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Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei formally arrested for alleged spying in China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 5:39pm in

Tensions between Australia and China continue to intensify


Screenshot from ABC TV 7.30 video: Cheng Lei's family speaks out for the first time since her detention in China on February 9, 2021

Australian journalist and television presenter Cheng Lei has been formally arrested and accused of unlawfully supplying or intending to supply state secrets or intelligence overseas, according to Chinese authorities.

Cheng, who was the anchor for a business program on state television’s China Global Television Network (CGTN), was detained in August 2020. The Chinese government was called out at the time for so-called “hostage diplomacy.”

Members of her family spoke out on the ABC (Australia) 7.30 current affairs program.

Journalists working in China for foreign media have faced numerous difficulties recently. Australian journalist Bill Birtles, the 7.30 reporter for this story, was the ABC Beijing correspondent before making a rushed exit home in September 2020. He explained some of the background during the 7.30 segment:

Cheng Lei was taken away six weeks after ASIO [Australian security] raided the homes of four Chinese state media journalists in Sydney.

The anti-foreign interference investigation prompted Beijing to target Australian journalists in China but it's not clear if Cheng's arrest is related to the tense diplomatic relationship, because four months after she was taken away, her close friend, Haze Fan, a Chinese journalist working for American media, was also detained on national security grounds.

There is a much broader context of tensions between Australia and China involving trade, security and diplomacy.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has dismissed claims by China that Australia is trying to interfere in their judicial system. Payne responded that Cheng Lei “deserves the basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and human treatment to be met in accordance with international norms.”

Another prominent case involves the continuing detention by Chinese authorities of writer and popular online commentator, Chinese-Australian Yang Hengjun, since January 2019. The latest news concerning Cheng Lei has been greeted online in Australia with anger and frustration. Laoch’s tweet captured the growing reaction “Down Under” against the Chinese Communist Party:

Brisbane Twitter user Bob Bruce raised the possibility that Cheng Lei may have been involved in breaches of Chinese national security:

Paul Barrett, former Secretary of Australian Departments of Defence and Primary Industries & Energy, drew parallels with the way that imprisoned Aussie journalist, Julian Assange, has been treated by his government:

Australian journalist Peter Greste, who spent 440 days in jail in Egypt, has continued his strong support for Cheng Lei. In a statement for the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom, he is quoted as saying that:

…Chinese authorities have had ample time to gather evidence, and unless they are willing to show it, they should release Cheng immediately.

China’s record on press freedom is already deeply troubling. In the absence of evidence, Cheng’s arrest only adds to the impression that Beijing does not care about the freedom of the press. Her case stands as a clear warning to other journalists to support the government or risk being imprisoned too.

Several news stories were posted to Reddit, where there was lively discussion.

Defamedprawn raised an issue that many others agreed with:

I don't mean to be harsh, but the lady is an anchor [for] CGTN, which is very much an arm of the regime. For instance, they're notorious for televising forced confessions and pretending they're interviews.

So should I feel sympathy for this person?

Catalyst1945 showed cynicism about whether the Australian government would take any real action:

Can’t wait for our spineless prime minister to do nothing.

Given the nature of Chinese trials, it is possible that we may never know what motivated her detention:

Meanwhile, Australia faces claims of hypocrisy over lack of judicial transparency. Ann raised the contentious issue of its own secret trials:

“Is Global Stability A Pipe Dream?” Watch Yanis Varoufakis debate John Bolton at the Ηolberg 2020 Debate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 7:21am in

Tags 

Debate, English, Video

While the catastrophic pandemic is pushing hundreds of millions into economic destitution, our world is being subjected to an escalating climate emergency and a New Cold War between the West and China, not to mention ominous tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus, Libya etc. In the midst of all this instability, is Global Stability a pipe dream?

John Bolton (veteran diplomat who served under Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr & Jr and Trump) say ‘yes’ and thinks that the only remedy is a United States ready and willing to take on China and other states he deems a threat to the West.

