September 3, 2015
By Rick Salutin
2400 B.C.: The king of Lagash, part of ancient Sumerian civilization in what is now Iraq, declares a general cancellation of debts. Peasants have come under great economic pressure with the rise of agriculturally based empires. It is the peasants who panic and the monarch who gives them relief, showing that debt hasn’t yet become the source of an indelible moral stain, unlike our own time. Debt happens and if it becomes too heavy, the government simply cancels it.
Regular forgiveness becomes the pattern in the ancient near east. In 1761 B.C., King Hammurabi of Babylon cancels debts, so that “the strong might not oppress the weak.” Over 1,000 years later, the Jubilee law of the Hebrew Bible joins this tradition of routine debt cancellations. The Egyptian Rosetta Stone of 196 B.C. also annuls debts. These amount to ancient forms of bankruptcy law except that they are unaccompanied by a sense of moral disgust about debt.
Some time during the next several thousand years (Imperial Rome, Middle Ages, Renaissance, etc.): By some long, obscure process, debt becomes a sign of moral turpitude. Geld (money) equals guilt, versus the attitude of the ancient near east. This sense falls unevenly on the poor versus the rich. (Also, in my experience, btw, on leftists, who feel agonizingly guilt-ridden by debt.) Yet nations, at this point, aren’t comparably humiliated by the debt experience. So:
1557-1596: Spain cheerfully declares bankruptcy four times, during its period of heady conquest. In 1692, Britain runs its first deficit, to finance a war, and remains in debt ever since, 323 years and counting. In 1694 it creates the Bank of England to make loans to the king so he can finance wars worry-free. In 1789 the U.S. goes into debt and stays there until now. Sometimes public debt rises, with wars and deficits, then it falls and rises again. No one panics.
1936: economist John Maynard Keynes makes the remarkable suggestion that governments should incur debt not only to finance wars but to ensure general prosperity in harsh economic times. Other economists are unsettled.
1945-mid 1970s: following Keynes’ advice, Western nations undergo three decades of unprecedented growth, prosperity and shrinking inequality.
Year indeterminate but sometime in the last 40: Public debt is demonized too: balanced budgets and hatred of deficits become items of faith unchallengeable by anyone running for office.
1980s: Ronald Reagan deplores deficits yet simultaneously follows Keynes’ advice, building up U.S. military through debt. Global bureaucracies like IMF, World Bank terrorize developing nations in order to force them to balance budgets, then move on to victimize Western nations like Greece in same way. In crises like 2008, deficit hysteria is momentarily shelved but never discarded.
1988: Mulroney Tories bring the question of deficits into Canadian election. Reporters fall all over themselves asking befuddled candidates: how are you going to pay for that — a question rarely, if ever, asked in previous elections.
1993: Liberals Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien decide to freak out because junior editorial writer at Wall Street Journal said Canada is becoming third world country due to deficits. They slash social programs, fulfilling neo-con agenda.
2003: Martin finally gets wish, is PM, tries to reverse course, implement national child care, Kelowna accord etc., but finds it’s too late. The die is cast and he cast it. In 2006, Stephen Harper takes over, finding his way well paved.
2015: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair denounces deficits, promises balanced budget, confusing most NDP candidates who nevertheless manage to fall in line. Mulcair is following other “left” parties, like UK Labour under Tony Blair, who became admirers of Margaret Thatcher in order to win power. Unexpectedly, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau declares he will run deficits, in classical Keynesian fashion, in order to strengthen economy. Canadian voters shake heads in puzzlement.
Just the other day: Trudeau then justifies Paul Martin’s deficit hysteria and program slashing of the 1990s. It’s a classic case of Freudian Oedipal remorse, as in, “I’m sorry I killed our father” — which in this case is a really complicated image. Proving, at least, that anxiety about debt/deficits is far from resolved.
(With special thanks to work by David Graeber and Michael Hudson.)
Rick Salutin’s column appears Friday. firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More
A Muslim pilgrim has been captured on video using a hands-free Segway device, sometimes referred to as a ‘hoverboard,’ to perform a religious ritual at Islam’s holiest site.
The video shows a man circumambulating around the Ka’bah—a shrine in Mecca considered sacred by Muslims and a site of pilgrimage for millions each year—using the device, which has a faint blue light emitting from it. The video was posted to YouTube on Monday and was tweeted by British Haj Travel, a company which organises pilgrimages for Muslims, although it cannot be verified.
