Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot writes about the dangers of allowing wealthy and privileged individuals to speak as the voice of the poor and downtrodden:
As the UK chairs the G8 summit again, a campaign that Bono founded, with which Geldof works closely, appears to be whitewashing the G8's policies in Africa.

Last week I drew attention to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last year. The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements that allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets. Ignoring the voices of their own people, six African governments have struck deals with companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, NestlĂ© and Unilever, in return for promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations.

A wide range of activists, both African and European, is furious about the New Alliance. But the ONE campaign, co-founded by Bono, stepped up to defend it. The article it wrote last week was remarkable in several respects: in its elision of the interests of African leaders and those of their people, in its exaggeration of the role of small African companies, but above all in failing even to mention the injustice at the heart of the New Alliance – its promotion of a new wave of land grabbing. My curiosity was piqued.
Bono claims to be "representing the poorest and most vulnerable people". But talking to a wide range of activists from both the poor and rich worlds since ONE published its article last week, I have heard the same complaint again and again: that Bono and others like him have seized the political space which might otherwise have been occupied by the Africans about whom they are talking. Because Bono is seen by world leaders as the representative of the poor, the poor are not invited to speak. This works very well for everyone – except them.

The ONE campaign looks to me like the sort of organisation that John le Carré or Robert Harris might have invented. It claims to work on behalf of the extremely poor. But its board is largely composed of multimillionaires, corporate aristocrats and US enforcers.
- And Murray Dobbin likewise opines that progressive politics can't be oriented solely around formal party structures:
(T)he remnants of what were once robust and effective social movements are (with some important exceptions) increasingly weak, demoralized and isolated. Small wonder. The context for the creation of these single-issue movements was the early Trudeau era when governments actually listened to citizens' groups while expanding the social and economic role of governments. The efficacy of this kind of civil society organizing has however been in a steady decline since the signing of the FTA with the U.S. What is now needed is a broad social movement which incorporates all of the issues now dealt with by hundreds of disconnected organizations.

It all has to do with recovering community and the commons. The destruction of community has been the great success of the right. When Margaret Thatcher stated there was "no such thing as society" she was not describing current reality -- she was describing her goal. It has been largely achieved in English speaking developed countries. If we are to even begin to address our share of the global crises we will have to do it by creating a political culture that reinvents the commons and ends people's isolation from each other.
- The Barrie Advance reveals one right-wing smear gone horribly wrong, as Stephen Harper's Prime Minister's Office is on the record using public resources to attack Justin Trudeau. And Susan Delacourt goes into detail about the Star's process in dealing with media manipulation.

- Margaret Flowers notes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will serve largely to enshrine in an international treaty all kinds of corporate goodies which could never pass muster in a democratic process - which is why its contents are being kept secret until after they're binding on member states. But Stuart Trew points out one twist on the Cons' efforts to sell out Canadian interests abroad, as the constitutional duty to consult with First Nations seems to offer a rather promising basis for challenging treaties which exclude First Nations from the table.

- Finally, David Dayen discusses the lesson U.S. banks look to have learned from the 2008 financial crisis: that they can get away with large-scale fraud to access public money so long as they scare their employees into going along with the scheme.

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