Category Archives: Politics

The Fly

Just when I thought Obama had reached the zenith of cool, calm and collected…

Watch and weep at his Ninja stealth skills.

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The Gift that Keeps on Taking

Ever since the subprime market collapsed in America things haven’t been looking so good for global markets.

Our current situation has come to be known as the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) which has to be a euphemism if ever I heard one.  What we are seeing is not a ‘crisis’.  Crisis is too specific a word: a plane crash is a crisis; a terrorist attack is a crisis.  A global collapse of capitalism is NOT a crisis…it’s a disaster of incalculable proportions.

So let’s have some linguistic clarity and call a spade a spade.  We are in a global depression.

I’m not an economist and I don’t pretend to understand the way these things work or unfold…but there’s two things floating around in cyberspace that have caught my attention and I want to point people towards.

Despite my lack of economic knowledge, I have been making a feeble attempt to try and at least understand what it was that caused the financial crash.

Veritable mountains have been written about this – including Kevin Rudd’s much discussed article in The Monthly – and yet there is no single, unified understanding of where and why it all went wrong.  We can accurately predict to millioneths of a second what happened after the Big Bang.  We can explore the deepest trenches of our earth’s great oceans.  We can map the synaptic pathways of the human brain (with some accuracy).  We can unlock the humane genome.  But we cannot make sense out of the intricacies of global capitalism.

That’s why my eyebrows almost rose up off my forehead when I read Paul Krugman’s recent opinion piece in the NY Times.

The more one looks into the origins of the current disaster, the clearer it becomes that the key wrong turn — the turn that made crisis inevitable — took place in the early 1980s, during the Reagan years.

Attacks on Reaganomics usually focus on rising inequality and fiscal irresponsibility. Indeed, Reagan ushered in an era in which a small minority grew vastly rich, while working families saw only meager gains. He also broke with longstanding rules of fiscal prudence.

On the latter point: traditionally, the U.S. government ran significant budget deficits only in times of war or economic emergency. Federal debt as a percentage of G.D.P. fell steadily from the end of World War II until 1980. But indebtedness began rising under Reagan; it fell again in the Clinton years, but resumed its rise under the Bush administration, leaving us ill prepared for the emergency now upon us.

The increase in public debt was, however, dwarfed by the rise in private debt, made possible by financial deregulation.

The change in America’s financial rules was Reagan’s biggest legacy.  And it’s the gift that keeps on taking. [my bold]

Perhaps it’s not rocket science – but it helped clear up my thinking a lot.  This global collapse was Reagan’s biggest legacy.  And it is a gift that keeps on taking.

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Obama Speaks in Cairo

This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

The interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that tear us apart.

The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few.  Islam is not part of the problem in combatting violent extremism; it is an important part of promoting peace.

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Gandhi’s Legacy?

Sunday Protest at Flinders St

It came as a huge surprise – to the whole of Melbourne  I think – to see the scale of the Indian demonstration at Flinders St on Sunday.

I was in the CBD for the Emerging Writers Festival and was dropping in at Melburnalia 2.  But the protest caught my attention, kept it throughout the day, and has stayed in my mind over the last few days.

What is it about the Indian community?  Why do they exercise their right to protest with such zeal?  Looking beyond the specifics of the situation – the horrific racist attacks and the equally horrific media feeding frenzy – I wanted to try and think through what it is about Indian democracy that distinguishes it from the democracies of say Australia or England or America.

When I was in India a couple of years back with Kel (we travelled all over the subcontinent) we noticed that wherever we went, no matter which state we were in, or which city or town or village, there were always people out in the streets marching, waving banners, blaring through loudspeakers, protesting for one reason or another.

Fruit prices take a hike. Suddenly the banana vendors are teeming up and down the main drag with their trademark wooden barrows. A woman is mistreated by a group of young men and the police turn a blind eye.  Suddenly a whole fraternity of rainbow coloured sari clad women take to the streets.

It was something noticeable, something tangible in the culture.  A refusal to lie down and be kicked in the head.  And India, more than most countries, is the sort of place where corruption and mass inequality can easily breed futulity.

The modern history of India has a large part to play in all of this.  Throwing off the British, the story of Partition, the role played by Gandhi…all are deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche (and too lengthy to discuss here).  John Keay’s India: a History gives a succint account of how it all unfolded.

Which brings me back to Melbourne and the racist bashings in 2009.  If it were only a couple of co-incidental attacks against Indian students there would be no problem.  But the Victorian Police have quietly been keeping track of this for the past 12 months or more; and (as John Birmingham’s recent article explains) there is a longer pattern emerging of racially motivated attacks occuring throughout the western suburbs.  Something clearly needs to be done to address the problem.

Because the Indian community has protested so vocally, it will.  Iit will get done quickly too.  I’m not saying the protesters were all well-behaved little lambs.  Sure, they threw rocks at Flinder St’s stained glass windows.  But for the most part they were a pacifist protest.  And just look at the effect that they (and the media frenzy) has had.  Question Time in parliament house yesterday was almost wholly absorbed with the issue.

I applaud those who are unaffaid to exercise their civic rights.  We in Australia could learn a lot from other countries with a rich tradition of civil disobedience such as India or the USA.  Civil disobedience is not a function of democracy unravelling; it is a part of the dialectic that keeps it healthy.

In recent times in Australia, when we have been unhappy about racial villification, we have responded with riots (Cronulla) and increased villification in return.  We would do well to respond in a more mature fashion.  We too could learn a lot from Gandhi’s example.

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