G20: Illegitimate, Incompetent and Out of Control

You can’t formulate a sensible international economic policy without the basics: helicopters, snipers, riot police, attack dogs, tanks and miles of chain link fence. Wherever ministers of finance gather, the essential accessories for crowd control and popular repression are always to be found. But even by the historical levels of unaccountability, profligacy and cowardice set at meetings of the world’s richest economies, this weekend’s Canadian G8/G20 meetings raise the bar. By the time the teeth of the last protester are hosed from the soles of the last Mountie, the security bill will have topped one billion dollars. The six kilometer fence in the middle of Toronto cost $5 million alone but most of the rest of the bill is secret – ‘national security’ provides an alibi for backhanders and white elephants.

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Agroecology better than large scale industrial farming for global food security

Olivier de Schutter

, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Food, is one of the most thorough thinkers I know. He doesn’t take a position until after he’s had a chance to run it by dozens of people, opponents and advocates (full disclosure: I’m one of the people who gets to see some of Olivier’s pre-publication thinking on economic matters), sifting through the evidence and arguments and arriving at a position that is unassailable. So it’s very pleasing to read his latest press release on the merits of agroecological farming. No doubt he’ll pay hell for the trouble he causes the proponents of Big Ag. But if he’s given the chance, he’ll argue them into a very tight corner. There’ll be a few follow-up documents from this meeting. When they’re released, you’ll find them on this site. Meantime: Continue reading

Who Governs?

An excellent op-ed appeared last week at the Financial Times, by Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes’ biographer. The relevant paragraphs:

In 1974, Edward Heath asked: “Who governs – government or trade unions?” Five years later British voters delivered a final verdict by electing Margaret Thatcher. The equivalent today would be: “Who governs – government or financial markets?” No clear answer has yet been given, but the question may well define the political battleground for the next five years.

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World Cup’s Rural Shadow

When I was on DemocracyNow! last week, I managed, in my own stuttering-at-five-in-the-morning-oh-my-god-I’m-talking-to-Amy-Goodman-and-Juan-Gonzales kind of way to suggest two things about the current World Cup in South Africa. First, as S’bu Zikode told me last week

It is becoming clear that in the world cup we’re going to be excluded but our names are being used to justify the goodness of our country in the world. The country is divided. There are certain people who are benefiting and we are excluded – we want to tell the other side of the story. Some of us are homeless, hungry, don’t have freedom of expression.

In other words, the poor are being used by the World Cup. But the other point I wanted to argue was that World Cup can also, in a clearly asymmetric way, be used by the poor. This isn’t a story that makes it either to the press, or to the analysis about the ills of Fifa. Protests in Durban recently have tried to get the world’s press to shine a light on how apartheid remains, and to provide cover for street marches that would have been illegally shut down in the past. See, for instance, this:

There aren’t just grievances within South Africa’s cities, but outside them too. Here’s a release from a group working on Food Sovereignty in South Africa. I’ve not heard of them before, but I’m looking forward to hearing a great deal more when next I’m there…. More below the fold. Continue reading

Ayn it Rand?

There’s a fine article on Ayn Rand in this week’s Nation. The final para:

Far from needing explanation, Rand’s success explains itself. Rand worked in that quintessential American proving ground—alongside the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Glenn Beck—where garbage achieves gravitas and bullshit gets blessed. There she learned that dreams don’t come true. They are true.

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