Nov 232014
 

By Eric Toussaint, 99GetSmart

We don’t owe, we won’t pay

We don’t owe, we won’t pay

This article reviews a number of developments that occurred between 2000 and 2014 related to the debt issue, various aspects of the international crisis |1|, international financial institutions, the scope of attacks against social and economic rights, and CADTM priorities.

Several changes have occurred since the end of the 1990s.

1. Several countries in the South have moved away from neoliberal policies

After over twenty years of neoliberal policies and multiple forms of resistance, towards the end of the 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium, several Latin American nations disposed of their neoliberal presidents thanks to massive social mobilisations and elected heads of state who implemented policies that meet the people’s interests. The people of those countries wanted to free themselves from measures derived from the ‘Washington consensus,’ as imposed by the IMF and the World Bank (privatisations, cuts in public services, ‘liberalisation’ of trade that deprives small local producers of any protection, enforced commodification, destruction of decent jobs, cancellation of subsidies for food staples and services such as water, electricity, gas, and transport). These policies were implemented on the pretence of repaying their public debts, much of which was illegitimate or illegal, as was the case in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia… |2| Ecuador’s government took a remarkable initiative in 2007-2008 when it carried out a complete audit of its debt with the active participation of representatives from social movements |3|. On the basis of this audit, it then suspended repayment of the part of the external debt identified as illegitimate, and imposed a significant reduction of the debt to its creditors |4|. This made it possible to increase social spending. Unfortunately, this initiative did not snowball as had been hoped, since other countries in the area did not follow suit.

On the upside, let us note that the governments of these three countries also increased taxation on large foreign corporations that exploit these countries’ natural resources. This development significantly boosted their tax revenues, and made it possible to increase social spending.

Moreover, citizens in these three countries democratically adopted new Constitutions, which include a measure on the removing of elected representatives at mid-term.

Finally, it should also be added that Bolivia in 2007, Ecuador in 2009, and Venezuela in 2012 took the wise step of leaving the WB International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID),The ICSID was founded in 1966, with the purpose of providing a means of conciliation and arbitration to settle investment disputes between contracting States and nationals of other contracting States. To put it simply, it is an international arbitration tribunal, which deals with disputes arising between a private investor from a contracting party State and the State where the investment is based. The Centre’s jurisdiction (article 25) extends to disputes of a legal nature, relating directly to an investment, between a contracting State (or a government organisation or body dependent on that State and designated by it to the Centre) and a national from another contracting State.

The Centre is usually designated as competent to deal with disputes arising within the context of bilateral investment agreements. Thus, almost 900 bilateral treaties on the promotion and protection of investments explicitly name the Centre as the instance for settling disputes between the private investor of a contracting party, on the one hand, and the State where the investment concerned is based, on the other. The Centre’s arbitral sentence is mandatory and cannot be appealed (article 53). The ICSID is a member of the World Bank Group, but from an institutional point of view, it is an autonomous international organisation, which completes the Bank’s range of intervention.

There is no obligation to have recourse to the ICSID for conciliation or arbitration. However, once the parties are engaged, neither may withdraw unilaterally from the ICSID’s arbitration. Once the ICSID has made a decision, all the countries that have ratified the convention, even if they are not involved in the dispute, must acknowledge and apply the decision. Since 1978, the ICSID’s area of jurisdiction has been extended. A whole new set of rules allow it to intervene in cases that do not fall within the domain of the convention. Thus, it can now intervene in arbitration procedures even when one of the parties to the dispute is a State or the national of a State that has not ratified the convention. It can also be called on to bear witness on facts in a case.

Until the mid-1980s, the disputes dealt with by the ICSID arose from agreements made under investment contracts. Since then, it has dealt increasingly with disputes arising from agreements made under bilateral treaties.

The World Bank’s spider web 

The World Bank’s subsidiaries (the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)) have been designed to weave an even tighter web.

Let us take a theoretical example to illustrate the effects of their policies. The World Bank grants a loan to the government of a country if it promises to privatise its water distribution and purification system. In this process, the public company is sold to a private consortium including the IFC, a World Bank subsidiary.

Then the population affected by the privatisation protests against the sudden sharp increase in rates and the fall in the quality of the service provided, and the government turns against the predatory transnational company, the dispute is dealt with by the ICSID, which thus finds itself on both sides of the judge’s bench.

A situation has been reached where the World Bank Group is present at every level: it imposes and finances privatisation via the IBRD and IDA, it invests in the privatised company through the IFC, it provides the company with guarantees covering it against political risk, through the good offices of the MIGA, and it judges any disputes that may arise through the ICSID.

This is exactly what happened in El Alto, Bolivia, between 1997 and 2005.

2. Increases in raw materials prices and currency reserves

In 2003-2004, the prices of raw materials and agricultural products began to rise |5|. This situation enabled the developing countries |6| exporting such products to increase their revenues, especially in strong currencies (dollar, euro, yen, and pound). Certain developing countries used the additional revenues to increase social spending, while most of them accumulated foreign exchange reserves |7| or purchased US Treasury Bonds—thus contributing to financing the leading world power. In other words, they increased their loans to the world’s principal economic power, thus contributing to maintaining its domination by providing it with the means to continue living on credit and maintaining a large trade deficit. An explanation for this is that the US borrows large amounts from countries that are prepared to purchase its debt instruments (US Treasury Bonds).

The table below indicates the volumes of US Treasury Bonds and other treasury bonds held in March 2014 by a number of developing countries. China alone has lent the USA $1,270 billion (from its foreign reserve exchange accumulated through its trade surplus with the USA), and therefore holds more than one fourth of US external public debt.

Developing countries that are creditors of the USA: values of US Treasury Bonds (in $billionsdollars) held in March 2014 |8|

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The yield on US Treasury Bonds and other government bonds is from 0 to 2.57% in function of the maturity (one month = 0.01%, while 10 years = 2.57%) |9|. Given the inflation rate in the US, the real yield is very low, or even negative, which enables the US to finance itself at a very low cost.

3. The loss of power of the World Bank and IMF vis-à-vis certain developing countries

The increase in foreign exchange reserves and the decision of some governments in the South to use part of them to increase social spending and infrastructure investments have contributed to decreasing the influence of the IMF, World Bank, and most industrialised countries over some of the developing countries |10|. This loss of influence also comes from the fact that China and the other ‘BRICS’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), especially Brazil, have greatly increased the number of their loans to certain developing countries.

4. China becomes a powerful creditor

Another factor has reinforced this phenomenon: a rapidly expanding China has become the world’s workshop, and has accumulated huge currency reserves (mostly in dollars). In December 2013, China’s foreign exchange reserves reached $3,821 billion |11|. It has significantly increased its international trade, particularly with developing countries on various continents. It has also increased very significantly its loans to African, Latin-American, and many Asian countries. Its loans are now competing with those of the World Bank and the IMF, other multilateral financial institutions and the governments of the most industrialised countries. That has reduced the ability of these institutions and of countries in the North to exert pressure on some developing countries. However, we should remain vigilant regarding these large debts taken on by developing countries. China is a new capitalist power, which does not give anything away, and its investments are aimed at ensuring its control over the raw materials it needs and over the markets to which it exports its manufactured goods.

5. In 2014, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) announced the creation of a multilateral bank that would belong to them |12|

If this bank begins doing business one day (which is not sure), it will not be an entity capable of offering a positive alternative for developing countries, because the governments founding it are seeking to create a bank which will directly serve their interests (ensuring sources of raw materials and outlets for their exportations) and not those of the people.

6. Increases in internal public debt

Over the past 20 years, internal public debt has increased significantly. In a significant number of developing countries, it has become greater than external public debt (see table below on Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico). This is true for all of the richest developing countries, particularly for the so-called ‘emerging’ economies.

Comparison of external and internal public debt (in $billions and as a % of total debt) for some Latin American countries (2000-2013) |13|

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However, we should not be fooled. The domestic banks that issue loans to the public authorities of their country in the local currency are often in fact subsidiaries of foreign banks, and the loans in local currency, in many cases, are pegged to a strong currency (generally the dollar). This means that if the local currency is devalued or the value of the strong currency increases, the amount to be reimbursed increases considerably |14|. It also means that the major foreign banks are making large profits from the internal public debt. For example, Santander, the principal Spanish bank, makes enormous profits from the loans granted by its subsidiaries in Brazil |15| and other Latin American countries to public authorities by buying government securities from them. The same is true of other banks like Citigroup/CitiBank, which have a strong presence in Mexico, and the Spanish bank BBVA, present in several Latin-American economies, not to forget the British bank HSBC, which is particularly active in Asia.

7. The food and climate crisis

In 2007-2008, the peoples of the developing countries were faced with a sharp increase in the price of foodstuffs. This situation resulted in food riots in 18 countries. The number of people suffering from hunger, which was approximately 900 million before the crisis, increased by nearly 120 million, bringing the total to over one billion in 2009. As we will see farther on, that figure has gradually been reduced, but the fact can only alert us to the incredible vulnerability of hundreds of millions of people. This dramatic situation is directly linked to other factors related to the global crisis and the debt system. One thing is certain: the rising price of food staples and increasing number of human beings suffering from hunger are not the result of a lack of food resources throughout the world. Some of the factors behind this global food crisis, which is keeping one out of eight humans in a permanent state of hunger, are financial speculation on the prices of basic food items (and fuels) on the over-the-counter market in Northern countries, as well as the promotion of agro-fuels in Northern and some Southern countries— including Brazil —, land grabbing, the ‘free-trade’ agreements imposed on Southern countries, the end of subsidies for basic food staples and to local producers in Southern countries, and the priority given to cash crops intended for exportation to the detriment of local market gardening… |16|

In addition, the effects of the ongoing climate crisis are increasingly dramatic in developing countries. Here again, the policies rolled out by the World Bank in particular, and the productivist capitalist system in general, are part of the problem and not part of the solution |17|.

8. Debt is one of the core concerns in Northern countries, where it is considered to be the consequence of the crisis that erupted in 2007-2008

The crisis caused by major private banks in the US and Europe has generated a strong increase in the debt of the countries concerned. Private and public debt have become core concerns in Northern countries, particularly within the European Union and the United States. That is why the CADTM has engaged in more studies and actions targeting the countries of the North, while still not neglecting the South. The lessons drawn from the Third World debt crisis in 1980-1990 are very valuable for understanding the events that followed the crisis of 2007-2008 and taking action in its aftermath |18|. The countries in the North where people have been the most severely affected are Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Hungary, the Baltic Republics, Bulgaria, and Italy. The policies being applied by creditors in the most industrialised countries in the North today closely resemble those that were imposed on the countries of the South in the 1980s, which caused and exacerbated third world debt.

9. Centre/Periphery relations within the European Union based on domination 
The existence of a common economic, trade, and political zone enables European transnational corporations and the economies of the Centre of the eurozone to profit from the debt crisis in the Periphery countries (Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, and countries in central Europe and the Balkans), as well as in Italy, to make their companies more profitable and make points in terms of competitiveness with respect to their North American and Chinese competitors. At the current stage of the crisis, the aim of countries in the Centre of the eurozone is not to relaunch growth and reduce asymmetries between the strongest and weakest economies in the EU.

In addition, European leaders believe that the collapse of Southern Europe is going to translate into opportunities to privatize corporations and public goods massively at cut-rate prices. The intervention of the Troika and the active complicity of governments in the Periphery are helping them. The dominant classes in the countries in the Periphery are in favour of these policies, because they are counting on getting a part of the cake they have been drooling over for years. The privatisations in Greece and Portugal prefigure what is going to occur in Spain and Italy where the public commodities up for grabs are far more lucrative, given the size of these two economies.

The close ties between government leaders and Big Capital are no longer even concealed. Individuals from the world of high finance, and in particular the investment bank Goldman Sachs, are now at the head of several governments, in key ministerial positions, and President of the ECB |19|.

10. The crisis and the increase in public debt are misleading arguments exploited in the greatest offensive against human rights in Europe since the end of WWII.

Governments and employers use countless deceitful arguments in the greatest offensive in Europe since WWII against the economic and social rights of most people. Increasing unemployment, more and more debt to repay, the constraint of balanced budgets and the competitiveness of the European countries, between themselves, and on the world markets, are all used as postulates to attack and whittle away at social spending and public services.

For the Capitalists the agenda is greater insecurity for the workers, to reduce the worker’s capacity to organise and resist, while imposing lower wages and less benefits, at the same time as maintaining big differences between EU workers in order to increase the competition between them, and to precipitate them into the debt trap.

The report ‘Safeguarding human rights in times of economic crisis’ by Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe (4 December 2013) draws an unforgivable picture of the consequences of the austerity measures applied in Europe. The sectors of education, health, employment, justice, housing, water distribution, and subsistence are all damaged by the nefarious effects of these policies. Nils Muiznieks stresses the inefficiency of austerity plans and their counter-productive results, which in the long term will cause necessary increases in public spending |20|.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the introduction to this important report: ‘Europeans are living through the deepest economic recession since World War II. What began as a meltdown in the global financial system in 2008 has been transformed into a new political reality of austerity, which threatens over six decades of social solidarity and expanding human rights protection across Council of Europe member states.

Austerity measures have exacerbated the already severe human consequences of the economic crisis marked by record levels of unemployment. The whole spectrum of human rights has been affected and many vulnerable groups of people have been hit disproportionately. Poverty, including child deprivation, is deepening and is likely to have long-term effects.’

11. This is a worldwide attack on Labour by Big Capital.

What wage earners, pensioners and beneficiaries are going through in Cyprus, Ireland, Greece, Spain, and Portugal, among others, was imposed on the populations in developing countries during the debt crisis in the 1980-1990s. In the 1990s, during and after the Reagan presidency, the workers in North America were attacked, the Thatcher regime in the UK attacked British workers and similar policies were then applied throughout Europe, including in the ex-eastern bloc countries, which were subjected to the harsh policies imposed on them by their governments and by the IMF. According to the International Labour Organisation’s Global Wage Report 2012-13 ‘In Russia, for example, the real value of wages collapsed to less than 40 percent of their value in the 1990s, and it took another decade before wages recovered to their initial level.’ |21|. Then starting in 2003-5, although less harshly than in the Third World countries (the World’s poorest countries and the emerging economies), the attack turned against German workers. The harmful effects are still felt today by many people, even if Germany exports and the explosion of part-time work has limited the number of unemployed and part of the working class has not been directly affected.

