Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘postcolonial debt

Last Night in London Links

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* Once again xkcd shows off its uncanny knack for reading my mind: “There are two or three songs out there with beeps in the chorus that sound exactly like the clock radio alarm I had in high school, and hearing it makes me think my life since junior year has been a dream I’m about to wake up from.”

* Zissou, Simpsonized.

* So that settles it, we’re never leaving: Oilfield With Estimated 1.8 Billion Barrels Of Oil Identified In Afghanistan.

* Wheat beats white for the first time ever.

* Also in food news: I guess I’m the last to know they’ve been cloning meat and milk for sale in the U.S. Gross.

* More on the future of renewable energy in North Carolina, in Independent Weekly.

* I think this study comes as close to proving that men are scum as any could: Men are more likely to cheat if they earn less money than their female partner, but they’re also more likely to cheat if their partners are financially dependent on them…

* If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even. Instead, for the period from January 1, 2000, to September 30, 2009, the continental United States set 291,237 record highs and 142,420 record lows, as the country experienced unusually mild winter weather and intense summer heat waves.

* France urged to repay $23 billion in compensation to Haiti. Sounds like a good start.

* Your moral coward of the night: Harry Reid.

* Your morally odious moron of the night: Ross Douthat, who apparently believes violence, intolerance, and discrimination are essential and praiseworthy components of America’s liberal tradition.

* And I really can’t believe I’m getting sucked into this nonsense, but all right: Photos of Stuff the Same Distance from the World Trade Center as the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The Real Problem with Oil Spills Is Oil

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Via Ezra Klein, an important op-ed in the New York Times reminds us that the shocking devastation we’re seeing in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is normal in other parts of the globe:

Moratoriums have a moral problem, though. All oil comes from someone’s backyard, and when we don’t reduce the amount of oil we consume, and refuse to drill at home, we end up getting people to drill for us in Kazakhstan, Angola and Nigeria — places without America’s strong environmental safeguards or the resources to enforce them.

Kazakhstan, for one, had no comprehensive environmental laws until 2007, and Nigeria has suffered spills equivalent to that of the Exxon Valdez every year since 1969. (As of last year, Nigeria had 2,000 active spills.) Since the Santa Barbara spill of 1969, and the more than 40 Earth Days that have followed, Americans have increased by two-thirds the amount of petroleum we consume in our cars, while nearly quadrupling the quantity we import. Effectively, we’ve been importing oil and exporting spills to villages and waterways all over the world.

Up Too Early Central Timezone Blues

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* The paper on ecological debt I’m giving at the Debt conference at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee’s Center for 21st Century Studies today is pretty indebted to Naomi Klein’s recent work on the subject, which can be found at YouTube, Democracy Now, The Nation, and Rolling Stone. I may try to put this talk up as a podcast at some point.

* The oil spill disaster in the Louisiana has turned out to be much, much worse than originally thought: “a river of oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day that officials say could be running for two months or more.” The final devastation will likely be worse than the Exxon Valdez disaster. The White House says BP will pay the costs of cleanup. Related: Obama Administration Learns That Oil Leads to Oil Spills. At least they’ve quietly reinstated the federal moratorium on offshore drilling as a result of all this. Hope it stays that way.

* Can reconciliation work for climate like it worked for health care? Ezra Klein says not really.

* Ten states, including my beloved North Carolina!, are now considering Arizona-style document laws.

* Speaking of North Carolina, here’s the Independent Weekly voting guide for Durham County. The primary is Tuesday, May 4.

* It turns out the measurement fallacy Cory Doctorow was speaking about in my class’s interview with him has a name: Goodhart’s Law.

* Grad School Necessary To Maintain U.S.’s Global Position. Take that, The Simpsons.

* Republican consultant on Republican 2012 presidential field: “We Have Real [Expletive] Problems.”

* Calling out the real judicial activists.

* Socialphobes of the world unite! Against the telephone.

The telephone was an aberation in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting.

* Books: still greener than e-readers.