Yanis Varoufakis (former Greek finance minister, DiEM25 co-founder and currently Leader of MeRA25) thinks that this very Western interventionism is part of the problem (citing the catastrophic invasion of Iraq), not the solution – and that Global Stability requires a New Bretton Woods type- agreement involving primarily the United States, the European Union and China.

The debate was moderated by Oslo University’s  Scott Gates.

Participants

John Bolton_George SkidmoreAmb. John Bolton. Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC 3.0)

John Bolton

John Bolton is an American attorney, diplomat, Republican consultant and political commentator who served as the 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as the 27th United States National Security Advisor from 2018 to 2019. He has also served in various positions in the US Administration under Presidents George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Amb. Bolton is the author of three books: Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad (2007); How Barack Obama Is Endangering Our National Sovereignty (2010); and The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (2020), where he describes his time as National Security Advisor for U.S. President Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019.

Yanis Varoufakis_Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: Private 

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis is a member of Greece’s Parliament and parliamentary leader of MeRA25, the Greek political party belonging to DiEM25 – Europe’s first transnational pan-European movement. Previously he served as Greece’s Finance Minister during the first six months of 2015, as a member of Syriza, and he led negotiations with Greece’s creditors during the government-debt crisis. Varoufakis has taught economics at the universities of East Anglia, Cambridge, Sydney, Glasgow, Texas and Athens where he still holds a Chair in Political Economy and Economic Theory. He also holds several honorary professorships. He is the author of a number of best-selling books, including Adults in the Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment (2017); Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A brief history of capitalism (2017), And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability (2016). His latest book is Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present (2020).

Scott Gates_UiOScott Gates. Photo: University of Oslo

Moderator: Scott Gates

Scott Gates is an American political scientist and economist based in Norway. He is currently Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo (UiO), as well as Guest Researcher at UiO’s Department of Economics. Gates is also Research Professor at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), and he is Editor of the Journal of Peace Research, and of the International Area Studies Review. From 2002 to 2013, Gates was director of PRIO’s Centre for the Study of Civil War. Gates has previously worked at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Michigan State University (MSU).

DiEM25-TV’s ANOTHER NOW is back, with an episode linking our anti-AMAZON campaign with visions of… Another Now

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 9:11pm in

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English, Video

As our Progressive International campaign against Amazon is gathering pace, DiEM25-TV’s ANOTHER NOW is back. Our first episode of this season links our Amazon campaign with my vision of… Another Now – a democratic socialism that comes about as a result of such global campaigns against Techno-feudalism, the new mode of production that is already usurping and replacing capitalism.

A chat on ANOTHER NOW with The Guardian’s Zoe Williams – The Guardian Live

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 8:59pm in

‘Another Now is structurally, ideologically and linguistically an extraordinary work’ Zoe Williams

 

“Is Global Stability A Pipe Dream?” John Bolton vs Yanis Varoufakis at the 2020 Ηolberg Debate, Saturday at 15.00CET live on YouTube

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 8:54pm in

Tags 

Debate, English, Video

What a year 2020 turned out to be? Besides the catastrophic pandemic that pushed hundreds of millions into economic destitution, 2020 featured the escalation of the climate emergency, the spectre of a New Cold War between the West and China, not to mention ominous tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

So, while internationally coordinated political action has never been more necessary, the international institutions for providing it (from the UN to the Bretton Woods institutions and the G20) have never been less able to provide it. At a time of dangerous global instability, the United States and the European Union seem, for different reasons, ungovernable and ill at east with one another. Thus, Global Instability, fuelled by macroeconomic imbalances and the climate change disaster, seems  unstoppable.

So, is Global Stability a Pipe Dream? 

That will be the bone of contention in this year’s Holberg Debate pitting John Bolton (veteran diplomat who served under Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr & Jr and Trump) versus Yanis Varoufakis (former Greek finance minister, DiEM25 co-founder and currently Leader of MeRA25). The debate will be monitored by Oslo University’s  Scott Gates.

