The Leaderless Revolution: The ongoing debate about bank regulation

One of the arguments of my forthcoming book is that one sign of the failure of government to agree necessary legislation is the seemingly arcane but vital issue of capital requirements for banks.  I discuss this issue in this recent column for The Guardian.  Such requirements arguably would have prevented the recent financial crisis. Continue reading The Leaderless Revolution: The ongoing debate about bank regulation

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Somalia: victim of war, famine and a pestilence of policy: my latest Guardian “Power and Nations” column, 28 July 2011

 

Somalia: victim of war, famine and a pestilence of policy

Facing starvation and instability, Somalia needs the international community to stop propping up a failed status quo and rethink

 

 

Continue reading Somalia: victim of war, famine and a pestilence of policy: my latest Guardian “Power and Nations” column, 28 July 2011

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Middle East: All Process, No Progress – my “Power & Nations” column in The Guardian

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This is my latest weekly column in “The Guardian” online, in the series “Power and Nations”.

 

Whenever an international problem starts being called a “process”, one should immediately become suspicious that the problem itself will not be solved. Indeed, the naming of a problem as a “process” is a way to obscure lack of progress with endless anaesthetising conferences, meetings and statesmanlike speeches.

Continue reading Middle East: All Process, No Progress – my “Power & Nations” column in The Guardian

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Let’s call Russia’s bluff on Syria – inaugural piece for a series “Power and Nations” in The Guardian online

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This article appeared in The Guardian online on 23 May 2011, the first article in a series called “Power and Nations”

In contrast to action on Libya, the UN has been tardy and timid over Syria’s crackdown – thanks to the threat of a Russian veto

Continue reading Let’s call Russia’s bluff on Syria – inaugural piece for a series “Power and Nations” in The Guardian online

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Three Extraordinary Stories You’ve Barely Heard of

While our attention has been on Libya, the aftermath of bin Laden’s death and a hundred other news stories, there seem to me to have been three other stories playing out that are of considerable significance. They are not headline grabbing, but that does not diminish their importance.  They are long-term stories of gradual but dramatic change:

Continue reading Three Extraordinary Stories You’ve Barely Heard of

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Marx on the alienation of work: When human becomes animal

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I had not seen this passage until I read it in “Lapham’s Quarterly”, an excellent new journal of history and ideas.  It is taken from Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1884).  According to Lapham’s Quarterly, this text was not published until 1959.  One could hardly find a more eloquent description of the fundamental alienation wrought by work.  Work is not spontaneous activity, but belongs to another; it comprises a loss of self.

 

Continue reading Marx on the alienation of work: When human becomes animal

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The Necessity of Leaderless Revolutions

It is now a commonplace to observe that recent uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world were and are leaderless.  In all these cases, no leadership figures have emerged, neither charismatic individuals nor vanguard organisations.  These revolutions embody a degree of organisation, including on social media, but not very much; these movements are not top-down, driven by the choices of a small group or individual, or inspired by an ideological rhetoric except the common cry: enough of the old order! Continue reading The Necessity of Leaderless Revolutions

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Crow’s account of the battle (from “Crow”, Ted Hughes)

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There was this terrific battle.
The noise was as much
As the limits of possible noise could take.
There were screams higher groans deeper
Than any ear could hold.
Many eardrums burst and some walls
Collapsed to escape the noise.
Everything struggled on its way
Through this tearing deafness
As through a torrent in a dark cave.

The cartridges were banging off, as planned,
The fingers were keeping things going
According to excitement and orders.
The unhurt eyes were full of deadliness.
The bullets pursued their courses Continue reading Crow’s account of the battle (from “Crow”, Ted Hughes)

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The World is better off with WikiLeaks: The Doha Debates

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I’m very grateful to the BBC Doha Debates for inviting me to take part in this debate.  I was the second proposer of the motion.  And you can see the debate here.

 

It was a cracking debate, with a very lively and outspoken audience.  I was very struck by the passion of the young people taking part, whose views could not have been clearer: we have a right to know the truth.

 

And the right side won – by a thumping majority.

Continue reading The World is better off with WikiLeaks: The Doha Debates

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Libya: further thoughts on UNSCR 1970 (2011) and paras 22-23 in particular

Thinking further about the resolution, I think there is an interesting provision in paras 22-23 of the text (see here for the final version of the text).  The referral to the ICC is very important, and will allow the court to begin immediate investigations.   This will of course take time and we are no doubt a long way from actual prosecutions let alone punishment. But paras 22-23 offer a more immediate course of action. Continue reading Libya: further thoughts on UNSCR 1970 (2011) and paras 22-23 in particular

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Libya: UN Security Council resolution 1970 (2011), adopted Feb 26, 2011: Some quick comments

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Here are some quick reactions to last night’s very interesting Libya resolution, adopted by the UNSC. I’m working off this text, marked provisional, but posted by the UK Mission (on Google docs!) as the “final” version (ok, this appears to be the final text but it’s still a mess!). Continue reading Libya: UN Security Council resolution 1970 (2011), adopted Feb 26, 2011: Some quick comments

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Two challenges in Opening Diplomacy

A fascinating and insightful discussion on Friday at Independent Diplomat here in NYC.  The subject was how to use technology to break open that closed practice, diplomacy.  Two challenges were clear, and help define the problem:

 

1.  First challenge: to open and improve the current closed practice of state-to-state interaction by promoting transparency and providing technological means (combined with incentives) to encourage and structure that transparency.

