Peace and Socialism

Read the first part: Basic Income: Helicopter money

Founded in 1986, the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) is the international NGO that promotes BIG around the world. It held its last conference "Re-democratizing the Economy" at McGill's Faculty of Law in 2014. A North American congress is being held in Winnipeg in May 2016 and its 16th congress in July in Seoul, South Korea. Its credo is that some sort of economic right based upon citizenship rather than upon one's relationship to the production process or one's family status is called for as part of the just solution to social problems in advanced societies.

We are half way there with welfare, various subsidies, unemployment insurance, pensions, but as more people join the "precariat", subsisting on part time work or permanently unemployed, the current ad hoc support network for this 'economic right' requires a people-centred radical reform. This is the logical conclusion of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976) which recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living.

About 10% of Canadians live in poverty. That figure is even higher in major cities, such as Toronto where the number of children living below the line is nearly 25%. In India, 22% of the people live in poverty. A "guaranteed annual income" (GAI) could wipe out this poverty at a stroke.

GAI (also BIG -- basic income guarantee) has been quietly mooted by both left and right since the 1960s. Economist Milton Friedman called it (approvingly) "helicopter money". What could be easier to administer, to end the most obvious source of social injustice, and which is welcomed even by most Canadians?

Leading politicians around the world have endorsed the idea. In India, several projects and modest universal Cash Transfers (CTs) have been implemented. All Green Parties from Europe to North America, the Scottish National Party, the French Socialists, all endorse it. Switzerland will hold a referendum in June. Finland will launch a trial in 2017, and is committed to implementation, as are several Dutch cities. Brazil implemented a Citizens Basic Income for all of its citizens in 2004, with positive results in terms of health and economic stimulation (and ensuring the reelection of President Lula da Silva).

Rising star of the European left, economist Yanis Varoufakis, founder of Democracy in Europe Movement 2025: In the 50s and 60s the dream of shared prosperity was that which gave hope. The basic income approach is capable of doing this as long as you can explain to them where the money will come from, that it will not be simply debt, that we are going to generate a lot more income and a chunk of it is going to fund this.

1/ 14 years have passed since 9/11. Why has American public opinion never raised serious questions about the main cause of the incident?

Whether or not al-Qaeda and Bin Laden were the real architects of 9/11 remains disputed. The unwllingness to carry out a full investigation of 9/11 is inexcusable, and contributes to the uncertainty about who was behind the attacks. In a 2008 World Public Opinion poll, about half the world believe the official version of al-Qaeda carrying out the 9/11 attacks, a quarter don’t know, and a quarter believe it was a conspiracy by some combination of the US, Israel and other Arabs.
People in the Middle East were especially likely to name a perpetrator other than al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, Israel is seen as a likely perpetrator among Egyptians (43%), Jordanians (31%), and Palestinians (19%). The US government was named by 36% of Turks and 27% of Palestinians. Among Europeans only Germans (23%) and Italians (15%) accuse the US government, and almost no one accuses Israel.
Among Americans, according to a YouGov poll in 2013, 40% believe the official explanation, 38% “have some doubts”, 12% are unsure, and 10% “do not believe it at all.” In yet another poll, 11% of Americans believe it was actually the US government.

Al-Quds Day, celebrated around the world by millions, is marked on the last Friday of Ramadan, coinciding with the most sacred time of Ramadan, the Night of Destiny. This year it is on July 11. This night especially empowers Muslims with God's mercy, as the starting point of Muslims' awakening and awareness in all aspects of life. Al -Quds Day was initiated in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and oppose Zionism and Israeli occupation, especially of Jerusalem.

Its importance is starkly demonstrated by the ongoing US-Israeli schemes to make Jerusalem (al-Quds, holy city) the sole property of Israel, destroy the Muslim sacred Dome of the Rock, and by widespread aggression against all things Muslim, not only in Palestine, but from Libya to Afghanistan. Ayatollah Khomeini understood the connection between the struggle to liberate Palestine and the struggle for social justice around the world, in the firs place among Muslims. "All must know that the superpowers' aim in creating Israel does not end in the occupation of Palestine. They plan, Heaven forbid, extending the fate of Palestine to all Arab countries."

In Iran, the government sponsors and organizes the day's rallies. Al-Quds Day is also held throughout the Arab and Muslim world, Europe and North America. The popularity of al-Quds Day shows how all people who support the liberation of Palestine appreciate and approve of Iran's staunch support, the only country truly committed to helping Palestine.

The highlight to any trip to Tehran—if you can manage it—is a visit to the scene of the most spectacular hostage-taking in recent history, the US embassy, which Iranian students stormed in November 1979, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, and dumping US diplomatic correspondence on the street in a spectacular premodern WikiLeak.

For Canadians and Brits (let alone Americans), getting there is not easy. Neither country has diplomatic relations with Iran at present. Canadians must mail their passports to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC, Brits must apply to the Omani Embassy in London. (Britain and Iran have only recently agreed to open consular services following a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the UN in New York in September 2014).

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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