* I can’t believe I forgot to celebrate Explicit Legal Pants Day. The rest of the post, on heterosexual privilege in Mississippi, is good too.

Inevitable District 9 sequel coming in two years.

* I’m so old I can remember when the GOP was against involuntary microchip implantation. It was like a week ago.

* And YouTube has the trailer for the feel-good movie of the year.

Understanding Debt

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Naomi Klein in The Nation: If we are to believe the G-7 finance ministers, Haiti is on its way to getting something it has deserved for a very long time: full “forgiveness” of its foreign debt. In Port-au-Prince, Haitian economist Camille Chalmers has been watching these developments with cautious optimism. Debt cancellation is a good start, he told Al Jazeera English, but “It’s time to go much further. We have to talk about reparations and restitution for the devastating consequences of debt.” In this telling, the whole idea that Haiti is a debtor needs to be abandoned. Haiti, he argues, is a creditor—and it is we, in the West, who are deeply in arrears.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 16, 2010 at 12:01 am

Links from the Weekend

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* Slate devotes a column to criticizing the U.S. military-based approach to Haitian emergency relief. There’s some attempts at push-back, with varying success, in the MetaFilter thread, particularly about the specifically helpful capacities of the ships that have been sent there, but what can you say about facts like these:

Air-traffic control in the Haitian capital was outsourced to an Air Force base in Florida, which, not surprisingly, gave priority to its own pilots. While the military flew in troops and equipment, planes bearing supplies for the Red Cross, the World Food Program, and Doctors Without Borders were rerouted to Santo Domingo in neighboring Dominican Republic. Aid flights from Mexico, Russia, and France were refused permission to land. On Monday, the British Daily Telegraph reported, the French minister in charge of humanitarian aid admitted he had been involved in a “scuffle” with a U.S. commander in the airport’s control tower. According to the Telegraph, it took the intervention of the United Nations for the United States to agree to prioritize humanitarian flights over military deliveries.

Meanwhile, much of the aid that was arriving remained at the airport. Haitians watched American helicopters fly over the capital, commanding and controlling, but no aid at all was being distributed in most of the city. On Tuesday, a doctor at a field hospital within site of the runways complained that five to 10 patients were dying each day for lack of the most basic medical necessities. “We can look at the supplies sitting there,” Alphonse Edward told Britain’s Channel 4 News.

The much-feared descent into anarchy stubbornly refused to materialize. “It is calm at this time,” Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, admitted to the AP on Monday. “Those who live and work here … tell me that the level of violence that we see right now is below pre-earthquake levels.” He announced that four—four, in a city of more than 2 million—aid-distribution points had been set up on the sixth day of the crisis.

* Some good news: the IMF claims it is “pursuing” the total elimination of Haiti’s foreign debt. And some terrible news: by one estimate (highlighted by Marginal Revolution) a full 8% of Haiti’s population may be orphaned children.

* 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Pinball History.

* From the comments: The Five Dials tribute to David Foster Wallace.

* David’s Cross’s The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret has been picked up by the BBC. My friend Bill posted a clip from the pilot not long ago, which he played at his recent show at Raleigh.

* Fan art gone terribly wrong/terribly right: Seinfeld Star Wars.

* Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: a case report. (Thanks Neil!)

* Via Ezra Klein, I see Tom Toles has somehow gotten hold of the Democratic playbook.

* Glenn Greenwald has a balanced piece largely in favor of the Citizens United v. FEC. Others are saying this decision may give foreign multinational corporations the right to participate in the American political process. Citizens United is by all appearances the first major domestic political crisis of the ’10s, and it came early; if I had sway in the progressive blogosphere I would suggest we devote ourselves to demanding the introduction of a constitutional amendment that reverses this decision by modifying or eliminating corporate personhood. That fight would not be easy—as Matt points out the total spending on Senate campaigns in 2004, $400 million, was just 17% of the marketing budget of a single American bank, which means our already corporatist ruling class would have every possible incentive to ignore such a campaign—but I don’t see much choice; it’s hard to imagine any sort of functional democracy existing in America while Citizens United remains in full effect.

