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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Reality and Illusion 

Jeff,

You're right: there is a great deal that is happening or that has
happened for which we should be grateful. In many ways, we are at a peak
of human achievement.
This applies not only to material things but to our conceptions of
freedoms and individual rights, the rule of law, concern for our fellow
men in non-racist terms and so on.
Many of our moral concepts are embraced in a way that they never have
been so widely before.
For this we must be grateful; but at the same time, we must ask how
sincere this embrace is. I did think, after World War Two, that we were
on the right road to peaceful change and to a world that was free of
violence and full of working together with others for the benefit of the
whole human community.
The Cold War was a blot - but also, contrarily, a motivation for our
efforts.
Until the end of the 1960s, I think that our record - the record of
those who looked for a better postwar world - was good, at least
compared with earlier periods.
The record since has been less comforting.
We have slipped ever more terrifyingly towards what I have called a
"multiple abyss." The world is armed to the teeth as never before, with
weapons of terrifying capacity to destroy, we have many failed states
that threaten strategic and security stability, we have economic
policies that selfishly promise economic collapse on a worldwide basis -
a collapse that could be even more catastrophic in its political and
strategic implications than that of the 1930s - and we seem to have lost
the capacity to produce political, social, economic and strategic
leaders who can do anything but blunder blindly towards disaster.
We should not slip into the error of denouncing as "doomsayers" those
who define the reality of the dangers that confront us. We have made
enormous scientific and technological advances - quite incredible
advances in almost every scientific - including medical - field, even in
the last decade.
What we must not do is throw away the benefits that these advances offer
by being blind to the dangers that arise from our failure to make
advances of similar significance in our political, social, economic and
strategic understanding and our consequent policies.
In a world of immense and increasing violence and widespread want, I
have written that we need "a new vision, a new image, a new
consciousness of self. We will get it. Our looking-glass fantasy refuses to
believe that we won't. But it had better come quickly - before
catastrophe, from the demise of dreams, beats it to the finish line."
You might like to read "Uncle Rupert." I think he is the sort of man of
whom we stand greatly in need: someone addicted to freedom and a
satisfying life who sees what is needed and does what he can about it.
I agree with you that we should be bright and smile as much as we can.
We should never abandon hope or confidence in our own capacity to
determine a better future for ourselves and others. But we have to work
on hope. We have to build securely on confidence. We have to save our
best and biggest smiles for the day that we really know we are headed
towards a more peaceful, more prosperous, more cooperative world and not
away from it.


James Cumes


Jeffa wrote:
James,



I'm overjoyed that you share these interesting articles with us, now
that I have you I can cancel all my magazine subscriptions, but all you
send are doom and gloom articles about what is wrong with the world.
Wouldn't it be quite useful to creating victory over want if we knew
what was going right in the world?



Bright regards,

-=Jeff=-

----------------------

Jeff's website: http://www.souriant.com

(Jeff is a bright living in Moscow, Russia

and part of a growing constituency of Brights

at http://www.the-brights.net)

A bright is a person with a naturalist as

opposed to a supernaturalist world view.

Brights base their ethics and actions on

a naturalistic worldview.



True Friends Tell it as it is 

In defence of Labor's US stand
Comment by Doug Bandow
April 29, 2004

AS its occupation of Iraq goes from bad to worse, the US has found itself increasingly isolated. One of Washington's few friends not looking for the exit is Australia. That's good for the US – anyone would prefer to have companionship as their car hurtles off a cliff – but not necessarily good for Canberra.


Questioning Australia's commitment in Iraq is 'certainly not anti-American', says Bandow / Ray Strange


Prime Minister John Howard mirrors the rhetoric of President George W. Bush with his Government's promise that "our troops will stay in Iraq until the job is done". But that might not be within either leader's lifetime. Such a commitment seems imprudent at best. To question it, as Opposition Leader Mark Latham does, certainly is not anti-American.

The US and Australia have much in common, including economic ties, cultural heritage and security interests. There is much room for co-operation. But that doesn't require "fawning compliance", as Latham puts it. After all, the overarching security concerns that once drove the alliance are gone. Japan never re-emerged as a danger after World War II and the Soviet Union imploded more than a decade ago. China has yet to offer a replacement threat. Washington's principal geopolitical concerns today lie far away from the South Pacific.

The US really doesn't need a "deputy sheriff", as Howard reportedly once put it. In contrast, Canberra's interests are centred nearby, especially in Indonesia, where terrorism and instability pose a clear and present danger. There's obvious value in bilateral consultation. Intelligence sharing and emergency base access offer real benefits.

