tag: World affairs



14
Nov 2014

Oil at 80 dollars

Those who keep an eye on such things will know that something very strange has been happening with the oil price over the past few months. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the Emirates have been aggressively driving down the price of oil (and have just signalled their intent to continue doing so). This fall has not coincided with an equally precipitous drop in demand, and it is not – except tangentially, in a manner I’ll discuss in the fifth paragraph – related to the “unconventional oil” coming out of America thanks to the fracking boom. That whole fracking thing is smoke and mirrors of the first order by the way.

No, what’s happening with the oil price right now is geopolitical. What’s more, it heralds an era of increased geopolitical tension.. something that’s only starting to filter through into the mainstream. There’s a big wake-up call coming folks.

What do I mean when I say the price drop is geopolitical? Well, it’s important to understand that when it comes to oil, the Saudis (and the other Gulf Kingdoms) are very astute. Right now they possess a large enough share of the oil export market to effectively drag the global price any direction they choose. And this has a massive effect on the global economy. However, it is extremely unlikely they will still possess this influence in 20 years (even 10 years from now there’s no guarantee). Based on depletion profiles that they take very seriously (even if the western media does not), they will never possess as great a global influence as they do today.

Saudi Arabia is taking the lead on this, and is being backed by Kuwait and Qatar (with the United Arab Emirates a more reluctant fellow-traveller… this hurts their economy more than it hurts the others for a bunch of reasons). It’s important to realise that it is not an OPEC thing. In fact… OPEC is bloody furious. And with good reason; a number of OPEC nations are going to end up as collateral damage in all this (Venezuela and Nigeria are both being crucified).

Russia is also feeling the pinch. And the fracking boom in America is being hit very hard. That entire industry is a pipe-dream. It can only exist thanks to massive government subsidy in tandem with a very high oil price. Both of which can be arranged, it’s true, but more importantly… there just isn’t as much of it as has been suggested. Nowhere near as much. And ramping up production to cover the drop in conventional crude production simply isn’t going to happen.

Now, it’s unlikely the Saudis are willing to take such a large economic hit themselves simply to undermine the US fracking industry. That Financial Times article suggests that the low price could put a strain on US / Saudi relations, but as an overall economy the United States benefits from a low oil price. So I don’t see that being the case. Besides which, the US and Saudi Arabia are firm allies and they share a common enemy… Iran.

The real reason the global oil price is low* right now is because Saudi Arabia is waging economic warfare on Iran.

When a country gains a large proportion of its income from oil exports, it is possible to calculate a “breakeven oil price” for that country. That is, the price at which they must sell oil to cover government spending. Different economists tend to come up with different numbers (no surprise there) but if you see them as a guideline rather than an absolute value then they can be illuminating. CitiGroup say Saudi Arabia’s breakeven number is $89. The IMF says it’s $80. Deutsche Bank say $78. So you can see that having oil down below $80 per barrel is going to hurt the Saudis, but it’s something they can live with – this is not a nation that finds credit hard to come by. Qatar’s down in the mid-70s. While Kuwait’s breakeven is between $54 and $75 depending on who you listen to.

Not so Iran. According to CitiGroup they have a breakeven price of $130. The IMF suggests it could be as high as $140. And if you hear an analyst on the news try to explain the current fall in oil prices in terms other than an outright economic assault by Saudi Arabia against Iran, they simply do not know what they’re talking about. Because this is shattering the Iranian economy. It’s also giving a proper kicking to a bunch of other oil exporters. Nigeria and Russia both have notional breakevens above $110 and Venezuela is right up there with Iran when it comes to exposure to low oil prices. As for Iraq… if the country is to have any chance of surviving as a united entity it needs a reliable income stream, and with a breakeven price around the $100 mark, it doesn’t have that right now.

The effect on Russia is particularly concerning, especially if you’re a European like me who has just witnessed Putin sign a contract to sell a whole bunch of gas to the Chinese and can see the spectre of European gas shortages should this looming Cold War escalate (when the normally taciturn Finns start complaining about something, it’s a good idea to listen). The notion that “they need our money as much as we need their gas” has simply never been true (the Russian capacity for belt-tightening far surpasses the capacity of European governments to survive power-cuts and cold winters… so European governments will always cave first). And it’s especially not true now when the Asian economies can provide an alternate source of income. Falling oil prices puts additional pressure on Russia and is likely to drive Putin towards a more aggressive foreign policy (in my view).

