referred to as Quantitative Easing. Quantitative Easing is really just a glorified way of saying that these governments are printing money. The idea then is that these banks would start loaning money to consumers and businesses once they were given piles of cash. Of course, it didn’t work out that way – as we all know, the banks didn’t start loaning money again.

So, what’s happening? Well, I reckon that this money is probably going into the stock market. Now, if freshly printed cash is being channeled into the stock market, what does that mean? Well, that probably means that a stock market bubble is beginning to inflate.

Okay, let’s go through this slowly. What does the stock market do? Ostensibly, the stock market acts as a sort of giant investment tool. The stock market – through all the little shouting men who work there – channels money into businesses that its collective brain feels are going to be successful. Nice concept, right? Well, sometimes the stock market channels money into nonsense firms. Remember the dotcom bubble? That was the stock market channeling money into nonsense companies – this is what we call a stock market bubble… and bubbles will always burst, which will always end in a stock market crash.

Now, if the banks are channeling their newly minted cash into the stock market they’re probably chasing illusions – by that I mean that they’re probably over-investing in companies, just like they did during the dotcom bubble. Investment opportunities aren’t exactly plentiful in these hard times, so we can only figure that those companies that are having their stocks inflated on the back of this new money aren’t altogether as great as their investors make them out to be.

Yet, not many commentators are making this call. Dean Baker – one of the first economists to call the housing bubble – certainly is. Another commentator making this assertion is Yves Smith (see video posted below). In fact, by making this call now – and provided it turns out to be correct – I think I’ll be one of the first. That is why I was so reluctant to do so explicitly for a while now (I’ve been talking about this with personal acquaintances since the beginning of the summer). But, upon careful consideration, I now feel confident enough to make this call.

This also ties in with other ideas I’ve been putting forward on this blog. In my series on the rise of finance (see here: Part IPart IIPart III) I’ve been trying to show that, for the past thirty or so years, the world economy has been running on financial tricks of various kinds. I’ve been trying to show that, due to a major decline in manufacturing profits the world economy is coming to rely more and more on speculative/financial profits.

Underlying this argument is the assumption that, now that the dotcom and, after it, the housing bubbles have burst, the world economy requires a new bubble to be inflated in order to keep the whole thing ticking over (you see, a capitalist system cannot function without strong profit incentive). I now think that this bubble will be in the stock market.

I’m not saying that you should rush out and sell all your stocks tomorrow. This process could take a long time. But if I’m correct what we will see is the stock market climb ever higher, while the real economy seems perpetually mired in the swamp of recession and unemployment. Watch this space!

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German Finance Minister Herr Schauble, is at it again – this guy is really starting to get on my nerves. While our friends in the UK are insisting that the interest-rate on our loan repayments remains low – somewhere around the 5% mark – Schauble and the Germans want blood – they’re calling for a 7% interest-rate.

The UK claim that a too-high interest-rate for Ireland might affect her economy negatively – well duh! The UK are smart enough to recognise that economics is not a zero-sum game and that, should Ireland’s economy be adversely affected by these interest-rates Britain would lose out too.

Not so with that monkey Schauble. He wants Ireland to feel pain, apparently.

No, he doesn’t put forward any salient macroeconomic argument for his crude position – instead he preaches morality from his pulpit. “If Ireland did bad – Ireland must feel pain.” Pathetic position from a pathetic, narrow-minded politician – no surprise though, we’ve seen it all before.

Okay, there’s some rationale to Germany’s approach. Sorry, let’s put that in quotation marks – there’s some ‘rationale’ to Germany’s approach. They’re terrified that other countries, most notably Spain, might come to the EU with the begging bowl and they hope that, by kicking Ireland in the face while she lies unconscious in the gutter, they can scare the other countries into not seeking a bailout.

This is a remarkably stupid approach. It assumes that the debt crisis is all politics. But it’s not – it’s economics. If other countries end up needing to be bailed out, this will be due to the underlying economic reality, not due to petty politics. Did the Irish government not already prove this by trying as as hard as they could to slash the budget to pieces in order to avoid a bailout? In the end the bailout was inevitable (well, after we’d agreed to bailout our crooked banking sector, of course) – ditto for any other country that needs one.