WATCH THE DEBATE LIVE, on Saturday 5th December 2020 at 15.00 CET here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyXIOBIOTCE&feature=youtu.be

Participants

John Bolton_George SkidmoreAmb. John Bolton. Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC 3.0)

John Bolton

John Bolton is an American attorney, diplomat, Republican consultant and political commentator who served as the 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as the 27th United States National Security Advisor from 2018 to 2019. He has also served in various positions in the US Administration under Presidents George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Amb. Bolton is the author of three books: Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad (2007); How Barack Obama Is Endangering Our National Sovereignty (2010); and The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (2020), where he describes his time as National Security Advisor for U.S. President Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019.

Yanis Varoufakis_Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: Private 

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis is a member of Greece’s Parliament and parliamentary leader of MeRA25, the Greek political party belonging to DiEM25 – Europe’s first transnational pan-European movement. Previously he served as Greece’s Finance Minister during the first six months of 2015, as a member of Syriza, and he led negotiations with Greece’s creditors during the government-debt crisis. Varoufakis has taught economics at the universities of East Anglia, Cambridge, Sydney, Glasgow, Texas and Athens where he still holds a Chair in Political Economy and Economic Theory. He also holds several honorary professorships. He is the author of a number of best-selling books, including Adults in the Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment (2017); Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A brief history of capitalism (2017), And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability (2016). His latest book is Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present (2020).

Scott Gates_UiOScott Gates. Photo: University of Oslo

Moderator: Scott Gates

Scott Gates is an American political scientist and economist based in Norway. He is currently Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo (UiO), as well as Guest Researcher at UiO’s Department of Economics. Gates is also Research Professor at Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), and he is Editor of the Journal of Peace Research, and of the International Area Studies Review. From 2002 to 2013, Gates was director of PRIO’s Centre for the Study of Civil War. Gates has previously worked at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Michigan State University (MSU).

Exemplary governance: Which countries should high-COVID nations follow?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 3:04am in

Connecting illness, death and governance in a COVID world


Image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay

By Ian Inkster

As much of America, Europe and many anglophone nations face the welter of possible choices of action available to them as they enter what is understood to be a “second wave” of COVID-19, their media repeatedly mention a small group of nations that might best be copied—examples of good COVID governance.

Two points at the outset. For some time now it has been unclear whether this new wave was a direct function of mutation among the many DNA of the virus itself, or mainly a man-made cycle following the ups and downs of civil societies’ adherence to the regulations. Are the spikes resulting from civil laxity? The second point follows from this civil laxity argument—it may well be claimed that a nation’s ability to dampen COVID incidence and mortality is a sign of its existing power of governance. Good COVID management then becomes a measure of strength and scope of policies, of a government’s firmness in convincing its citizens to adhere to regulations, and of its own power to adapt to externally induced changing circumstances. From this, it may be argued that good COVID results act as an indicator of how well a government will lead its nation into post-COVID economic recovery. So, there can be quite a lot at stake here.

Thus, choosing the best example may well reflect an underlying belief among large numbers of people that a particular country has high status among the comity of nations. That is, successful COVID results may be seen by many people throughout the globe as exemplifying both successful governance and a firm moral economy. Contrariwise, failure over COVID in the “second wave” may now be considered a sign of a failing state. We have witnessed the ousting of Donald Trump.

Clearly enough, notable exemplars cannot be so small as to be clearly outliers, else such varied places as the Falklands or Greenland would take the lead. This puts to the side nations that have, indeed, been applauded, such as Hong Kong and Singapore. This applies also to isolated islands and vast territories with very low population densities such as Iceland, Madagascar, Finland, or even Norway. On more direct reasoning, those seeking exemplars should surely omit nations that do not report tests per million, such as Burkina Faso with a population of over 24 million and impressive Cm (cases per million) of 122 and exceptionally low Dm (deaths per million) of only 3, but which does not report test numbers. Of course, there will be nations that have actually had so few hospitalised cases or deaths that they have not instituted tests at all, but they are difficult to clearly separate from ones where cases would be high if thorough testing had been instituted.

