July 2012
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Month July 2012

Was Romney that way off the mark?

I enjoyed queuing with other normal people in North London to watch the flame go past, though some mentioned that after all the sponsor vehicles, the man carrying the flame looked like an ‘afterthought’.

Yes, G4S (but many more corporations) have charged top dollar and given less.

This has been a corporate feast. Original budget at the bid in Singapore £2.4 billion

Final cost : FIVE times that.

Local boroughs next to the site feel let down by lack of the promised jobs.

Hardly anyone mentioned the Olympics on the Tube, on buses, in public spaces until a few days ago.

Missiles, corporate T shirts, big business… people have an underlying feeling of unease.

Everyone wants the sport to succeed.

It’s Big money in big cars on Zil Lanes that make us feel we are just bystanders in a corporate circus.

What concerns me is that White Elephants may roam the Olympic site in 2013… and the media will forget all about it…. yet, we pick up the bill… and there is precious little regeneration.

Romney is inept and I don’t care if he or that other Corporate candidate (Obama) – both using €1 billion or more in donations – gets to the White House.

Essentially, what’s wrong with people expressing an opinion.

It may be wrong or just plain indiscreet but why is it so important?

 

 

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Bangladesh: a central player in the New Indo-China

The rumour mill on social media networks, email chatter and Dhaka elite gossip is rife with the notion that there will be no election or no meaningful election in the winter of 2013……. the harbinger of a military re-entry into Bangladeshi politics….. Part Two of 2007 and that failed experiment of a ‘technocrat-led’ (or civilian-stooge-puppets depending on your point of view) regime backed by the bayonets of a military.

The rationale is that the armed forces are frustrated with the dysfunctional politics of a  democratic elite which cannot practice the first rule of democracy….. learn how to lose (an election) gracefully…..

Behind this forces are the Western embassies, just as they were in 2006 to 2008. Cast our minds back to that embarrassment of a British Ambassador (shamefully of Sylheti origin which makes his behaviour doubly odious as he acted as an unpaid PR spokesperson for a regime which locked up the two political leaders side by side, ironically next to the closed Parliament building).

Not one of Blair’s better moments of choosing Ambassadors from their countries of origin.

Of course, he was only showing his over-enthusiasm in a wider ‘diplomat’ project of World Bank and Euro-US institutions intent that Bangladesh ‘reach economic take-off’, naturally within the ideology of globalisation and neo-liberalism…..

And they were not alone.

Civil Society (a misnomer if there ever was one) or its Bengali equivalent of ‘Shushil Samaj’ is now an insult in many quarters because of their obvious collaboration with Western Aid Agencies and Embassies in providing Bengali intellectual cover for what amounts to a Takeover – twice done… First by external powers and then by internal elites, indifferent to the wretched poverty in the slums or the countryside, signing vapid tunes of being part of the Next 11 (thanks to that lovable, uncorrupt Goldman Sachs..)

Memories are short in elite Dhaka. So, power cuts in the heat and monsoon, tied to soaring food prices, general inflation, traffic snarl ups and bureaucratic logjams, topped by the family politics of a directionless political class… all lead to a shrug of the shoulders to rumours that there will be no democratic handover to another regime.

Why?

a) the current regime does away with the ‘caretaker’ system of a neutral government during elections to prevent accusations of electoral rigging..

who provided this advice, masquerading as a friend but as in Bengali politics since the days of Mir Zafar actually providing banana skins to slip up an unsuspecting political family?

The next election will be boycotted (as in February 2006) or ridiculed and challenged, leading to weeks of street unrest, with the inevitable call for the military to come in and ‘restore order’. There are various versions of this role-play…

b) the hamfisted approach with a leader of an NGO – revenge for his role in early 2007 and an aborted entry into politics. Lots of people have commented about that person and it’s old news. The point is that when Indian corporate and diplomatic bigwigs say: they are disappointed with the Awami League and ‘distressed’ about this episode and ‘witchhunt’, you know the writing is on the wall

c) the breathless entry of Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in a game over the re-entry into Myanmar amid rumours (in the Indian press) about interest in the US 7th Fleet setting up a base in Bangladesh to project power across this new Indo-China region…..

Minor details such as the World Bank refusing a loan for a bridge are just decoration pieces in a jigsaw puzzle whose outline is easy to see…. the embassies and global financial institutions have decided that if they can do away with democracy in Europe (Italy and Greece), with their long time dictator allies in the Middle East, then they can ignore the desire of Bengalis and Bangladeshis to remain within a democratic system.

The stakes have gotten higher. On the global stage, the fate of Two Ladies wasn’t deemed worth supporting from 2006 onwards and only reluctantly accepted in 2008 because of street pressure….. that scenario is now set to return again..

The corporations salivating over the untapped riches in this wider region where serious money is set to be made in energy, engineering, telecom, banking, rail, road and agriculture…… where Bangladesh is blocking the way to the almost cut-off North East of India towards China and now the new frontier of Myanmar,….. … …. they want a political system that keeps the people off their back while they reap the benefits… in the nineties the fad was democracy (friendly to globalisation)… that era post-Lehman has gone….. now they are just as happy with the bayonet as well as the ballot box….

