Sludge #31 – Just Do It! (Part 2)
Inside This Edition: Bretton Woods Is Having A Coronary - S26 - The Battle of Prague - The Chavez Factor - The Euro – Baghdad – Moscow – In the Spirit Of The Ozlympics
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Sludge Report #31 - Just Do It!
Just Do It!
S26 Rocks! The best Indymedia yet. And by far the most sympathetic and generous mainstream media coverage the anti-capitalists have received yet.
S26 led off CNN, CNBC and BBC world news bulletins from zero hour. Even at the Battle in Seattle it took a city-wide curfew and a riot before the international media woke up and really started to take any notice of the people banging on the windows.
This time round the BBC and CNN are positively helping the movement. It's explanation time. Both news organisations are now trying to broadcast clearly articulated versions of the protestors complaints against world poverty and oppression. Which can be difficult when there are no clearly articulated aims of the protests.
But perhaps the most important aspect to S26 is the fact that for the first time since the Battle of Seattle - the protestors again have the trump card they played last November, namely, support inside the meetings for what they want – reform/abolition of the IMF and the World Bank.
The protestors of course are not asking for reform – they want to shut the Bretton Woods institutions both shut down. “Kill the IMF,” is the cry.
But as it permeates through the corridors inside the conference centre where the event is being staged this message is being translated into diplomatic-speech in countless different tongues, and in many of which reform is probably the translation.
Inside the cordon in Prague 180+ countries are meeting concerning the issue of debt. And debt is, like oil, an issue all governments of the world have an intense personal interest in.
Proposals on the table so far to resolve the problems of third world disadvantage and poverty look thin, if not anorexic. A severe case of Emperor’s new clothes syndrome is evident. Bono Vox is there to tell them so, and that it makes him feel "angry".
These nations hardly need Bono’s sweet reminding however.
There is little affection for the IMF and World Bank head-bangers among its clientele. As a result these meetings, like those of the WTO in Seattle on November 30th, will almost certainly end in platitudes and deadlock.
So is it a waste of time then? What is being achieved?
Outside the meetings, and outside Prague, the winds of change blowing for bankers are blowing strong. It is not so much that the protestors are changing the world but that a confluence of events is colliding and suggesting reform is necessary and necessary almost immediately.
OPEC is meeting today in Carracas, Venzeula. In his discussions with fellow leaders the newly elected President Hugo Chavez Frias is most probably advocating setting up an OPEC bank to compete with the IMF.
Across the Pacific Asian markets (read China and Japan) are also reported to be considering creating their own bank too. Understandably they are not at all interested in having a repeat of 1997-1998.
Sludge reckons that if all this is read together the conclusion can be reached that Bretton Woods is close to having a coronary. It is still alive, but barely, and is as we speak getting a good kicking on the Streets of Prague.
S26 - The Battle of Prague
See for yourself…
http://prague.indymedia.org Indymedia At Its Best..
The Chavez Factor
The newly elected President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezeula Hugo Chavez is a Bolivarian. That means he believes in a world free of poverty and pain. He is also, today through to Thursday (Friday NZT), from S26 to S28, hosting the second ever OPEC Leaders Summit.
Chavez is a man who quite clearly wants to save the world. And so far OPEC is doing nothing to hold up the speed of this change process at his summit.
For background the following is an extract from Chavez’s speech to the UN Millennium summit. It is well worth a read in its entirety.
“Without a doubt, in the most recent decades, these summits have been repeated intensely. We jump from summit to summit, but sadly, the majority of our peoples keep moaning from abyss to abyss. Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of South America and the inspiration of the revolution that is taking place now in Venezuela, dreamed one day, in his vision for justice, dreamed about scaling the Chimborazo Summit, and there, over the perpetual snows of the spine of the Andes, he received a mandate from the lord of times, that wise long-bearded old man: "Go and tell the truth to man". Today, I have come here as the banner bearer of this Bolivarian dream.”
Link To Full Speech… http://www.scoop.co.nz/archive/scoop/stories/b7/6a/200009081411.7d1ae8d6.html
So far Chavez is proving true to his word in so far as making his summit eventful.
OPEC National Leaders have made a virtue of not keeping the world waiting with their verdict on whether the world will be getting more oil to head off what looks like an energy – and possible economic crisis.
In his Press Conference today the OPEC President described Western oil taxes as “exorbitant”. OPEC, he said, would not be discussing further increases in production until it met again formally in November.
As a result the ball is now back in the court of Western European Governments (and their bankers).
(Petrol is not yet expensive enough to really alarm the Americans, mainly because it is not taxed nearly has highly as it is in Europe. Meanwhile the US is not yet having the business confidence wobbles that Europe is.)
European Ministers are due to meet shortly to discuss opening European strategic oil reserves, a discussion to which the European public response so far has been largely, “what reserves?” Indicating how much of a surprise this latest crisis is for everybody involved.
Meanwhile the trucking and fishing protests continue throughout Europe, 2000 trucks in Berlin yesterday on a day when truckers direct action spread to the heartland of Australian conservatives, Queensland.
Denmark is about to vote on joining the Euro and it is not difficult to see which way this plebiscite is likely to fall.
None of this - of course - is good news for the Euro – which after Oil – is the biggest and heaviest looking cloud on the world’s economic horizon at present.
Also with a lot of oil production at its disposal is Iraq. But- whether for or against Saddam - all of Iraq is now completely fed up with continued threats and sanctions from the UN Security Council. Something makes Sludge think that it is not eligible for IMF or World Bank assistance either. Sludge suspects Saddam will be cheering on the anarchist youth in Prague from his palace in Baghdad.
Meanwhile it should also be remembered that it was Iraq that arguably precipitated this current crisis when it cut production by 500,000 barrels a day to 3 million barrels a day in July.
Deployments of Iraqi troops and the alert status of allied (US and UK) forces in the Gulf is kind of understandable in the circumstances. Further underlying the fact this is a crisis. But in substance what is going on here is most probably more a case of growling than steeling for a strike. This is not where the action is – look to Carracas.
That said the military tensions in the Gulf are another tick on the high side of the oil futures market ledger.
Also with a lot of oil production at his disposal is Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation.
Russia is yet another country, surprise surprise, that has no great love for the IMF or World Bank. And Putin is a populist.
On his way to the UN Millennium summit he visited Japan - and let a little girl throw him in a Judo demonstration. He probably noticed during his visit that the Japanese pay a lot less to borrow money than the IMF charges.
Sludge is picking he will be an easy target to start talking to as soon as the Asian Monetary Fund starts recruiting clients.
The Ozlympics Effect
Finally in all of this, we have the Ozlympics in the background, creating the strange impression to all the world’s TV viewing population that fundamentally we are just one big doped up world, united together in steroid abuse, who don’t know how to play fair any more.
A world that takes medals off the children of poorer nations, because they take cold medication, but allows the rich kids of the West to get away with using expensive high tech drugs, and then make a fortune on the talk-show circuit if they get caught.
In Just Do It (Part One) Sludge argued one possible way of alleviating the growing crisis would be for Western governments to cut excise taxes on petrol immediately.
The same advice now applies to IMF and World Bank reform/abolition. There is no longer any time for slow deliberations.
In the spirit of the Ozlympics the message to the world’s leaders from S26 is simple.
Just do it!
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