Measuring COVID experience and selecting models

Table 1 below lists details for 10 nations, 5 of which are quite commonly exemplified across the world, and 5 others that are not, but whose records are worth serious consideration. World data is included in the last row. Coronavirus Worldometer

Table 1 offers a great many cautionary tales. Cm measures total COVID cases per million, Dm total deaths per million, D/C is deaths as a proportion of total registered cases, which we take as a good indicator of the effective mortality rate; Tests/m is the number of tests for COVID per million of the population. Figures are derived from totals for the period from January 13, 2020, the day of the first confirmed case in Japan, to November 11, 2020.

The five common exemplars are in bold, and they in fact offer very varying COVID experiences according to their own official registered data across the whole period. It seems clear that Germany and Sweden are exemplars, especially in Western nations because they have good records in fighting COVID-19 in comparison to other major European nations (e.g., the UK or Belgium with Dm figures of 719 and 1,112, respectively) and the USA (a Dm of 734). They also have highish results for tests per million, especially Sweden. But the latter’s principal drawback as an exemplar is its much smaller size of population, and the unusual characteristics for Europe of its relative spatial isolation when compared to high-COVID nations such as Italy. In addition, Sweden’s D/C or mortality rate at 3.6 per cent is actually the highest of the 10 nations in this table, despite a high testing rate. This could suggest either a fault in the procedures for effective hospitalisation after tests prove positive, resulting in greater mortality, or it could be a result of its relatively high proportion of older citizens—at 20.3 per cent of its population over 65, compared to say around 16 per cent for Australia and the USA. However, this case is severely weakened when we note that Germany has a ratio of 22.2 per cent of its population in this older grouping, and Japan an even greater proportion of 28.2 per cent. Both have D/Cs of 1.7 per cent. Given the small population of Sweden, this would throw some doubt on it as an obvious exemplar in terms of actual COVID results to date.

Within Europe, this leaves Germany as probably the better case, especially as, unlike Sweden, it is bordered by high-COVID nations such as Belgium, France, and the Netherlands (Dm measures of 1,185,  651, and 484, respectively).

Outside of Europe—problems

But at first glance, neither of the European contenders can match the non-European Australia, Japan and Taiwan, each with exceptionally low Dms (Taiwan with its unmatched 0.3 per cent) and much lower Cms. The seeming weakness of the Japanese and Taiwanese cases is their low levels of tests per million. Other things being equal, this means that lower numbers tested leads to lower “cases registered” if a nation is relying on test results as its principal COVID source, rather than official collections of data from hospitals and general practitioners of patients diagnosed as having the virus. This is not a resounding rejection by any means. It is very possible, certainly understandable, that a nation with actual low covidity would not feel the same need for mass testing as nations with obviously severe problems. It is notable that both the USA and the UK have the highest proportional testing ratios of any large nations—at around 50 per cent of their respective populations tested. Given that numbers of tests say little of the quality of the testing procedures there seems some good reason for holding Taiwan and Japan in high regard as exemplars.

Australia has no such problem, its rates of testing being amongst the highest in the world and notably above those of Germany. Its Dm is exceptionally low. The only problem area here is the unusual character of its demography (a huge proportion of the population live on the massive coastlines), its absence of land borders, its overall relative isolation from all high-COVID hot-spots, and its ability to close itself off despite high numbers of tourists and business connections. These features cannot simply be emulated, yet they may be more determinate of its success as a dampener of the virus than any single element of policy or of any special sequence of official interventions.

There is more to be said about why some nations appear as exemplary and others not, despite their directly COVID-related data. This is broached in three rows of Table 1. Pol-FrR provides an indicator of political freedom within nations, as measured over the years since 1973 by Freedom House, Washington, DC. The figures are an Index with 100 (Sweden) at the top among all major nations. Our Table 1 also indicates—with an * by the names of the 10 nations—all those that are labelled by Freedom House as “electoral democracies,” and it can be seen that all 5 of the major exemplary nations are in this category, and each is highly ranked on the Pol-FrR index, ranging between 93 and 100.The exemplary 5 are a free democratic group, sharing a series of status markers, attributes of a political culture, with many of the nations that regard them as exemplary.