But Iran is the target, and while nobody outside Gulf aristocracy knows how long they plan to keep up this assault, it is likely to only be the first in a series of oil price manipulations over the next few years. And as a result, we’re likely to see the kind of geopolitical brinkmanship that has the potential to end very very badly indeed.

* Incidentally, describing $80 as a “low” price for oil would have been dystopian madness just a decade ago.

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15
Feb 2012

On This Deity: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan

This time last year I published a piece over at Dorian’s site, On This Deity. It commemorated the final withdrawal – on this day in 1989 – of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the end of that disastrous, bloody and futile invasion.

Afghanistan is BurningIn my piece I draw the obvious parallels between the ill-fated Soviet occupation of that central Asian country and the modern US-led Western occupation. In both cases the stated reason for the invasion was to combat terrorism. In both cases the invaders believed they were liberating the people of Afghanistan from the clutches of an aggressive religious fundamentalism. In both cases the occupying forces went about trying to install relatively progressive policies: the insistence on a national legal system that would supersede tribal and Sharia laws; the promotion of greater equality for women (just as, if not more, aggressively pursued by the Soviet puppet regime than by the US puppet regime it should be noted); the establishment of secular health and education facilities; the de-politicisation and secularisation of the police force and civil administration.

All of these policies were pursued vigorously by the Soviet occupiers. Just as they have been by the western forces. And – I would suggest – with roughly the same level of success. Perhaps the current occupation has it slightly easier thanks to the relative lack of external support for the Afghan militants. Whatever aid being supplied to the Taliban opposition by dissident Saudis, sympathetic elements within the Pakistani security forces and Iranian smugglers is as nothing compared to the huge resources made available to the mujahideen by the CIA during the 1980s. Indeed, it was fairly obvious to the world that the United States was fighting a proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan. They pumped money, weapons and military training personnel into Afghanistan on a massive scale and in so doing, they strengthened the ultra-reactionary Islamist elements within Afghan society. Those very same elements who are now killing US and other western troops today.

Rarely has the old adage about being careful what you wish for been so dramatically demonstrated in the arena of world affairs. The United States wished to turn the fundamentalist elements of Afghan society into a force capable of resisting a superpower. I suspect they no longer find Charlie Wilson’s War quite so clever.

Just as with the fall of the Soviet Union – an empire that was militarily over-extended and consumed from within by an economic system that was unfit for purpose – the United States must surely now face up to its own slow collapse. They are mired in debt that nobody sane believes will ever be repaid, and which is being aggressively ignored by both debtor and creditors alike in the mistaken belief that the elephant in the room can be trusted not to break the furniture so long as nobody talks about it. They are rapidly reaching the limits of their ability to intimidate the world with military power (how long before China decides to repossess the US 5th fleet in lieu of the money they are owed?) And while there is currently little sign of a wane in their cultural influence, that too can hardly be far away. On top of that, the rifts in US society – between their own religious fundamentalists and the besieged bastions of liberal secularism – threaten to rip the nation to pieces from within.

Just as the collapse of the Soviet Union cannot be blamed on their invasion of Afghanistan – the invasion functioned both as a symptom of that collapse and one contributing factor; so the US involvement in that nation will not, historically, be viewed as the reason for the decline of America. However, it will be heralded as an obvious symptom of western self-delusion and over-extension. And I suspect it will also be considered a contributing factor – albeit a relatively minor one, compared to our psychotic financial system and the inability of consumer capitalism to cope with resource depletion.

So today we pause to recall the final humiliation of the once proud Red Army. And we take a moment to look a few years into the future at that humiliation being mirrored on the other side of that old Cold War divide.

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19
Jan 2012

Pots, kettles and colonialism

Two cheeks of the same arseDear God, but David Cameron is an idiot. Seriously… he’s a proper full-blown clown of a man. Even on the rare occasion that he’s actually right about something – and it really is very rare indeed – he seems determined to express his position in the worst possible terms so that I desperately want to disagree with him even if I don’t. He feels for all the more like a fake Tony Blair. As if someone had flown to Hong Kong and paid one of those back-street tailors to take a break from making knock-off Giorgio Armani suits and rustle up a Tony Blair instead. Truly they are two cheeks of the same arse.