But there's no need for the US to hand out security guarantees to Australia. Nor is there reason for Australia to follow the US lead in distant parts of the globe. There certainly is no cause for Canberra to commit itself, even in a small way, to Washington's misbegotten occupation of Iraq. Even many Americans now realise the Iraq war was "based on a hunch", as Latham has observed. The Bush administration shamelessly manipulated the intelligence process and the information that resulted. Perhaps Howard can't be blamed for relying on Bush's word, but he deserves to be questioned for continuing to back Bush's policy.

Had Iraq ever posed a global threat – and it manifestly did not – it no longer does so. What has not been achieved, and likely never will be achieved, is turning the Bush administration's dreamland in the air into reality on the ground: Iraq as a liberal, pro-Western democracy. It's not that Iraq can never develop into one. But it is not likely to do so on Washington's time at the point of US guns (whether or not supported by a few barrels held by Aussies).

Frankly, what the US needs most are good friends willing to tell it unpleasant truths. Expecting to be "an equal partner", as Latham does, might be unrealistic – Washington has yet to learn to treat any nation as an equal. Still, Canberra need not feel the need to play a role Latham criticises as "simply one of nodding agreement".

The US obviously would have benefited from better advice before spreading instability throughout the Middle East. Giving freedom to the Iraqi people was a positive result, but by that standard of intervention another two or three score nations await liberation. Alas, when it comes to terrorism the US has managed to create yet another grievance, however cynical, that has helped invigorate a host of smaller jihadist groups across the globe.

Washington also has created an entirely new front in Iraq in which US and other coalition forces are destined to continue dying. Unfortunately, the war on Iraq – in contrast to the destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan – has been a boon for terrorists. Western-oriented states are less, rather than more, secure today than before the war.

Rather than confront a policy failure that threatens to become a debacle, war advocates in Australia, like those in the US, attack anything other than lock-step support for Washington as a proposal to cut and run. Cute rhetoric, to be sure, but "stay forever" isn't much of an alternative. What's needed is to accelerate elections and initiate a real transfer of power, followed by a coalition military exit in months, not years. A Christmas deadline, perhaps?

Doing so won't be easy. But doing so would be easier if Washington's allies began pressing it to base policy on practical realities rather than on ideological fantasies of people who told us that the Iraqis would toss rose petals at foreign forces, the occupation would pay for itself and coalition troops would be down to 30,000 or so by the end of last year. This would not be isolationism, or turning one's back on the alliance, or anti-Americanism, or any of the other silly epithets tossed Latham's way. It would be simple good sense.

Of course, as Bush made clear at his recent press conference, he can't think of a single mistake that he has made as President. So there's no doubt that Bush administration officials would respond badly if Canberra decided policy based on Australia's, and not US, interests. But, then, Australian voters have to decide just how much an invitation for their Prime Minister to visit the White House is really worth.

Of course, there are good reasons to criticise Latham's ideas. For instance, I believe the bilateral free trade agreement to be a significant boon for both nations. But claims that the Labor leader's desire for an Australia-centred foreign policy is anti-American should not be treated seriously.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington.

AAP



Monday, April 26, 2004

The IMF at 60: "Reform a Distant Dream" 

Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services
Published on Tuesday, april 20, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
The IMF at 60: Reform Still a Long Way Off
by Mark Weisbrot

It's a quiet anniversary, the 60th year of the International Monetary Fund and its sister institution, the World Bank. It seems only the protestors who will gather in Washington D.C. for the organizations' annual spring meetings will be calling attention to the birthday of the most powerful financial institutions in the world.

For the IMF especially, this is in keeping with tradition. Until the Asian economic crisis began in 1996, the Fund was pretty much able to stay out of the news. But that crisis shook world financial markets and brought, for the first time, censure that couldn't be ignored. Joseph Stiglitz, then Chief Economist of the World Bank and soon to win the Nobel Prize in his field, publicly criticized the IMF for worsening the situation of Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.

It seemed that the Fund, together with its main supervisor -- the U.S. Treasury Department -- had helped cause the crisis by encouraging these countries to open up their financial markets to "hot money" that flowed out just as easily as it had flowed in. Treasury then intervened to block a plan by Japan to resolve the crisis without the IMF. The Fund proceeded to pour gasoline on the flames by insisting that these countries raise interest rates (as high as 80 percent in Indonesia) and cut spending while their economies were shrinking.

