TTIP and globalism

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One of the most common objections I hear to Simpol’s call for global governance, is that it will damage national sovereignty. There are numerous arguments that one might put against this, but one issue stands out as absolute proof of the necessity of global democractic governance.

That issue is TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This ‘free trade’ agreement, which is currently being negotiated, has not made nearly as much news as it deserves to. This is probably because it is being discussed behind closed doors. It is also, as with all such agreements, going to be ludicrously long and tediously complex for the average reader. But the one very important detail that has emerged, is that corporations may be able to sue governments for lost profits, in the instance that governments make decision which damage said profits.

So, for a commonly given example, if a government were to ban fracking, multinational corporations can sue them for the profits they think they would have made from that fracking. All of this happens through supra-national ‘arbitration tribunals’. Now all sorts of arguments are being made on both sides as to the relative benefits and costs of TTIP. However, what stands out, for me, is the supra-national arbitration process. This fatally undermines the argument given at the beginning of this piece.

You see, the truth is, that global governance is already happening. Governments know it and are powerless to stop it, or even to apply the brakes. Corporations know it too. The decisions are being made, the rules are being decided and it’s all happening behind closed doors.

The decision we, the people, have to make is not whether or not we want global governance. That ship has sailed. We have only to decide whether or not that global governance will be democratic.

If we do, then we have an awful lot of catching up to do and fast! I can only recommend that readers begin at Simpol.org.

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Cryptocurrency Can, Will and Must Work.

Crosspost by SIMPOL Supporter and Member Robert Hickey. Originally on his blog at: http://rfhickey.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/how-can-cryptocurrency-not-work/

I guess that I never thought much about Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, until I moved to a place where credit and debit card use was not as much of a thing in comparison to what I was used to – a place where nearly every transaction required counting out paper and/or coins and trying to get a sum together as close to the price of the thing as possible – and often hoping against hope that the person on the other side of the counter could give me back the difference, or as close as we both found mutually agreeable.

Being a creature of habit, it took me much time, and many awkward moments, for me to learn to carry enough cash and coins to cover whatever stuff I buy. I had always carried paper money; I just rarely seemed to need to use it. It was exponentially more inefficient in this new context to have to deal with all that money nearly all the time.

It also seemed downright strange, and somewhat representative of the times, to know that I could go from checking my online bank  accounts on the other side of the planet, from my phone, to having a problem getting money into the person’s hands standing in front of me. That, if I did not have the proper cash, and they did not have the exact change, that I would have to walk a few blocks to find a machine (and hope that it was refilled recently), pay a bank 2-4 dollars to access my money, and again hope that we could do business.

It reminded me of a moment I had where the juxtaposition of writing an e-mail on a laptop, while sitting next to a wood-stove, came from the ether – how some things have come so far technologically and how others have painfully remained the same. Amazing innovation had come to so many elements of our daily lives – communication, work, travel – but so little seemed to come to the micro-transactions that we conduct so often.

So, in a moment of pseudo-prescience, I bought some Bitcoin (or rather a fraction of a Bitcoin) and traded some of that for some of the alternative cryptocurrencies (Vertcoin and Dogecoin) that I had read about. I have been playing around with them for a bit; seeing where I could use them, where I could store them, where I could trade them. Part of me is doing this just to keep up with the times (I just turned 30 and felt that I must now make an effort to keep up with “the kids these days”) – to not become the neo-luddite of the kind that I was when my friends first started getting their first cell phones and I was a year or two late to that 90’s party (I cringe when I think about myself asking “Why do I need one?”).

But while I, (like most of us – maybe all of us) have some ingrained illogical part of me that loves to hate change, I remembered the things that I felt before I got my first cell phone, and even my first smartphone – that once I got it, I realized how amazingly useful it was. That I should learn to suppress that illogical gut reaction that I have to change, which prevented me from thinking through all the benefits of progress, and downplaying the natural tendency to think that the sky is falling when something purports to make our lives better through technology.

