Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Dimensions for Trading Algorithms

Speculator: Fast forward to the future of trading

Blink and you may miss this amazing investment opportunity

It’s what science is for, I guess. In recent weeks two separate news items came together to produce a true Eureka! moment.

Hibernia Atlantic is spending $300 mn to lay a new underwater cable between London and New York that will accelerate financial transactions to 59 milliseconds, about 10 percent faster than the current 65-millisecond voyage.

Hibernia Atlantic expects to be able to charge hedge funds and similar traders 50 times the rates of its rivals, because it estimates that every millisecond saved can boost a fund’s annual bottom line by $100 mn.

This is not new technology. The data cannot go faster than the speed of light through the fiber-optic cable; indeed, they only travel at two thirds the speed they would in a vacuum.

The pioneers simply drew the route for the Hibernia Express on a globe instead of a flat map, so the path takes the shortest route between the two cities. It might or might not be significant that the Titanic was steering the same course.

One wonders whether, when Adam Smith spoke of the invisible hand of the markets, he really envisaged a market with no human hands involved at all, one where my algorithms speak to your algorithms, each second-guessing a human agency that is nowhere to be seen.

Money maker

Regardless of the answer to that question, if this is the way of the future, we must confront the more fundamental question: how can we make money out of it?

News of the faster cable inspired Speculator to float a new company, New York Securities Instantaneous Neutrino Yield Dispatcher (NYSINYD). Our business plan is breathtakingly simple: neutrinos go at the speed of light even through solid rock.

By building particle accelerators and detectors under New York and London we can shoot data directly between them in a straight line 2,500 miles through the Earth at maximum light speed, giving us a theoretical data speed four times that of the Hibernia Express.

Allow for some relay problems, and let’s assume it only doubles the transaction speed: that still means, if hedge funds would pay 50 times the going rate for a 10 percent speed increase, they would pay at least 500 times more for doubling the speed.

Faster than light

But then the second news item appeared: the clever guys at CERN in Switzerland sent neutrinos to Italy – and they traveled faster than light! Time to reconfigure the prospectus, not least since one explanation for this is that the neutrinos breaking the speed limits go into another dimension en route.

It is fitting that Italy should inspire our synergistic alliance of creative physics and finance: money often disappears into other dimensions there, as indeed it does between the City of London and Wall Street.

It’s also possible that information traveling faster than light will arrive before it leaves, adding a whole new – and probably legal – form of insider trading because the concept is certainly faster than Dodd-Frank.

We considered changing the name of the firm to Now You See It, Now You Don’t, evoking the most inventive of modern banking rules, but decided just to stick with NYSINYD. Buy now and the money will leave the account before you have made your decision!