Even though Taiwan with its amazing COVID history is not officially recognised as an independent nation by the other 4 within this select group, its characteristics fit perfectly with those of that group, as a whole. The PPP column shows that these nations are among the richest, most established industrial nations in the world, and estimates of their exemplary character by the major media outlets of the world must surely reflect something of a cultural club. The PPP column is a World Bank measure of purchasing power parity per capita, which adjust simple per capita income comparisons to account for cost-of-living differences by replacing normal exchange rates with those designed to equalise the prices of a standard “basket of goods” and services.

The index is based on the USA as 100. It seems clear enough that the chosen exemplars are seen as ones appropriate to emulate—democratic and free—and this is what is fastened on by the media that create the mantras of “lessons to be learnt,” or “following the science,” and so on. This is confirmed in column Econ-Fr, which provides an index of political freedom for 2020 calculated by the Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC,  in its huge and freely available 2020 Index of Economic Freedom, where Singapore tops the world at 89.4, Australia appearing 4th with 82.6, Sweden appearing at rank 22 with 74.9, and so on. That is, this group is considered exemplary, despite the great differences in COVID performance within it, on grounds of a global culture in which, through an international media, market-based liberalism at high incomes is awarded the highest status among the nations of our world. With status comes notions of veracity, probity and high trust, the secondary rewards of high income.

It may thus be argued that the notion of what might be an exemplary nation in a COVID world, is not principally founded on the COVID record but on some evidence of COVID achievement plus much evidence of high national status among the other nations of our world. So, despite all the caveats and drawbacks noted in this paper, it would appear that the seemingly very different nations of the group will persist as exemplary.

Beyond the pale: Another perspective on best COVID performances

Our other 5 nations are a different cup of tea altogether. Although Poland and India are both parliamentary democracies, they share with this second group much lower income per capita, with Ethiopia being one of the most impoverished nations on earth. They all have lesser degrees of economic and political freedom, but they all also have very good COVID performances as measured in columns Dm and D/C, and generally reasonable numbers for tests per million (the worst being Angola which actually exceeds the figure for Taiwan!). These are not small countries demographically, and to that extent deserve some attention as possible exemplary cases.

With its large Cm measure, Poland looks at first an unlikely candidate, but note that its figure is equal to that of Sweden, and much lower than those of Spain (29,692), or France (26,769), or the huge Belgian figure of 42,547. Its tests per million exceed those of Japan. Its D/C ratio is very low, much below those for the UK, Italy, France, and even Germany. It borders 7 nations of high or uncertain covidity, such as the Czech Republic. And, of course, it is European. We might suggest that it has never been seen as exemplary in the West because of its cultural distinction of having low per capita income, equal to that of Malaysia, and its lower degrees of economic and political freedom than those found among the accepted exemplary group. And, of course, the same must be said of Ethiopia and Angola. The most likely causes of their low COVID measures is a lack of the infrastructure for effective testing and the low number of the elderly in their populations, primarily a result of low incomes. As noted already, this alone would tend to bring down the mortality rates. India and Malaysia are by far the more likely examples for others to follow. India’s massive population and extreme poverty, both noted in Table 1, has not inhibited low Cm and especially low mortality measures. As a well-established parliamentary democracy, India has a relatively high level of political freedom, although its determination to continue to plan high economic growth (an annual growth rate of GDP of over 7 per cent from 2012) means that government does not let market forces rule the production and distribution of goods and services. Aided by its age distribution but remembering the enormity of its population, India might well be seen as among an exemplary group of low-COVID nations.

Malaysia as best practice?