More evasive action by cowardly, short-term oriented politicians in order to avoid the key issues. Being narrow-minded  and short-sighted, these politicians don’t want to have to recognise that Europe needs a complete economic overhaul – a complete change of economic policy. But they don’t want to bite the bullet. Why? Because they’re champagne politicians that don’t want to advance any real policy. Yesterday’s WikiLeaks cables revealed that top US diplomats consider Angela Merkal to be “risk-averse and rarely creative” – that, I would say, is a vast understatement.

Germany continue to claim that this is a moral crusade – but as Yves Smith pointed out yesterday, Germany’s own banks have been up to no good in many countries throughout the world; including such slaughtered lambs as Ireland and Iceland. But it’s not really a moral crusade, is it? It’s the political maneuvers of a coward government – sorry, that’s terribly rude… I meant to say a ‘risk-averse’ government.

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wikileaks, cablegate
What a mess!

Well, its hit alright. The first batch of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables are out – and some of them are pretty juicy.

The fact that Saudi Arabia have been pushing the US to bomb Iran – while no huge surprise – is certainly interesting. Berlusconi’s links to Putin are also sure to raise a few eyebrows – maybe poor, suffering Italy will finally see past his propaganda empire and get rid of the chap.

Of course, the leaks have caused journalists and commentators to launch into their usual navel-gazing. “What does this MEAN to journalism?” they ask themselves dully – as if journalism were an abstract entity and not a profession.

Some of them lionise WikiLeaks – others claim that Wikileaks are anarchistic vandals. Both, of course, are equally irrelevant and boring – the lazy murmurings of armchair commentators who have probably never even taken the time to investigate the inner-workings of their fridge manual.

So, let’s just avoid the supposed moral issues. If you think that journalists should protect those in power, go find some hack that’s increasing their ‘press access’ by preaching responsibility to an empty lecture-hall – I’m not giving you a link, there’s plenty of them. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in what the cables actually say – as any normal person, without professional intentions, would be – I’d encourage you to have a look at the leaks yourself.

Here’s how it works – at least as far as I can figure out. There is a total of over 250,000 documents. WikiLeaks are publishing them in blocks. They have currently published 226 – presumably these are some of the most interesting, but then, who knows?

Now, what you need to do is figure out how to use the search facilities. I’m pretty handy with a computer, but I’m finding this quite difficult – I reckon there’s a bit of a learning curve. But in saying that, you’re sure to land on some deliciously interesting nuggets at random while you’re trying to figure out the system.

So, what about Ireland? Any juice? Well, as far as I can figure out, none of the 261 documents currently released are about Ireland. But, from what the WikiLeaks graph deely tells me, there are some 633 in the pipeline. I’m just wondering if any of them are finance related…

UPDATE: Well, my crappy guide is now completely outmoded. It looks like The Guardian has put up a very accessible interactive guide to the cables – still no stuff on Ireland… but watch this space.

 

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spanish debt crisis, spain default on debt

Every year, in sunny July, certain Spaniards in certain Spanish towns engage in a rather stupid and self-destructive tradition – the running of the bulls. People may think that I’m being parochial, intolerant and un-cosmopolitan by saying that this Spanish tradition is dumb; nevertheless, I stand by my judgment. Allowing rampaging bulls to tear through streets filled with people is asinine – indeed, it’s all fun and games before someone finds their son or their daughter mangled like a bloody pretzel in the gutter.

Last Friday another set of bulls ran through Spain – this time not through her beautiful, sun-soaked Mediterranean  streets – but through her rotten, debt-ridden financial system. Yes, bond investors started feeling anxious and began panic selling Spanish bonds, draining investor confidence in the country and increasing the chances of Spain joining Ireland in seeking a bailout. (Ditto in Portugal, but we’ll focus on Spain today).

We’ve heard about this potentiality before, of course – we all know that Spain puts the ‘S’ in ‘PIIGS’. What many aren’t aware of is the problems a Spanish bailout could cause for the EU – nay, for the world economy at large.

You see, Ireland and Greece are small fish – tiny economies that can be bailed out without much hassle. Just throw in somewhere in the region of €80bn-€120bn and you should be able to prop them up – you’ll probably destroy them with your austerity measures, but no one cares about that. With Spain, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a larger beast altogether.