This offensive, which started at the beginning of the 1980s, has intensified since 2007. The International Labour Organisation has analysed a shorter period (1999-2011) and made the following interesting remark: ‘Between 1999 and 2011, average labour productivity in developed economies increased more than twice as much as average wages. In the United States, real hourly labour productivity in the non-farm business sector increased by about 85 per cent since 1980, while real hourly compensation increased by only around 35 per cent. In Germany, labour productivity surged by almost a quarter over the past two decades while real monthly wages remained flat.’ |22|. Further on, the ILO indicates: ‘The global trend has resulted in a change in the distribution of national income, with the workers’ share decreasing, while the share of income earned by Big Capital has increased in most countries. Even in China, a country where wages roughly tripled over the last decade, GDP increased at a faster rate than total wages, and hence the share going to labour went down.’ |23|

Evolution of wages as a percent of global GDP (1980-2011) |24|

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This significant global trend is the demonstration of the increased added-value extracted from Labour by Capital.

12. Illegitimate personal debts

The CADTM has started focussing on a new field of analysis and intervention in the ‘debt system’. While whole populations are direct victims of the ‘debt system’, so are individuals: Indian farmers are being driven to suicide (more than 270,000 between 1995 and 2011 |25|), hoping to free their family from the burden of debt; millions of families are being dispossessed by the repossession of their homes by the creditor banks, mainly in the US (since 2007, 14 million families, unable to pay their mortgages, have been evicted from their homes by banks). The same is true in Spain, where about half a million families have been evicted |26|, in Ireland, in Iceland, in several central European countries and the Balkans. Women (men too) are victims predatory micro-credit systems in the South. English, Chilean, and North American students are over-indebted and needy or in downright misery, (the total amount of student debt in the United States exceeds $1 trillion, the equivalent of the external public debt of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa combined).

In fact, if one goes beyond appearances, it is not a collection of individual victims of injustice. These individuals are part of the classes being exploited and robbed by the capitalist system: the small farmers of the South, urban and rural proletariat of the North and South, educated youth from the working classes … Among the victims, women are the most exposed to class and gender exploitation: patriarchy and Capitalism work hand-in-hand to perpetuate a system of oppression and exploitation.

13. Lower interest rates in the United States and Europe have decreased the cost of debt in the South, creating a dangerous feeling of security

The lower interest rates imposed by the central banks of the most industrialised countries starting in 2007-2008 |27|, in order to help their major private banks and capitalist corporations, resulted in a lower cost to refinance the debt in developing countries. The combined low interest rates and high revenues from the exportation of raw materials have created a dangerous feeling of security for the governments of developing countries. However, the situation may be reversed in the near future: the price of raw materials could drop and interest rates may finally go up again |28|.

We must pay careful attention to this situation, and ask the governments in Southern countries to take advantage of the current economic situation that is relatively favourable to their country, and put in place policies in favour of basic human rights and nature protection. In sum, we must make a radical break with the current model of development.

14. Public and private debt has increased throughout the world, and the BIS itself has spoken of the ‘debt trap’

Private and public debt have skyrocketed in an extremely dangerous way since the beginning of the 2000s. First, there was an enormous increase in private debt (of financial corporations (banks in particular), non-financial corporations, and households), principally in the most industrialised countries. Then public debt literally exploded because of how the crisis was managed in the interest of Big Capital. In the most developed countries, public debt has increased by about 40% since 2007 |29|. Meanwhile, the debt of non-financial corporations has risen 30% throughout the world. Household debt has decreased (in response to attacks on buying power, jobs, and general living conditions, those ‘at the bottom’ have paid off their debts). The debts of financial corporations (major private banks in particular) remain the highest (they are much great than public debt), because their books have not really been cleaned up contrary to the reassuring speeches delivered by government leaders. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is a forum for the principal central banks on the planet, launched an alert in its Annual Report published in June 2014 by speaking of the ‘debt trap’! Obviously, we are not astonished to learn that the BIS recommends we should continue pursuing neoliberal policies |30|, whereas in reality we must make a radical break with them.

15. The debt of developing countries, which represents a tiny portion of world debt, also increased

It is important to highlight that the total debt of all developing countries (internal + external public and private debt combined) represents only about 5% of total world debt. Meanwhile, public and private debt in the most industrialised countries, where only 15% of the world population lives, account for 95% of total world debt. The external public debt of all the developing countries (about $1.8 trillion), where 85 % of the world population lives barely represents 1% of total world debt. These figures clearly show how easy it would be to cancel this debt.

In reality, more than ever before, developing countries are net financial creditors of the most developed economies. These figures do not include the ‘ecological and historic debts’ people in developing nations could demand from the dominant classes of the most developed countries (and from the dominant classes in the developing countries, who have been complicit with those in the North).

Overview of the evolution of public debt

Evolution of the external public debt of developing countries from 1980 to 2012 (in billions of dollars) |31|

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* PECOT = central and eastern European countries + Turkey

We observe that external public debt continued to rise from 2000 to 2012, particularly in Latin America, and in the countries of central and eastern Europe + Turkey (PECOT) as well as in south Asia.

Evolution of the external debt of developing countries and of the resources used to pay it back from 1980 to 2012 (in $billions) |32|

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We observe a constant increase in the total volume of external debt. In terms of repayments, between 2005 and 2012, it is especially the ones made by private companies that increased. That means that private companies (industrial, commercial, banking, and so on) took on large amounts of external debt, and if there is a crisis, there is a very high risk that these debts will have to be paid back by the government, which has already occurred many times in the recent past.

16. Poor countries issue and sell external debt bonds on international markets

Rwanda and Senegal, two poor and heavily indebted countries, have sold public debt bonds on the financial markets of the North. This has never been seen before in the last 30 years. The Ivory Coast, having emerged from a situation of civil war just a few years ago, has also issued bonds although it is also one of the poor and heavily indebted countries. Kenya and Zambia have also issued debt bonds. This testifies to a highly peculiar international situation: the financial investors of the North hold huge cash assets, and faced with very low interest rates in their region, are on the lookout for higher yields. Senegal, Zambia, and Rwanda promise a yield of 6 to 8% on their bonds. They therefore attract financial companies, which seek to place their cash on a provisional basis even if the risks are high. The governments of these poor countries become euphoric and try to make their people believe that happiness is just around the corner although the situation may take a dramatic turn. These leaders are accumulating debt in a completely irresponsible way, and when the economic situation deteriorates, it will be their people who will have to foot the bill.
Furthermore, the bonds they issue are linked to contracts including clauses that could be real time bombs. We must require public authorities to make the contents of these contracts accessible to the public.

17. The Fed is destabilizing emerging market economies

When the US Federal Reserve System (the Fed) hinted in May 2013 that it would gradually normalize its policy, there was an immediate negative impact on the ‘emerging’ economies. What changes were proposed?

1. Reducing purchases of toxic assets |33| from the US banks, made to relieve them of this burden.
2. Reducing the acquisitions of US Treasury Securities from these banks, which the Fed does in order to give them cash injections |34|.
3. Raising interest rates (0.25% today).

This announcement itself was enough to lead major financial companies in the US and other countries (banks and their satellites in the shadow banking system, mutual funds, etc.) to pack-off some of their liquid investments from the emerging market economies (EMEs). This destabilized those economies: plunge in stock markets and currency depreciation (Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa …) |35|. In fact, the low interest rates prevailing in the US and Europe, combined with the central banks’ massive cash injections in the economy, have always set financial companies on the trail of maximum profit by investing in the EMEs, which offer better returns than the North. The outflow of financial investment from the EMEs towards the most industrialized economies can be explained by the fact that the financial companies expected attractive returns in the North as soon as the Fed hiked interest rates |36|. These companies thought that other ‘investors’ would withdraw their capital from these countries and it was better to act first. A herd mentality response resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Finally, the Fed did not raise interest rates and waited till the end of 2013 to reduce purchases of structured securities and treasury bills from banks. The dust has almost settled.

The situation in June 2013 gives some idea of ​​what might happen if the Fed increases interest rates significantly. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central banks’ central bank, says ‘Capital flows could reverse quickly when interest rates in the advanced economies eventually go up or when perceived domestic conditions in the host economies deteriorate. In May and June 2013, the mere possibility that the Federal Reserve would begin tapering its asset purchases led to rapid outflows from funds investing in EME securities’ (BIS, 84th Annual Report, 2014, p. 76, http://www.bis.org/publ/arpdf/ar201…)

The BIS brings to light a worrying trend: financial companies that invest part of their assets in EMEs do so in the short term. They can swiftly withdraw their funds if they discover other profitable avenues. The BIS says, ‘A higher proportion of investors with short-term horizons in EME debt could amplify shocks when global conditions deteriorate. Highly volatile fund flows to EMEs indicate that some investors view their investments in these markets as short-term positions rather than long-term holdings. This is in line with the gradual shift from traditional open or close-end funds to exchange- traded funds (ETFs), which now account for around a fifth of all net assets of dedicated EME bond and equity funds, up from around 2% 10 years ago… ETFs can be bought and sold on exchanges at a low cost, at least in normal times, and have been used by investors to convert illiquid securities into liquid instruments.’ (BIS, 84th Annual Report, 2014, p. 77, http://www.bis.org/publ/arpdf/ar201…).

In short, the wellbeing of the EMEs depends a great deal on the policy followed by the most industrialised economies (especially the US, Europe, and Japan). A hike in interest rates in the US may result in a significant outflow of volatile capital invested in EMEs with higher returns in mind.

In addition, roughly 10% of the debt securities maturing from 2020 or later are callable, and an unknown proportion have covenants that allow investors to demand accelerated repayment if the borrower’s conditions deteriorate.’ (BIS, 84th Annual Report, 2014, p. 76. http://www.bis.org/publ/arpdf/ar201…) This means that financial companies that purchased debt securities maturing in a relatively distant future (2020 or later) can demand accelerated and full repayment from a crisis-hit country. Obviously, this can only aggravate the situation of an indebted country: all inflows will stop simultaneously. This is another reason why the populations of developing nations need to be aware of the serious dangers posed by their country’s public debt. Payment of the illegitimate portion of the debt must be challenged immediately.

The decline in revenues from raw material exports is another factor that might lead to a fresh and acute debt crisis in developing countries, since China – a major consumer of raw materials for its manufacturing industry – has reduced its huge imports. A drop in the price of raw materials can be fatal to the economic health of developing countries, which depend mainly on exports. In this respect, raw materials prices might also drop if the Fed increases interest rates, as this reduces speculation responsible for high prices. The combined effect of a hike in interest rates and a decline in raw material prices could produce a situation similar to what happened in the early 1980s, when the debt crisis exploded in developing countries. It is imperative to learn from that crisis and to act, so that the Southern people do not have to foot the bill again.

18. Vulture funds |37|

Public debt has become the target of the speculative strategies of ‘litigating creditors, known as ‘vulture funds’. These are private investment funds, most of them located in tax havens, which specialise in buying up debt securities from States that are in default or on the verge of default. They then sue these States in the courts of English-speaking countries, demanding that they reimburse their debt at its nominal value, with the addition of interest, penalties for late payment, and court costs. Unlike traditional creditors, they refuse to participate in any negotiation and restructuring operation, preferring judicial solutions, and in case of non-payment, seizure of debtors’ assets (diplomatic properties, revenues from exports, and various assets invested abroad). Since the 2000s, some twenty States that are among the most heavily indebted on the planet have fallen prey to these strategies, in South America (Argentina, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Peru) and Africa (Sierra Leone, the Republic of the Congo, and Uganda), during major judicial-financial battles that are still in progress today. Since 2007, the phenomenon has been directed against countries in Southern Europe (Greece, Spain, and Portugal). In the future, vulture strategies are likely to prosper in the South and North. Newly issued debts continue to be placed under American or British law, which is favourable to creditors, and certain countries are again contracting debt on the international capital markets and show a preference for indebtedness to China, which will encourage future debt repurchases on secondary markets.

Argentina was in the spotlight in 2014, when the US Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Argentine government, and ruled in favour of the vulture funds NML and Aurelius, forcing Argentina to pay them $1.33 billion. Argentina adopted a law on 10 September 2014 aimed at providing it with a mechanism to defend itself against vulture funds. The CADTM would like to point out, however, that the best defence against them consists in refusing to recognise the competence of foreign courts in settling claims with creditors and inserting a clause in contracts stipulating that the local courts have jurisdiction.

19. Citizen audits

In recent years, movements have developed to work towards conducting a citizen audit to identify illegitimate, odious, and illegal debts. These movements in several countries |38| provide an opportunity for interesting and enriching reflection to clarify which parts of public debt should not be paid. With no claim to being exhaustive, we can propose the following definitions:

a) Illegitimate public debt: debt contracted by government authorities with no concern for the general interest or in such a way as to be detrimental to it.

b) Illegal public debt: debt contracted by the government authorities in flagrant violation of the prevailing legal order.

c) Odious public debt: credits extended to authoritarian regimes or which impose conditions for reimbursement that violate fundamental social rights.

d) Unsustainable public debt: debt whose reimbursement condemns the people of a country to impoverishment and deterioration of health and public education, increased unemployment, or problems of malnutrition. In other words, debt whose reimbursement makes it impossible for government authorities to guarantee fundamental human rights.

A citizen audit of public debt, combined in certain cases with unilateral sovereign suspension of its payment, can enable the illegitimate, unsustainable, and/or illegal part of the debt to be abolished/repudiated and the remaining part to be greatly reduced. It is also a way of discouraging this type of indebtedness in the future.

20. By way of conclusion: the impact of the ‘debt system’ – more topical than ever

The ‘debt system’ exploits public resources to pay creditors, to the detriment of people’s needs and fundamental rights. The relationship between creditors and debtors is therefore terribly unbalanced in favour of the former. One aspect common to the Latin American external debt crisis that erupted in 1982 and the euro crisis since 2010 is that in both cases the first reaction was to deny the evidence and do nothing. Subsequently, the measures taken are set up in favour of the creditors’ interests. In order to try to inverse the public deficit trend and thus be able to pay off the debt, adjustment or austerity policies are applied, whatever the price to be paid by the people, who are victims of the crisis. The creditors, supported by local elites, demand that the debt be reimbursed and that the adjustments be made to prioritise this repayment instead of all social needs, thus negatively affecting people’s most basic rights. The measures put in place also prove to be counter-productive, because they only make the problem worse. Excessive indebtedness becomes a structural problem.

The ‘debt system’ aggravates inequalities. Debt enables a privileged minority to monopolise a series of financial revenues that enable it to increase its wealth permanently. By consequence, the State loses resources necessary to satisfy people’s fundamental needs. The richest minority accumulates wealth, inequalities grow, and the increased power of the few enables them to exert greater pressure on public authorities with regard to policies. The rise in debt, and its concentration in a few hands, leads to a redistribution of income in favour of the richest members of society, which in turn is both the cause and consequence of heavier exploitation of labour and natural resources. In response, the CADTM, together with other organisations, argues that it is essential to audit public debt under citizen control in order to clarify its origins and determine which part should be considered illegitimate and/or illegal and therefore cancelled.

