Meta-Culture has released the following paper in response to the Delhi Policy Group and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue publication: Conflict Resolution: Learning lessons from dialogue processes in India. The paper highlights the need for clear terminology and an understanding of distinct conflict resolution modalities in order to draw lessons relevant to policymakers and practitioners.
Peeped the World Bank’s World Development Report for 2011. It’s being considered a significant development by people I know in the humanitarian field because the report seems to indicate a move from “just infrastructure and capacity building” to addressing the deleterious effects of violent conflict on development the field has long called attention to. Better writers have expressed some of my thinking on the report, so I’ll spare you my iffy prose.
I hope to talk to the bosses about the organisation’s current role in assisting state actors with building the kinds of coalitions, mentioned in the report, required to bridge problems of low trust between societal groups and between the state and society. I think that’s a place where they’re keen on increasing the organisation’s presence.
So, I’ve been in India for about three weeks or so. Many of my initial impressions can be found here. I’ve been too busy, with work and the unenviable task of getting set up – more on that later, to follow much in the way of politics, things were less hectic in the office today and I managed to catch news of David Cameron’s speech on immigration.
It’s interesting that it comes just as his government is receiving a drubbing on the plans for the NHS – I’ve been given to understand they want to introduce some of the worst elements of the worst system of healthcare in the developed world. I’m definitely giving this speech the side-eye. It doesn’t appear to be much more than Cameron wagging his fingers at immigrants and the Labour party for the kind of social breakdown that Con-Dem policies will likely produce.
Anyway, I was supposed to be talking about India. Yes, setting up here has been a real hassle. What has fascinated me most is the feeling that I managed to get more done, in less time, with low language proficiency, in Japan than in India, a country with about 200 years of experience with the British, and where everyone I’ve had to deal with has spoken English.
That being said I think the biggest hassles (phone, internet, apartment, foreign residents registry) are out of the way and my apartment is slowly transforming into a somewhere that isn’t just a place to sleep. With any luck I’ll be able to make friends and get a life. Perhaps that will mitigate my intermittent feelings of loneliness and longing for my lost love.
As for work, the Director has been very ill so that has caused quite a bit of upheaval in the office. The second and third mates have been going flat out, but it’s been all hands on deck for the last couple of weeks. All in all I’m excited to be here. My understanding is that the Indian context is still hostile to the concept of conflict resolution, but my organisation is getting a lot more interest now than in the past. Western peacebuilding organisations appear excited about what we’re doing and I’m looking forward to building new networks and partnerships, as well as the challenge of developing my programmes. Fell deeds await.
Nick Baumann at Mother Jones writes about the latest GOP panty-sniffing exercise. It seems limited government means government limited to policing women – and other undesirables:
Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?
….The proposed law, also known as H.R. 3, extends the reach of the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake—into many parts of the federal tax code. In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion. If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, that her abortion fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.
Hey, remember when it was government tyranny to have IRS agents enforce healthcare reform?
As I’m too busy (read: lazy) to do much posting, and I love a bit of snark, I thought to share a post from commenter El Cid over at Balloon Juice on the latest news from Winconsin. Parallels between Scott Walker and authoritarians like the recently ousted Hosni Mubarak are not new, but I think El Cid provides us the opportunity to make a particularly good one, that is sure to curl the lips of you dirty effing blame-america-first hippies:
That Hugo Chavez sure is an evil authoritarian for getting the parliament to give him emergency decree powers.
He’s a terrible enemy of democracy, and the US needs to keep funneling money to fund the opposition to make sure this awful authoritarianism doesn’t spread to other countries in the hemisphere.
He was given this power by his lockstep ruling bloc of the national assembly, who act simply as his toadies so that Chavez can carry out his radical goals unfettered. And now he will have 18 months to lock in whatever laws he and his preferred legislature want so as to keep the next legislature from undoing these fait accompli.
Chavez used the pathetic excuse of massive floods displacing almost 150,000 people to ram through acts such as providing housing to flood victims. As a dangerous precedent, before even getting his new powers, he used the excuse of the most severe drought in a century to forcibly regulate hydro-electric power generation and use.
Critics say that next will come measures designed to disempower and gut the opposition in the legislature, whose numbers don’t make a majority but are a rivaling minority. After all, Chavez cynically pushed this through before the next assembly session, when the minority opposition will have up to 40% of seats.
The assembly passed sections allowing the Supreme Court to review the decrees and the citizens to revoke any decree via referendum if 5% of voters petition it.
In this country we would simply never accept such authoritarian measures used to push through executive acts in a rushed manner so as to disempower the minority opposition to oppose them.
Here, in a country which appreciates the principles of democracy, our leaders would never use the mere majority of the legislature to ram through laws giving the executive vast powers or to weaken opposition forces throughout a state or nation. No one would even think it possible for one of our leaders tocompletely ignore the objections of a minority holding up to 4 out of every 10 seats.
Our politicians would wisely reserve the use of emergency powers for responses to minor budget deficit issues, and would apply them to such common-sense purposes as removing rights to collective bargaining, or to remove elected officials by executive order, or to immediately award profitable taxpayer-funded contracts to hand-chosen private interests without a fair and open bidding process.