OWS in Tribune

Ian Williams

Anger can be power – now build on it
by Ian Williams
Monday, November 28th, 2011
Sometimes, you just have to be there. I was in Wall Street when the protestors were allowed into the park – minus sleeping bags and tents. As they waited while billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg went jurisdiction shopping to find a tame judge to overthrow the earlier verdict that had ordered him to stop the eviction, it was fascinating to see the interaction between the occupiers and the public servants he had ordered to evict them. The normal cops, despite their ­brand-new riot helmets, were friendly, ­laughing, bantering with the ­demonstrators, who had sedulously “reached out to them”, real as public workers threatened by budget cuts.
In the background were the thugs, the senior officers. Old school cops with bullhorns on this occasion, but pepper sprays on others, whose whole demeanour reflected their visceral ­distaste for the occupiers and all they stood for. And behind them, of course, stood Bloomberg and the political leaders of most major cities in the United States, 18 of whom had co-ordinated a nationwide crackdown. Bloomberg, who has made his billions from Wall Street, was under particularly heavy social and political pressure to remove the occupation that had started such a ­
global avalanche of protest.
However, Bloomberg and his cops would have served the bankers better by ignoring their whims. Instead, they inadvertently did the Occupy Wall Street movement a big favour, almost on a par with when a senior officer gratuitously pepper-sprayed three women in the early days. Even though the occupiers had had training from Norwegian ski-troop ­veterans and Alpinists about cold ­weather, New York’s cold would really have demanded “Winter Soldiers”, as Tom Payne would have recognised. The forced evacuation made them ­honourable victims, who can build on their own considerable success, which exceeded their wildest original ­expectations. The nationwide over-reaction of the police renewed support and interest.
Their success is as a catalyst, igniting the various elements which had accumulated. In some ways, the most puzzling question has been the deafening sound of silence around the financial crisis. The occupation has brought the issue of inequality out from the vaults where the politicians, pundits and their plutocratic payrollers had hidden it.
For example, quite possibly inspired by OWS, New York Judge Jed S Rakoff has been examining a Securities and Exchange Commission settlement with Citibank. Like most such boilerplate agreements, the defrauding companies agree to pay a cash settlement, without admitting to any wrongdoing. Rakoff has been having fun. Instead of rubber-stamping the settlement, he read it. Like all the other previous settlements, it included a promise not to do it again. Yet the SEC attorney had to admit that they had never ever brought any company before a judge for contempt of court when, over and over again, they broke the law.
Set to a backdrop of a wacko Supreme Court decision that corporations are people when it comes to “free speech” or bribing politicians with ­campaign donations, the contrast with their lack of personhood when it comes to the criminal law has been rankling.
So where does it go from here? One can only hope that now they are freed from the chores of housekeeping and eccentric rituals of bonding hitherto involved in maintaining the occupation, the OWS cadre does not go further into manifesto writing. Some of the draft ­versions that have emerged read like ­pastiches of John Cleese’s band of revolutionaries in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – politically correct psychobabble devoid of effective content.
In many ways, that is better than if they knuckled down to serious manifesto-writing, which would have ­alienated not just the 57 varieties on the left, but all the others who are united in detestation for what Wall Street has done, but disagree about almost ­anything else.
Despite the understandable disdain for the American political machine, ­anyone who is touch with reality will realise that motivating people to vote and forcing elected politicians to take notice is the only way out of the impasse. If the Tea Party, representing a cultist minority, can wield so much influence over the Republicans, then the ­sentiments represented by OWS can surely find expression in the Democratic Party whose time-serving fifth columnists have so often represented corporate interests.  OWS can maintain the anger. It is up to others to focus it electorally and ensure that it is not dissipated in apocalyptic angry visions, or new age fatuities.
One aspect of that is re-electing Barack Obama. At the time of his election, I wrote that he was not the second coming: but he wasn’t the Anti-Christ. The Republican line-up, beneath the clownish presentations, makes Lucifer’s lot look angelic.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Overhangs and hangovers

Investor Relation magazine

1 Aug 2011 | RatingRating (-1 to +1): 0.0

Confiscating cash may not be the best way to win over the electorate, notes Ian Williams

When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, US economists warned him about the ‘overhang’ of billions of ‘useless’ unused rubles, otherwise known as the savings of millions of hard-working Soviet citizens, who had entrusted their earnings to the state banks. So Gorbachev ruined his domestic reputation by confiscating people’s bank savings and introducing a currency conversion that demonetized the cash of anyone who did not trust the banks. Even more so than closing the vodka distilleries, it made him unelectable ever after.

Worse, it failed to stop the hyper-inflation and probably facilitated the ensuing massive looting and transfer of wealth to the kleptocrats. Reading the words of some commentators on the US deficit now, one suspects they may be planning something similar.

Ever since Senator Daniel Moynihan ‘saved’ Social Security by increasing the percentage of income paid on contributions, the system changed to one of backdoor revenue raising. The billions taken from employees and employers go into a fund that promptly buys Treasury bonds with them.

Congress treats these bonds differently from those the Treasury sells to domestic and foreign investors. It does not include them in its deficit calculations, let alone in the much-vaunted debt ceiling.

And with the new spirit in Washington there are growing signs of people there wanting to do a Gorbachev on the Social Security and Medicare funds. After all, it is a massive overhang. The Social Security Trust Fund has risen from almost nothing to more than $2 tn in the last decade, and it has all been spent by successive Congresses – especially those that claim the fund is going bankrupt.