However, the CADTM is denouncing the entire debt system. It is the same mechanisms of domination and exploitation that govern public debts and illegitimate private debts, respectively subjugating people as collective subjects and as lower social class individuals (indebted small-scale farmers, families expelled from their homes by banks, women trapped by the micro-credit system in Southern countries, over-indebted students, etc.)

Of course, cancelling all illegitimate debts needs to be backed by other measures. For example, the socialisation of the banking and insurance sector to transform it into a public service, a radical reform of the tax system in favour of the overwhelming majority of the population, the expropriation of the energy sector and transformation into a public service, a radical reduction of working hours combined with job creation and increases in salary and social benefits, the improvement and extension of public services, the improvement of redistributive retirement pension systems, effective equality between men and women, and radical political reforms including changed constitutional processes. The aim is for these measures to be part of a vast plan for social, ecological, and political transition in order to get out of the devastating capitalist system. The struggle against the ‘debt system’ as a whole, more necessary than ever in both southern and northern countries, is part of the much broader-based struggle for a world freed from all forms of oppression and exploitation.


Translation by Christine, Snake, Mike, Charlie and Adam. Thanks a lot to all of them !

Footnotes

|1| For want of space, some aspects of the crisis, such as the climate crisis, are merely mentioned. The text does not cover every aspect of the international context. N.B. all figures are expressed in US dollars = $, unless specified.

|2| Éric Toussaint, Bank of the South An alternative to the IMF World Bank (CADTM, 2014). Available on line: http://www.scribd.com/doc/235391487…. We can also mention the massive and victorious mobilisation of the Argentine people in December 2001 in order to oust Fernando De la Rua’s neoliberal government.

|3| The CADTM participated directly in the presidential commission that led the audit of the Ecuadorian debt. Éric Toussaint, « An III de la révolution citoyenne en Équateur », 22 October 2009, http://cadtm.org/An-III-de-la-revol… (not available in English).

|4| Éric Toussaint, « Les leçons de l’Équateur pour l’annulation de la dette illégitime », 29 May 2013, http://cadtm.org/Les-lecons-de-l-Eq… (not available in English). Recently, however, Ecuador’s government seems to have shifted back to a more traditional (and harmful) approach: loans from China, a first loan from the World Bank (since 2005) in 2014, new issue of Ecuadorian securities on the financial markets led by Citibank and Crédit Suisse. This is worrying.

|5| This was a reversal of the previous trend. Generally speaking, the prices of raw materials dropped sharply as of 1981 and remained low until 2003-2004.

|6| Note on terms used: In the text that follows, the terms ‘developing countries’ (DCs) and ‘developed countries’ are simply the terms already used by the international institutions– because most of the data analysed comes from these institutions. The terms used to designate the countries targeted for World Bank development loans have changed throughout the years. At first, they were known as ‘backward regions’, then ‘under-developed countries’, and finally, ‘developing countries’, some of which are now called ‘emerging countries’. Nonetheless, it is important to recall the ideological and Western-centric connotations of this terminology. Indeed, essentially it takes into account only the economic dimension of development, and implies that there is only one model of development (the Western industrial and ‘extractivist’ capitalist model), and that certain countries are ‘behind’ and must catch up with other countries who are ‘further ahead’. The CADTM vehemently rejects this vision of the world. Likewise, when we make use of the terms such as ‘Southern countries’ and ‘Northern countries’, we are conscious that they are incorrect from a strictly geographic point of view.

|7| Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 84th Annual Report 2014, Basel, June 2014, p. 102, table V.1. Annual changes in foreign exchange reserves.

|8| Calculated by CADTM on the basis of US Treasury Department data, Major foreign holders of treasury securities, March 2014,  http://www.treasury.gov/ticdata/Pub…

|9| See the yields published by the US Treasury: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-ce… (accessed 24 September 2014 ).

|10| The IMF has, however, succeeded in returning to the forefront of the scene in western Europe with the crisis that has severely affected the weakest Eurozone countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, Slovenia, and two Baltic Republics, Estonia and Latvia).

|11| Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 84th Annual Report 2014, op.cit.

|12| See Daniel Munevar’s (CADTM economist) critical analysis, ‘BRICS Bank: Is it an alternative for development finance?’, 28 July 2014, http://cadtm.org/BRICS-Bank-Is-it-a…. See also, Benito Pérez/Éric Toussaint, ‘The alternative, would be a Bank of the South, not the BRICS Bank’, interview of Éric Toussaint, Le Courrier, 19 August 2014 (http://cadtm.org/The-alternative-wo…).

|13| Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), Latin American Macro Watch Data Tool. http://www.iadb.org. The data for Argentina’s debt correspond to 2012 instead of 2013.

|14| That is what happened between May and December 2013 for countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, and Brazil.

|15| In the case of Brazil, in 2014, government officials borrowed from private banks at an interest rate of 11%, while inflation was 6.5 %, which means hefty profits for the bankers.

|16| Éric Toussaint, ‘Une fois encore sur les causes de la crise alimentaire,’ (‘More on the causes of the food crisis’), 9 October 2008, http://cadtm.org/Une-fois-encore-su… (in French). See also: Damien Millet and Éric Toussaint, ‘Pourquoi une faim galopante au XXIe siècle et comment l’éradiquer ?’ (‘Why is hunger still rampant in the 21st century and how to eliminate it?’), 24 April 2009, http://cadtm.org/Pourquoi-une-faim-… (in French); Éric Toussaint, ‘Banks speculate on raw materials and food’, 10 February 2014, http://cadtm.org/Banks-speculate-on…

|17| Éric De Ruest and Renaud Duterme, La dette cachée de l’économie, Paris: Les Liens qui Libèrent, 2014. See  http://cadtm.org/La-dette-cachee-de… (in French).

|18| Éric Toussaint, « Du Sud au Nord : crise de la dette et programmes d’ajustement », 4 June 2014, http://cadtm.org/Du-Sud-au-Nord-cri… (not available in English).

|19| Éric Toussaint, ‘Bankocracy: from the Venetian Republic to Mario Draghi and Goldman Sachs’, 11 November 2013, http://cadtm.org/Nouvelle-traductio…

|20https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.I…

|21| ILO Global Wage Report 2012-2013, Executive Summary, Geneva, December 2012.

|22| ILO, ibidem, pp. VI-VII.

|23| ILO, ibidem, p. VII. The same report also underscores the increasing differences between low and high incomes in each country.

|24| UNCTAD, Trade and development report 2013, United Nations, New York and Geneva, 2013, p.15. Available at http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLi…

|25| According to Law in India, normally, if the head of a family dies, his debt cannot be transmitted to his family. This is one of the reasons some Indian agricultural smallholders commit suicide hoping to thus free their families from debt. However, this does not always work in practice. Swallowing pesticides is one of the most common methods used to commit suicide. It is also worth nothing that outside India, in Europe, especially in France there is an alarming rate of suicide among small farmers.

|26| Éric Toussaint, ‘Banks and the New “Too Big to Jail” Doctrine’, 9 March 2014, http://cadtm.org/Banks-and-the-New-…; ‘Bank abuses in the real estate sector and illegal foreclosures in the United States’, 4 April 2014, http://cadtm.org/Bank-abuses-in-the…

|27| In November 2014, the key interest rate of the US Federal Reserve stands at 0.25 %, that of the European Central Bank is 0.05 %, the Bank of England 0.5 %. The rate of the Bank of Japan has been 0% since the country entered a crisis in 1990.

|28| For raw materials, the price of a barrel of oil dropped significantly from May to November 2014. As I am writing these lines on 9 November 2014, the price of a barrel of oil was $105 on 1 May, 2014 and reached its lowest level in 13 years on 7 November 2014 ($83 dollars). As for interest rates, since June 2014 the US Federal Reserve has been suggesting they will soon increase. Although the Fed’s key rate is very low today (0.25%), the situation must be monitored closely. To that effect, see point 17 about what happened in 2013 when the economies of certain emerging countries were strongly shaken up.

|29| This is the estimate provide by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS): 84th Annual Report, op.cit., p. 10, Figure I.1. (June 2014)

|30| Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Ibidem, page 17.

|31| World Bank, International Debt Statistics, http://databank.worldbank.org/data/…

|32| World Bank, op.cit. Debt servicing is the total amount of repayments for interest and capital.

|33| The Fed has bought huge amounts of Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) from US banks. Its purchases of such assets between 2008 and early 2014 were worth more than $1.5 trillion. During 2012-2013, it purchased toxic assets worth $40 billion per month from banks and real estate agencies that guarantee mortgages, to reduce their burden. By the end of 2013, it started to make fewer purchases, which went up to $35 billion per month by March 2014. By October 2014, the Fed was holding $1.7 trillion in MBS, or about 21% of the total volume of such assets, an enormous amount. The Fed finally stopped purchasing MBS in November 2014.

|34| By October 2014, the Fed was holding US Treasury Securities worth $2.45 trillion. Please note, contrary to popular belief, the Fed does not buy Treasury Securities directly from the Treasury, it buys them through open market operations from private banks which had acquired them previously. See the US laws on this matter: http://www.federalreserve.gov/about…

|35| The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) describes this situation as follows: – ‘The first episode was abrupt and generalised in nature, with sharp asset price movements ending a period of fairly stable interest and exchange rates. As the sell-off spilled over from advanced economies, EMEs experienced a sharp reversal of portfolio flows, especially in June 2013. . . EME equities fell by 16% before stabilising in July, and sovereign bond yields jumped more than 100 basis points, driven by rising concerns over sovereign risk… At first, the indiscriminate retrenchment from EMEs affected many currencies simultaneously, leading to correlated depreciations amid high volatility. The currencies of Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey depreciated by more than 10% against the US dollar during the first episode…. Brazil, India, Indonesia and Russia each lost more than $10 billion in reserves. Countries with rapid credit growth, high inflation or large current account deficits were seen as more vulnerable and experienced sharper depreciations.’ (BIS, 84th Annual Report, 2014, pp. 27-28). http://www.bis.org/publ/arpdf/ar201…

|36| For an analysis of what happened in 2013, please read Daniel Munevar’s “Inestabilidad en los mercados emergentes: El fin de un ciclo?” available only in Spanish here : http://cadtm.org/Inestabilidad-en-l… (1st part) and http://cadtm.org/Inestabilidad-en-l… (2nd part).

|37| I would like to thank Louise Abellard for her contribution to this point.

|38| Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, and others.

Éric Toussaint is a historian with a doctoral degree in political science. He is the spokesperson for CADTM International, and the author of several books translated into English, including Bankocracy (Merlin Press, 2015), The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (CADTM, 2014), A Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology from its Origins to the Present (Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2012), and The World Bank: A Critical Primer (Pluto Press, London, 2008).

Nov 212014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

svoboda-party-nazi4

Introduction

There are clear signs that a major war is about to break out in Ukraine: A war actively promoted by the NATO regimes and supported by their allies and clients in Asia (Japan) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia). The war over Ukraine will essentially run along the lines of a full-scale military offensive against the southeast Donbas region, targeting the breakaway ethnic Ukraine-Russian Peoples Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk, with the intention of deposing the democratically elected government, disarming the popular militias, killing the guerrilla resistance partisans and their mass base, dismantling the popular representative organizations and engaging in ethnic cleansing of millions of bilingual Ukraino-Russian citizens. NATO’s forthcoming military seizure of the Donbas region is a continuation and extension of its original violent putsch in Kiev, which overthrew an elected Ukrainian government in February 2014.

The Kiev junta and its newly ‘elected’ client rulers, and its NATO sponsors are intent on a major purge to consolidate the puppet Poroshenko’s dictatorial rule. The recent NATO-sponsored elections excluded several major political parties that had traditionally supported the country’s large ethnic minority populations, and was boycotted in the Donbas region. This sham election in Kiev set the tone for NATO’s next move toward converting Ukraine into one gigantic US multi-purpose military base aimed at the Russian heartland and into a neo-colony for German capital, supplying Berlin with grain and raw materials while serving as a captive market for German manufactured goods.

An intensifying war fever is sweeping the West; the consequences of this madness appear graver by the hour.

War Signs: The Propaganda and Sanctions Campaign, the G20 Summit and the Military Build Up

The official drum- beat for a widening conflict in Ukraine, spearheaded by the Kiev junta and its fascist militias, echoes in every Western mass media outlet, every day. Major mass media propaganda mills and government ‘spokesmen and women’ publish or announce new trumped-up accounts of growing Russian military threats to its neighbors and cross-border invasions into Ukraine. New Russian incursions are ‘reported’ from the Nordic borders and Baltic states to the Caucuses. The Swedish regime creates a new level of hysteria over a mysterious “Russian” submarine off the coast of Stockholm, which it never identifies or locates – let alone confirms the ‘sighting’. Estonia and Latvia claim Russian warplanes violated their air space without confirmation. Poland expels Russian “spies” without proof or witnesses. Provocative full-scale joint NATO-client state military exercises are taking place along Russia’s frontiers in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.

NATO is sending vast arms shipments to the Kiev junta, along with “Special Forces” advisers and counter-insurgency experts in anticipation of a full-scale attack against the rebels in the Donbas.

The Kiev regime has never abided by the Minsk cease fire. According to the UN Human Rights office 13 people on average – mostly civilians – have been killed each day since the September cease fire. In eight weeks, the UN reports that 957 people have killed – overwhelmingly by Kiev’s armed forces.

The Kiev regime, in turn, has cut all basic social and public services to the Peoples’ Republics’, including electricity, fuel, civil service salaries, pensions, medical supplies, salaries for teachers and medical workers, municipal workers wages; banking and transport have been blockaded.

The strategy is to further strangle the economy, destroy the infrastructure, force an even greater mass exodus of destitute refugees from the densely populated cities across the border into Russia and then to launch massive air, missile, artillery and ground assaults on urban centers as well as rebel bases.

The Kiev junta has launched an all-out military mobilization in the Western regions, accompanied by rabid anti-Russian, anti-Eastern Orthodox indoctrination campaigns designed to attract the most violent far right chauvinist thugs and to incorporate the Nazi-style military brigades into the frontline shock troops. The cynical use of irregular fascist militias will ‘free’ NATO and Germany from any responsibility for the inevitable terror and atrocities in their campaign. This system of ‘plausible deniability’ mirrors the tactics of the German Nazis whose hordes of fascist Ukrainians and Ustashi Croats were notorious in their epoch of ethnic cleansing.