Cameron’s most recent utterance of blithering idiocy is to describe Argentina’s designs on the Falklands as “like colonialism”. The rest of his statement, where he points out that “these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else”, is absolutely correct. I’m not suggesting that sovereignty of the Falkland Islands should be handed over to Buenos Aires. What I am saying is that for a British Prime Minister – particularly an aristotory – to accuse another nation of colonialism is just shoddy public relations. He may be right, technically speaking, but he also looks profoundly ridiculous in that rightness.

His choice of words draws attention away from the perfectly sensible point that the people of the islands have, for generations, asserted their Britishness. And away from the fact that they didn’t supplant an existing population of Argentinian citizens, but were in fact the first people to settle the islands. Instead he uses a word which reminds us all just how Britain got there in the first place… as part of a centuries-long policy of sailing around the world and stealing other people’s property at gunpoint. It was only through British colonialism that the Falklands are British today, and accusing the Argentinians of colonialism is akin to defending his position by wailing “yeah? but we did it first!”

Let me reiterate, I don’t believe the Argentinians have a valid claim to the Falkland Islands. I do think that this whole mess could be resolved though if Britain were to say… “Yes, the only reason we are there is because of a morally abhorrent policy that we engaged in for many years, and even though the Falklands is at the benign end of that policy we can see how it still looks bad in the eyes of others – particularly ex-colonies. Therefore as a gesture of goodwill, we will ring-fence any tax revenue raised from the Falklands – very small now, but who knows in the future – and place it into an unambiguously ethical overseas development programme (earthquake relief or something). The people there are British. And they want to remain British. But we will not reap any financial benefit from our possession of the islands – especially while we’re still spending a bunch of money helping the Americans invade places in what looks suspiciously like a continuation of that abhorrent policy that we’re accusing the Argentinians of adopting.”

I think that would be a perfect British response to Argentinian demands and may even – over time – slowly defuse the tension. But I doubt we’ll ever see such a response. Instead Cameron and his successors will continue to antagonise the government in Buenos Aires with accusations of colonialism and whatever other incendiary twaddle can be blurted out, until the day the British navy is so depleted as to make a defence of the islands untenable. At which point, a thoroughly pissed off Argentina will invade again.

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16
Jan 2012

We are the 1%

You know that “We Are The 99%” slogan adopted by the Occupy Movement? Well, at the risk of alienating many of my regular readers, I have to say it annoys the hell out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point it’s trying to make. And I see how it cleverly allows Occupy to assert a non-partisan stance. “We’re not left or right”, it says. “We’re not about the working class or the middle class. We’re about The People. We’re about You and Me.” It’s a good strategy. Good branding, if you will.

The problem I have though is… well, it’s kind of a lie. Not in the pedantic sense that “it should be 97.6% instead of 99%”. No, it’s a lie in the sense that the distinction it makes is not necessarily the important one. Because the Occupy Movement is – in part – actually a reaction by disenfranchised western consumers to a reduction in their ability to consume at levels to which they became accustomed.

No, that’s not all it is, but that’s why the first people took to the streets of New York. It’s why there are people camping outside the Central Bank on Dame Street here in Dublin. And it’s what those people are doing on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. They are protesting because they feel that their standard of living is under threat.

Which it is. Everything I’ve written here lately about private financial institutions raiding the public purse is true, so far as I can tell. The populations of the “industrialised west” are under attack by the market forces of private capital. And we have every right to fight back. I’m not objecting to the Occupy Movement, I’m objecting to the slogan.

Because the lay-offs and the foreclosures, the regressive taxes and vicious cuts to public services, the mantra of austerity… these are all attacks on a lifestyle that doesn’t represent 99% of the world. Not even close. They are attacks on a level of consumption that was always unsustainable. That these attacks are being carried out; not so western society can move towards sustainability; but so that a tiny minority can continue to hoard ever-increasing mountains of wealth is – it goes without saying – obscene. But the people Occupying Wall Street were not there when the property boom of the nineties and early-to-mid-noughties provided the illusion of increasing wealth for the masses in the “developed” world.