As an exemplary case in many senses, Malaysia has been the most neglected by international mass media commentators. Yet with highish levels of economic freedom, it has achieved remarkable COVID statistics based on a reasonable level of testing. In this, it has been aided by being bordered by nations of low covidity, such as Indonesia (Dm of 55) or Thailand (Dm of 0.9 and total cases of only 3,861!). Its Dm and D/C levels are remarkable. Moreover, its history of COVID defence shows a great deal more alacrity and intelligence than most nations in the West. Screening was adopted at all airports after the first case in Thailand was made public on January 13, and Malaysia only reported its own first case on January 25–well after Japan, South Korea, the USA and Taiwan. Thermal scanners were adopted early. Under the Movement Control Order of March 18, the government, with good cooperation from the media, actively spread the “#stayhome” instructions, NGOs and prison inmates fabricated PPE for those on the frontline, and initial financial stimulus to prevent full economic downturn had been initiated in February. Very early on, Malaysia accepted that China had proved that by isolating the infected group of individuals and practising social distancing, the pandemic could be contained. In order to fund new hospitals and create stocks of medicines, the Ministry of Health and Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) established an “action coalition” to obtain financial aid from corporate companies, government-linked companies (GLCs), and other organizations in Malaysia, a form of private-public sector funding that the West has yet to truly exploit. Government dampened any division between private and public sectors, enlisting help directly from the social media, and NGOs (not private companies) were used early on to provide protective masks, disinfection chambers, and to educate citizens on COVID-19. By April 11, Malaysia had reported a total of 4,346 cases and a total of 1,830 recovered, a proportion of 42 per cent. Today the numbers are 32,969 and 45,095, a proportion of 73 per cent.

Far quicker than countries such as the UK, the Malaysian authorities recognised the key problem of the elderly in care homes. As early as March 27, the Malaysian government introduced the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (PRIHATIN) with RM 25 million allocated to provide assistance for aged care homes, including cash disbursement, food supply and healthcare items, as well as an RM 250 one-off payment for government pensioners. Malaysia was directing a much higher proportion of its very limited resources to helping the elderly than did most of the Western nations and at a much earlier date, and this was evidently rewarded through its very low Dm and D/C statistics.

Beyond casual statements—selecting with mindfulness

The Malaysian example details the variety of positive responses that have been made in nations not hitherto considered exemplary yet showing very superior COVID results over far more wealthy nations. In itself, this sort of evidence cannot pick an exemplar for all. Picking an exemplar by looking at single cases is unlikely to help very much. But what seems clear is that global exemplars do not have to look the same in terms of political structures, incomes, or economic ideology. Better that any nation looks at its own circumstances and selects elements considered appropriate. The best option might be to consider the more global picture but allow especially for differences in income and age distributions, the character of borders, densities and levels of urbanism, and degrees of air pollution. Such elements may guide selection towards countries or a country of similar circumstance, and the best COVID performer amongst them may well be your best exemplar. But just do not jump too soon!

Elements such as age structure or borders may be reasonably recognisable and objective measures. Political systems and policies are quite the opposite, these alter with regimes (we can look forward to developments in the US). The only way out of the seeming conundrum is to first admit that COVID incidence and mortality is only very partially related to any one nation’s official management policies. In fact, to date, only the dimmest light has been shed on what is the relationship between illness, death and governance in a COVID world. For this reason alone, a great COVID exemplar may not be a great example of political and civil life, especially as defined by decision-makers in parliamentary democracies. Perhaps choosing between Australia and Japan, between India or Malaysia, ought not be so normative. Perhaps it should carefully weigh up seeming COVID performance in the context of all the elements, admitting that the policies of governance may not be foremost amongst them.

