We are within sight of launching Tricontinental: Institute of Social Research, with offices in Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, New Delhi and Sao Paulo. On March 1, we'll have our website alive and ready to go. For now, we have our social media pages - at Facebook and on Twitter - alive and well. Please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Also, visit our website to sign up for our materials (there is a silly little video there as well). As I mentioned earlier, this newsletter will slowly transition to become the weekly newsletter from the Tricontinental. It will have the same format, but will have more from the Institute and not just from myself (although, I'll continue to write it!).
Readings this week start with a short report I have for you on the exaggerated threat of Russian dominance over the planet. This is a reaction to the #RussiaGate conversations in the United States, where it is held that the Russians not only stole the election for Donald Trump but have somehow damaged the US election system permanently. There is little discussion about the even more grave problems that threaten the US election system - the amount of money in political life and the lack of judicial support for ending the suppression of the black vote. On the former point - money in politics - Newsweek wrote in December 1971, 'The relationship between money and politics is so organic that seeking reform is tantamount to asking a doctor to perform open-heart surgery on himself'. It is a judgment that remains intact. On the latter, the 2016 election was the first in fifty years to be conducted without the Voting Rights Act in place. Its effects are too obvious to catalogue.
My report is at Alternet and can be read here.
The picture above is from the Russian artist Olga Chernysheva, from her wonderful series of photographs called 'Waiting for a Miracle'. These are pictures of women in Moscow as they commute to work in the wintry weather. They are walking away from the camera, waiting for a miracle. So are we all.
Jacob Zuma is gone as President of South Africa. Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way out as Prime Minister of Israel - perhaps. Both ensnared by corruption. They used to say that Al Capone was not caught for his killings and so on but for tax evasion. Netanyahu, who should be before the International Criminal Court on war crimes, is going to have to answer to bribery charges that come from not more than $300,000 in payments. Here comes the rub of it. This is small beer. There is more money made in these entanglements. It is made by the corporations. They pay these small bribes for enormous favours. The rate of return on bribery is substantial. It is what makes bribery so commonplace.
This week, at Newsclick, my Radical Journeys column takes on the rate of return for bribery. You can read it here. Highly recommend N. Ram's new book from Aleph, Why Scams Are Here to Stay.
Budgets are the focus of the new issue of Frontline. There is a fantastic cover story on the Indian budget. In the same issue, my Diary from Trumpland is on Trump's first state of the union address. You can read it here. It closes with my sad prediction,
Trump’s own ambitions are pedestrian in comparison. He merely wants to be the Saviour of American capitalism. And he wants to Make America Great Again. Everything is written in capital letters. The tumble in the markets will settle down. Interest rates will rise. Countries dependent on foreign direct investment will suffer. The rich will make more money. Wages will level off. Trump will smirk. He will take credit for whatever he can make to appear as a miracle. He might even be re-elected in a few years.
In terms of countries and their challenges, at Newsclick Pramesh Pokharel has an excellent assessment of the problems facing the Nepali left as it tries to form a government and merge its parties into one communist party. You can read his report here.
Elections loom in the Indian state of Tripura, where it is most likely that the Left will triumph. Subodh Varma has a good series on the election, which you can read here and here.
Finally, from our friends at the People's Archive of Rural India, a lovely story by Stanzin Saldon on a museum in Kargil, a museum of war and of community. This is a really wonderful story about the resilience and creativity of people. You can read it here.
Don't forget to get involved with Tricontinental in one way or another. We count on you to help us do the work that we need to do.