See, for decades, we in the west have been consuming vastly more that our fair share of global resources. And we’ve been doing so at the expense of billions of people who had no voice. Or if they did, we rarely if ever listened. Sure, we might have given some spare cash when Bob Geldof came on the TV to shame us in the 80s. But the very fact that the term “ethical consumerism” exists speaks volumes about the level of delusion suffered by the world we built. And it is an attack on that world that sparked the Occupy response.

Map of the world showing distribution of malnutrition

Map of the world showing distribution of malnutrition
hard to be part of the 99% if you're in the green zone


Our collective conscience was bought and paid for with bread and circuses. The bread came in a dozen different combinations… from Happy Meals to Artisan Loafs (made with the finest imported olives and sun-dried tomatoes, no less). And the circuses appeared on 236 different channels beamed via satellite to our 43″ plasma screens. We bombed distant nations so we could fill our cars with cheap petrol allowing us to drive to shops where we bought Smart Phones made with rare metals that only cost a pittance thanks to the millions dying in Central Africa in our Resource-War-by-proxy.

And I do mean “we”. This article is being written on a computer with components which I’ve no doubt are of ethically dubious provenance and being read on a device much the same. It is possible to completely drop out of your own society, but almost nobody does because it’s only just about possible. It’s certainly far from easy.

Which is why I have such a problem with “We are the 99%”. The accuracy of the number isn’t at issue. It’s the fact that the people camping on Dublin’s Dame Street ultimately have more in common with the 1% they decry, than with the downtrodden masses whose nations we have spent decades pillaging for resources. And call me a cynic if you like, but if we were to discover untold riches in Mozambique tomorrow… near endless lakes of sweet crude oil lapping against shores of the finest coltan and platinum… and if we were to buy back the illusions of the nineties and the noughties; sending our armies to Africa to secure those resources and put money back in our bank accounts, cheap petrol in our new cars and a sense of security in our continued consumption… I just don’t think the Occupy Movement would last very long.

Sure there’d still be anti-war protests. And we’d all pile into coaches to drive to the big city where we’d raise our “No Blood for Oil” placards; the irony noted but never likely to force a change in behaviour. And then, having protested against the politicians who took us to war, we’d re-elect them in the name of stability when they promised us tax cuts and the continuation of a comfortable life.

Our civilisation is an unsustainable disaster. It is destroying the world in slow but inexorable steps. And it needs to be radically reconfigured into something that places justice and sustainability at its core. The fact that anti-capitalist protests began long before these days of austerity is cause for some small hope, and if the Occupy Movement can help with that reconfiguration – or even just prompt discussion and thought on the subject – then it is to be supported in any way we can. I’m not defending the austerity policies that are ransacking Europe and beyond (anyone who has read this blog for the past few years will know that). And I’m certainly not trying to justify the further concentration of wealth at the very top. I’m just pointing out that for many years the people currently Occupying Dublin, London and New York were closer to the top than perhaps they realised and weren’t particularly interested in relinquishing that position. As their anger now demonstrates. Fighting for a fairer distribution of wealth is a noble cause. But claiming to be “The 99%” just seems in bad taste to me.

It’s a lot like when the Congestion Charge was being introduced in London… forcing people to pay in order to use their private cars in the city… and left-wing critics insisted that it would hit the poorest people the hardest. They were somehow forgetting that the poorest 20% of people didn’t own cars, they were too poor to afford them, and that the money raised from the Congestion Charge – if invested in public transport – would actually help the poorest people.

So if “We Are The 99%” is supposed to highlight a disparity between the Haves and Have-Nots, then we should take a look at those who truly Have-Not. Because it’s not really us. It’s not the people camping in Dame Street. And it’s not the people watching them on the news or reading about them on the internet. We are rightly angered by the sight of a small minority syphoning wealth from our pockets. But we should pause for a moment in our anger and realise that we’re far from the bottom of the global ladder. That the masses below us can also be rightly angered by the sight of their wealth in our pockets. Like it or not, in the eyes of billions of dispossessed around the world, it is we who are the one percent.

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25
Jul 2011

The curious death of a master signifier

A crowd gathered at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. Many carried American flags or wore t-shirts with patriotic slogans. They pumped their fists in the air. They shouted “U.S.A” and “We’re Number One!” while others sang The Star Spangled Banner. They were in celebratory mood. And they were celebrating death.