Of course, stealing voters’ savings is not generally a winning electoral strategy, as House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan is now discovering with his tentative attempt to dip into the Medicare fund. Perhaps we can introduce him to apples falling and Newton sometime. In the meantime, old Gorby might have had a point. By one of those cosmic coincidences, American corporations now also have some $2 tn in cash reserves – three times the so-called stimulus package that oozed its way through Washington.

Corporate executives could distribute these reserves in dividends, special or otherwise. They could spend them on investment, R&D or employment, which would certainly help revive the US economy. Indeed, they could even boost salaries. But companies prefer to sit on their war chests, relishing the feel of all those resources while the economy stagnates.

Such observations lead to speculation. If Washington were to confiscate all corporate cash surpluses above a reasonable amount for corporate expansion and replace them with long-term federal bonds, it could soften the blow by diverting the proceeds into a development fund devoted to long-term work-generating infrastructure investment and R&D, or to low-interest loans to entrepreneurs who actually want to invest in productive enterprises.

Now how might that play with the American voters?

This article appeared in the August print edition of IR magazine.

In gods we trust

Investor Relations Magazine

In gods we trust

3 Oct 2011 | RatingRating (-1 to +1): 0.0

But bigger isn’t always better, argues Ian Williams

As a precocious schoolchild, I tried to sketch a family tree for the Greek gods. With the complicated family life of the Olympians, it ended up a tangled diagram of inter-dimensional string theory as divine parents, offspring and siblings mated ad libidinem up, down and across the generations.

The M&A history of Ma Bell and her children reminded me of this abortive family tree as the sundry Bells gropingly sought each other out to undo the original antitrust settlement that had torn them asunder. The new-born Baby Bells almost immediately began mating with each other, and then three of them, joined in unholy matrimony, engulfed their mother company.

Ten years on and this incestuous product of corporate miscegenation is stretching out its all-engulfing pseudopods toward T-Mobile. If corporations really were people, as the law would have us believe, Ma Bell and her offspring would be serving long sentences for incest and related crimes. It certainly makes a mockery of the consent decree that split up the companies.

Gods deal with eternity while corporate law deals in decades. When the Bell anti-trust case began in 1974 it was an era of ‘rediscovering’ competition as the driving force of capitalism. Deregulation, privatization and lifting the burden on business were the catchphrases of the day, and the Department of Justice and Judge Harold Greene, who heard the case, took breaking up monopolies seriously. Government still had a role, however, if only to keep corporations competing.

Later, reviled by telecoms executives and lobbyists, Greene said: ‘We can’t let a huge corporation do whatever it wants – it needs to be approved. The AT&T case may have biased me on antitrust issues but the issue of allowing a monopoly to have a stranglehold on information is still a concern.’ Disgruntled AT&T attorneys later claimed the judge went too far, accusing him of being cynical about big firms and distrustful of those who run them. They claimed the litigation ‘was unnecessary, unproductive and… destructive of a great corporation.’

In today’s climate, some might deem the now-deceased judge prescient. Three years ago a number of big institutions on Wall Street were deemed too big to fail; there are now fewer but bigger finance houses whose sense of impunity has doubtless been enhanced by open checks from federal funds.

In telecoms, the quaint days when Ma Bell monopolized the fixed-telephone system seem as atavistic as a monopoly on speaking tubes. Greene is dead and so is his approach to monopolies. We now see giant corporations with newspapers, television, radio and TV stations, internet services and mobile phones replicating the slogan of News International’s former News of the World: ‘All human life is here.’ And they really mean it – they have their fingers on society’s jugular vein.

Beyond too big to fail, we now have too big to regulate. Under-funded – indeed, defunded – civil servants are no match for cash-rich corporations that can count on reflexive support from politicians who will fight any government interference with how corporations do business. Come back Judge Greene, all is forgiven.

This article appeared in the October print edition of IR magazine.