Professor Ian Inkster is a global historian and political economist at SOAS University of London, who has taught and researched at universities in Britain, Australia, Taiwan and Japan. He is the author of 13 books on Asian and global dynamics with a particular focus on industrial and technological development, and the editor of History of Technology since 2000. Forthcoming books are Distraction Capitalism: The World Since 1971, and Invasive Technology and Indigenous Frontiers. Case Studies of Accelerated Change in History, with David Pretel. Follow him on Twitter at @inksterian

Invited by Ian McMillan, along with a poet and an archaeologist, to discuss ANOTHER NOW – On BBC Radio 3’s The Verb

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 8:37pm in

What might a zero-growth world mean for writers? The Verb offers this provocation to this week’s guests, and asks how poets in particular can adjust to a world economy that’s changing rapidly under long-down. Is there such a thing as a sustainable poem? Ian McMillan is joined by: Yanis Varoufakis, economist, author and member of the Greek Parliament, Dr Seren Griffiths, an archaeologist and Radio 3 New Generation Thinker (fascinated by time and the taxonomy of soil), by novelist and poet Patrick McGuinness who is intrigued by the idea of a poem that leaves the ‘ordinary’ just as it is, and we welcome Jade Cuttle, (critic and poet) back to the Verb for second time this season – she reads French eco-poetry to her house-plant for us and we listen to its reaction via special technology.

Yanis Varoufakis’ new novel is ‘Another Now’, Jade Cuttle’s album of poem/songs is called ‘Algal Bloom’, and Patrick McGuinness’s most recent publication is the novel ‘Throw me to the Wolves’.

A free Central Bank account for all would be a good start for a revamped monetary system – WIRED

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 6:08am in

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English, Op-ed

Imagine that the Bank of England were to create a free bank account for everyone. Overnight, it would be far better placed to regulate the money supply in the public interest. Moreover, to stay in business, commercial banks would have to seriously raise their game. In times of trouble, such as the current pandemic, the Bank of England could lift all boats at once by crediting your account directly – instead of printing sterling to lend to commercial banks, as it does now, in the hope that they would then lend to your employer, in the hope that your employer would then invest the money, rather than buy back more of their own shares. And, if the Bank of England felt that it had to rein in the total supply of money, to avert inflation, it would be able to do so easily: just offer to pay you, say, £5 for every £100 in your account that you do not spend within the next 12 months.

Imagine further that the Bank of England, in a bid to promote trust via transparency, were to base its digital sterling ledger on a distributed ledger digital architecture that allowed everyone, in real time, a glimpse at how much money was sloshing around in its system.

Now imagine that the Bank of England were to lend its expertise to local authorities around the country to revive their regional economies by creating local digital currencies for the purpose of keeping within their communities as much of the surpluses produced locally as possible. These currencies would be backed by their capacity to pay local taxes and their free-floating exchange rate with sterling would be determined automatically by a transparent formula taking into account the balance of payments between the regions.

Imagine, also, that the Bank of England were to come to an agreement with the central banks of other major economies, reflecting a New Bretton Woods-type of international agreement that allows for global trade imbalances and climate change to cancel each other out. This unlikely feat could be accomplished in three steps:

First, central banks agree to create a digital accounting unit, let’s call it the Kosmos or Ks, in which all international trade and cross-border money transfers are denominated (with a free-floating exchange rate between national currencies and Ks).

Secondly, they also agree to charge symmetric levies upon net exporters of goods and money (a trade-imbalance levy and a surge levy – see below) that help stabilise world trade and global money flows.

Thirdly, the proceeds from these levies fund climate change mitigation projects, especially in the global South.

For example, if the US-German trade is grossly imbalanced, both Germany and the United States are charged the trade-imbalance levy: a certain number of Ks are withheld from the German central bank in proportion to Germany’s trade surplus with the United States, and another number of Ks is withheld from the United States in proportion to America’s trade deficit with Germany. By taxing symmetrically trade deficits and surpluses, powerful market incentives help diminish global trade imbalances.

The second levy proposed here is charged to speculative capital flows into and then out of developing economies; capital movements that cause large bubbles to inflate, distorting economic activity, before bursting with hideous effects on the local economy. This surge levy is proportionate to the acceleration of capital flows into, or out, of every country.

Thus, the world will have agreed to strong incentives to limit trade and money transfer imbalances by levying penalties which, on the one hand, balance the current and the capital accounts of major economies while, on the other, help fund green investments, renewable energy grids, transport systems and organic agriculture in the parts of the planet most needed.