This resistance did seem pretty easy to overcome though in the case of cryptocurrency – as the benefits of a digital currency, simply from an “ease-of-transaction” point of view, appeared so huge.

As the internet has made us confront the reality that, more than living within a framework of a nation-state system with increasingly permeable national borders, humanity has gone global. Cryptocurrency furthers that trend by allowing us to act like it.

There are many concrete benefits of cryptocurrency that have been beautifully articulated by experts on the subject (i.e. it is fast, it is cheap, governments cannot manipulate it or remove it, and that among other things, you own your own currency accounts). But going beyond these tangible benefits, I believe, is something seemingly opaque, yet equally, if not more important.

That the inevitability of use of this new mode of exchange (and store of value), coupled with the need to develop the global infrastructure and rules of conduct for it, will be a powerful lever that brings us one step closer to the global civilization that, I think, is indispensable to the long-term viability of the human race on Earth.

The inner revolution

This was sent to me by a friend and supporter of Simpol. Thought I’d share it with you all… 🙂

Mark
——————

On the surface of the world right now there is

War and violence and things seem dark.

But calmly and quietly, at the same time,

Something else is happening underground.

An inner revolution is taking place

And certain individuals are being called to a higher light.

It is a silent revolution.

From the inside out. From the ground up.

This is a Global operation.

A Spiritual Conspiracy.

There are sleeper cells in every nation on the planet.

You won’t see us on the TV.

You won’t read about us in the newspaper.

You won’t hear about us on the radio.

We don’t seek any glory.

We don’t wear any uniform.

We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles.

Most of us work anonymously.

We are quietly working behind the scenes

In every country and culture of the world

Cities big and small, mountains and valleys,

In farms and villages, tribes and remote islands.

You could pass by one of us on the street

And not even notice.

We go undercover.

We remain behind the scenes.

It is of no concern to us who takes the final credit

But simply that the work gets done.

Occasionally we spot each other in the street.

We give a quiet nod and continue on our way.

During the day many of us pretend we have normal jobs

But behind the false storefront at night

Is where the real work takes place.

Some call us the Conscious Army.

We are slowly creating a new world

With the power of our minds and hearts.

We follow, with passion and joy

Our orders come from the Central Spiritual Intelligence.

We are dropping soft, secret love bombs when no one is looking

Poems ~ Hugs ~ Music ~ Photography ~ Movies ~ Kind words ~

Smiles ~ Meditation and prayer ~ Dance ~ Social activism ~ Websites

Blogs ~ Random acts of kindness…

We each express ourselves in our own unique ways

With our own unique gifts and talents.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

That is the motto that fills our hearts.

We know it is the only way real transformation takes place.

We know that quietly and humbly we have the

Power of all the oceans combined.

Our work is slow and meticulous

Like the formation of mountains.

It is not even visible at first glance.

And yet with it entire tectonic plates

Shall be moved in the centuries to come.

Love is the new religion of the 21st century.

You don’t have to be a highly educated person

Or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it.

It comes from the intelligence of the heart

Embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Nobody else can do it for you.

We are now recruiting.

Perhaps you will join us

Or already have.

All are welcome.

The door is open

Inaction of Syria=Inaction on Climate

Rob Hickey, SIMPOL Blogger and Supporter (this is a cross-post with Rob Hickey’s blog over at Spaceship Earth)

I have traditionally prided myself on being able to sniff out what I think are ludicrous conspiracy theories, and to scoff at them condescendingly. This has routinely been undertaken with a degree of smugness spreading across my face that would make even the most docile pacifist want to shatter the bridge of my nose with a tack hammer.

But I am beginning to believe that, like the most crazed of tin-foil-hatted-moon-landing deniers, I am starting to see connections between things that are, at best, tenuously related. As perception is reality to some degree, I continue.

The problem, Dear Reader, is that I see the implications of current events on climate change lurking forebodingly around every corner.

