Tuesday, January 24, 2012

George Soros on the Coming U.S. Class War

The situation is about as serious and difficult as I've experienced in my career.'

 You know George Soros. He’s the investor’s investor—the man who still holds the record for making more money in a single day’s trading than anyone. He pocketed $1 billion betting against the British pound on “Black Wednesday” in 1992, when sterling lost 20 percent of its value in less than 24 hours and crashed out of the European exchange-rate mechanism. No wonder Brits call him, with a mix of awe and annoyance, “the man who broke the Bank of England.”

Soros doesn’t make small bets on anything. Beyond the markets, he has plowed billions of dollars of his own money into promoting political freedom in Eastern Europe and other causes. He bet against the Bush White House, becoming a hate magnet for the right that persists to this day. So, as Soros and the world’s movers once again converge on Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum this week, what is one of the world’s highest-stakes economic gamblers betting on now?
He’s not. For the first time in his 60-year career, Soros, now 81, admits he is not sure what to do. “It’s very hard to know how you can be right, given the damage that was done during the boom years,” Soros says. He won’t discuss his portfolio, lest anyone think he’s talking things down to make a buck. But people who know him well say he advocates making long-term stock picks with solid companies, avoiding gold—“the ultimate bubble”—and, mainly, holding cash.
He’s not even doing the one thing that you would expect from a man who knows a crippled currency when he sees one: shorting the euro, and perhaps even the U.S. dollar, to hell. Quite the reverse. He backs the beleaguered euro, publicly urging European leaders to do whatever it takes to ensure its survival. “The euro must survive because the alternative—a breakup—would cause a meltdown that Europe, the world, can’t afford.” He has bought about $2 billion in European bonds, mainly Italian, from MF Global Holdings Ltd., the securities firm run by former Goldman Sachs head Jon Corzine that filed for bankruptcy protection last October.
Has the great short seller gone soft? Well, yes. Sitting in his 33rd-floor corner office high above Seventh Avenue in New York, preparing for his trip to Davos, he is more concerned with surviving than staying rich. “At times like these, survival is the most important thing,” he says, peering through his owlish glasses and brushing wisps of gray hair off his forehead. He doesn’t just mean it’s time to protect your assets. He means it’s time to stave off disaster. As he sees it, the world faces one of the most dangerous periods of modern history—a period of “evil.” Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America he predicts riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether.
george-soros-fe01-aldridge
George Soros.
“I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”
Soros’s warning is based as much on his own extraordinary personal history as on his gut instinct for market booms and busts. “I did survive a personally much more threatening situation, so it is emotional, as well as rational,” he acknowledges. Soros was just 13 when Nazi soldiers invaded and occupied his native Hungary in March 1944. In only eight weeks, almost half a million Hungarian Jews were deported, many to Auschwitz. He saw bodies of Jews, and the Christians who helped them, swinging from lampposts, their skulls crushed. He survived, thanks to his father, Tivadar, who managed to secure false identities for his family. Later, he watched as Russian forces ousted the Nazis and a new totalitarian ideology, communism, replaced fascism. As life got tougher during the postwar Soviet occupation, Soros managed to emigrate, first to London, then to New York.
Soros draws on his past to argue that the global economic crisis is as significant, and unpredictable, as the end of communism. “The collapse of the Soviet system was a pretty extraordinary event, and we are currently experiencing something similar in the developed world, without fully realizing what’s happening.” To Soros, the spectacular debunking of the credo of efficient markets—the notion that markets are rational and can regulate themselves to avert disaster—“is comparable to the collapse of Marxism as a political system. The prevailing interpretation has turned out to be very misleading. It assumes perfect knowledge, which is very far removed from reality. We need to move from the Age of Reason to the Age of Fallibility in order to have a proper understanding of the problems.”
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Sajak: Horizon

(Dari majalah WANITA Februari 2012)

Horizon

Di udara
saujana horizon masa
melebar satu kerinduan
terlakar imej-imej perasaan
sebagai satu perjalanan
serba memungkinkan

Di jiwa
terbentang keinginan cita
pun rohani kepasrahan
gerabak musim di kejauhan
melerai seribu kenangan
di laman-laman persinggahan

Di mata
bersanding tanpa rupa
meriah tanpa suara
mengiringi janji gerhana
ke tapak-tapak pusara
nisan setia bercerita!

 
Fudzail
Hamilton, New Zealand


Why Israel needs blockbusters



By URI AVNERY

Muslim-Jewish animosity started only a century ago, with the advent of Zionism, and for obvious reasons

ISRAEL has no foreign policy, only a domestic policy,” Henry Kissinger once remarked.
This has probably been more or less true of every country since the advent of democracy. Yet in Israel, this seems even truer. In order to understand our foreign policy, we have to look in the mirror. Who are we? What is our society like? In every immigrant country, from the United States to Australia, every new wave of immigrants is greeted by the scorn, contempt and even open hostility of those who came before them.

Still, the dominant myth was that of the “melting pot.” All immigrants would be thrown into the same pot and cleansed of their “foreign” traits, emerging as a uniform new nation without any traces of their origin. This myth died some decades ago.

Israel is now a kind of federation of several major demographic-cultural blocs which dominate our social and political life. Who are they? There are (1) the old Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin); (2) the Oriental (or “Sephardi”) Jews; (3) the religious (partly Ashkenazi, partly Oriental); (4) the “Russians”, immigrants from all the countries of the former Soviet union; and (5) the Palestinian-Arab citizens, who did not come from anywhere.