* Republicans believe that Obama’s problem is that he’s pushing so much government intervention in the economy. That’s undoubtedly part of the story. But Obama’s larger difficulty is that he’s pushing so much change at a time when filibuster threats are so common that it requires 60 Senate votes to pass almost everything — and the minority party won’t provide the president votes on almost anything. We are operating in what amounts to a parliamentary system without majority rule, a formula for futility. Steve Benen has a post on the filibuster reform recently proposed by Tom Harkin here.

* Are Republicans “irrationally exuberant” about November? God, I hope so.

* For what it’s worth Obama’s poll numbers continue to match Reagan’s, and he beats nearly all comers in 2012. The one possible exception is the affable, if politically odious, Mike Huckabee, who beats Obama 45-44 in a PPP poll. And it was Huckabee himself who predicted just this week Obama will win again in 2012.

* NASA says 2000-2009 was the hottest decade on record. Good thing climate change is a myth.

* The immortal Neil Gaiman is profiled in the New Yorker.

* The last days of Philip K. Dick.

* And if my estimates are correct, we could hit Peak Crayola as soon as 2018.

What I’m Looking At This Morning

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* While I’m certain that the neoliberal project will resume soon, I have to agree with Think Progress that what we’ve seen in Haiti thus far is not properly described as an “invasion.” Like it or not, the U.S. military is the (only) organization that has the resources to administer aid on this scale; we should be vigilant about mission creep and work hard for things like debt forgiveness, but (it seems to me) the U.S. military presence really is on the side of the angels, at least so far.

* Philip Kennicott on why the media doesn’t censor the images coming out of Haiti. Kennicott is right to raise the issue, but his explanation is pretty clearly incomplete; the article doesn’t manage to use either the word “race” or “racism” even once.

* What Bush did to Haiti. Of course, we should remember that U.S. imperialism in Haiti has a much longer history than just Bush, Clinton, and Bush.

* I’m not sure “brave” is quite the word I’d use to describe the Royal Caribbean cruiseships that are now resuming their trips to Haiti.

“I just can’t see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water,” one passenger wrote on the Cruise Critic internet forum. 

“It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee before the quake, knowing how many Haitians were starving,” said another. “I can’t imagine having to choke down a burger there now.”

Some booked on ships scheduled to stop at Labadee are afraid that desperate people might breach the resort’s 12ft high fences to get food and drink, but others seemed determined to enjoy their holiday.”I’ll be there on Tuesday and I plan on enjoying my zip line excursion as well as the time on the beach,” said one.

* Obama approval still closely tracking Reagan’s.

* Nate continues to model the MA-SEN race. As the link says, assumptions are everything right now, from the polling screen on down; nobody really knows anything about how this race will turn out. I still think Coakley’s party-ID and GOTV advantages will help her squeak out the win, but she’s been a pretty terrible candidate, and Brown an unusually strong one, in a moment that (sadly, wrongly, terribly) favors the GOP.

* Science proves blondes are less fun.

* And important reporting at Harper’s: An army sergeant blows the whistle on Guantánamo “suicides.” Via Spencer Ackerman.

Abolish the IMF

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Now, in its attempts to help Haiti, the IMF is pursuing the same kinds of policies that made Haiti a geography of precariousness even before the quake. To great fanfare, the IMF announced a new $100 million loan to Haiti on Thursday. In one crucial way, the loan is a good thing; Haiti is in dire straits and needs a massive cash infusion. But the new loan was made through the IMF’s extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists tell me that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms.

Of course I’m in favor of debt forgiveness generally, but even a person who isn’t, who strongly supports the IMF, should be able to recognize the necessity of debt forgiveness in this particular case. If it’s true that aid is currently being offered with strings attached—and I’m sure The Nation has its reporting right—that’s extortionary, and extraordinarily cruel, even by neoliberal capitalism’s usual low standards. Simply put, this is outrageous. Via Vu.