If these gains are so easy to attain, what stops us? Simple. These innovations would wreck the capacity of financiers to usurp the gigantic rents they currently extract from our societies. As always, our problem is political, not technical.

Yanis Varoufakis is a member of Greek parliament and leader of the MeRA25 party

For the website Wired, click here

Discussing ANOTHER NOW with Joe Walker – The Jolly Swagman Podcast

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 9:20pm in

The Triumph & Tragedy Of Capitalism – a conversation occasioned by my new book ANOTHER NOW: Dispatches from an Alternative Present

Also listen on:

iTunes: tinyurl.com/y5quz6nt
Website: tinyurl.com/y4ekbpfv
Spotify: tinyurl.com/yxmwnmh4

Show notes

Selected links

Topics discussed

  • Utopia. 4:46
  • The Sovereignty of Good. 9:14
  • Has capitalism enabled people to pursue higher goods? 12:38
  • What is capitalism? 16:08
  • Monopolies. 23:19
  • The problem with capitalism. 28:54
  • Are workers robots or autonomous souls? 34:40
  • Is capitalism making us happier? 54:30
  • Milton Friedman’s 1970 article on profit maximisation. 1:02:41
  • What is Yanis’s alternative to capitalism? 1:09:12
  • Should change be brought about through revolution or incrementalism? 1:26:08

Today, Black Friday, we are boycotting Amazon, globally – Damien Gayle in The Guardian

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 8:59pm in

The economist Yanis Varoufakis has called for a one-day boycott of Amazon on Black Friday as trade unionists, environmental activists, privacy campaigners and tax justice advocates plan coordinated actions against the company’s sites and supply chain. Amazon’s success during the coronavirus pandemic – at one point the company was reported to be making sales of $11,000 (£8,200) a second – has vastly inflated its share price, increasing the personal wealth of its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, already the world’s richest man, by $70bn. Bloomberg estimates his current wealth to be $187bn.

In an online video, Varoufakis asks viewers “not even to visit” Amazon’s website on Black Friday – the retail industry’s most profitable day of the year – which falls on 27 November this year.

“By boycotting Amazon you will be adding your strength to an international coalition of workers and activists,” he said. “Amazon is not a mere company. It is not merely a monopolistic mega-firm. It is far more, and far worse, than that. It is the pillar of a new techno-feudalism.”

Under a banner of “make Amazon pay”, Friday’s actions are intended as the start of a campaign against the retailer’s record on workers’ rights, environmental impact, tax avoidance, work with police and immigration authorities, and what activists say are invasions of privacy via its growing range of internet-connected devices.

The campaign is co-convened by Progressive International, a global initiative bringing together progressive leftwing groups, politicians and intellectuals, including Varoufakis, Prof Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders, and UNI Global, a trade union federation representing 20 million workers including the UK’s GMB union.

Casper Gelderblom, Progressive International’s campaign lead said: “Trillion-dollar corporations like Amazon have too much power and are too large for a single government, trade union or organisation to rein in. That’s why workers, citizens and activists are coming together across borders and issues to take the power back.”

A set of demands submitted to Amazon by Progressive International and signed by Oxfam, 350.org, Greenpeace and the Tax Justice Network, said: “Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay.”

The first actions are due to take place in Sydney, Australia, with protests at Amazon facilities by the SDA and TWU trade unions. Protests are also planned for Bangladesh, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Luxembourg, the Philippines, Poland, Sweden and the US.

In Germany, the trade union Verdi has organised three-day strikes at Amazon warehouses, demanding better pay and working conditions. In the UK, where protest is effectively banned under coronavirus regulations, GMB members will stage an online rally. Supporters are being asked to endorse the demands and donate to strike funds for Amazon workers.

An Amazon spokesperson said of the campaign: “This is a series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon’s profile to further their individual causes. Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our employees, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions, competitive wages and great benefits, leading on climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, and paying billions of pounds in taxes globally.”

For The Guardian’s site click here.

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