Specifically they were celebrating the shooting of an unarmed man in his fifties half a planet away. A group of well-trained killers entered a sovereign nation without permission, swooped down on a house and shot Osama bin Laden in front of his family. They then took photos, scraped some DNA samples and threw the body in the sea. Far away, insulated from all harm, the US president watched the killing unfold on a monitor. And crowds cheered. And of course, this being America, a few of them wondered how they could profit from the death celebration.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote, “It’s been a long time since Americans felt this good and strong about themselves — nothing like putting bullets in someone’s skull and dumping their corpse into an ocean to rejuvenate that can-do American sense of optimism.”

And then the lies began. The dead man had resisted capture. He’d opened fire on his assailants. In the last resort he’d grabbed his own wife and caused her death when he used her as a human shield. A day later, mystifyingly, we were told that none of that had happened. The dead man had been unarmed. He hadn’t used his wife as a human shield. She wasn’t even present when he was shot dead.

I found myself wondering how a man in his fifties, whose health – we’d been told for some time – wasn’t all that great, could have resisted capture so forcefully while unarmed, that a team of elite soldiers was unable to subdue him without shooting him numerous times in the face and chest. Don’t get me wrong, I shed no tears for Osama bin Laden. But nor do I find much to celebrate in the gunning-down of an unarmed man, followed by a series of official lies.

I also found myself wondering why we were being told this at all. Where had the first set of lies come from? And why bother correcting them given that there was no evidence one way or the other beyond the official version? It reminded me of the brutal slaying of Jean Charles de Menezes by police in London. Immediately after the killing a series of lies emerged from the authorities that were so far from the truth that they had to have been deliberately manufactured. They simply couldn’t have been mistakes or someone misinterpreting something. Jean Charles de Menezes had vaulted the ticket barrier in the tube station, we were told. He’d been wearing a bulky coat, we were told. He’d sprinted away from police who had clearly called upon him to stop, we were told.

Except he hadn’t. He’d used his season ticket to walk through the ticket barriers just like a hundred thousand other commuters that day. His clothes had been perfectly appropriate for the weather, and yes while he had sped up — like a hundred thousand other commuters that day — to catch the train that had just pulled into the station, he’d not been sprinting. We were just told lies. And the apparently casual manner in which the authorities appear willing to feed bullshit to the public suggests this is a routine occurrence.

The bizarre testimony of the police officer at the centre of the Ian Tomlinson “unlawful killing” case serves to reinforce this. Everyone had already seen the clear footage of the incident that killed Tomlinson. It was as unambiguous as something like this can possibly be. Yet at the inquest, the police officer whose action had resulted in the death of Tomlinson insisted upon a version of events that completely contradicted the video evidence. It was just weird. And what’s weirder is the fact that he clearly expected the jury, and the wider world, to accept his version above the evidence of their own eyes.

Over the years I’ve found it instructive, whenever I encounter a statement issued by an authority, to imagine that the exact opposite is true. It’s unsettling how often the news makes more sense when you do that. Admittedly it’s a little strange to have the strategy validated so quickly as we did when bin Laden was killed. Within 48 hours an armed man became an unarmed man, and the wife we were told was used as a human shield wasn’t even there.

What does all of this mean?

Well, it means those in power have no respect for those they claim to protect, serve and represent. This isn’t an earth-shattering piece of news. I’m not claiming to be telling you something you’ve not heard before. I’m merely pointing out that despite incontrovertible evidence that this is going on all the time, we appear happy to allow it. Our police and our politicians are constantly lying to us, and we choose to accept it. The psychoanalyst in me can’t help but find the words of Wilhelm Reich springing to mind and wonder whether this is inevitably going to end with the sound of a hundred thousand jackboots marching in unison beneath a fascist flag. The willingness of a population to accept obvious lies eventually gets exploited by someone even less sane than Blair or Cameron or Bush or Obama. And the phrase “it couldn’t happen here” is rarely any protection.

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16
Jul 2011

16th July 1945: The Manhattan Project

I’ve got a new article up at On This Deity. To be honest, I could easily have written four or five times as much on this subject as it’s something I was obsessed with for quite a while, and it also feeds into my “advanced technology as pathology” thesis. But 12 hundred words is already a lot in these days of abbreviated attention spans.

16th July 1945: The Manhattan Project.