The political scene almost exactly mirrors these divisions. The Labor party was, in its heyday, the main instrument of Ashkenazi power. Its remnants, together with Kadima and Meretz, are still Ashkenazi. Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beytenu consists mainly of Russians. There are three or four religious parties. Then there are two exclusively Arab parties, and the Communist party, which is mainly Arab, too. The Likud represents the bulk of the Orientals, though almost all its leaders are Ashkenazim.

The relationship between the blocs is often strained. Just now, the whole country is in an uproar because in Kiryat Malakhi, a southern town with mainly Oriental inhabitants, house owners have signed a commitment not to sell apartments to Ethiopians, while the rabbi of Safed, a northern town of mainly Orthodox Jews, has forbidden his flock to rent apartments to Arabs.

But apart from the rift between the Jews and the Arabs, the main problem is the resentment of the Orientals, the Russians and the religious against what they call “the Ashkenazi elite.”



Since they were the first to arrive, long before the establishment of the state, Ashkenazim control most of the centers of power — social, political, economic, cultural et al.

The Likud came to power in 1977, dethroning Labor. With short interruptions, it has been in power ever since. Yet most Likud members still feel that the Ashkenazim rule Israel, leaving them far behind. In our society, all the other blocs feel like outsiders looking through the holes, full of envy for the Ashkenazi “elite” inside, who have all the good things. They hate everything they connect with this “elite”: The Supreme Court, the media, the human rights organizations, and especially the peace camp. All these are called “leftist”, a word curiously enough identified with the “elite.”
How has “peace” become associated with the dominant and domineering Ashkenazim? That is one of the great tragedies of our country.

Jews have lived for many centuries in the Muslim world. There they never experienced the terrible things committed in Europe by Christian anti-Semitism. Muslim-Jewish animosity started only a century ago, with the advent of Zionism, and for obvious reasons.

When the Jews from Muslim countries started to arrive en masse in Israel, they were steeped in Arab culture. But here they were received by a society that held everything Arab in total contempt. Their Arab culture was “primitive”, while real culture was European. Furthermore, they were identified with the “murderous” Muslims. So the immigrants were required to shed their own culture and traditions, their accent, their memories, their music. In order to show how thoroughly Israeli they had become, they also had to hate Arabs.

It is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon that in multinational countries, the most downtrodden class of the dominant nation is also the most radical nationalist foe of the minority nations. This is one of the reasons why the Orientals were attracted to the Likud, for whom the rejection of peace and the hatred of Arabs are supreme virtues. Also, having been in opposition for ages, the Likud was seen as representing those who were “outside”, fighting those who were “inside.” This is still the case.
The case of the “Russians” is different. They grew up in a society that despised democracy, admired strong leaders. The “whites”, Russians and Ukrainians, despised and hated the “dark” peoples of the south — Armenians, Georgians, Tatars, Uzbeks and such.

When the Russian Jews came to join us, they brought with them a virulent nationalism, a complete disinterest in democracy and an automatic hatred of Arabs. They cannot understand why we allowed them to stay here at all. When, this week, a lady deputy (though “lady” may be euphemistic) from St. Petersburg poured a glass of water on the head of an Arab deputy from the Labor party, nobody was very surprised. For Lieberman's followers, Peace is a dirty word, and so is Democracy. For religious people of all shades — from the ultra-Orthodox to the national-religious settlers, there is no problem at all. From the crib on, they learn that Jews are the Chosen People; that the Almighty personally promised us this country; that the Goyim — including the Arabs — are just inferior human beings.

It may be said, quite rightly, that I generalize. I do, just to simplify matters. There are indeed a lot of Orientals, especially of the younger generation, who are repelled by the ultranationalism of the Likud, the more so as the neoliberalism of Benjamin Netanyahu (which Shimon Peres once called “swinish capitalism”) is in direct contradiction to the basic interests of their community. There are also a lot of decent, liberal, peace-loving religious people. (Yeshayahu Leibovitz comes to mind.) Some Russians are gradually leaving their self-imposed ghetto. But these are small minorities in their communities. The bulk of the three blocs — Oriental, Russian and religious — are united in their opposition to peace, and at best indifferent to democracy.

All these together constitute the right-wing, anti-peace coalition that is governing Israel now. The problem is not just a question of politics. It is much more profound — and much more daunting. Some people blame us, the democratic peace movement, for not recognizing the problem early enough, and not doing enough to attract the members of the various blocs to the ideals of peace and democracy. Also, it is said, we did not show that social justice is inseparably connected with democracy and peace.

I must accept my share of the blame for this failure, though I might point out that I tried to make the connection right from the beginning. I asked my friends to concentrate our efforts on the Oriental community, remind them of the glories of the Muslim-Jewish “golden Age” in Spain, of the huge mutual impact of Jewish and Muslim scientists, poets and religious thinkers throughout the ages.
A few days ago, I was invited to give a lecture to the faculty and students of Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. I described the situation more or less along the same lines. The first question from the large audience, which consisted of Jews — both Orientals and Ashkenazim, and Arabs — especially Bedouins was: “So what hope is there? Faced with this reality, how can the peace forces win?” I told them that I put my trust in the new generation. Last summer's huge social protest movement can happen here. The movement united Ashkenazim and Orientals. Tent cities sprang up in Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, all over the place. Our first job is to break the barriers between the blocs, change reality, create a new Israeli society. We need blockbusters.
Yes, it is a daunting job. But I believe it can be done.