News site Middle East Eye reported that the man was completing the ritual of tawaf, whereby pilgrims walk round the Ka’bah seven times in a counter-clockwise fashion. He is believed to have been undertaking the umrah, an optional pilgrimage to Mecca carried out by Muslims at any time of the year. The umrah is different to hajj, which is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken during the last month of the Islamic calendar. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and compulsory for all Muslims to undertake at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically and financially capable of doing so.
The clip elicited a range of response on social media, with some accusing the man of being disrespectful by using the device rather than walking. Wheelchairs are permitted for pilgrims who are disabled and several wheelchair users can be seen in the clip.
Zachary V. Wright, associate professor of religious studies at Northwestern University in Qatar, told the news site Al Arabiyah that the man should not be judged for his actions, as he could have a legitimate ailment. “Muslim scholars should not judge this man on the Segway, but in no way could Islamic jurisprudence be used to justify this as normative practice. Indeed it is very difficult to imagine a case where a person is able to mount and balance on a Segway but cannot walk,” said Wright.Read More
أمستردام، 3 سبتمبر 2015 / گلوب ن نیوز وائر — تتحد شركة Gemalto، الرائدة على مستوى العالم في مجال الأمن الرقمي (والمسجلة في بورصة يورونيكست تحت الرمزNL0000400653 GTO) مع Samsung للتسريع من وتيرة إطلاق خدمة الدفع عبر الأجهزة المحمولة Samsung Pay من خلال تقنية AllynisTrusted Service Hub (TSH).التي تنتجها شركةGemalto. إن Samsung Pay هي خدمة […]Read More
Over 13 million children are being kept away from school due to conflicts raging across the Middle East, the United Nations said on Thursday, warning that the “hopes of a generation” could be destroyed if they are allowed to grow up without an education.
In a report on the impact of conflict on education in six countries and territories across the region, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) found that over 8,850 schools had been forced to shut down because of violence.
“The destructive impact of conflict is being felt by children right across the region,” Peter Salama, regional director for Unicef in the Middle East and North Africa, told Agence France-Presse. “It’s not just the physical damage being done to schools, but the despair felt by a generation of schoolchildren who see their hopes and futures shattered.”
The U.N. report warned that the impact of the ongoing Syrian conflict, which has now entered its fifth year, has had a “massive price.” One in four schools in the country has closed since the conflict erupted, which has caused over 2 million children to drop out, and over 52,000 teachers to leave their posts.
“Even those Syrian teachers who have ended up as refugees in other countries have faced obstacles which prevent them from working,” the report said.
“It’s no coincidence in that what we see in terms of our TV pictures, the tragic pictures of people crossing on boats to Greece and Italy, very much comes back to the Syrian conflict and the Iraqi conflict to a lesser extent,” Salama said, according to Reuters.
The report also said that attacks against schools and staff were becoming increasingly prevalent in Yemen. “The killing, abduction and arbitrary arrest of students, teachers and education personnel have become commonplace,” it warned.
In Libya, over half of the country’s internally displaced people said that their children cannot attend classes due to the conflict. In Benghazi alone, just 65 of 239 schools continue to remain open.
The report also touched on the state of education in the Gaza Strip, where the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas left at least 281 schools damaged, and eight “completely destroyed.”
In Iraq, where the government and militia groups are locked in battle against the Islamic State group, the education of at least 950,000 children has been severely affected by the ongoing violence.
“With more than 13 million children already driven from classrooms by conflict, it is no exaggeration to say that the education prospects of a generation of children are in the balance,” the report said.Read More
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أمستردام، 2 سبتمبر 2015 گلوب نیوز وزئر – تقدم شركة Gemalto الرائدة على مستوى العالم في مجال الأمن الرقمي (والمسجلة في بورصة يورونيكست تحت الرمز NL0000400653 GTO) اتصالات آلة إلى آلة آمنة فضلاً عن إمكانيات الحساب المتقدمة لحلول إنترنت الأشياء المبتكرة المستخدمة في تعظيم إدارة المركبات والأساطيل. وقع اختيار شركة Digital Communications Technologies (DCT)، المقدم […]Read More
Debut of Helmand High Speed Service Marks Latest Success For AWCC Strategy To Deliver Global Class Wireless Service To All Major Afghan Cities in 2015 KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 3, 2015 / PRNewswire — The Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) (www.afghan-wireless.com), the nation’s first mobile communications company, the founder of Afghanistan’s mobile communications market and a […]Read More
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Sept. 3, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Gemalto (Euronext NL0000400653 GTO), the world leader in digital security, joins forces with Samsung to accelerate the deployment of Samsung Pay through Gemalto’s Allynis Trusted Service Hub (TSH). Samsung Pay is a simple and secure mobile payment service that will provide wider acceptance with NFC and MST […]Read More