Obama: Impaled on the Horns of an AIPAC

United Nations Report December Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington Impaling Itself on the Horns of a Diplomatic Dilemma

By Ian Williams
In the twisted chains of events in the Middle East, one set of
links is clear. Almost 500 Palestinian prisoners—and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit—released on Oct. 12, with a second group of 555 Palestinian prisoners to be released later, owe their freedom to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ determination to push the U.N. membership issue. Binyamin Netanyahu could have freed Shalit any time
on these same terms—but the Palestinian statehood issue, for psychopathological reasons we have discussed earlier in these columns, rattles the Israeli prime minister and his supporters so much that he was prepared to give Hamas a boost against Fatah with the release.
Those of us who savor fine hypocrisies will also relish the irony of long negotiations resulting in a political boost for a movement with which Israel says the rest of the world should have no contact. One almost looks forward to the arrest, indictment and trial of Israeli leaders on their next visit to the U.S., where people are serving long sentences for much less substantial contact and support for Hamas related organizations!
However, back to the main issue, Palestine’s application for U.N. membership is now languishing in a Security Council subcommittee, few of whose members seem eager to bring the issue to a head. No matter what the Obama administration does now, it is cruising for a diplomatic bruising. While U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is not as pugnacious as her predecessor John Bolton, or indeed James Baker, in rounding up votes in the U.N., the Obama administration has been trying hard—despite Washington’s weakened clout—to persuade vulnerable states that it is in their best interests not to vote yes in the Security Council. If the resolution accepting Palestinian membership does not garner nine positive votes, then—in the spirit of the toddler who hides behind the drapes and can’t understand that everyone can see his feet sticking out—the U.S. hopes to escape the contumely it richly merits for vetoing a resolution fulfilling the wishes expressed by the president just a year earlier.