Spain’s public debt is a whopping €1tn – that’s a ‘t’, not a ‘b’ – and she holds another €1tn in private foreign liabilities.  The question is: could Europe bail Spain out even if it wanted to? The answer? Quite possibly not.

Spain is, like Ireland, the victim of a dodgy housing bubble. Had a different approach been taken than the government propping up rotten mortgage banks, the crisis there might have been avoidable. But history has already marched – or, should I say ‘limped’ – and that option looks to be off the table.

All this has me wondering about the future of Europe and its members. What’s beginning to emerge here is something on the scale of the Great Depression. After all the threads come loose, and the economic situation in Europe unravels completely, what are we going to be left with? Something ghastly methinks.

The question then will be: will the EU be able to pull up its socks and face the crisis realistically, as the US did in the case of the Great Depression? Will it be able to formulate and implement creative economic policies in order to refertilise the scorched earth leftover after the crisis? I, for one, hope so.

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"Fiddle-di-dee, you'll never catch me!"

In the past few days I’ve suggested that Ireland should threaten her European ‘brothers’ that she might default on her debt – together with threatening to leave the Euro, I claimed that such a political maneuver might work to persuade the EU to stop its crazy austerity measures and begin using the ECB for Keynesian fiscal policy.

But now comes the question: will we end up defaulting regardless? Simon Johnson, over at Baseline Scenario, seems to think so. Johnson argues that its pretty much a foregone conclusion that Ireland will default on its debt. I think that Johnson is basically right. Insofar as it has managed to pass through the crisis bit by bit while effectively ignoring it, Ireland has proved itself to be a wonderful procrastinator – if that adjective can truly be applied to that noun.

Whether Ireland will default on its debt or not is part of this same process – its an inevitability, that is being avoided through pointless procrastination. Needless to say that this makes my point that Ireland should use defaulting as a threat to the EU even more pertinent – if it’s going to end up happening anyway, why not try to use it to try to score political points?

Johnson points out that the international community don’t currently understand the nature of Ireland’s crisis. So, while they’re busy trying to sort out their GDP from their GNP, our government should be taking advantage of this financial fog to make these threats to the EU.

I’ve long wondered why the EU – and the wider world – has been putting up with Ireland’s procrastination. No doubt our current incompetent incumbents think that its down to their wicked ‘cleverness’. You know, that roguish cleverness that every Irishman supposedly possesses – and which supposedly gets him out of all sorts of binds? Well, its bullshit – the Irish government are not and never have been ‘clever’. They’ve simply found themselves amidst powerful global economic and political forces that they were easily able to fit themselves into – they then convinced themselves that the outcome was due to their own innate shrewdness.

Ditto for all the procrastination and denial that has taken place during this crisis, I thought. I assumed that Europe were tolerating the Irish government’s violent repression of their crisis because they didn’t want to see the Euro fall too much in the international money markets. I don’t think I was far wrong, either. But in his article Johnson points out another determining factor in this economic game – a game where we currently find ourselves playing the part of the fool.

It would seem that various European and world powers have significant stakes in our crumbling banking system.

“German banks are owed $139 billion, which is 4.2 percent of German G.D.P. British banks are owed $131 billion, or about 5 percent of Britain’s G.D.P. French banks are owed $43.5 billion, which is approaching 2 percent of French G.D.P. But the eye-catching numbers are for Belgium, which is owed $29 billion – in the relatively small Belgian economy, this accounts for around 5 percent of G.D.P.”

“Aha!” I hear the reader say. Aha, indeed. No wonder Europe don’t mind ignoring the elephant in the room that is the Irish economic system – it’s not just down to the Euro; they also have a remarkably high exposure to Irish debt.

So, as our government plays the international fool, the knaves in Europe sit quietly counting their stakes in Irish banks – ignoring our tomfoolery, and cleaning up after us so that the rest of the world don’t realise just how fragile this house of cards really is.

If all the world’s a stage – then Ireland is currently running one of the strangest farces ever seen. What’s more, the Irish government think of themselves as the crafty knave – when they’re nothing but the dupe of foreign powers… the grinning drunk, cockscomb on head, laughing all the way to the gallows.