G20-plus-NATO: Support of the Kiev Blitz

To isolate and weaken resistance in the Donbas and guarantee the victory of the impending Kiev blitz, the EU and the US are intensifying their economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Russia to abandon the nascent peoples’ democracy in the south-east region of Ukraine, their principle ally.

Each and every escalation of economic sanctions against Russia is designed to weaken the capacity of the Donbas resistance fighters to defend their homes, towns and cities. Each and every Russian shipment of essential medical supplies and food to the besieged population evokes a new and more hysterical outburst – because it counters Kiev-NATO strategy of starving the partisans and their mass base into submission or provoking their flight to safety across the Russian border.

After suffering a series of defeats, the Kiev regime and its NATO strategists decided to sign a ‘peace protocol’, the so-called Minsk agreement, to halt the advance of the Donbas resistance into the southern regions and to protect its Kiev’s soldiers and militias holed-up in isolated pockets in the East. The Minsk agreement was designed to allow the Kiev junta to build up its military, re-organize its command and incorporate the disparate Nazi militias into its overall military forces in preparation for a ‘final offensive’.  Kiev’s military build-up on the inside and NATO’s escalation of sanctions against Russia on the outside would be two sides of the same strategy: the success of a frontal attack on the democratic resistance of the Donbas basin depends on minimizing Russian military support through international sanctions.

NATO’s virulent hostility to Russian President Putin was on full display at the G20 meeting in Australia: NATO-linked presidents and prime ministers, especially Merkel, Obama, Cameron, Abbott, and Harper’s political threats and overt personal insults paralleled Kiev’s growing starvation blockade of the besieged rebels and population centers in the south-east. Both the G20’s economic threats against Russia and the diplomatic isolation of Putin and Kiev’s economic blockade are preludes to NATO’s Final Solution – the physical annihilation of all vestiges of Donbas resistance, popular democracy and cultural-economic ties with Russia.

Kiev depends on its NATO mentors to impose a new round of severe sanctions against Russia, especially if its planned invasion encounters a well armed and robust mass resistance bolstered by Russian support. NATO is counting on Kiev’s restored and newly supplied military capacity to effectively destroy the southeast centers of resistance.

NATO has decided on an ‘all-or-nothing campaign’: to seize all of Ukraine or, failing that, destroy the restive southeast, obliterate its population and productive capacity and engage in an all-out economic (and possibly shooting) war with Russia. Chancellor Angela Merkel is on board with this plan despite the complaints of German industrialists over their huge loss of export sales to Russia. President Hollande of France has signed on dismissing the complaints of trade unionists over the loss of thousands French jobs in the shipyards. Prime Minister David Cameron is eager for an economic war against Moscow, suggesting the bankers of the City of London find new channels to launder the illicit earnings of Russian oligarchs.

The Russian Response

Russian diplomats are desperate to find a compromise, which allows Ukraine’s ethnic Ukraine- Russian population in the southeast to retain some autonomy under a federation plan and regain influence within the ‘new’ post-putsch Ukraine. Russian military strategists have provided logistical and military aid to the resistance in order to avoid a repeat of the Odessa massacre of ethnic Russians by Ukrainian fascists on a massive scale. Above all, Russia cannot afford to have NATO-Nazi-Kiev military bases along its southern ‘underbelly’, imposing a blockade of the Crimea and forcing a mass exodus of ethnic Russians from the Donbas. Under Putin, the Russian government has tried to propose compromises allowing Western economic supremacy over Ukraine but without NATO military expansion and absorption by Kiev.

That policy of conciliation has repeatedly failed.

The democratically elected ‘compromise regime’ in Kiev was overthrown in February 2014 in a violent putsch, which installed a pro-NATO junta.

Kiev violated the Minsk agreement with impunity and encouragement from the NATO powers and Germany.

The recent G20 meeting in Australia featured a rabble-rousing chorus against President Putin. The crucial four-hour private meeting between Putin and Merkel turned into a fiasco when Germany parroted the NATO chorus.

Putin finally responded by expanding Russia’s air and ground troop preparedness along its borders while accelerating Moscow’s economic pivot to Asia.

Most important, President Putin has announced that Russia cannot stand by and allow the massacre of a whole people in the Donbas region.

Is Poroshenko’s forthcoming blitz against the people of southeast Ukraine designed to provoke a Russian response – to the humanitarian crisis? Will Russia confront the NATO-directed Kiev offensive and risk a total break with the West?

James Petras latest book is THE POLITICS OF IMPERIALISM: THE US, ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST (CLARITY PRESS:ATLANTA)

Nov 202014
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

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“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory. The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week.”

None of the photos accompanying this New York Times story online showed any of these Russian troops or armored vehicles.

“The Obama administration,” the story continued, “has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. ‘These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway’, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s ‘unwillingness to tell the truth’ that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.”

Thirty miles inside Ukraine territory and not a single satellite photo, not a camera anywhere around, not even a one-minute video to show for it. “Ms. Psaki apparently [sic] was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government.” The Timesapparently forgot to inform its readers where they could see these videos.

“The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.”

This of course hasn’t taken place. So what happened to all these Russian soldiers 30 miles inside Ukraine? What happened to all the armored vehicles, weapons, and equipment?

“The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.”

Where are these photographs? And how will we know that these are Russian soldiers? And how will we know that the photos were taken in Ukraine? But most importantly, where are the fucking photographs?

Why am I so cynical? Because the Ukrainian and US governments have been feeding us these scare stories for eight months now, without clear visual or other evidence, often without even common sense. Here are a few of the many other examples, before and after the one above:

  • The Wall Street Journal (March 28) reported: “Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another [sic] major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, US officials said.”
  • “The Ukrainian government charged that the Russian military was not only approaching but had actually crossed the border into rebel-held regions.” (Washington Post, November 7)
  • “U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove told reporters in Bulgaria that NATO had observed Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops enter Ukraine across a completely wide-open border with Russia in the previous two days.” (Washington Post, November 13)
  • “Ukraine accuses Russia of sending more soldiers and weapons to help rebels prepare for a new offensive. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied aiding the separatists.” (Reuters, November 16)

Since the February US-backed coup in Ukraine, the State Department has made one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s very unclear and wholly inconclusive, such as unmarked vehicles, or unsourced reports, or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation. The Ukrainian government has matched them.

On top of all this we should keep in mind that if Moscow decided to invade Ukraine they’d certainly provide air cover for their ground forces. There has been no mention of air cover.

This is all reminiscent of the numerous stories in the past three years of “Syrian planes bombing defenseless citizens”. Have you ever seen a photo or video of a Syrian government plane dropping bombs? Or of the bombs exploding? When the source of the story is mentioned, it’s almost invariably the rebels who are fighting against the Syrian government. Then there’s the “chemical weapon” attacks by the same evil Assad government. When a photo or video has accompanied the story I’ve never once seen grieving loved ones or media present; not one person can be seen wearing a gas mask. Is it only children killed or suffering? No rebels?

And then there’s the July 17 shootdown of Malaysia Flight MH17, over eastern Ukraine, taking 298 lives, which Washington would love to pin on Russia or the pro-Russian rebels. The US government – and therefore the US media, the EU, and NATO – want us all to believe it was the rebels and/or Russia behind it. The world is still waiting for any evidence. Or even a motivation. Anything at all. President Obama is not waiting. In a talk on November 15 in Australia, he spoke of “opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17”. Based on my reading, I’d guess that it was the Ukranian government behind the shootdown, mistaking it for Putin’s plane that reportedly was in the area.

Can it be said with certainty that all the above accusations were lies? No, but the burden of proof is on the accusers, and the world is still waiting. The accusers would like to create the impression that there are two sides to each question without actually having to supply one of them.

The United States punishing Cuba

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):

Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel
2012 188-3 US, Israel, Palau
2013 188-2 US, Israel
2014 188-2 US, Israel

This year Washington’s policy may be subject to even more criticism than usual due to the widespread recognition of Cuba’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

Speaking before the General Assembly before last year’s vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.

However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:

The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens. 1

So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest in 2011-12 2; that many of them were physically abused by the police; and that their encampments were violently destroyed.

Does Mr. Godard have access to any news media? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person.

As to “independent journalism” – What would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?

The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba has not changed since the revolution in 1959 – The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as many Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.

How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” 3

Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted its suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.

The United States judging and punishing the rest of the world

In addition to Cuba, Washington currently is imposing economic and other sanctions against Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, China, North Korea, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico, South Sudan, Sudan, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, India, and Zimbabwe. These are sanctions mainly against governments, but also against some private enterprises; there are also many other sanctions against individuals not included here. 4

Imbued with a sense of America’s moral superiority and “exceptionalism”, each year the State Department judges the world, issuing reports evaluating the behavior of all other nations, often accompanied by sanctions of one kind or another. There are different reports rating how each lesser nation has performed in the previous year in areas such as religious freedom, human rights, the war on drugs, trafficking in persons, and sponsors of terrorism. The criteria used in these reports are often political. Cuba, for example, is always listed as a sponsor of terrorism whereas anti-Castro exile groups in Florida, which have committed literally hundreds of terrorist acts over the years, are not listed as terrorist groups or supporters of such.

Cuba, which has been on the sponsor-of-terrorism list longer (since 1982) than any other country, is one of the most glaring anomalies. The most recent State Department report on this matter, in 2012, states that there is “no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.” 5 There are, however, some retirees of Spain’s Basque terrorist group ETA (which appears on the verge of disbanding) in Cuba, but the report notes that the Cuban government evidently is trying to distance itself from them by denying them services such as travel documents. Some members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been allowed into Cuba, but that was because Cuba was hosting peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government, which the report notes.

The US sanctions mechanism is so effective and formidable that it strikes fear (of huge fines) into the hearts of banks and other private-sector organizations that might otherwise consider dealing with a listed state.

Some selected thoughts on American elections and democracy

In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

  • 2012 presidential election:
    223,389,800 eligible to vote
    128,449,140 actually voted
    Obama got 65,443,674 votes
    Obama was thus supported by 29.3% of eligible voters
  • There are 100 million adults in the United States who do not vote. This is a very large base from which an independent party can draw millions of new votes.
  • If God had wanted more of us to vote in elections, he would give us better candidates.
  • “The people can have anything they want. The trouble is, they do not want anything. At least they vote that way on election day.” – Eugene Debs, American socialist leader (1855-1926)
  • “If persons over 60 are the only American age group voting at rates that begin to approximate European voting, it’s because they’re the only Americans who live in a welfare state – Medicare, Social Security, and earlier, GI loans, FHA loans.” – John Powers
  • “The American political system is essentially a contract between the Republican and Democratic parties, enforced by federal and state two-party laws, all designed to guarantee the survival of both no matter how many people despise or ignore them.” – Richard Reeves (1936- )
  • The American electoral system, once the object of much national and international pride, has slid inexorably from “one person, one vote”, to “one dollar, one vote”.
  • Noam Chomsky: “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars. Their professional concern in their regular vocation is not to provide information. Their goal, rather, is deceit.”
  • If the Electoral College is such a good system, why don’t we have it for local and state elections?
  • “All the props of a democracy remain intact – elections, legislatures, media – but they predominantly function at the service of the oligarchy.” – Richard Wolff
  • The RepDem Party holds elections as if they were auctions; indeed, an outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient. To make the auction more interesting we need a second party, which must at a minimum be granted two privileges: getting on the ballot in all 50 states and taking part in television debates.
  • The US does in fact have two parties: the Ins and the Outs … the evil of two lessers.
  • Alexander Cockburn: “There was a time once when ‘lesser of two evils’ actually meant something momentous, like the choice between starving to death on a lifeboat, or eating the first mate.”
  • Cornel West has suggested that it’s become difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic society, without great concentrations of corporate power, would look like, or how it would operate.
  • The United States now resembles a police state punctuated by elections.
  • How many voters does it take to change a light bulb? None. Because voters can’t change anything.
  • H.L. Mencken (1880-1956): “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
  • “All elections are distractions. Nothing conceals tyranny better than elections.” – Joel Hirschhorn
  • In 1941, one of the country’s more acerbic editors, a priest named Edward Dowling, commented: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”
  • “Elections are a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, condition for democracy. Political participation is not just a casting of votes. It is a way of life.” – UN Human Development Report, 1993
  • “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!” I reply, “You have it backwards. If you DO vote, you can’t complain. You asked for it, and they’re going to give it to you, good and hard.”
  • “How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.” – Gore Vidal
  • We can’t use our democracy/our vote to change the way the economy functions. This is very anti-democratic.
  • What does a majority vote mean other than that the sales campaign was successful?
  • Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”
  • We do have representative government. The question is: Who does our government represent?
  • “On the day after the 2002 election I watched a crawl on the bottom of the CNN news screen. It said, ‘Proprietary software may make inspection of electronic voting systems impossible.’ It was the final and absolute coronation of corporate rights over democracy; of money over truth.” – Mike Ruppert, RIP
  • “It’s not that voting is useless or stupid; rather, it’s the exaggeration of the power of voting that has drained the meaning from American politics.” – Michael Ventura
  • After going through the recent national, state and local elections, I am now convinced that taxation without representation would have been a much better system.
  • “Ever since the Constitution was illegally foisted on the American people we have lived in a blatant plutocracy. The Constitution was drafted in secret by a self-appointed elite committee, and it was designed to bring three kinds of power under control: Royalty, the Church, and the People. All were to be subjugated to the interests of a wealthy elite. That’s what republics were all about. And that’s how they have functioned ever since.” – Richard K. Moore
  • “As demonstrated in Russia and numerous other countries, when faced with a choice between democracy without capitalism or capitalism without democracy, Western elites unhesitatingly embrace the latter.” – Michael Parenti
  • “The fact that a supposedly sophisticated electorate had been stampeded by the cynical propaganda of the day threw serious doubt on the validity of the assumptions underlying parliamentary democracy as a whole.” – British Superspy for the Soviets Kim Philby (1912-1988), explaining his reasons for becoming a Communist instead of turning to the Labour Party
  • US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941): “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”
  • “We don’t need to run America like a business or like the military. We need to run America like a democracy.” – Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate 2012

Notes

  1. Democracy Now!, October 30, 2013
  2. Huffingfton Post, May 3, 2012
  3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885 (online here)
  4. For the complete detailed list, see U.S. Department of State, Nonproliferation Sanctions
  5. U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism,” May 20, 2013
Nov 182014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

10349961_10152653695342758_6951567233136190986_n

There has been a steep rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and attacks in Turkey over the last few years, especially during and after Israeli offensives in Palestinian lands. Most recently some racist and violent groups have taken up the excuse of the Al-Aqsa Mosque provocations and used this is a pretext to attack Turkish Jews and synagogues.