 

Continue reading Two challenges in Opening Diplomacy

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Libya: The Responsibility to Protect: The text

Heads of state and government agreed to the following text on the Responsibility to Protect in the Outcome Document of the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly in September 2005

138. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Continue reading Libya: The Responsibility to Protect: The text

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A thought experiment in global political revolution

Watching the spreading revolt against autocracies in the Middle East – Tunisia, Egypt and tonight Libya – I am struck by how irrelevant is that international body of state governments, the UN.  What a pity the UN is as awful as it is, a body all too often deadlocked in stale debate, repeating tired patterns of bloc politics.  No one is inspired by it; no one can love it.  Populated only by governments both democratic and not, it is run according to that dry calculus of states’ interests, which too often do not accord with the wishes or needs of humanity as a whole. Continue reading A thought experiment in global political revolution

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The distribution of Information = The distribution of Power

I attended a conference this week about the impact of technology on social issues.  It had many interesting speakers, not least the wonderful people at AccessNow who are doing extraordinary and secret things to help political activists use the web and get the word out despite repression.  Above all, it was fascinating to watch people grapple with the seismic impact of technology on the world – but with no clear map to guide them.  Many, I’m afraid, turned to familiar prejudices to show the way. 

Continue reading The distribution of Information = The distribution of Power

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Are the #cablegate cables too important to be left to WikiLeaks, New York Times, Guardian etc?

This was the question that occurred to me after listening to Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, and Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, last night at a discussion at Columbia University (well reported by Micah Sifry here).

There were several striking revelations from the discussion, though I am not sure that they were those intended by Rusbridger and Keller.

 

Continue reading Are the #cablegate cables too important to be left to WikiLeaks, New York Times, Guardian etc?

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Uncomfortable Lessons from the Reaction to WikiLeaks, Huffington Post

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Published by HuffPo today:

 

Amid the sound and fury of the reaction to WikiLeaks, something is missing. Whether hostile or supportive, politicians and commentators on all sides have managed to miss the real point. The contents of the leaked cables should demand a deep reflection on our foreign policy. That this has not happened tells a sorry story about our very democracy.

Continue reading Uncomfortable Lessons from the Reaction to WikiLeaks, Huffington Post

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The Semiotics of “Pot Noodles”

The following appeared in the Financial Times, which I have long treasured as the most truly subversive of newspapers.  This short article provides a rare pleasure – a profound, concise and it appears wholly unintended yet devastating insight into the true nature of the current economic and cultural system (a similar insight is to be found in the revelation that a toothbrush I recently bought came with a CD-rom with which to programme the device).  Such signs are perhaps faint signals of the very death of capitalism – or at the least the death of our sense of the absurd. Continue reading The Semiotics of “Pot Noodles”

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WikiLeaks and Terrorism (Personal Democracy Forum, 12 December, 2010, NYC)

Micah Sifry, one of the two political-tech gurus behind the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) (the other is Andrew Rasiej), has kindly posted my remarks to the #PDFLeaks “flash” conference last Saturday in New York City.  It was a great discussion, with a lot of smart people, including Arianna Huffington and Charles Ferguson, trying to grapple with the implications of the Wiki-drama.  You can see it all Continue reading WikiLeaks and Terrorism (Personal Democracy Forum, 12 December, 2010, NYC)

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#cablegate Wikileaks and the Press

I did an interview on the BBC yesterday on Wikileaks, along with Bill Keller, the Executive Editor of the venerable New York Times, which has published a few of the leaked diplomatic cables.  Keller made a startling admission – the New York Times took all the cables it intended to publish to the US government to get their permission and edits before the Times published.  Extraordinary! Continue reading #cablegate Wikileaks and the Press

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The Western Sahara – The Reality of Occupation

A week ago, it appears that Moroccan forces violently shut down the protest camps of unarmed Sahrawis outside the occupied territory’s capital, Laayoune.  The Sahrawis, who numbered approximately 20,000, were unarmed and protesting peacefully. This incident highlights the reality of occupation for Sahrawis in the territory and puts paid to the claims of Morocco’s propagandists that all is well under Moroccan rule. Continue reading The Western Sahara – The Reality of Occupation

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