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bach, fluid piano, glenn gould, art of fugue, microtonal music

Well, it’s Friday and I’m in a rather good mood. So before I start posting awful stuff about the state of the world economy in general and the Irish economy in particular, I want to present something of rare beauty.

Over the past few days I’ve been listening to the infamous (and rather loony) Glenn Gould’s piano performance of Bach’s incredible The Art of Fugue (which can be listened to here). I then went on to read an amazing essay on Bach entitled ‘Bach Defended Against His Devotees‘, written by the German philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno in 1951.

Adorno complains about certain trends that were surrounding the performance of Bach’s music at the time Adorno was writing. Bach’s ‘devotees’, Adorno contended, held him up as a fetish idol – performing his music on period instruments of the Baroque era in order to keep the performances ‘authentic’. These instruments, Adorno argued, were not adequate to capture the nuances of Bach’s music… this despite the fact that they were the only ones available in Bach’s own time.

So, I got my hands on a recording of Bach’s Concerto in D Minor played on harpsichord (listen here). The harpsichord is a period instrument from Bach’s time that works sort of like a glorified harp – when a key is pushed a string is plucked. And what do you know? Adorno was right. Bach’s work is much more suited to a modern piano (although the harpsichord is not without its charms). The tone is more rich, more full – it really captures the mood much better (another good example is to listen to Gould’s recordings of The Art of Fugue on an organ [listen here] – the piano versions are far and away better).

All this got me thinking about another remarkable instrument I came across some time ago – the microtonal or fluid piano. This is in a whole different league to the harpsichord or the piano – as it actually changes not simply how something is played, but what is played.

Your typical piano keyboard is made up of 88 keys. The white keys are different tone (C,D,E etc.), while the black keys are what are called semitones (C sharp, D flat etc.). You could think of the semitones as coming ‘in between’ the tones.

Now, the fluid piano is completely different. It has a tuning bar set into each key. This means that, mid-performance the tone can be changed to pick up on any number of what are called ‘microtones’. Think of microtones as coming between semitones and tones – now consider that there exist almost an infinity of variations. You could, in a certain sense, compare this to a ‘whammy bar’ on a guitar. This too ‘bends’ the note in order to produce variations on them.

In practice, this mean that the fluid piano can pick up tones that aren’t included on the Western scale (A, A flat, B etc) – this gives the fluid piano an incredibly eerie, Oriental and, well, fluid sound. When you listen to the fluid piano, you don’t really hear ‘gaps’ between various notes – rather, they just sort of blend into each other. Its as if the notes existed, not in a hierarchy, but in a continuum.

Anyway, the best way to understand the fluid piano is to listen to it. So, here’s an excellent performance – you’ll also get an idea of how it works at the start when the player tunes and re-tunes each key.

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The, er, fan that the, em, shit will hit...

Oh, its going to hit alright… Remember those pesky folks at Wikileaks – they brought you such videos as the purposeless killing of civilians by trigger-happy US troops in Iraq?

Well, Wikileaks are back. And now they’re coming out with what looks to be some very interesting documentation. Wikileaks claim to possess heaps of US diplomatic files which expose corruption among the leaders of many world powers. Oh, there’s going to be trouble alright…

The US government has taken their usual tack – “This will endanger various people, bla bla bla…” A boring argument altogether, by a government that probably endangers more people every day than any other.

Meanwhile, the Swedish government have begun trying to drum up the rape charges on Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. Did Assange really rape two women? I must say, having attended a few court cases before and understanding the complexities involved, I generally tend to restrict my judgment on these issues – but not this time. I bet my shoes that Assange didn’t rape these women – and the fact that the Swedish legal system is willing to even consider taking up this case reflects extremely badly on it.

Assange is a brave man. Were I in his position I would probably have packed it in by now – and probably long before certain governments were accusing me of one of the lowest crimes any man can commit.

There’s every chance that Assange will end his life behind bars, with his name dragged through the filthiest of mud. But a martyr he shall be – of that we can be sure.

UPDATE: It certainly looks like this is going to be big

“”The material that we are about to release covers essentially every major issue in every country in the world,” Mr Assange told reporters by video link.

A journalist with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which has been working with Wikileaks on publishing the files, said they would include an unflattering US assessment of UK PM David Cameron.”

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