In order to protest against the rising anti-Semitism in Turkey and commemorate the horrific events of the past, the Say Stop collective held a protest meeting with dozens of participants. When activists gathered in Galatasaray Square in Taksim’s Istiklal, right next to the venue there were ten times more policemen than activists, as usual. The moment the banner was opened, interestingly enough some people came to ask questions in English, thinking anyone protesting anti-Semitism would come from abroad and not from within Turkey. It was also interesting to hear questions as to the meaning of the word “anti-Semitism,” as some of the passersby did not know what it means.

antisemitizme-durde

In fact, this happened to be a delayed protest. There was supposed to have been a protest meeting to commemorate the Kristallnacht and rising anti-Semitism in Turkey the week before. This commemoration would be taking place in the open air for the first time in Turkey, yet for several reasons it did not happen. As Say Stop, a collective of anti-racist activists, was preparing for the commemoration, attacks on Neve Shalom Synagogue came as an unwelcome surprise. On November 7 and 9, two attacks took place; the timing was also significant because it was just a week before the 11th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues on November 15th, 2003, which left 27 dead and 300 injured.

There are unfortunately many groups that take courage from the anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate speech notable people engage in with impunity. Over the summer of 2014, when the Israeli offensive in Gaza killed thousands, the head of the constitutional commission from the governing AKP, Samil Tayyar, had tweeted “may your ancestors perish, may your Hitlers be abundant,” which then led to a wave of anti-Semitic posts on social media. Imitating politicians and musicians who engaged in such rhetoric at the time, over 30,000 people made similar remarks, most of which would be considered hate speech. This hate speech was later followed by one shopkeeper putting up a sign that stated “Jew dogs cannot enter.”

“Jew dogs can not enter”

“Jew dogs can not enter”

One might also remember other instances of anti-Semitism prevailing in Turkey, such as the incident right after the mining tragedy in Soma, when current President Erdoğan had said “Jewish sperm” to a mourning relative of a miner as an accusation towards him. One other incident that was also picked up on the news was when the head of the Physics department of Bilecik University, Ali İhsan Göker, got into a quarrel with a journalist who published a story on anti-Semitism in Turkey in an Israeli newspaper. Dr. Göker referred to Treblinka, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and tweeted “Treblinka will be ready soon. Constructing the railway to transport Jews at the moment.”

fishmantweet1

Say Stop, an all-inclusive collective of activists which had slowed down its activities for some months last year, has been campaigning against racism, nationalism, and discrimination. Just when activities were to be kick-started once again with the Racist of the Month “award,” 30 thousand candidates appeared in one month, which made things a little complicated. For the month of July, Say Stop declared all anti-Semites “Racist of the Month.”

And once again, the activists of Say Stop / DurDe will be with all those that are being targeted out of hatred for their origins, religion, language, choice, preference, status, etc. Just like the other groups that Say Stop campaigns in support of – such as Armenians, Roma, refugees, immigrants, and LGBTI individuals – the Jewish population is not alone.

 

 

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Nov 152014
 

Pic Blog Promo Barcelona 2015

1st International Symposium: Global Cities and Cosmopolitan Dreams

Part of the Research Program on: Space, Time and New Technologies of the Self

International Network for Alternative Academia – Extends a general invitation to participate @ http://www.alternative-academia.net/ocs-2.3.5/index.php/BCN2015/GCCD-1-1/schedConf/cfp

Enquiries: acc@alternative-academia.net

Monday 18th to Wednesday 20thof May, 2015

Venue: Betahaus BCN

Address: (Carrer de Vilafranca 7, Gràcia, 08024)

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Call for Papers

(Submission Period Opened: 29th of October, 2014)

(Abstract Deadline: Monday 13th of April, 2015)

This trans-disciplinary research project is interested in exploring the changing ideal of the city, exploring its ideological foundations, its physical construction, its social and political significance, its aesthetic value and its metaphorical meaning.

Massive, messy, polluting, alienating, cruel, yet open, experimental, pluri-perspectival, creatively and technologically fertile, this is the ambiguous and fascinating nature of global cities in the 21st century. Like arterial nodes in a network, global cities absorb and pump both destructive and constructive energies, for good and bad they have become an interconnected web of magnetic poles, galvanizing creativity and experimental reconfigurations; artistic, political and economic forces circulate through these globalised networks that link cities across the world.

As cities experience unexpected expansion and contraction, as their populations grow ever more diverse and their resources ever more scarce, it is necessary to consider the construction – both theoretical and physical – of new global cities and to reflect upon the cosmopolitan dreams or ideologies on which they are being built.

We invite colleagues from all disciplines and professions interested in exploring and explaining these issues in a collective, deliberative and dialogical environment to send presentation proposals that address these general questions or the following themes:

1. The Ideal City: Image, Idea and Meaning

=> Historic Models, Modern Renditions

- How has the ideal city been envisioned in both historic sources and in modern imaginings? What arguments have been employed in support of these models?

- Whom and what must the ideal city include? Whom and what must it exclude?

- What are the strengths and the weaknesses of the very idea of the ideal city? Why has the desire to construct such a city persisted?

=> Utopias and Dystopias

- What images of the ideal city have been perpetuated in and through the arts?

- What characterizes the dystopic city? What is the value of dystopias and their visions?

2. Ethnic Enclaves, Multicultural Avenues

=> Negotiating Difference

- How are difference and similarity mediated or negotiated within city limits, within neighborhoods?

- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the development of enclaves (based on ethnicity, nationality, religion or other forms of social identity)? How do these enclaves embody and deviate from the ideal of diverse cultural interactions or multiculturalism?

- What identifications and identities are forged in these various environments?

=> Contestation and Conciliations

- How is difference (along lines of national origin, residence, citizenship, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, sex, body ability, age) being conceptualized? How is it being lived within city limits? How is difference being conceptualized, managed and marketed outside city limits?

- What is the rhetoric of difference being employed in civic discourse?

- What factors and means are used to foster recognition and non-recognition in and through these policies and practices?

=> Cosmopolitanism

- How is cosmopolitanism to be defined?

- What are the ideals and values embodied in the concept of cosmopolitanism? What arguments have been employed to support this vision of urban life? How are these translated into social practices and urban policies? Do these hold a special value in contrast to other orientations, practices and policies?

- Have we entered into an era where cosmopolitan subjects, social relations, images and everyday life practices are created, experienced, renovated and redefined?

3. City Limits

=> Town and Country: Redefining the City (Part I)

- How have the urbanization of the rural and the infiltration of the rural into cities shaped the way divisions are drawn between town and country?

- How has the “greening” of cities affected understandings of this divide?

=> Cities and Nations: Redefining the City (Part II)

- How are the discourses indicative of regional disparities transformed into the ideals of a nation?

- Are we witnessing the once and future rise of the city-state?

=> Sacred Spaces

- How are sacred spaces conceptualized in cosmopolitan cities?

- How is the idea of the sacred being reconceived within its limits?

4. Neighbors, Residents, Denizens and Citizens

=> Neighbors

- How are neighbors defined? How are they identified? What distinguishes neighbors from denizens and citizens? What distinguishes neighbors from residents and strangers?

- How have social and political practices and policies shaped the discourse of neighbors?

- What are the obligations and responsibilities of neighbors to newcomers and strangers; and vice-versa?

=> Neighborhood Watch

- What are the processes of gentrification and displacement informing and how are they shaping the renovation of old neighborhoods?

- How are processes of renewal, revival and reconstruction shaping the conditions for belonging within cities and within neighborhoods?

=> Hospitality

- How is hospitality within the bounds of cities theorized? How is it practiced? How should hospitality be conceived and promoted: as a civic virtue, a valued social orientation, a normal social behavior towards newcomers, others and strangers?

=> Rights of Residents, Denizens and Citizens

- How is citizenship established within cities?

- What are the rights of citizens, denizens and residents? Should these be conceived and established in different ways, according to context, local needs and projects, responsibilities and contributions?

- How does citizenship differ from resident rights? How does the local place and cities establish different and perhaps new political bonds than the state and the nation?

- How are new technologies and transnationalism affecting and influencing ideals of citizenship and practices of (local or national) participation?

5. Street Life

=> Public and Private Spaces

- How are cities re-conceptualizing the distinction between public and private space?

- How are civic institution (administrative, policy making, education, health) being challenged and changed by new models of street life, local politics and cosmopolitan orientations?

- How does the concentration of population give rise to and/or confound the development and maintenance of the public eye?

- How is the value of privacy to be weighed against the call for public safety and the advancement of public goods in surveillance societies?

=> Anonymity

- Do cities encourage certain forms of participation and foster others of anonymity? Are these in conflict, can they coexist or be complementary?

- Who is rendered invisible within the structure of the city? How is social privilege and disadvantage linked to invisibility?

- Is the anonymity offered by and within the city one of the strengths or one of the weaknesses of urban dwelling; urban social and political bonds?

=> Time and Place

- In what ways are our notions of space and place being redefined within the city? What modes of experience, dialogues and encounters are thus encouraged? What forms of city life are discouraged?

- How are understandings of time being redefined/reconfigured in/through new models of city life?

=> The Art in/of The City

- How is the rise of street art challenging ideas of the city? How is it changing and reshaping the notion of art and the Art World?

- How does architecture shape and frame images of city life and ideals of citizenship? Can it foster cosmopolitan ideas and social orientations?

- How might the city be conceived of as a work of art? How can we define cities as works of art and how would these notions change our current understandings of art and the Art World?

6. Model Cities

=> Case Studies

- What cities serve as models of/for physical, social and political relations? What assumptions (psychological, philosophical and sociological) inform and direct the construction of these model cities?

- Are model cities better candidates to promote cosmopolitan ideals and experiences than other cities? Is cosmopolitanism in conflict with prescriptive understandings of moral behavior? How do conceptions of the good life work with cosmopolitan ideas?

=> Resource Management

- How can distributive justice be a permanent part of social life and the urban agenda in today’s global cities?

- What principles of distributive justice are being employed in the allocation of scarce resources including water, transportation, safety and security? What principles should be employed?

- Is there a place and a space for the sacred in the modern city? Why or why not?

=> Fast Forward

- What images and models of the city of the future are being envisioned by artists, planners and politicians?

- Which beliefs/ideologies frame these images? What is the place of utopia and dystopia in these futuristic scenarios? What about cosmopolitanism, can it be part of futuristic horizons?

- What dissatisfactions and longings fuel these imaginings?

=> Cosmopolitan Dreams

- Cities, like people emanate their desires. What hopes and aspirations fuel people to move to certain cities?

- What factors create an allure and foster migration to particular cities? How might it be linked to the metaphorical meaning attached to certain cities?

- How are conflicting images and expectations of the city negotiated within its bounds? How do critical perspectives, utopia and dystopia interlace with cosmopolitan visions?

The Arrival City

=> Transition Points

- What is the role of the arrival territories of impoverished migrants (city within a city: slum, favela, bustee, bidonville, shantytown, imijondolo, villa miseria, korogocho, chabolas) or the more established, yet transitory, immigrant neighborhoods, ethnic districts in the growth and development of global cities? What are their political, economic and social functions?

- What transitions do these cities on the edge of cities deploy and allow? What transitions do they thwart and how might they contribute to marginality and exclusion?

- How are transitory places and experiences eternalized, yet remain under conceptions of the temporary, “forever”?

=> Migration Patterns

- What are the political, social and economic ramifications of reverse migration trends on cities and rural communities?

- Why are people leaving and not migrating to global cities anymore? How are other smaller cities being affected by these trends?

City-Scapes: Urban Renewal and Future

=> Revival, Regeneration and Displacement

- How is city life being affected by urban renewal projects?

- What are the short term and long term effects on the development of identity and of a sense of belonging arising from the push towards revival and reconstruction?

=> Home Territories

- How is the concept of home being re-conceptualized in global cities?

- How is the process and understanding of leaving home and returning home being reshaped? What is the effect of such shifts on our experiences of belonging and rootedness?

- What new conceptions of belonging and its link to territory and home can be developed to better accommodate diversity and otherness within the parameters of the global city?

If you are interested in participating in this Annual Symposium, submit a 400 to 500 word abstract as soon as possible and no later than Monday 13th of April, 2015. (For justifiable cases, we do uphold a tolerance period of eight days.)

Please use the following template for your submission:

First: Author(s);

Second: Affiliation, if any;

Third: Email Address;

Fourth: Title of Abstract and Proposal;

Fifth: The 400 to 500 Word Abstract.

To submit an abstract online follow these steps:

1) Go to our webpage: www.alternative-academia.net

2) Select your Symposium of choice within the list of annual events (listed by period and city)

3) Go to LOG IN at the top of the page

4) Create a User Name and Password for our system and log in

5) Click on the Call for Papers for the Symposium

6) Go to the end of the Call for Papers page and click on the First Step of Submission Process button

7) Follow the instructions provided for completing the abstract submission process

For every abstract proposal submitted, we acknowledge receipt. If you do not receive a reply from us within three days, you should assume the submission process was not completed successfully. Please try again or contact our technical support for clarifications.

All presentation and paper proposals that address these questions and issues will be fully considered and evaluated. Evaluation of abstract submissions will be ongoing, from the opening date of Wednesday 29th of October, 2014. All Prospective Delegates can expect a reply time to their submission of three weeks.

Accepted abstracts will require a full draft paper by Monday 4th of May, 2015. Papers are for a 20 minute presentation, 8 to 10 pages long, double spaced, Times New Roman 12. All papers presented at the symposium are eligible for publication as part of a digital or paperback book.

We invite colleagues and people interested in participating to disseminate this call for papers. Thank you for sharing and cross-listing where and whenever appropriate.

Hope to meet you in Barcelona!

Symposium Coordinators:

Wendy O’Brien

Professor of Social and Political Theory

School of Liberal Studies

Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Email: Wendy.Obrien@humber.ca

Antonio Cuadrado-Fernandez

Independent Researcher

Ecopoetry Instructor

Norwich, England

Email: acfernandez36@gmail.com

Alejandro Cervantes-Carson

General Coordinator

International Network for Alternative Academia

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Email: acc@alternative-academia.net

 

*****

Informational Note:

Alternative Academia is an international network of intellectuals, academics, independent scholars and practitioners committed to creating spaces, both within and beyond traditional academe, for creative, trans-disciplinary and critical thinking. The Network serves to facilitate experimental and collaborative encounters that blur the boundaries and broaden the limits of how issues, themes and ideas can be articulated and reconfigured. Dialogue, discussion and deliberation define both the methods employed and the ethics upheld by this network.