The point is what works, not what is right or moral.

The same feelings that ran through the veins and the expat bars in the foreign clubs of Dhaka about removing the 1975-81 hangover of politics based on two assassinations …. that has meaning to the people… it is an incidental detail pasted on a one page executive summary.. somethings which ‘holds up’ the bonanza….

Of course, they tried General Moeen…… remember him? No? His advice to eat potatoes……his present of horses by Delhi… his non-existent vision of a prosperous state (worsened by inadequate no bodies in a Vichy style cabinet)….?

Well, as I said, memories are short…

The elite and perhaps much of the middle class (let alone the ignored slums) have seen the politicians expend most of their political capital…

Like Western banks, the balance sheet has a big hole in it…. Credibility….

In a country with the incredible problems that Bangladesh has (for one, it needs a new Garments industry worth of jobs every 18 months to provide a living and hope for the youth entering the job market)…. legitimacy does not come with the ballot box, a lengthy speech in front of Pay-and-you-cheer bussed in crowd……. it comes with keeping the lights on, providing new lines for new connections, keeping food prices within reach of the slums and the apartment living middle classes and by providing the very basic in education, health and hygiene…

The people have set the bar very low… they ask for very little… but since 1971, no regime has delivered……

That is the backdrop to the coming instability in this state with regional ramifications….

What do you want to do about it?

This is the Indo-China of the 21st Century (1)

WIkipedia “Indo-China” and it will refer to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and then onto the defeat of the French colonialists (so much for liberte, egalite e fraternite) and the ‘American anguish’ over defeat even though they killed 2 million Vietnamese, opened the path for Pol Pot and destroyed the jungles with Dow Chemical Agent Orange (soon to be seen at the London Olympics).

Geographically, it makes more sense to see Indo-China to the north west of this region.

Myanmar, Yunnan, the Seven Sister states, Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and Kashmir.

And this area is the new fault line in much of our lifetime. A Venn Diagram of states, provinces and regions in a Nuclear Neighbourhood.

The great prize for Washington is the ‘containment’ of China by building up India, making inroads into Myanmar and sowing discontent in Tibet and Western China up to Chongking.

The great prize for Delhi? (I don’t say India as like I never subscribed to the idea of ‘whats good for General Motors is good for America’ I also don’t believe that the neo-imperial tendencies of South Block and neo-liberal ideologies of Mumbai-Delhi are any good for the state of India)…….. a fulfilment of the urge to be the Asian superpower (piggy-backing the US) putting China back in its cage.

A necessary condition for Delhi is therefore economic, political and military domination of South Asia, a version of the ‘Near Abroad’ to use post Soviet terminology.

This 21st century Indo-China is the next frontline. The ‘re-opening’ of Myanmar should be seen in this context.

Essentially, this has the makings of the ‘Balkan Question’ of the 1800s up to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the onset of an epoch changing World War. This time it moves east, out of Europe into Forgotten Asia.

Minerals, Natural Gas, hydro-energy, cheap labour, a half a billion consumers, the gateway to the potential riches of Northern Indian gangetic plain and to South-east Asia up to Singapore and Hanoi as well as the untapped potential of Western China (a continent away from Shanghai and the Pacific Coast)…. added to the vital rare earths of Tibet and the perennial impasse (and half a million Indian troops) over Kashmir…… the armed national liberation movements in the Seven Sisters and the inexorable rise of the Maoist rebellion in the Strategic Corridor cutting the sub-continent in half from Nepal down to the Bay of Bengal.

In the next post in this series, we turn to a country in the middle of all this.. a population with a history of volatile politicisation, with a youth bulge and a desperate need for jobs, economic uplift to offset a looming environmental catastrophe…..

 

These “new” states could appear by 2020

Scotland

Cymru

England

United Ireland

Greater Holland

Bretagny-Cornwall

Occitania

Greater Hungary

Euskal Herria

Lombardia

Catalonia

Andalucia

Cyrenaica

Greater Uganda

Holy Islamic state of Mecca & Medina

US Gulf Protectorates

Kurdistan

Palestine-Jordan

Baluchistan

Pashtunistan

Islamic federation of Kashmir-Punjab

Tamil Nadu

Bharat-India

People’s  Republics of South Asia

Assam

Nagaland

Commonwealth of Eastern South Asia

Arakan

Shan

Mindanao

New Colombia

Nueva  California

 

 

These countries won’t exist by 2020…..

One of the biggest casualties of the Great Crisis (set to get worse over the next 3 years) could be the Westphalian system of nation states – this notion of nation states was solidified after the bloody Thirty Years War in Europe.

The outcome will not be just lurches to the Right or Left. It will lead to the biggest fragmentation of Europe since 1918 as empires collapsed after WW1 (Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian)
On top of financial and economic crises, we have a situation of permanent resource war in the Middle East, Africa and Asia including the ‘containment of China’, the war on Muslim states, the Maoist rebelion in India & independence movements in the Seven Sister states bordering China,  the ‘opening up of Myanmar’, the battle between (and within) Latin America and the Yankee North…..