The crisis then spread to Russia, Brazil, and Argentina, and the IMF chased after it with more wrong advice and tens of billions of dollars in loans. The repetition was remarkable. Each country had a fixed exchange rate -- their currency was tied to the dollar -- and in each case the domestic currency was overvalued. In each case this was hurting the country by making its imports artificially cheap and its exports too expensive. And when the crisis hit, both Russia and Brazil had to raise interest rates through the roof -- in order to keep money in the country -- and borrow enormously in order to keep the fixed, overvalued exchange rate.

The alternative would have been to let their currencies fall, but the Fund said this might cause hyper-inflation, and it provided the loans to maintain the fixed exchange rates. The result: in all three countries, the currency collapsed anyway, there was no hyperinflation (or even sustained high inflation), and the devaluation helped each economy recover. The IMF could hardly have been more wrong if it had tried to be.

Of course this was just one high-profile string of failures, and not necessarily the worst. Russia during the 1990s lost nearly half of its national income while following IMF programs and advice for its transition to a market economy, an economic collapse not previously seen in the absence of war or natural disaster. And the Latin American experiment with IMF reforms has also gone belly-up: for the whole five years 2000-2004, we are looking at almost no growth (about 1 percent total) in income per person. This follows a miserable 11 percent for the two decades 1980- 1999, as compared to 80 percent for the pre-reform era of 1960-1979.

Of course the IMF is not always wrong. There are times when a country is truly living beyond its means -- borrowing too much either at home or from abroad -- and there is a need for "adjustment." But the Fund's decades-long losing streak has prompted calls for reform of this unaccountable institution -- along with its larger but subordinate partner, the World Bank.

Washington has the predominant voice at the IMF, since Europe and Japan almost never oppose the U.S. there. This puts the U.S. Treasury Department at the top of a creditors' cartel with enormous power, since those who refuse the IMF's prescriptions are generally denied credit from other major sources.

That power is beginning to break down. For example, Argentina has stood up to the IMF several times since the Fund offered no help to its collapsed economy two and a half years ago. Argentina's courage has paid off: the economy grew at a rapid 8.7 percent last year, and is expected to grow 7.1 percent this year.

But reform of the IMF remains a distant dream. For the foreseeable future, at least, the Fund will remain one of the few economic consultants that has to pay its clients to take its advice.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net), in Washington, D.C.


Friday, April 16, 2004

The Petrov Affair 

Interesting, Peter, that you should recall the Petrov Affair in such detail.
People need to be well into their sixties now to have any worthwhile
personal recall.
I was in External Affairs, serving in Canberra at the time.
I knew many of the people involved or at whom suspicion was, rightly or
wrongly, directed.
It was easy in those days to call masses of people "communists."
We'd grown up in a period in which capitalism had failed and many saw the
virtues of socialism or "communism" in some form or other.
I was at university in the early 'forties and we had our fair share of
''commie" lecturers there - as well as students of course. By the time I
joined the Army in early 1942, we were calling Stalin ''Uncle Joe.''
All that changed abruptly after the war and the return of the Liberals to
power at the end of 1949.
In 1951, Dick Casey claimed that there was "a nest of traitors" in External
Affairs.
He did not say who precisely they were.
However, he meant that there were many left-wingers whose sympathies lay to
some extent with the Soviet Union.
To Casey - and of course to Menzies - Petrov was a blessing who proved all
that they'd been saying, for so long, about the "communists", the
socialists, the fellow-travellers, the left sympathisers - and, of course,
the Labor Opposition.
We never had quite the gross McCarthy obsession in Australia that there was
in the United States, but Petrov gave an excuse for developing it and
declaring that anything short of Menzies' liberalism was "communism" and
treason.
The strange thing is that Menzies, right through to his resignation in
January 1966, turned out to be as good a socialist revolutionary, in most if
not all of his substantive economic and social policies, as Ben Chifley.
He turned back very little of Chifley's revolution - and that almost
entirely at the presentational edges.
It was those who followed Menzies who didn't know where they were going.
McMahon was the ultimate in slapstick incompetence but those who preceded
him after Menzies were not much better.
Whitlam still tried to stick to some socialist and mixed-economy positions.
The unions - a vital part of democratic stability - were still strong and
dedicated, pretty much in the traditional sense, to the working man.
It was after Whitlam that the whole careful socialist construct fell to
pieces.
It did that, not under Fraser, but under the sham left-wing misgovernments
of Hawke and Keating. The pathetic Howard found no model in Menzies but in
the two preceding Labor leaders - and of course they all found their
inspiration in the likes of monetarism as an economic "theory" and the likes
of Reagan and Thatcher as political models.
So Petrov's impact was great in keeping Menzies and the Liberals in power.
The defection sent Evatt crazy and split the Labor Party more deeply and for
a longer period than ever before or since.
However, his impact on the underlying economic and social environment was
less than we might have expected and much less than many of us may have
feared.
His impact on some individuals was cruel. I have in mind such a decent man
as Ric Throssell whose treatment reflected the shallowness and meanness of
those who run our government and our public service.
The effect on our relations with the Soviet Union was not long-lasting. I
happened to be in Austria for the Hungarian revolution in 1956, about two
and a half years after Petrov defected. I crossed into Hungary to join in
the celebrations before Soviet and other Eastern European forces moved in to
crush the rebels.
Australia's denunciation of the Soviet action and those who supported it,
was fierce. At the same time, of course, Menzies' service to the British
cause on Suez was less easy to condone.
However, by 1959, I sat with Casey during an international conference on the
Gold Coast to work out what was called, if I remember rightly, the
Casey/Firyubin Understanding. The result was that the Soviet Diplomatic
Mission, which had been withdrawn at the time of Petrov's defection,
returned to Canberra and we began to mend our relations with Budapest. By
1975, I was myself Ambassador to Hungary and dealt normally with Moscow's
puppets.
Altogether and whatever our assessment from 50 years later, the Petrov
affair has an important place in our national story. We can't help feeling a
sadness about what it did to the Petrovs themselves. I did a piece on it
once called ''The Outcasts'' but, in fact, they seem to have lived out their
days in reasonable content.
If so, that is a comfort.