Our annual symposia are forums that foster the development of new frames of reference and innovative structures for the production and expansion of knowledge. These meetings are small in scale, intensely interactive and based on a dialogical model of academic engagement throughout the entire period of each symposium. All delegates are presenters and constitute a critical and engaged audience for all delegate presentations.

INAA is an independent, autonomous and not for profit organization, based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Registration Number: ESG65895088.

Visit our website at: www.alternative-academia.net

Nov 152014
 

Pic Blog Promo Barcelona 2015

1st International Symposium: Re-Founding Democracy

Part of the Research Program on: Protest, Justice and Deliberative Power

International Network for Alternative Academia – Extends a general invitation to participate @ http://www.alternative-academia.net/ocs-2.3.5/index.php/BCN2015/RFD-1-1/schedConf/cfp

Enquiries: acc@alternative-academia.net

Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd of May, 2015

Venue: Betahaus BCN

Address: (Carrer de Vilafranca 7, Gràcia, 08024)

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Call for Papers

(Submission Period Opened: 29th of October, 2014)

(Abstract Deadline: Thursday 16th of April, 2015)

This trans-disciplinary research project aims to study the distinct and multiple forces that are currently reshaping political systems and challenging the fundamental structures of democratic life and political democracy, all over the world.

The global political environment of the early 21st century has been marked by two distinct yet interlaced phenomena. On the one hand, we are witnessing world-wide revolutions, of Arab Springs, Outraged (Indignados), Occupy Movements, incessant International Solidarity and Awareness Campaigns; interconnected activism, interlaced protest and political contestation of all sorts. On the other, there is a growing perception and emerging generalized sense that exclusive elites of very powerful and wealthy people govern the destiny of a disenfranchised and impoverished majority.

Worldwide, there are constant and systematic calls for the expansion and the re-invigoration of democracy; a global outcry for more, different and real democracy comes at a time when the institutions that are supposed to represent the will of the people are disconnected from and out of touch with the world and life experienced by citizens on a day to day basis. The very idea of democracy seems to be in crisis; these new times create new challenges to the structures of politics, bring new questions to the forms of representation and demand new, distinct and creative solutions for the possibility of legitimate governance.

For many, this is an exciting period of change and formation, of new and vibrant forms of political subjectivities and participation. For others, it is a time to defend old conceptions of authority and politics, whether democratic or not. Yet for others, this very same period is lived with fear and under conditions of intimidation, repression and lack of opportunities. Political change is sweeping the world over, but the direction, effects and consequences vary dramatically from context to context and from peoples to peoples.

We invite colleagues and activists from all disciplines and professions interested in exploring and seeking explanations to these issues in a collective, deliberative and dialogical environment to send presentation proposals which address these general questions or the following themes:

1. Democracy, Ethics and Globalization 

=>Are we witnessing the globalizing of democracy, the democratizing of globalization or neither? What would these trends mean and what would be their significant differences?

=>What role does ethics have to play in assessing processes of globalization at local and international levels? What role should it play?

=>How can democratic processes of representation, deliberation and participation be re-energized? How can they be taken seriously, made legitimate again, redirected and recalibrated?

=>How can democracies deal and manage with the growing phenomenon of “sans-papiers”, the “transient” and “the no-ones?” How are global migratory flows forcing us to re-conceive of democracy and the politics of belonging?

=>How can human need and environmental values be balanced in 21st century democracies? What are the ethical challenges of sustainability?

=>How do we define democracy in an interconnected world where competing representations of the good life inevitably collide? Should we redefine democracy under different global and ethical premises?

2. Empathy and Emancipatory Subjectivities

=>What new means and measures are open for selves to find others in the global Agora? How are intercultural encounters with self and other framing conflicts? How are they re-envisioning ideals and images of justice?

=>What are both destructive and creative tensions participating in the social constructions of collective identities?

=>How do we expand democratic horizons and political inclusiveness? How can we fight against stereotypes, forms of modern slavery, marginalization of migrants and foreigners? How can we participate in making the disenfranchised political agents of change, active participants of decisions and sources of cultural richness?

=>How are new social media and social networks re-framing our sense of belonging to political community and movements? How are technology and inter-subjectivity fuelling the articulation of new networks of resistance and change?

3. Economy, Distribution of Wealth and Democracy

=>What alternative spaces, procedures and forms for democracy are we witnessing? How are new social movements and global protest forcing us to consider a bottom-up re-articulation of globalization and to rethink north-south global relations?

=>How are economies of war and new forms of economic and political destabilization giving rise to new forms of oppression and exclusion in the global context?

=>What are the new cartographies of political marginalization and repression, of poverty and anxiety, of migration and economic misery in the 21st century?

=>The hyper-concentration of wealth and the generalized impoverishment of majorities have divided territories, nations and the world in a wealthy 1% versus a 99% of struggling people: What new trans-cultural movements and networks are searching for alternative models and creating the conditions for new economic growth and equal development?

4. Borders, Nations and Supranational Institutions  

=>With the recent collapse of global financial institutions and the erosion of national sovereignty, how is the nation being reconceived? Is it being transformed to encompass new forms civic resistance or is it being built as a fortress of reactionary politics?

=>How are supranational political organizations (United Nations, European Union and the like) responding to new political challenges and the need to renew and reinvigorate democracy?

=>With increasing flows of people crossing borders, with new levels of migration and both up and non rootedness framing lived experience, what policies of inclusive and exclusive citizenship are being enacted? How is this changing the very idea of political participation and belonging, citizenship and nation?

=>The politics of environmental risk and the realities of the global financial crisis are making evident our need to rethink our understanding of negotiation and responsibility in a world scenario. More specifically, they demand recognizing how interlaced territories, regions and the life of people are, and require rethinking the nature of borders and frontiers. What new models of sovereignty can be offered to address these global phenomena?

=>Are we entering the era of Democracy 2.0? How is participatory democracy being re-envisioned? What is the role of social networks in the articulation of regional and cosmopolitan citizenship?

=>What does it mean today to belong to a multicultural nation? Who defines where a nation begins and where it ends? How can we come to terms and accept multiple belongings, multiple citizenships?

5. Art, Creativity and Democracy

=>How might art be considered a democratic strategy? How might it be employed to develop both local narratives and global concerns for empowerment and social change?

=>Is art politics by other means? Should it be considered and evaluated as such?

=>New technologies, cyberspace and the transformation of culture: Is the commodification of space by the cultural industry being contested? How and to what effect?

=>What artistic representations of placelessness, dislocation and trauma in the new geographies of exclusion are being developed?

=>How is art, globally and locally, representing the new emerging political subject; the need and demands for political democratic renovation?

=>How might art be employed to engage the public in environmental dialogue? What is the relationship between art, activism and civic life?

=>Art offers a means for advancing democratic ideals, but how can more democratic conceptions of art be developed?

If you are interested in participating in this Annual Symposium, submit a 400 to 500 word abstract as soon as possible and no later than Thursday 16th of April, 2015. (For justifiable cases, we do uphold a tolerance period of eight days.)

Please use the following template for your submission:

First: Author(s);

Second: Affiliation, if any;

Third: Email Address;

Fourth: Title of Abstract and Proposal;

Fifth: The 400 to 500 Word Abstract.

To submit an abstract online follow these steps:

1) Go to our webpage: www.alternative-academia.net

2) Select your Symposium of choice within the list of annual events (listed by period and city)

3) Go to LOG IN at the top of the page

4) Create a User Name and Password for our system and log in

5) Click on the Call for Papers for the Symposium

6) Go to the end of the Call for Papers page and click on the First Step of Submission Process button

7) Follow the instructions provided for completing the abstract submission process

For every abstract proposal submitted, we acknowledge receipt. If you do not receive a reply from us within three days, you should assume the submission process was not completed successfully. Please try again or contact our technical support for clarifications.

All presentation and paper proposals that address these questions and issues will be fully considered and evaluated. Evaluation of abstract submissions will be ongoing, from the opening date of Wednesday 29th of October, 2014. All Prospective Delegates can expect a reply time to their submission of three weeks.

Accepted abstracts will require a full draft paper by Thursday 7th of May, 2015. Papers are for a 20 minute presentation, 8 to 10 pages long, double spaced, Times New Roman 12. All papers presented at the symposium are eligible for publication as part of a digital or paperback book.

We invite colleagues and people interested in participating to disseminate this call for papers. Thank you for sharing and cross-listing where and whenever appropriate.

Hope to meet you in Barcelona!

Symposium Coordinators:

Antonio Cuadrado-Fernandez

Independent Researcher

Ecopoetry Instructor

Norwich, England

Email: acfernandez36@gmail.com

Marina Kaneti

PhD Candidate, Politics

New School for Social Research

New York, New York

Email: kanem368@newschool.edu

Alejandro Cervantes-Carson

General Coordinator

International Network for Alternative Academia

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Email: acc@alternative-academia.net 

 

*****

Informational Note:

Alternative Academia is an international network of intellectuals, academics, independent scholars and practitioners committed to creating spaces, both within and beyond traditional academe, for creative, trans-disciplinary and critical thinking. The Network serves to facilitate experimental and collaborative encounters that blur the boundaries and broaden the limits of how issues, themes and ideas can be articulated and reconfigured. Dialogue, discussion and deliberation define both the methods employed and the ethics upheld by this network.

Our annual symposia are forums that foster the development of new frames of reference and innovative structures for the production and expansion of knowledge. These meetings are small in scale, intensely interactive and based on a dialogical model of academic engagement throughout the entire period of each symposium. All delegates are presenters and constitute a critical and engaged audience for all delegate presentations.

INAA is an independent, autonomous and not for profit organization, based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Registration Number: ESG65895088.

Visit our website at: www.alternative-academia.net

Nov 142014
 

Pic Blog Promo Barcelona 2015

2nd International Symposium: Creating Characters, Inventing Lives: The Art of the Self

Part of the Research Program on: Aesthetic Lives, Artistic Selves

International Network for Alternative Academia – Extends a general invitation to participate @ http://www.alternative-academia.net/ocs-2.3.5/index.php/BCN2015/CCIL-2/schedConf/cfp

Enquiries: acc@alternative-academia.net

Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th of May, 2015

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Venue: Betahaus BCN

Address: (Carrer de Vilafranca 7, Gràcia, 08024)

Call for Papers

(Submission Period Opened: 29th of October, 2014)

(Abstract Deadline: Thursday 9th of April, 2015)

This trans-disciplinary research project is interested in exploring the narrative construction of experience and self, the lessons we can derive from the creative process and identifying how productive it is beyond the boundaries of the work and creation itself.

Regardless of our awareness, our understanding of our selves, we have always been the product of creation – the result of the playful and subversive blurring of the boundaries between fiction and life, between self and other, between fantasy and reality. Who we are – how we tell the story of our lives – has always traversed the divides between artistic invention, personal reflection and historic fact; being as much the product of the creative process as the characters depicted by artists in their works. Yet, we have been resistant to this notion holding fast to the idea that the bonds between us are intransigent, that the self is impermeable to transformation, clinging to the idea of authenticity. New models of the self are necessitated — models that emphasize the creative and transformative process by which the self is created. This project locates this search at the intersection of artistic invention and theoretical reflection. What can we learn from the creation of characters about our sense of the real, the construction of self and our bonds with others? In what ways do these processes overlap? How do they diverge?

We invite colleagues from all disciplines and professions interested in exploring and explaining these issues in a collective, deliberative and dialogical environment to send presentation proposals that address these general questions or the following themes:

1. Boundary Playfulness (or Playing with Boundaries): Fiction and The Real

- Why do we create: to become, to be, to reveal, to conceive of our lives differently, to compensate what we do not have but want dearly, to conceal our flaws, to work through our weaknesses, to rediscover and, perhaps even, reinvent our selves and the bonds we have with others, to live a life we do not have and will never have?

- How do boundaries of life, context, intimacy and identity change in the act of creating and the emergence of a creation?

- Should we care about boundary modifications and movements between fiction and the real? Does it matter if one dimension seeps into the other?

- Where do the boundaries between fiction and reality stand? Do these still hold and how can one conceive, today, of these boundaries?

- How are notions of the real affected by the creation of characters, by the creation of other realities or the mimicry of the real, by the multiplication of what becomes fiction and reality?

- What is left of the identity of the creator after the process of creation? Is there a transference of both meaning and the site of recognition from the person to the creative work? How is identity modified and transformed?

- Is fiction (sometimes) more real than what we call reality? How does that happen and what can we learn from those unique experiences?

2. Life and Biography: Always Present

- Do I create because in the act of creating I would love or hope to become? Is it the fear of nothingness that moves me to create?

- Can we create without letting self and biography seep in or bluntly take over? Is this really a problem?

- How does the act of creating characters become an act of reflecting self and biography? Can this be different?

- Does the self become exposed, explored, consolidated and enhanced in and with the act of creating?

- Is creating therapeutically legitimate or a hoax for psychological therapy?

- What is autobiography? What is autobiographical creation? Is it the transference of identity from body to creation or the act of creating a new self? How does an author and artist relate to his/her autobiography or autobiographical work?

- How does the creative work itself constitute an experience of estrangement from the author and artist? Does the work become a haven offering protection from the world? Does it estrange the creator once it becomes independent, dislocated from the author or artist?

3. Authorship, Authenticity and Authority

- Don’t we all borrow from each other, from the long and deep traditions, from the canonical, from the new and yet to be acknowledged?

- Should we abandon tropes of the authentic and authenticity? Should we redefine what we mean today by authenticity? What meaning might it carry currently for the process of creation and in the creative work?

- How do power relations play into the notion of the authentic and authorship?

- Do creators and artists really know what effect their work will have? Should we call this pursuit off?

- Why do we still believe that the author, creator, artist has to have the last word on the meaning of their work, of their creation? Is there any legitimacy in this idea or claim?

- Is not meaning born by way and through the dialogue that happens with an audience, reader, listener, observer, interpreter, consumer of the creative piece and work?

- Can we live with a world of meaning unhinged from the author’s intention and actions?

- How is the new media altering, in significant ways, the creative process? How is it redefining the meaning of “creator”? How are the boundaries between the creator and the created being redefined?

- What effects does new media have over the creative bond between writer and reader, playwright and audience, painter and gallery visitor, filmmaker and cinema or video audience, music composer and listener, creator and consumer?

- How has electronic media transformed notions of the authentic and unique?

4. Success and Failure: A History of Recognition?

- In the world of historic value, why is death the best event for recognition? How can we reverse the set of principles that go into recognizing the greatness of authors and creators once they cannot speak, they cannot talk back?

- Is there any virtue in changing or reversing that logic: recognition in life?