So, let’s prepare for a new World where the following states will fragment/break up (and while a rump may retain the name, it will be far smaller in size than today) and the ‘original’ will only exist in history, nostalgia and our imagination:

United Kingdom

Spain

France

Italy

Belgium

Rumania

Libya

Syria

Iraq

Congo

Pakistan

India

Myanmar

Mexico

Colombia

Phillipines

Saudi Arabia

Jordan

UAE

Qatar

 

We have had a Thirty Years War in our lifetime – that of ‘Globalisation’ or as I see it ‘Amercanisation’ where borders were weakened in a free for all for multinationals and finance.

The casualties are everywhere: hollowed out industries in the Western economies, peoples and states bulldozed in petrodollar wars… a billion or is it two in urban slums… climate ravaged regions…

The result: this is the decade of fragmentation.

UK PLC 2017: worst case scenario

As the London Olympics gathers pace, I might momentarily forget about its utter commercialism and corruption and financial mismanagement (what else would you call a bid for £2.4 billion and an ultimate cost of £11 billion?).

Am tempted to see the Olympic flame go past in North London on the 25th of July. In other words, it’s a sport after all, isn’t it?

And Olympic fever will ultimately take over with wall to wall media coverage. And why not?

It might be the last piece of ‘good news’ before the hangover after the night before.

I will return to this theme regularly as it’s something most of us seem to be ignoring:

a) what happens if the Scots do vote to take the first step to independence? Beyond a few weeks of commentariat unease over the date of the referendum (2013 or Bannockburn year of 2014), it’s not an unspoken issue among political parties and movements in the South, i.e. England.

It will be an utter shock to the elite. Three centuries of domination and then, suddenly, ‘separation’ or ‘national liberation’ (take your pick)… it’s not something to just shrug off.

The entire thorny problem of English identity, nationhood and culture needs to be addressed.

I am worried it will be hijacked by the Right while the Centre-Right (New Labour) will mouth measly platitudes to be tough on immigration (as Miliband kicked off recently) and ‘celebrate’ English history in a wholly artificial (go and do some street parties) setting.

It will be a profound shock as “losing India” in 1947. A collective depression among the elite.

Surely, London will have to give up the seat at the UN Security Council?

And can the English Army continue to follow the Pentagon all over the world?

Purpose, character and direction: these will have to be decided. What is England for?

b) Sterling is sitting pretty as the Euro slowly implodes. One can almost feel the complacency among the elite and even much of the population as they calculate how far sterling will go in the holidays.

Yet, isn’t sterling vulnerable? It collapsed 30% after Lehman.

Where will it go if there is another banking collapse?

Isn’t UK PLC one of the most indebted of the major European nations with £1 Trillion in the red?

Does London think that Paris, Berlin, Rome and more will just sit back and let England (and the rest) bask in new glory and prosperity as capital flees to London?

Isn’t  the lop-sided English economy (over reliant on bankrupt banks) in danger of falling over?

The propaganda about financial services, invisible exports, creative ‘industries’, university education, tourism……. taking us to a post-industrial paradise…. well, you believe if you want to…. …. with the Norwegians saving North Sea Oil to form a gigantic sovereign fund while England has.. zip.. (no fund at all)…. I would say “London, we have a problem”.

Sterling and the entire business model of betting all on the City of London look like they could take a beating.

By 2017, we could be facing ruin with all its side effects of civil strife.

The 1970s will look like a stroll in the park, though that decade (with its hangover after the boom party of the 1960s) can teach us a lot about how delusions turn to dust.

The worst case scenario by 2017 could therefore include:

  • sterling crisis
  • City of London and the banks falling apart
  • UK breaks up as Scotland leaves
  • Civil unrest as youth unemployment reaches Southern European levels

Impossible? No.

Likely? Don’t know.

But that’s the whole point of looking at scenarios. Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Now, look at the ‘debate’ around and see just how the entire political class and intelligentsia are skirting the edges and refusing to ask the tough questions.

Instead, the Tory-Lib Right use the crisis to roll back the 1945 post war settlement while New Labour posture with the same thing (but over a longer time period expecting to get to power and then announce that the books were in worst shape than they thought and …..)

And did I mention the non-existent debate about climate change? Why bother?

It went out the window along with carbon trading as the investment banks saw that ‘opportunity’ disappear.

Athens had its Olympics in 2004 and had no idea of what was just around the corner.
London has a similar feel.

They used to say: don’t mention the war.

Now, it’s almost: don’t mention the collapse. It’s too painful to contemplate.

 

 

new maps of the world needed

On this site, you may have stumbled across the “new map of the middle east”.

To do this, I will add the “European Free Alliance” map of a New Europe of smaller, independent nations (once I figure out how to put it on this blog).

Do you know how I could take a map of Asia and redraw those British-era boundaries into a configuration of how I think the region, especially South Asia, will look like later on this decade?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Once the maps are in place, I will pen something about the New Eurasia.

Independence or Separation/Fragmentation/Balkanisation (depending on your point of view) is the Next Politics for this decade.

Surprised that it is rarely mentioned.