All week, ‘royal baby’ nonsense has taken over my Facebook and twitter feeds, and even the newspapers I like to read. All week, people have been posting stories or status updates about what this baby’s name should be, or what presents it will get. I even read an article this morning about the fact that it’s being called a baby and not a fetus. Another story purported to tell me 7 things I didn't know about the royal baby - what could there be to know, it's just been born for crying out loud!
Here’s my frank opinion about the royal baby: I don’t see why it’s so royal. Britain is a bloody democracy; to a large number of the people so enthralled, the royal family actually serves as nothing more than a reminder of a long gone and not at all proud era of colonialism. I neither care that it’s born, nor do I think that its birth is a news worthy story.
However, since all we seem to read now are lists and snippets about 'the royal baby', here’s a Buzzfeed inspired list of some shit that is important, that happened, and you may have missed over the past week’s baby fervor:
1. Bradley Manning’s trial: Bradley Manning is a 25-year-old American soldier (read: kid) who’s been charged under the US Espionage Act, and has been in jail for 3 years now. His trial began 8 weeks ago. He admittedly leaked documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan war to Wikileaks. He says he did so to spark a public debate. The prosecution in this case is claiming that Osama Bin Laden could have read Manning’s leaks and by this twisted logic, Manning aided the enemy. The judge has refused to set aside this charge of aiding the enemy.
Manning isn’t even claiming to be innocent — for one, he is not. However, he is quite rightly asserting that the interpretation of the law in his case is absurd, and that the punishment that’s about to be doled out to him is disproportionate. If he’s charged with aiding the enemy, Bradley Manning will get a life sentence.
Why you should care: Such a wide interpretation of the Espionage Act effectively means no one will ever talk to a journalist again. Anytime a whistleblower comes to a reporter, and the reporter prints his story, the whistleblower is essentially aiding the enemy.
2. CBI autonomy: The CBI has to ask for sanction from the government to investigate senior bureaucrats. The same senior bureaucrats that make up the government, or are members of the party that is the ruling government at the moment. Does that seem right to you? So far, the government’s lawyers have been asserting that giving the CBI autonomy will open the doors for a police state and/or lead to these officials being harassed — the same officials that are responsible for the Coalgate scam.
Why you should care: Because you want senior officials in your government to know they’re open to investigation by a third party that does not answer to them. Because you want a government that is less corrupt, and corruption can only be tackled by public accountability.
3. RTI is being changed to exclude political parties from its ambit: A major share of funding for political parties comes from voluntary donations — and it is not you and I, or any individual citizen making these voluntary donations. It is naïve to deny that the sources of these funds assert some influence over the views held by political parties and their MPs. As such, the funding of political parties is information that pertains directly to your democratic rights. All the functioning democracies in the world have a system in place to keep tabs on political financing, but India does not. We might have been able to file an RTI application to ask political parties (clearly public bodies) to disclose their election financials, but a recent Bill calls to amend the RTI to take political parties out of the Act’s ambit.
Why you should care: Transparency in government starts with transparency in political finance.
4. The Rupee is expected to fall to 62 against the dollar in the next two weeks: Our merchandise exports are decreasing while our imports are increasing. To curb the fall, the government is opening up foreign direct investment into everything from telecom to defense. DEFENSE!!! The other sectors that the government is opening up includes retail, courier services, credit information companies. But please let me repeat this for you, because it is important — DEFENSE! That it’s on a case-by-case basis means nothing; when was the last time a tender went through the Indian government without involving bribes?
Why you should care: If you don’t care that our defense system is now open to foreign investment, then care because your holiday abroad just got a lot more expensive.
5. Chinese human rights activist Xu Zhiyong, a prominent lawyer and professor known for his support for greater government transparency, was detained (again) on July 17th. He was held on suspicion of “gathering people to disturb order in a public place.” Hundreds of people have come together in Beijing to ask for his release.
Why you should care: This is a quote (you can find it on Wikipedia) from Professor Zhiyong that explains better than I ever could why you should care about this man: “I wish our country could be a free and happy one. Every citizen need not go against their conscience and can find their own place by their virtue and talents; a simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity is expanded to the maximum, and the evilness of humanity is constrained to the minimum; honesty, trust, kindness, and helping each other are everyday occurrences in life; there is not so much anger and anxiety, a pure smile on everyone’s face.”
6. Suspension of Five MLAs revoked yesterday: Five Maharashtran MLAs were suspended from the legislative assembly after their arrest in March for beating up a police officer. Why'd they beat him up? He stopped and fined one of them for over-speeding on the Sea-Link. These MLAs had their suspensions revoked yesterday.
Why you should care: The reason given for reinstating these violent thugs into office: since the police office who was beaten up was back to work now, the suspensions should also be revoked.