06 October 2009

Plus sa change, plus c'est la meme chose

A couple of news reports have caught my eye in the last few days, I had originally thought to write a post on some of them individually but am feeling lazy so I'll just lump them all together here.

Reading is UnAmerican

During the recent G20 protests in Pittsburgh the tubes were alight with videos of everything from camo-wearing police abducting protesters to police staging team photos with captured protesters forced into humiliating trophy poses, but the thing that worried me the most was the arrest of an organisers who used twitter and other online services to direct groups of protesters away from marauding police. Elliott Madison had his home in New York raided by the FBI after his arrest in Pittsburgh, and amongst the evidence presented by the FBI when announcing the raid were gasmasks and goggles (pretty standard issue for anyone expecting to be teargassed by overzealous police), pictures of Marx and Lenin, and anarchist books. That's right, the FBI used his choice of reading material to partly justify his arrest.

In the past I have gone through phases of worrying about how much information I reveal about myself online. When revelations about Facebook's ties to the CIA and their data sharing agreement with the US government broke I tried to unsubscribe, not that I have anything particular to hide, it just wasn't something that I particularly wanted to support. I eventually learned to stop worrying and love the 'Book, and opted back in to keep in touch with friends in the US and elsewhere. At the same time I happily put my entire book collection up on LibraryThing for all the world to see, and a quick perusal will find many, many left-wing, Socialist, Marxist, Trotskyist, Anarchist, Situationist, Surrealist, Anti-Capitalist and other books of all political stripes and colours. You will even find books by Thomas Friedman. Worse, you'll find books by Rahm Emmanuel. This does not mean that I am a Socialist, Marxist, Trotskyist, Anarchist, Situationist, Surrealist, Anti-Capitalist, Neo-Conservative or worse, a Democrat, it just means that I have an inquisitive mind, a passion for political theory and a general love of reading.

Apparently that is now an arrestable offence in America.

Judging by the high levels of illiteracy shown at recent right-wing rallies across Middle America, perhaps the authorities should reconsider that policy (thanks to 8den for the image link).

But they eat Whales!

The UN Development Program released its latest development index yesterday. According to Mahbub ul Haq, the founder of the Human Development Report:
"The basic purpose of development is to enlarge people's choices. In principle, these choices can be infinite and can change over time. People often value achievements that do not show up at all, or not immediately, in income or growth figures: greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health services, more secure livelihoods, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, political and cultural freedoms and sense of participation in community activities. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives."
Although the report is entitled the 2009 Human Development Report, it in fact collates data from 2007. After dropping a place last year Norway emerges on top once again as the most developed country in the world, with Australia second, Iceland third, Canada fourth and Ireland remains in fifth, well ahead of Japan in 10th, the US in 13th and the UK down in 21st place.

There's an interesting factsheet on Ireland, which puts us in 22nd place for Gender Empowerment and 29th place for percentage of population comprised by immigrants (a healthy 14.8%). All of this is a great snapshot of how good we used to be, we'll have to wait until 2011 to see just how much the recession, proposed government cuts to health and education, and the return of the many thousands of migrant works back to their home countries have damaged our global development standings.

Operation Economic Freedom

It was with some interest that I read this morning's report that China, Russia and a group of middle eastern nations are planning to abandon the dollar as the currency of international oil trade, in favour of a basket of currencies including the Euro, Yen, Yaun and a new, as of yet unnamed, single currency for the Gulf Co-operation Council nations, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

You may remember that shortly before the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein abandoned the dollar as the currency for all Iraqi oil trades in favour of the Euro, a move that other nations looked likely to follow. This sent shockwaves through Washington, as the only way the US manages to stay economically afloat with such a massive amount of international debt is the fact that in order to buy and sell oil every other nation has to maintain a large dollar reserve. If any nation, say China, were to attempt to collect on their US debt the US economy would collapse, destroying the value of the dollar, and thus wiping out the enormous dollar reserves that nation (and every other) has, also bankrupting them. The US feared that a move to the Euro for oil trading would remove this bulwark and allow other nations to come knocking on their door looking for their money back, with interest, and so a swift invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam put a stop to any such move to the Euro.

This is why today's report is so important (if accurate), as with the backing of China and Japan, as well as America's erstwhile allies Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, as opposed to a unilateral action by a single nation, there appears to be little the US can do to prevent such a move. For the rest of the world, a move to a global trade based upon a combined basket of currencies and gold rather than a reliance on a single currency affected by domestic economic issues can only be a good thing. For the US it is potentially catastrophic.

Iraq was an easy target for the neocons and when Iran also mooted a move to the Euro and the establishment of a local Middle-Eastern oil trading market talk of invasion also ratcheted up behind a smokescreen of preventing nuclear non-proliferation. Under an Obama administration such hawkish bluster is more difficult, especially when the countries proposing such a move are your allies.

See, plenty of things to talk about this morning without having to comment on last night's Frontline.

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At 2:53 pm, Anonymous tpy said...

Unkie Dave, I think you are confused. What is good for the US is good for the world. Without a god-fearing America to lead the way, the apocalypse will occur within the fortnight. I'd stay far away from those "developed" nations if I were you.

At 3:35 pm, Blogger Jonathan said...

I knew there was a reason I had tried to close my Facebook account - apart from despising everything about it. I won't rant about it here as it needs a lot more than a mere comment for me to vent. Hats off.


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