- How are links made between recognition and success?

- What are the measures of success and how do these relate to recognition? Are these measures good for the recognition of creators and creative work; for fostering creators?

- How does the artist, the author, the creator understand perfection? What are the perversions of ideas and myths linked to perfection?

- Is there a perfect creation? Is there perfection in the creative process?

- What is the place of failure and the fear of failure in today’s creative process?

- What is an author prepared to do in order to achieve success? Would these be the same in order to obtain recognition?

- How much does recognition and success impact the creative process? Has this changed over time and through history?

- Is it possible to argue that both recognition and success are and have always been substantive parts and endless motivators for the creative process? What about failure and the fear of failure?

5.  Myths of Creation

- How has inspiration survived the pass of time and history? How much do we still believe or hold on to notions of inspiration? What are the current ideas that circulate and inhabit creators’ minds and lives?

-Is there a place for inspiration today? What kind of definition would it have? What kind of re-tooling would it require in order to have acceptance and legitimacy?

- Does inspiration require legitimation?

- What or who is a muse or a nymph? Where do they live and what territories to they inhabit? Why do they decide to hide from the naked eye?

- What is the current place of old and new mythologies in the creative process?

- How do “Narcissus” and “Pygmalion” make their presence known in creations and creative processes?

- What about other mythological figures that have found current embodiments?

- How do authors, creators and artists contribute to the reproduction of mythologies?

- Are mythologies eternal and substantial to creation itself and to the system of belief that foster creative, critical and artistic work?

If you are interested in participating in this Annual Symposium, submit a 400 to 500 word abstract as soon as possible and no later than Thursday 9th of April, 2015. (For justifiable cases, we do uphold a tolerance period of eight days.)

Please use the following template for your submission:

First: Author(s);

Second: Affiliation, if any;

Third: Email Address;

Fourth: Title of Abstract and Proposal;

Fifth: The 400 to 500 Word Abstract.

To submit an abstract online follow these steps:

1) Go to our webpage: www.alternative-academia.net

2) Select your Symposium of choice within the list of annual events (listed by period and city)

3) Go to LOG IN at the top of the page

4) Create a User Name and Password for our system and log in

5) Click on the Call for Papers for the Symposium

6) Go to the end of the Call for Papers page and click on the First Step of Submission Process button

7) Follow the instructions provided for completing the abstract submission process

For every abstract proposal submitted, we acknowledge receipt. If you do not receive a reply from us within three days, you should assume the submission process was not completed successfully. Please try again or contact our technical support for clarifications.

All presentation and paper proposals that address these questions and issues will be fully considered and evaluated. Evaluation of abstract submissions will be ongoing from the opening date of Wednesday 29th of October, 2014. All Prospective Delegates can expect a reply time to their submission of three weeks.

Accepted abstracts will require a full draft paper by Thursday 30th of April, 2015. Papers are for a 20 minute presentation, 8 to 10 pages long, double spaced, Times New Roman 12. All papers presented at the symposium are eligible for publication as part of a digital or paperback book.

We invite colleagues and people interested in participating to disseminate this call for papers. Thank you for sharing and cross-listing where and whenever appropriate.

Hope to meet you in Barcelona!

Symposium Coordinators:

Wendy O’Brien

Professor of Social and Political Theory

School of Liberal Studies

Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Email: Wendy.OBrien@humber.ca

Oana Strugaru

Faculty of Letters and Communication Sciences

Stefan cel Mare University

Suceava, Romania

Email: strugaru_oana@yahoo.com

Alejandro Cervantes-Carson

General Coordinator

International Network for Alternative Academia

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Email: acc@alternative-academia.net 

 

*****

Informational Note:

Alternative Academia is an international network of intellectuals, academics, independent scholars and practitioners committed to creating spaces, both within and beyond traditional academe, for creative, trans-disciplinary and critical thinking. The Network serves to facilitate experimental and collaborative encounters that blur the boundaries and broaden the limits of how issues, themes and ideas can be articulated and reconfigured. Dialogue, discussion and deliberation define both the methods employed and the ethics upheld by this network.

Our annual symposia are forums that foster the development of new frames of reference and innovative structures for the production and expansion of knowledge. These meetings are small in scale, intensely interactive and based on a dialogical model of academic engagement throughout the entire period of each symposium. All delegates are presenters and constitute a critical and engaged audience for all delegate presentations.

INAA is an independent, autonomous and not for profit organization, based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Registration Number: ESG65895088.

Visit our website at: www.alternative-academia.net

Nov 142014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

con-man-obama-e1313244448535

Introduction

The meteoric rise to power of Barack Obama in 2008 was propelled by one of the greatest demagogic US Presidential campaigns of all time: To millions of young Americans, he promised to end the US wars in the Middle East. To millions of working and middle class voters, he promised to end the economic crisis by confronting Wall Street. To women, he promised to protect and expand their social rights and end the gender gap in wages and salaries. To human rights and civil liberties activists, he promised to end police state surveillance and torture, and to close the Guantanamo concentration camp, which had denied political prisoners a fair and open trial. To blacks, he promised higher living standards and greater racial equality in income. To Latino-Americans, he promised immigration reform facilitating a path to citizenship for long-term residents. Overseas he spoke in Cairo of a “new chapter” in US policy toward the Muslim world. To Russia, he promised President Putin he would ‘reset relations’ – toward greater co-operation.

Obama’s rhetorical flourishes attracted millions of young activists, women and minority voters  and leaders to work for his election and the Democratic Party. He won a resounding victory! And the Democrats took control of the House and Senate.

Obama Embraces the Rightwing Agenda

The rhetorical exercise was a massive smoke screen. For his electoral campaign Obama raised over one billion dollars from the ‘1%’ – Wall Street bankers, Hollywood media moguls, Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Chicago Zionists and the Mid-Western business elite. Obama was clearly playing a double game – talking to “the people” and working for ‘the bosses’.

A few analysts cut through the demagogy and identified Obama as the ‘Greatest Con-Man of recent times”, the Washington counterpart of the great contemporary Wall Street swindler Bernard ‘Bernie’ Madoff.

According to the somewhat more skeptical liberals and progressives, Obama would have to ‘choose’ between those who elected him and those who groomed and bankrolled him.

Obama quickly and decisively resolved the progressives’ ‘dilemma’. He re-appointed the two central officials who designed disgraced President Bush Jr’s war policy and Wall Street bailout: Robert Gates was confirmed as Secretary of Defense and Timothy Geithner was renewed as Treasury Secretary. Obama followed by teaming up with the head of the Federal Reserve, Benjamin Shalom Bernacke and Treasury Secretary Geithner to launch a multi-year trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street, while hundreds of thousands of Obama voters had their mortgages foreclosed and millions of workers, who voted Democratic were fired and remained unemployed, because Washington prioritized Wall Street recovery of profitability over funding job-creating public works.

In response, millions of indignant citizens repudiated the Washington bailout and Congress temporarily shelved approval. However, the White House and the Democratic majority in both Houses, reversed course and approved the biggest State –to- Bankers handout in US – or for that matter, world – history.

If the Obama’s ‘First Wave of Reaction’ appointed powerful Wall Street clones and Pentagon war hawks to his cabinet and the ‘Second Wave of Reaction’ led to sacrificing workers’ incomes, employment and living standards, so that Wall Street could return to profitability, and the ‘Third Wave of Reaction’ was the escalation of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has dispatched tens of thousands of US combat troops to ‘end the war by expanding the war’!

The Democratic Electorate Strikes Back: 2010

By the end of 2010, sufficient masses of Obama and Democratic voters were disenchanted to the point of notvoting in the Congressional elections: The Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives.

The most lucid and clearheaded progressives understood that nothing more was to be gained by waiting patiently ‘at the gate, like benighted pilgrims’ for their president Obama’s gaze to ‘turn left’ or for the Democrats to reverse course in Congress. Hundreds of thousands of citizens shook off the trickster’s spell and took to the streets blocking financial districts. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ – direct action in the streets, citizens clearly targeted the principle source of the economic crisis and the real power behind the demagogic rhetoric of the White House confidence man.

Federal, state and local police broke up, arrested and incarcerated the peaceful activists. The Occupy Wall Street movement, under massive and coordinated police-state siege, and without political direction, dispersed and disintegrated.

The ‘Fourth Wave of reaction’ was illuminated by the Snowden revelations of National Security Agency (NSA) intrusive spying into the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans as well as allied leaders in four continents – and unimaginable numbers of citizens in countries around the world. The White House gave unconditional backing to the entire, gargantuan police state apparatus and its unconstitutional intervention into everyday life of individuals and their families. Hundreds of thousands of civil libertarians, human rights activists and attorneys and millions of liberal democrats were shocked by Obama’s blatant refusal to rein-in or even acknowledge the enormous scope of illegal domestic spying.

The ‘Fifth Wave of Reaction’ was the cumulative impact of five years of nurturing Wall Street profits and ignoring working and middle class income and declining living standards. Thanks to virtually free federal ‘bailout’ money, Wall Street borrowed and invested overseas  -reaping returns triple the miniscule interest rates in the US. They speculated on the stock market. The ‘D-J boom’ continued for five years while real incomes of most Americans continued to decline. Young Democratic voters, who had believed the con-man, remained mired at entry level jobs barely paying room and board. The ‘Audacity of Hope’ became the ‘Humiliation of Return’ into their parents’ homes for millions of young workers unable to support themselves…

Disenchantment Deepens

            Millions of Latino citizens, who were conned into believing that Obama would provide a ‘road-map to citizenship’ for twelve million fellow immigrants, discovered that the real Obama  policy toward immigrants was a ‘road map to violent arrest, incarceration and deportation’: A record two million immigrants were expelled in five years, exceeding the totals of all previous Presidents, even the most rabid rightwing Republicans.

Probably the most egregious and cynical con-job of all was the mega-con Obama perpetrated on Afro-Americans. More than any other group in the US, Afro-Americans have supported Barack Obama:  Ninety-five percent voted for the ‘First Afro-American President’.

Under President Obama, Afro-Americans have lost more personal wealth than under any president since the Great Depression. Many key indicators show that the economic conditions of Afro-Americans have worsened dramatically under Obama.

According to the US Federal Reserve’s survey of consumer finances, between 2009-2014, non-white household incomes have declined by nearly a tenth to $33,000 a year. Median incomes fell by five percent.  Data on net wealth – assets minus liabilities – tells an even more brutal story. The median non-white family today has a net worth of just $18,100 – almost a fifth lower than it was when Obama took office. In contrast, white median wealth increased by one percent to $142,000. In 2009 white households were seven times richer than blacks; that gap is now eightfold. Both in relative and absolute terms, black Americans are doing much worse under President Obama. His ‘Wall Street First’agenda (bailing out the banksters and mortgage swindlers) has relegated Afro-Americans to last place. Racial inequalities have deepened because Obama, who may have ‘shot some hoops’ on an urban ghetto playground and dressed up as a  ‘black role model’, in fact, oversaw an increasingly segregated and deteriorating school system. In Washington, he marginalized African-American concerns about double digit rates of unemployment in Detroit and other urban centers, while offering pompous, stern ‘moral’ lectures to unemployed blacks about their ‘family responsibilities’.

Obama’s demagogy and deceptive populist posturing  bamboozled most progressive voters for a period of time, but after five waves of reaction, many of the activists ‘wised up’ – first in the streets and then in the elections – by refusing to vote for Democrats running in the Congressional elections of 2014.

The Democratic Debacle of 2014

The major reason for the Democrat’s debacle in the ‘mid-term elections’ was the high rate of abstention and lack of activists getting out the vote.In many states, where the Democrats lost, the overall rate of abstention among eligible voters approached seventy percent. And there is reason to believe that the vast majority of non-voters (aka – the ‘none of the above’ voters) were Democrats, people disenchanted or hostile to Obama’s betrayals and, in particular, voters who believed that he had deceived or ‘conned them’.

Young people’s participation in this election, a major factor in mobilizing voters for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and doubly deceived, were notable by their absence: Young voters’ share of the electorate declined from 19% in 2012 to 13% in 2014. Parallel declines were documented in Latino-American and Afro-American turn-outs.

For those who voted, nearly half (45%) said that the ‘economy was the key consideration’ and by economy they didn’t mean Wall Street’s booming profits, or record high Dow Jones Stock quotes, which White House Democrats had hailed as their ‘economic success’. For the American middle and working class voters ‘ the economy’ that drove some to vote on November 4, 2014, was measured in the deterioration of affordable health insurance coverage and pension plans, the decline of living standards and the growth of ‘dead-end’ low-paid, contingent employment that rendered the lives and future increasingly unstable.

Most former Obama voters did not defect to the Republicans: They realized that both Democrats and Republicans were responsible for the domestic economy-busting decade-long wars and Wall Street hand-outs. They didnot vote: Most abstained!  Some former Democrats and Independents, and not a few Republicans, turned their anti-Obama animus into a rabid racist rant against the black President and extended their anger toward people of color in generalObama’s con game has aroused deep racist undercurrents in US politics.

If his image as the first African-American President inspired a moment of hope and promise for greater racial equality in this country, his reactionary economic policies in practice allowed rightwing politicians to divert white worker and middle class economic discontent away from the criminals and swindlers on Wall Street to racist hostility toward the beleaguered black communities.

Post-Elections:  The Con-Man is Cornered

The new Republican Congressional majorities will continue to implement the fundamental economic and foreign policies of the Obama regime. Wall Street profits will continue to grow, income disparities between capital and labor will continue to sharpen and the highly militarized foreign policy of the last six years will become more overtly bi-partisan. The Democratic President will join with the Republican Congress in pursuing military confrontations in the Ukraine and in sending more US troops to Syria and Iraq.  Under pressure from Israel and its powerful US supporters, increased sanctions against Iran will scuttle US negotiations with Tehran. Obama’s blockade of Cuba will continue, as will bi-partisan hostility to center-left governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina. The grotesque narco-state terror and mass murder in Mexico and Central America will continue to fuel the massive refugee pressure on the US border and expose the hypocrisy of Washington’s humanitarian military missions in the Middle East.

The Republicans rode to power by exploiting discontent with Obama’s ‘Five Waves’ of reactionary policies; they will now co-operate with him in launching a ‘6th Wave’. The Republican Congressional majority will embraceObama’s proposal to ‘fast-track’ free trade treaties covering Asia and Europe, currently blocked by House Democrats and opposed by US trade unions.

The Republicans will join with Obama in backing corporate tax ‘reform’, which substantially reduces the tax on US multinational corporations’ overseas earnings in order to end the hoarding of profits in low tax countries – while intensifying austerity on American workers and the poor.