James Cumes
http://www.magellanbooks.com/jamescumes.html
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?AuthorID=3473
http://www.kokodatrail.com.au/forums/?showtopic=54
http://beta.hometown.aol.co.uk/cresscourt1/myhomepage/newsletter.html

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Myers"
To: "clem clarke"
Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2004 6:56 AM
Subject: 50 years since the Petrov Affair


50 years since the Petrov Affair

(1) Petrov, Vladimir - Soviet spymaster in Australia
(2) Evdokia Petrov - Soviet envoy's wife whose plight highlighted cold
war spy fever
(3) Mrs Petrov's death brings bizarre affair to end
(4) Spies who loved us

(1) Petrov, Vladimir - Soviet spymaster in Australia

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Uncle Rupert 

To get yourself a copy of Uncle Rupert, go to -

http://www.magellanbooks.com/jamescumes.html

Peaceful Change and Uncle Rupert 




Peaceful Change and Uncle Rupert

In The News
"Uncle Rupert", a novel that brings together memories and thoughts on growing up, finding freedom and "battling for the battlers", is now available at -

http://www.magellanbooks.com/jamescumes.html



UNCLE RUPERT (International Edition)
Dear Readers,
I want to let you know that a splendid edition of Uncle Rupert is just making its dramatic appearance, in Australia and around the world.
Uncle Rupert links in with other political, social and economic objectives that we share. For example, a front page excerpt from the book The Human Mirror, contains a call for a new vision, a new image, a new consciousness of self.
At the end of the book is a Call to Action by Victory Over Want (VOW). Here is an account of what VOW is all about and its importance in seeking - and, I hope, finding - a path to human cooperation, peaceful change and a more peaceful and prosperous world.
The Uncle Rupert story is lively, often amusing and sometimes bordering on fantasy; but it is also practical and offers ways in which a world of more equal opportunities and more equal enjoyment of life may be found.
The characters are not only curious, amusing, fascinating, but many of them have whimsical names that may sometimes - repeat, sometimes - conceal a real person. For example, who do you think might answer to the name of Sterling Bodger? No prizes are offered for giving the correct answer.
I hope you like Uncle Rupert and, if you do, please recommend it to your mates and family.
· Order a copy of Uncle Rupert at Magellanbooks
· James Cumes: Authorsden
· Real Memories of Kokoda Trail






Upcoming Events
Watch for news and reviews in my blog at Lakatoi -

http://lakatoi.blogspot.com/

For thoughts and developments in the fight against poverty, go to -

http://VictoryOverWant.org




Longer Term Assessment
Watch for the Prologue to The Multiple Abyss -

"Those of us who grew up in the Great Depression knew a world in which almost all of us were poor and our future uncertain....let us now offer a more detailed analysis and more precise proposals on the ways in which we might proceed if we are to avoid tumbling into the 'multiple abyss.'"




Your Links to Peaceful Change
Magellan Books
Victory Over Want
James Cumes





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