It’s pretty much old hat by now to everyone that the United Nations Security Council has been unable to pass a resolution legalizing a military intervention in Syria (which is needed under Article 42 of the United Nations Charter for the use of force to be internationally lawful). Russia and China are to thank for that bit of “non-interventionist” statesmanship, although a good number of us might suspect ‘realpolitiking’ as the elephant in the room. Self-defense is also considered a lawful use of force under (Article 51 of the UN Charter), but since this is a civil war, a Security Council Resolution would appear the only way to do this in accordance with codified international law.

Despite this, there is a Responsibility to Protect initiative of the United National established in 2005 which proposes that:

  1. A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war      crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
  2. The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
  3. If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.

While not law per se, Wikipedia calls this an “emerging intended norm” which some legal commentators claim can serve as the basis for action outside the bounds of the UN – presumably many of those commentators work for the U.S. government.

And yes, I used Wikipedia as a source. College professors everywhere (none of whom are likely reading this), eat your hearts out.

A piece in the Tehran Times claims that the U.S. has bent and twisted this norm into what it calls, the Right to Bomb principle. Some interpretations of the Responsibility to Protect initiative take the position that when a consensus cannot be reached at the UN that a “coalition of willing” can be deployed. A fine line needs to be walked here of course, as it clearly undermines the UN’s mandate on the use of force under international law, bringing the need for international consensus into question.

Obama has made his position on the UN clear by saying “I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold [Syrian President Bashar] Assad accountable.”

While the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons in Syria on innocents seems insufficient to trigger an organized consensual international response, my figurative hyperopia (which means farsighted – I, for sure, had to look that up) makes me feel kind of bad in saying what I am about to say. I feel that I am belittling the gravity of the present and to a certain degree overemphasizing the importance of some distant future.

The only way that I feel even somewhat content with what I am about to say is that, as a student of history – regardless that it is probably hovering at the elementary school level – short-sightedness and the human mind are somewhat brothers-in-arms. A couple examples of this include U.S. support of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s (yes, I saw Charlie Wilson’s War) and the Western backed coup overthrowing Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, both have which have significant ramifications to this day (Argo was a solid flick as well).  I am, in my own mind at least, an inconsequential counter-weight to that oh-so-noble human tradition of thinking at arm’s length.

So here goes.

If the images of dead children do not trigger a credible international response, how can we hope for international consensus in dealing with climate change?

Eck. Even though I did preface that somewhat, I still feel kind of gross saying that.

If videos of hundreds of children dead children cannot produce a concerted international response, what effect can a hockey-stick shaped graph illuminating future global average temperatures and CO2 levels have on parties with vastly different and irreconcilable views?

Call me crazy, and you wouldn’t be the first, but why is it that the UN Security Council, with historical and present animosities between its members, the ones responsible for deciding when UN law has been transgressed and what actions should be taken to redress them? Clearly, the foxes have designed the chicken coop. This is admittedly a soft-ball and somewhat ignorant question, and one that I have not-so-cleverly worded rhetorically to make my next point.

To make the UN effective at doing what it exists to do (stopping/preventing crimes against humanity), a politically independent legal body needs to be created to determine when a “red-line” has been crossed and what action needs to be taken to address it. These “red-lines” need to exist as codified written statements. Presumably, many of them already do in the UN Charter. Then there would be no need for Obama, or any other American or foreign president, to make them, or feel bound unilaterally by them. In the words of Henry Kissinger, the U.S. should not be the police of the world, but it can be a last resort in addressing national, regional or global crisis. This is something most Americans – I know because I am one of them – would feel much better about rather than constantly being the first to the scene. Crimes against humanity require humanity, not America alone, to address them.

Unilateral action when the UN balks is a thankless job for the U.S.; a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.”

I like making questionably useful analogies, so with that in mind…rather than playing every position on the baseball field at once, the U.S. can be the pinch hitter that steps to the plate when the bases are loaded when the world is three runs down in the bottom of the ninth.  Not a great analogy to be sure, but good to get out of my system.