However, back to the main issue, Palestine’s application for U.N. membership is now languishing in a Security Council subcommittee, few of whose members seem eager to bring the issue to a head. No matter what the Obama administration does now, it is cruising for a diplomatic bruising. While U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is not as pugnacious as her predecessor John Bolton, or indeed James Baker, in rounding up votes in the U.N., the Obama administration has been trying hard—despite Washington’s weakened clout—to persuade vulnerable states that it is in their best interests not to vote yes in the Security Council. If the resolution accepting Palestinian membership does not garner nine positive votes, then—in the spirit of the toddler who hides behind the drapes and can’t understand that everyone can see his feet sticking out—the U.S. hopes to escape the contumely it richly merits for vetoing a resolution fulfilling the wishes expressed by the president just a year earlier.
Twenty years ago, the U.S. scarcely felt the need to justify what it wanted. Now, over-extended militarily, wobbling financially, its carrots are stringy and its stick detumescent, so it has to explain why Russia is being unreasonable in blocking the membership of Kosovo, recognized by about half of the U.N., while a White House-threatened veto of membership for Palestine, recognized by more than two-thirds of U.N. members, is statesmanship of a high order.
Indeed, inquiring minds might well compare the Russian and Chinese vetoes against action in Syria to prevent repression, with those by the U.S. against any resolution that even mildly criticizes Israel for documented repression in the occupied territories—as listed by the State Department’s own annual reports on human rights and religious freedom!
And more Israel Lobby-induced mayhem was heading down the turnpike toward Washington, with UNESCO’s scheduled late fall vote on its board’s recommendation for Palestine’s full membership status in the agency’s general council. Forty of the 58 board members backed a Palestinian draft resolution proposing membership, with the U.S. among four voting against, and 14 abstentions—countries which do not really oppose it but don’t want to upset the U.S.
The Vatican Precedent
This has a double significance. Firstly, the Vatican’s convoluted route to acceptance as a non-member observer state at the U.N. began with it being “smuggled” into membership of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) by the devotee who headed the organization at the time. After all, the Vatican had its own stamps—a nice little earner—and its own radio station, which got it into the International Telecommunications (then Telegraph) Union. It was never allowed to join the League of Nations, nor for many decades would Washington countenance U.N. membership—but the Vatican had a long-term strategy, as one would expect, on how a postage stamp state with a population of a few hundred celibates could get more recognition.
The U.N. invited members of the specialized agencies to participate, but not vote, in the General Assembly and, nudged along, gave such entities, which included Switzerland for half a century, a vote in conferences.
Echoing the issue of whether President Abbas represents the PLO, Palestine, or the Palestinian Authority, it is the Vatican City which is a member of the two U.N. agencies. Half a century ago, however, it switched the name of its U.N. observer mission to the Holy See—then separated the Holy See as the Catholic Church from the Holy See as the entity holding sovereignty over the Vatican City!
In a little noticed move in 2004, the General Assembly upgraded the Vatican’s status from an entity—Palestine’s current designation—to a non-member state. The U.S., which opposes such status for the several million Palestinians, did not object.
So, under existing rules, membership in UNESCO would take Palestinian participation out of the special case situation it currently occupies as a result of 20 years of diplomatic war by attrition, and bring it under general rules that the U.S. and Israel would have no chance of overturning.
Renewed Assaults on the U.N.
But there is, of course, more. After some years of the puzzling sound of silence regarding the U.N., some of the Republican right and their Democratic allies whose hearts beat as one with the Likudnik pacemaker have been building up for a renewed assault on the U.N. and all its works. They have passed legislation that would require the U.S. to pull its funding—and membership—from any body that gives “full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” The legislation is of course weaselly worded to mean Palestine—but not the Vatican—while interestingly leaving Taiwan in limbo.
That would present an interesting quandary for Hillary Clinton, who, visiting UNESCO headquarters in Paris this
year, declared, “I am proud to be the first secretary of state from the United States ever to come to UNESCO, and I come because I believe strongly in your mission.” That dilemma could be resolved immediately, of course, if the president and the State Department determined that in fact Palestine does have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood. After all, Kosovo, under U.S. sponsorship, has joined the World Bank and IMF—which should, if U.N. membership were the determinant, have the U.S. pulling out and defunding those organizations as well. Looking at the damage they have done worldwide, that might not be such a bad idea—but in any case, no one has brought it up hitherto.
The diplomatic dilemma on the horns of which the administration is impaling itself becomes more barbed with each passing denial of reality.
By U.N. custom, once one agency has accepted a member, all other U.N. agencies also accord it full rights, as the Vatican demonstrates. Since the World Bank and IMF are quantum U.N. agencies—in and out at the same time, depending on what suits them—Kosovo cannot yet lever membership there into other U.N. agencies. UNESCO membership, however, like the UPU, opens the doors to all the others.
So the U.S. can either pull out of all the U.N. agencies this administration holds dear—including the U.N. itself—if the General Assembly accepts the Holy See way to Palestinian participation, or it can accept Palestine as a state under international law. Washington could, of course, suggest that the case be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for an advisory opinion. That, however, would then imply accepting other ICJ judgements, such as the one against the U.S. mining of Nicaragua’s harbors—and on Israel’s occupation wall.
A Hard-Hitting Report
The latter, of course, is long overdue. On Sept. 16, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submitted the report requested by the General Assembly on Israeli settlement activities. Citing instance after instance of violent discriminatory behavior, the hard-hitting report “seeks to underscore the discriminatory nature of the Israeli policy and practice of promoting settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. While illegal settlement expansion continues to take place in the West Bank, restrictions on Palestinian construction and the demolition of Palestinian homes have been on the rise. The report also addresses settlers’ violent
acts against Palestinians and their properties during the reporting period and the discriminatory treatment of Israeli settlers and Palestinians in law enforcement. The involvement of Israel Defense Forces in acts of violence, either through their participation or inaction to prevent the acts, is discussed as a growing concern.”
But perhaps most timely for those expressing shock and horror at the Palestinians undertaking due process to secure the rights as a state that most nations grant them is the report’s conclusion: “The General Assembly and the international community should more actively seek the implementation of their decisions, resolutions and recommendations, as well as those of the Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including treaty bodies and special procedure mandate holders, in relation to the situation of human rights and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
It puts in perspective the U.S. threat to defund all Palestinian activities in retaliation for the statehood bid—as, indeed, does the promise to increase aid to the state that is defying not only the U.N., but U.S. pleas, and continuing to build settlements. ❑