America needs to act, and act quickly, before Chavez’ manipulative authoritarianism can spread to any other nation with leaders hungry to grab such concentrated power.
Goodness me! It’s hard to believe that the last time I posted here was just over two weeks ago. I’ve been busy working on a few things for my friend, which I hope will soon go up on his excellent blogs, Loco’s Patronus and Loco in Yokohama. I’ve also been occupied with preparations to take up a gig in India. It’s been a real roller-coaster getting to this point. I may write about it some time at the other vanity project when I’m in a better place. I still haven’t the mouth with which to tell the tale.
I haven’t the heart these days to write much about politics. I’m trying to preserve what little joy and hope remains in me. I may find welcome respite when I take up a new job in March after a really tough year and a bit of underemployment (woo, yay!). That being said I have found it fascinating that contrary to “jobs jobs jobs” the focus of the US House of Reps. has been on making sure women know their place. Quelle surprise!
Que bola! I had to laugh:
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, praised the role of social networks such as Twitter in promoting freedom – at the same time as the US government was in court seeking to invade the privacy of Twitter users.
Lawyers for civil rights organisations appeared before a judge in Alexandria, Virginia, battling against a US government order to disclose the details of private Twitter accounts in the WikiLeaks row, including that of the Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, below.
The move against Twitter has turned into a constitutional clash over the protection of individual rights to privacy in the digital age.
Clinton, in a speech in Washington, cited the positive role that Twitter, Facebook and other social networks played in uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. In a stirring defence of the internet, she spoke of the “freedom to connect”.
The irony of the Clinton speech coming on the day of the court case was not lost on the constitutional lawyers battling against the government in Alexandria. The lawyers also cited the Tunisian and Egyptian examples. Aden Fine, who represents the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the leading civil rights groups in the country, said: “It is very alarming that the government is trying to get this information about individuals’ communications. But, also, above all, they should not be able to do this in secret.”
The court case, which is turning into a cause celebre in the US, centres round the release of tens of thousands of Pentagon and state department classified documents by WikiLeaks. Outraged by the leaks, the US has set up a grand jury in secret, based in Alexandria, to investigate whether grounds can be found for a criminal case against WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. As part of that investigation the grand jury ordered Twitter to disclose the details of the accounts of WikiLeaks and three people said to be linked to the organisation.
I went away for three days to train in development work, and returned full of vim… Until I caught sight of an article about the latest fumduckery it appears my government plans to subject us to.
‘I would love to see tax reductions,” David Cameron told the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, “but when you’re borrowing 11% of your GDP, it’s not possible to make significant net tax cuts. It just isn’t.” Oh no? Then how come he’s planning the biggest and crudest corporate tax cut in living memory?
If you’ve heard nothing of it, you’re in good company. The obscure adjustments the government is planning to the tax acts of 1988 and 2009 have been missed by almost everyone – and are, anyway, almost impossible to understand without expert help. But as soon as you grasp the implications, you realise that a kind of corporate coup d’etat is taking place.
Like the dismantling of the NHS and the sale of public forests, no one voted for this measure, as it wasn’t in the manifestos. While Cameron insists that he occupies the centre ground of British politics, that he shares our burdens and feels our pain, he has quietly been plotting with banks and businesses to engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century. The latest heist has been explained to me by the former tax inspector, now a Private Eye journalist, Richard Brooks and current senior tax staff who can’t be named. Here’s how it works.
At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.
Foreign means anywhere. If these proposals go ahead, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it gets here. The other is Switzerland. The exemption applies solely to “large and medium companies”: it is not available for smaller firms. The government says it expects “large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime”. The main beneficiaries, in other words, will be the banks.
But that’s not the end of it. While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this. The new measures will, as we already know, accompany a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax: from 28% to 24% by 2014. This, a Treasury minister has boasted, will be the lowest rate “of any major western economy”. By the time this government is done, we’ll be lucky if the banks and corporations pay anything at all. In the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron said: “What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy.” He’s doing just the opposite.
My mood has officially returned to miserable.
Just read an excellent, excellent post on arguments equating abortion with slavery.
If you do take the time to understand the intertwined history of abortion and slavery, it becomes painfully difficult to assert that abortion is wrong. Because then you must defend the slaveholder who wanted the enslaved woman to birth that child so that he could enslave them both (even as he probably used religion and morality, rather than economics and labor, as his excuse and defense for why one shouldn’t turn to abortion). Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus because she didn’t want that child to be a slave? Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus because she physically could not bear the burden of labor and pregnancy? Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus as a punishment to the man who raped her, barely fed her, barely clothed her, denied her religion, denied her liberty, and whipped her when she worked too slowly, made a mistake, or attempted to flee? Who would be willing to fault the enslaved woman who aborted her fetus to protect her life and to save the evils of her life from those of her child? To include the history of enslaved women in the history of slavery and then compare that history to abortion is not easy.
It’s all too easy when you have no interest in the experience of a whole swathe of your co-citizens beyond how useful it is as a cudgel with which to beat your political opponents.