By being a proponent of global governance, some may claim that I am falling into the hands of shadowy ‘smoking-man’ style characters who want One World Government and who want nothing more than to control us all. In some sense, when I see situations like Syria, or CO2 concentrations rising with only superficial actions to address them, I think that we need it.

But like any red-blooded American, I recognize that the slide into tyranny is always possible and that, as such, the right to privacy, association and to bear arms should also be heavily protected.

When national interests are no longer significant factors in making the decisions that need to be made, such as would be the case if an independent ‘red-line’ body as discussed above would potentially deliver, much contention on the degree to which climate change (and other existential or humanitarian crises) can be addressed, dissolve. Admittedly, since nearly all of us have some form of national affiliation and identity, finding such a body would be troubling.

At the risk of sounding hippy-ish, this would, it seems to me, require a shift in human consciousness towards a more world-centric view of each of our places in the human family.

International Organized Crime: Capitalism at Its Finest?

Misha Glenny’s ‘McMafia’, left me confused, uncertain, self-reflective and, I think, better off than it found me. Shattering preconceived notions and world-views in light of new information, while sometimes discomforting is, I think, a large part of what drives forward human society. While any one person’s world-view may only be able to stretch and bend within certain limits, over time and between lifetimes, quite dramatic shifts in views about the natural and (a subset of it, the social world) emerge. But that’s another post.

Strangely, despite the brutality portrayed in the intertwining threads that the book weaved together, I became impressed by the efficiency and organization of global criminal networks. In the same way that one might study medieval torture techniques with a sense of both fascination and disgust, I found that they are, it seems to me, the purist form of capitalism in existence. This was difficult for me to accept at first as I am a firm believer in the efficiency of the free-market as an economic system compared to any other system yet deployed. There are certainly winners and losers, those who the markets have failed, this cannot be argued (and often this is a result of chance rather than personal choices or talents), but its overall delivery of human happiness is, I think, unparalleled in human history.

But it is both the liberalization of the global economy over the past twenty years, in line with the ‘Washington Consensus’, combined with limits to that liberalization in the form of laws against such activities as drug production and use and prostitution, combined with a world with globally fragmented tax and financial regulatory system, which make such internally organized crime not only possible, but inevitable. Therefore, it is the global economic, legal, and financial systems which allow for the emergence of deeply embedded and destructive organized crime, rather than, to put it bluntly ‘bad guys’. In fact, I would argue, many of those involved criminal activities would prefer not to live in constant fear of violence and life-long prison sentences. But, in a world where material opulence can be achieved faster and with higher probability through illicit capitalism than licit capitalism, the choice for those in a position to exploit illicit activity, is obvious.

Glenny makes the case that the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are hopelessly, and almost comically paradoxical, as the War on Drugs drives this market underground where financial flows cannot be traced, and into the hands of terrorist enterprises. With respect to the global economic system, the reduction of regulation in the flow of wealth and goods around the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union has eased the process of the globalization of organized crime. Finally, disparate tax systems in various countries around the world create safe havens for locating capital, in some cases intentionally created to attract wealth to a particular country or region.

I could not agree more with Glenny’s conclusion that the interconnectedness between the economic, legal and financial systems, and the trend towards an increasingly globalized and capitalistic world (a positive one in my view) makes global governance of these systems a precursor to addressing this and, by extension, all global challenges.

By Rob Hickey

Simpol Videos

Here’s a selection of videos made for Simpol over the last couple of years. This will be going up as a separate tab as well in due course, but thought I’d post it here for now.

John Bunzl interviewed by Dr Nicholas Beecroft.



An interview by Jack Butler (Part I).

An interview by Jack Butler (Part II).

Simpol’s call to work together.

John Bunzl explains the nation-centric way we presently tend to think about the world and shows how obsolete it has become. He goes on to show why we must now move to world-centric thinking if global problems are to be solved.

Please see the VIDEO tab for more! 🙂