In other words, Obama will now openly coordinate with his Republican counterparts on an agenda they have shared from the first day he took office. This time Barack Obama, the Con-Man, will have to play it straight and cut the populist palaver –  Republicans and their business partners demand economic payoffs and overseas military victories. Obama, the ‘cowering Con-Man’, has been unmasked by progressives and is cornered by the Republicans … and they have no further use for his confab

James Petras latest book is the Politics of Empire:The U.S, Israel and the Middle East @ claritypress@usa.net

Nov 122014
 

Pic Blog Promo Barcelona 2015

5th International Symposium: Love, Lust and Longing: Rethinking Intimacy

Part of the Research Program on: Recasting Bonds

International Network for Alternative Academia – Extends a general invitation to participate @ http://www.alternative-academia.net/ocs-2.3.5/index.php/BCN2015/LLL-5/schedConf/cfp

Enquiries: acc@alternative-academia.net

Monday 11th to Wednesday 13th of May, 2015 

Venue: Betahaus BCN

Address: (Carrer de Vilafranca 7, Gràcia, 08024)

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Call for Papers

(Submission Period Opened: 29th of October, 2014)

(Abstract Deadline: Monday 6th of April, 2015)

While discussion of sex become ever more common, opportunities to explore the nature of love are still rare. When the topic is raised, most often the focus is on dramatic experiences or hard cases. The “epic” and the “mundane” are probably more intertwined in our experiences of love than cultural speech and literature admit. Yet, an imbalance continues to exist: we reflect little on the smallness of events that sustain love bonds. What goes unexamined as such are the ways in which love is spoken of and enacted in everyday life.

This trans-disciplinary research project is interested in exploring the lived experience of love considering the ways in which it is described and how it is practiced, identifying how love differs from and overlaps with concern, care, friendship and lust and raising questions about the ontology, expression and politics of love.

We invite colleagues from all disciplines and professions interested in exploring and explaining these issues in a collective, deliberative and dialogical environment to send presentation proposals that address these general questions or the following themes:

The Ontology of Love

- How best do we categorize our experiences of love? Is love a chemical reaction? A cognitive structure? A consumer product? A narrative strategy? A convenient fiction?

- Is love an interpersonal phenomenon or an individual experience?

- Is love the kind of thing/the kind of experience that can have a beginning? Is it the kind of thing that can be subject to an end?

- Is love something that can be “found”? Can it subsequently be “lost”?

- Is love debt by another means?

Speaking of Love . . . 

- Can we speak of love? Is to speak of love to attempt to say the unsayable? Is a language of love necessary?

- What is it about the experience of being in love that is so difficult to share and communicate?

- We speak of our experience of “being in love,” of “loving someone but not being in love with them” and of “making love.” How is the word “love” deployed in these contexts? Is it used synonymously?

- In an era marked by online dating, text messaging and friends with benefits, does Plato’s lexicon of love still apply? Is his account of three forms of love – eros, philia, agape – still sufficient? What should be added and what should be subtracted? How is the lexicon of love evolving?

- What are apt metaphors for love?

The Phenomenology of Love

- Where does love start?  Where does it end?

- What is the relationship between desire and love? How is this relationship played out in everyday life practice? How is it captured discursively?

- Why has lust been so often experienced and so quickly condemned?

- How do we describe/characterize the experience of “falling” in love? Is love an experience that we “fall” into? Is this an apt descriptor of this phenomenon?

- Does “romantic” love differ from experiences of “mature” love?

- What is the place of betrayal, cheating and infidelity in love? How do we deal with these? Do we deal with these with love? Should we? Why?

- Can love “fail”? Is to speak of “failure” in this context a sign that we have misunderstood the nature of love?

- How do we deal with love when death separates us from our beloved? How can we recognize love and care in mourning and bereavement?

The Look of Love: The Aesthetics and/of Love

- How is love best described? Is it reducible to words? Is it better captured by images or by sounds or by sensations and sensorial memory?

- What is the place of taste, presence, smell, aura, touch and other embodied sensations in the experience of love and its sensorial reconstruction?

- How has love been depicted across history? How has it changed? With what affect? Is it possible to recognize and acknowledge patterns in historical periods?

- What are the effects of the definitions of love on the conceptions of bonds and the nature of relationship?

- What are apt representations of love? How do we make such determinations?

- Why is love so often explored in the arts? Why is it so rarely the subject of philosophy or sociology?

Caring for Self

- What does it mean to love one’s self? Is this a misnomer?

- Is care of the self a necessary condition for the possibility of care of others? Can we advocate and promote the caring for self without compromising our caring for others?

- What is the relationship between Eros and Narcissus? How does one keep in check “Narcissus” while caring for one’s self? Should one keep Narcissus in check?

- Is love (or caring for oneself) a necessary condition for living happy and/or productive lives?

Small Intimacies 

- How are we to understand the logic of the kiss? Is the kiss a promise? Is it a question?

- Can we see, smell or feel the presence of love? What is the relationship between perception and this lived experience?

- What prefigures our experience of love and what extends it?

- What is the relationship between secrecy, intimacy and love?

- How does boredom and routine figure into our experiences of love?

- How do we deal with rejection? Are there other ways of accepting and dealing with the devastating experience of being rejected?

Bonds of Care

- What is the relationship between love and care?

- Is there a logic to/of care? Can it be subjected to reason and justification?

- What is the relationship between care and concern? How do need, responsibility, care and love differ? How do they overlap?

- Does care necessitate reciprocity? Does the refusal of care negate its existence?

- How can we deal with metaphors of blood, linage, family and heritage in care or love that might develop as loving care? Where to situate obligation and how to conceive it?

- Can we exercise choice and assume happenstance in our bonds of care?

Friendship

- Who is a friend? How is the term defined? How do we recognize a friend?

- Is friendship a form of love or is it a distinct virtue?

- Can there be friendship without desire?

- Is lust a necessary condition for friendship? Is it an inevitable outcome?

- Do sex and/or lust put friendship at risk? Why?

- Is friendship premised on reciprocity of feelings?

Lessons on Love

- How is love manufactured? How do books, films or TV series influence our ideals of love?

- How can we explain the increasing demand for a literature of/on love?

- How is love merchandized?

- Can we buy love? What assumptions inform our responses to this question?

- Is love measurable? Is it quantifiable?

- Can one live without love? Are there any discourses that explain life without love?

The Politics of Love

- Is equity a necessary condition for love? Does social inequality undermine intimacy and love?

- What is the role of power in relation to love and intimacy? Is love always and necessarily a tool of power?

- Can love and politics be extricated one from the other? Is the democratization of the bonds of intimacy, care and love possible?

- How are experiences of love framed by cultural and social discourses?

- How is the increasing number of intercultural relationships changing our understanding and practice of love? What are the benefits and challenges of intercultural love and of these cross-cultural practices?

- How are new information and communications technologies shaping our experiences of love?

Broad Venues

- Can we love collectives or is love applicable only to particulars?

- Is it possible to love what is divine or is love a uniquely inter-subjective human experience?

- What are the conditions for the possibility of agape? Can these conditions be met in contemporary society?

If you are interested in participating in this Annual Symposium, submit a 400 to 500 word abstract as soon as possible and no later than Monday, 6th of April, 2015. (For justifiable cases, we do uphold a tolerance period of eight days.)

Please use the following template for your submission:

First: Author(s);

Second: Affiliation, if any;

Third: Email Address;

Fourth: Title of Abstract and Proposal;

Fifth: The 400 to 500 Word Abstract.

To submit an abstract online follow these steps:

1) Go to our webpage: www.alternative-academia.net

2) Select your Symposium of choice within the list of annual events (listed by period and city)

3) Go to LOG IN at the top of the page

4) Create a User Name and Password for our system and log in

5) Click on the Call for Papers for the Symposium

6) Go to the end of the Call for Papers page and click on the First Step of Submission Process button

7) Follow the instructions provided for completing the abstract submission process

For every abstract proposal submitted, we acknowledge receipt. If you do not receive a reply from us within three days, you should assume the submission process was not completed successfully. Please try again or contact our technical support for clarifications.

All presentation and paper proposals that address these questions and issues will be fully considered and evaluated. Evaluation of abstract submissions will be ongoing from the opening date of Wednesday 29th of October, 2014. All Prospective Delegates can expect a reply time to their submission of three weeks.

Accepted abstracts will require a full draft paper by Monday 27th of April, 2015. Papers are for a 20 minute presentation, 8 to 10 pages long, double spaced, Times New Roman 12. All papers presented at the symposium are eligible for publication as part of a digital or paperback book.

We invite colleagues and people interested in participating to disseminate this call for papers. Thank you for sharing and cross-listing where and whenever appropriate.

Hope to meet you in Barcelona!

Symposium Coordinators:

Alejandro Cervantes-Carson

General Coordinator

International Network for Alternative Academia

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Email: acc@alternative-academia.net

Wendy O’Brien

Professor of Social and Political Theory

School of Liberal Studies

Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Email: Wendy.Obrien@humber.ca

Albin Wagener

Doyen

Faculté des Humanités

Université Catholique de l’Ouest

Angers, France

Email: awagener@uco.fr

 

*****

Informational Note:

Alternative Academia is an international network of intellectuals, academics, independent scholars and practitioners committed to creating spaces, both within and beyond traditional academe, for creative, trans-disciplinary and critical thinking. The Network serves to facilitate experimental and collaborative encounters that blur the boundaries and broaden the limits of how issues, themes and ideas can be articulated and reconfigured. Dialogue, discussion and deliberation define both the methods employed and the ethics upheld by this network.

Our annual symposia are forums that foster the development of new frames of reference and innovative structures for the production and expansion of knowledge. These meetings are small in scale, intensely interactive and based on a dialogical model of academic engagement throughout the entire period of each symposium. All delegates are presenters and constitute a critical and engaged audience for all delegate presentations.

INAA is an independent, autonomous and not for profit organization, based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Registration Number: ESG65895088.

Visit our website at: www.alternative-academia.net

Nov 082014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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One of the best outcomes of international gatherings in world-scale metropolises is new connections and emerging opportunities. The Digitaler Salon in Berlin’s Humboldt University is one of those outcomes. While in Berlin someone suggested I pay a visit to the Institute for Internet and Society and introduce myself. I was invited to a very exciting and informative event organized by the Institute. On the evening of October 29th, Digitaler Salon was held with the participation of three very successful experts from academia, journalism and blogging. The topic was Crisis Reporting with the comments of Christoph Sydow of Al Sharq, Thomas Wiegold, a journalist who covers defense and military policies, and Dr. Johanna Roering, a media researcher focusing on propaganda at Tübingen University.

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Out of my habit of not being able to rely on punctuality and effectiveness of public transport in many countries and cities, I left before the agreed time and arrived at the venue earlier than expected. The speakers greeted me and we started talking about the day’s topic, crisis and war reporting and the involvement of social media and bloggers, and also about how blogs are perceived and how the media are transforming. The discussion took place at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, located right at the Bebelplatz, facing the infamous “book burning memorial” that was erected at the place where thousands of books were burnt in 1933, May 10.

The pre-discussion of course had a tendency to turn towards news from Turkey, as there was one particular participant in the audience who had brought much news from Istanbul to their attention previously. So talk began revolving around the level of press freedom, the number of journalists who have lost their jobs, government control over what gets published, and even controversial accidents journalists have had. As there was a professor present who focuses on “propaganda and media,” the 6,000 “social media experts” the Turkish government has hired were also mentioned in the context of manipulating media focus and online discussions. This is a negative example of the use of digital tools for journalistic purposes.

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After a few bretzels and some wine, the the actual session was ready to start. The coordinators were ready, cameras were rolling and everyone took seats in a very cozy atmosphere. Greetings were exchanged and participants were welcomed, and the talks began. While the topic in general was issues of reliability and verification of the news—comparing the limites resources of many bloggers to newsrooms’ advanced networks and resources—there was a special focus on media pluralism and press freedom in countries where there seem to be problems with freedom of expression and press freedom.

Verification Problems

It is an undeniable argument that bloggers lack the resources or the ability to build networks as reliable as the mainstream media. Yet verification has many levels and tools these days. A very useful book, HYPERLINK “http://verificationhandbook.com/”Verification Handbook, supplies a lot of information not only for newbie bloggers but also old-school journalists who might need further help. The book is being translated into several languages. Also, it is important not to have high expectations of bloggers and citizen journalists who mostly run their pages on a voluntary basis, unlike profit-oriented media outlets. Yet a blog post from the ground can also guide the professional journalist who might otherwise be unable to grasp the issue from the outside. In the end, real news should be a fine balance between what we see on the blogosphere and print (traditional) media.

What happens under governmental pressure?

When it comes to international news, and especially news related to defense strategies, the military, and security, it is true that traditional journalists have better connections and sources for supplying reliable information from the ground; however when the type of news changes to national scale, then the balance might be disturbed a little. At the Digitaler Salon the main focus of the discussion was on defense and military related news. But the situation in the streets in Hungary, for example, was being reflected in a completely different way the traditional media there and by bloggers during the same week. That could be a perfect example of what might go wrong with traditional media outlets where there is a lack of media pluralism.

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Basically a profit-oriented company that focuses on expanding revenues while trying to reach out to even more buyers/audience, and facing pressure from the national government, would not really reflect the psyche of the streets and would want to continue keeping friendly relations with the authorities. That being the case, it is likely that only the independent reporters in the country can reflect what’s actually going on there. Yet, if the independent journalist is not an expert on the region or country, or has not spent enough time there to really grasp what is going on, s/he will not be able to give an accurate report of an event. In that case s/he also relies on good contacts who might be able to share more information with the journalist, and this happens mostly in the form of blogs these days, apart from personal conversations.

In a similar fashion, citizen journalists and bloggers might also reflect on events with too much passion and misinterpret the situation. If the person reporting the news or events is coming from right in the middle of whatever might be going on, it would probably be hard for the person to give accurate information free from personal passion, grudges, and all other emotions. Or the reports may be subject to misinformation and unverified sources that may in fact cause more harm. And one important aspect not to be forgotten is how to differentiate citizen journalists from the traditional journalists they complain about; or what to do in order for anyone reporting from a crisis zone to avoid war-fetishism when it comes to reflecting on the pulse of the streets?

Overall, the Digitaler Salon was an opportunity for discussions revolving around journalism, media pluralism and press freedom in the 21st century. As a final comment, I can say that it was a valuable experience to be able to attend such an event, and express the hope that it can set an example for other parts of Europe. And in terms of sustaining media pluralism, a more internationalist approach could in fact help the coverage of issues that local authorities might object to seeing covered.

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More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/