At half past five on the morning of July 16th 1945, The Gadget exploded and the whole world shook. Three square miles of desert sand was melted into glass. A mushroom cloud rose almost 8 miles into the sky and cast a shadow that darkens our world even now. For it was on this day, in the final year of the second world war, that humanity entered the atomic age. A day of infamy. A day to lament. A day on which we should – as a species – collectively reflect on just how far our ingenuity has exceeded our wisdom.

Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
Albert Einstein

read the rest…

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27
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 27th June 1905

My new piece is up at On This Deity.

27th June 1905: The Founding of The Industrial Workers of the World.

It is late June 2011 as I write this. The news media – on the rare occasions it’s not discussing the sex lives of professional sportsmen – offers us a running commentary on an Arab Spring, now turned summer. We’re presented with images of disaffected Chinese workers rioting in Guangdong while dissidents with pixelated faces hold secret meetings in cramped apartments. In Peru an alliance between environmental campaigners and indigenous activists has seen its members injured and even killed in an attempt to prevent an expansion of mining in their region. And here, in the relative safety of our liberal democracies, we find ourselves dismayed by the violence, the oppression and the painful struggle for basic rights playing out on our screens and newsprint. And we often forget – because it’s so damned easy to do – just how recently our own nations experienced similar upheaval. And we don’t realise – as the forces of capitalism once again begin to squeeze the worker, marginalise the army of unemployed and bind entire nations with chains of debt – just how close to a return to those days we are, and just how cheaply our acquiescence in this return is being purchased.

One hundred and six years ago today, on June 27th 1905, a couple of hundred anarchists, socialists and vagabond activists gathered in a hall in Chicago for what would later become known as the First Annual Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Like activists in China, Peru, North Africa and elsewhere today they would find themselves targeted by the authorities, imprisoned and even murdered for the crime of disagreeing with those in power. They spoke out. They organised their dissent. Sometimes they withheld their labour. Often they demanded radical change. They united beneath a simple slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all”… a worldview simply incompatible with free-market capitalism; a philosophy which happily externalises all manner of injury in the pursuit of personal gain; a philosophy that dismisses collective responsibility unless there’s a profit to be made commodifying it.

read the rest…

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23
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 23rd June 1937

Another new piece up at On This Deity.

23rd June 1937: George Orwell flees Spain.

On the morning of June 23rd 1937, George Orwell boarded a train at Barcelona station with his wife, Eileen, and two companions, John McNair and Stafford Cottman. The train was bound for the French border and Orwell (or Eric Blair – he had yet to adopt his now famous nom de plume) was posing as a wealthy English businessman travelling with his wife and associates. In reality, they were fugitives, hunted not only by the fascist forces they’d come to Spain to fight, but also by the communists. McNair was leader of a contingent of fighters organised by the Independent Labour Party (ILP) who had left England to try and stem the rising fascist tide. This small group of revolutionaries and idealists – one among many such groups from all over the world –included Orwell. Prior to boarding the train that morning he had spent much of the previous six months in the trenches until a sniper’s bullet pierced his throat. By the time he’d sufficiently recovered to leave hospital, the internal divisions within the anti-fascist forces had shattered whatever slim chances they’d had of defeating Franco and his allies.

read the rest…

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17
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 17th June 1972

Check out my new piece over at On This Deity.

17th June 1972: The Watergate Arrests.

On a balmy Saturday evening in Washington DC, Frank Wills was doing his rounds. It was June 17th 1972 and he was working as a security guard in the Watergate complex. During the course of his routine patrol he noticed that several of the doors had tape applied to them in order to prevent them locking. Suspecting that a burglary might be in progress, Wills called the police, little knowing his phone call would become one of the most influential of all time. While that night it would merely result in the arrest of five burglars, it would later set off a chain of events that was to shake the United States to the core, forcing the collapse of a government and the only US presidential resignation in history.

read the rest…

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4
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 4th June 1989

I’ve a new article up at On This Deity.

4th June 1989: The Tiananmen Square Massacre.

In the early hours of the morning on June 4th 1989, the Chinese military began a brutal crackdown of the protest movement that had seen up to 100,000 people camped out in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square for more than a month. What had begun, back in April, as a series of small student gatherings to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang – the erstwhile General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who had been expelled for his vocal support of political reform – had, by June, grown into a mass demonstration of civil disobedience by a number of disparate groups.

read the rest…

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