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

UNESCO Train Wreck -Pres Mesmerized at controls

Obama will rue his lack of principle on Palestine's Unesco membership

In pulling out of Unesco, Obama gives the right a boost and abandons all pretensions of being an honest peace broker
  • General Conference admits Palestine as UNESCO member state
    Palestine is voted as a new Unesco member state. Photograph: Dou Matar/Unesco
    The cheers that rang across the hall of the Unesco meeting when Palestine became a member on Monday are being echoed in surprising quarters.
    The Obama administration has perversely given a big boost to the Republican right's antipathy to the UN and all it stands for. Ironically, it was George W Bush who brought the United States back into Unesco 20 years after Reagan withdrew. Equally ironically, driving the engine in this diplomatic train wreck was Barack Obama, whose speeches in Turkey and Egypt during the early months of his presidency had deceptively signalled a new opening to the Muslim world.
    By reflexively withdrawing from Unesco in response to Palestine's admission, the Obama-Clinton state department has taken the lunatic fringe and put them centre stage. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who chairs the House foreign affairs committee, combines a Likudnik support of Israel with a recidivist hatred of the UN and has been trying to de-fund the UN and its agencies.
    In contrast, Hillary Clinton, who visited Unesco's Paris HQ earlier this year, had announced: "I am proud to be the first secretary of state from the United States ever to come to Unesco, and I come because I believe strongly in your mission." Indeed. So strongly does she believe in it that she is prepared to pull out of the organisation for recognising the Palestinian statehood that Obama had himself called for at the UN general assembly in September 2010.
    The voting lineup on Monday was indicative. France, much more diplomatically adroit than the US, and mindful of its global standing, supported Palestinian membership. Even subservient Britain could not bring itself to vote with the US and pusillanimously abstained. The voting suggests that when the security council resolution on Palestinian UN membership comes up next week, it will get the nine affirmative votes needed – which means the US will have to use its veto and risk consequences, such as those threatened by the Saudis.
    If the US had put nearly as much pressure on Israel as it had on others to avoid using its threatened veto, it would be a much more credible and creditable world power. As it is, its desperate attempts to avoid a veto by getting others to do its dirty work for it have made the Obama administration look like a toddler who hides his head behind the curtains and cannot understand why everyone can still see him.
    The security council vote apart, the Unesco vote presages Palestinian admission to other agencies. One looks forward to US withdrawal from the International Atomic Energy Agency, relieving the pressure in Iran, or from the World Health Organisation, as soon as Palestine is allowed to join.
    Compounding the irony, Israel itself has so far not indicated it is pulling out of Unesco, nor indeed any other UN agency. On the contrary, WikiLeaks recently revealed that Israel was angling for a major position in Unesco.
    The nature of the US approach is clear. There is a general lack of principle. For example, the route being followed by Palestine in its effort to join multilateral institutions replicates that of the Vatican, whose far more dubious claim to statehood derives from its original membership of the Universal Postal Union, since the postage stamp-sized enclave did indeed issue its own stamps.
    The actual legislation the state department invokes is a 1990 prohibition on funding "the United Nations or any specialised agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organisation the same standing as a member state", and another in 1994 banning payments to "any affiliated organisation of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organisation or group that does not have the internationally recognised attributes of statehood".
    Any president, as we have seen, has ways to get around congressional mandates like this. For example, there are questions about which manifestation of Palestine is applying: the PLO or the Palestinian Authority. The congressional legislation was passed before the Oslo accords – and before the US began funding the Palestinians directly, so an executive decision could have declared that events had overtaken the intent of the law, and, what is more, that it was not the PLO but the Palestinian state that had been admitted.
    As for the second part, US diplomats will have fun explaining why the US maintains membership of the World Bank and IMF – which have admitted Kosovo, whose disputed territory and statehood, rightly or wrongly, has far less general recognition than Palestine's.
    The White House should listen to the cheers in the hall that followed the Unesco vote – reminiscent of those that greeted the end of another period of diplomatic folly when Beijing took Chiang Kai-Shek's seat in the UN after decades of American pretence that an off-shore island represented China there.
    Over-stretched financially and militarily, beset with problems that can only be solved multilaterally, doing Binyamin Netanyahu's bidding will win Obama few votes at home. The American Likudniks will still believe the president is an alien-born Muslim and send their votes and cheques accordingly. Abroad, the US has abandoned all logic, all signs of joined-up diplomacy, and abandoned the last vestiges of pretensions to be an honest broker in the Middle East.
    As an epitaph to American diplomacy and illusions of empire, look at the votes for Palestine: Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Libya all voted against the US. Any more candidates for liberation?