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  • 4 comments / new

    There’s a sign on the wall. There’s always a wall. There’s always a sign on it. The rich erect the walls and the politicians plaster the signs all over them. Don’t read those signs anymore, don’t even bother looking at them, those signs don’t matter any more.

    The signs you need to worry about aren’t on those walls. They’re in the poisoned air all around you. They’re in that dying sky above you. They’re in the ravaged earth beneath your feet. Those signs are everywhere, posted by Nature and written in pain, warning of fracking and mountaintop mining, of ozone depletion and carbon emissions, of species extinction and polar cap melting, of the acid in the rain and the death of the oceans.

    Catastrophic climate change hasn’t been invited to any boardroom meetings on Wall Street, it’s never been interviewed on Fox News, it’s never been a guest on Morning Joe or Meet the Press, it’s not important enough to deserve any attention from the Grand Bargainers, it’s not welcome to testify in front of any committee of any congress or parliament anywhere, because the people who own this corporate bank vault that used to be a planet decide what’s heard and what isn’t, decide who can speak and who can't, decide for all of us what our future will be.

    But for some bizarre reason even Luke Russert can’t explain, catastrophic climate change has decided to testify anyway. It’s dropping by to say hello, It’s pounding on the doors of America, it’s pounding on the doors of Europe, it’s pounding on the doors of Asia, it’s standing on the doorstep of the world with more superstorms right behind it and the fire of karma in its eyes, it‘s come calling with a very loud final word or two for us before all the lights go out . . .

    PLEASED TO MEET YOU. HOPE YOU GUESS MY NAME.

    The world can’t say there hasn't been enough time to stop the polluting and the poisoning and the drilling, governments have been given plenty of time to stop the ravaging of the environment. We knew the corporate capitalists were playing with fire, we saw the rings of smoke drifting through the trees long ago, but no one in power ever listens to progressives.

    People have to understand why we're here, we all have to understand why we're here. We aren't here to kill each other, we aren't here to poison the planet. We're here to sanctify it, we're here to love one another, we were meant to build a Stairway to Heaven, to build it together. That's what human life is for, but we haven't gotten very far . . .

    Stairway To Heaven

  • 7 comments / new

    'Destroy_this_mad_brute'_WWI_propaganda_poster_(US_version)There's a new bogeyman in the middle east. It is a terrible monster of great proportions, a barbaric, sectarian, unrepentant butchery machine. Its name is ISIS and like the previous bogeymen (Saddam, Ahmadinejad, Gaddaffi, Osama bin Laden, Assad and Putin) it is like (or worse than) Hitler. You would think by now government propagandists would get worried that trotting out the Hitler meme so frequently would cause "Hitler fatigue." Nonetheless, now that the terrible threat has been identified by a news media eager for action and ratings, there is a growing push for America to jump in and start killing brown people again.

    So where did this new "worse than Hitler" bogeyman come from? Well, sorry to say it appears that some of our policy geniuses in the US government created it:

    The reality of US policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria. Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well. This has now happened.

    By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the US has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government. In fact, it has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish.

  • 4 comments / new

    (also up at Orange and FDL)

    Everyone, I think you're going to see more of the bunker mentality in global politics in the future, of which the to-do in Gaza and the to-do in Ferguson, Missouri are mere instances.

    So what's it all about?

    It's about racism, to be sure -- but there's also an even wider mentality to be engaged here, which I hope to explore in this diary. Masaccio's piece, frontpaged at Firedoglake, has an interesting point: it's about domination, domination of the few over the many. The piece quotes from Michel Foucault's classic "Discipline and Punish" and then discusses the topical matter of who gets to discipline and punish and who gets to be disciplined and punished:

    This is a brilliant explanation of the reasons for the difference between the treatment of known scofflaw Cliven Bundy and Michael Brown, and many other dead Black Americans. The point of the delinquency is to mark the accused as not human, not a decent person, not a person entitled to any rights, not a citizen, not one of us.

    -- and ---

    The people who get to decide what is normal are the rich and powerful. They use their control over government to establish the line between acceptable delinquency and unacceptable delinquency and illegalities.

  • 20 comments / new

    Responding to the recent outrages in Ferguson, Missouri, Rand Paul wrote the words that in most respects look like what you would hope that a Democratic candidate for the office would put forth:

    There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.

    Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement. ...

    When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

    Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them. ...

    Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

    This, by the way, is what the "inevitable" Democratic candidate for President in 2016 had to say:

    Just in case Ms. Clinton decides to say something, here's a google search on Hillary Clinton + Ferguson, Mo. and here's on on Hillary Clinton + militarization of police (which also, as of this writing turns up bupkis) to boot.

  • 9 comments / new

    Mario Savio . . .

    "There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop."

    Racist Police . . .

    Whenever an act of police violence occurs against an African-American or any marginalized person, it has been portrayed as an isolated incident. As if the case were out of the ordinary, rare, random, or accidental. This is far from the truth. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement's “Report on the Extrajudicial Killing of 120 Black People” examined the murders of 120 black men and women by police officers, security guards, or self-appointed law enforcers between January 1 and June 30, 2012. During those six months, a person of African descent was executed every 36 hours. Police violence against black people occurs far more often than reported. Rather than the exception, this sort of systemic racist violence is the norm.

    Is it a gun?
    Is it a knife?
    Is it a wallet?
    This is your life
    .

    Racists with badges, in the NYPD, in the LAPD, in police departments all across this country, eager to serve and protect the public by detecting suspicious activities, such as walking while black.

    Was it some Skittles?
    A cigarette?
    Wrong color skin?
    They took your life . . .

    O Eric Garner και η Μάστιγα την Αστυνομικής Βίας

    Because walking while black is becoming an ever-increasing threat to public safety, police departments nationwide have concluded that they have no choice but to spend several billion dollars on heavy weaponry and armored vehicles.

    Paramilitary Police . . .

    Police departments are acquiring military vehicles such as the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) and the BearCat through the 1033 Program. MRAP’s are 14-ton armored fighting vehicles designed to survive an improvised explosive device (IED) and have been used frequently in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. The BearCat is an acronym for a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, and according to the law enforcement website of its manufacturer, Lenco, can be equipped with an M60 machine gun, a 204B machine gun, or a mark 19 grenade launcher.

    What?

    No nukes?

  • 3 comments / new

    This short piece appeared on my Facebook page yesterday, courtesy of the Atlantic magazine:

    Why Tech Still Hasn't Solved Education's Problems
    One researcher has a compelling hypothesis as to why the once-booming ed-tech sector has struggled.

    Here's the gist of author Robinson Meyer's argument:

    Software might be good at categorizing and organizing knowledge, but it's not so good at synthesizing and applying knowledge in the creative, and often highly contextualized and personalized, ways that educators and educational leaders have to employ every day.

    So Meyer thinks that educational software cannot substitute for "educators and educational leaders," people who can meet the "uniquely difficult challenge" which he perceives real education to be. I read this piece and thought that the idea of "education's problems," like the idea of education itself, was broadly open to interpretation. What are educators, and our educational system, supposed to do? Merely looking up "education" in the dictionary is a question-begging exercise, and so we have:

    the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

    But how are people to be prepared intellectually, and for what sort of mature life? These questions are not tackled explicitly by Robinson Meyer, and so I hope to examine them in depth here, with my main focus being the role of the teacher -- what do we expect teachers to be, and to do? What social roles do we grant to teachers? One's answers to these questions will doubtless reflect one's attitudes toward educators, education, and "tech."

    The reasons for why adult human beings go to see educators today, and thus the roles we wish them to perform, are usually related to the institutional framework of the adult education system. When I was a tutor, students would see me if they wanted to pass a course -- they in short had institutional reasons for "buying education."

  • 10 comments / new

    (crossposted at Orange)

    Every time I publish a diary like this one ("Promoting an Effective Discussion: Capitalism Causes Climate Change," 8/3/14), I get responses from patrons of alternative energy. Solar panels and wind farms will save the Earth, the world-society, and the capitalist system, from the prophesies of doom accompanying abrupt climate change, they imply.

    Now, to be fair, I have no problem with the idea of saving the Earth or the world-society. And I'm certainly not against the proliferation of solar panels and wind farms. But I don't think that "alternative energy" will save the Earth while leaving the capitalist system intact. Rather, capitalism will come to a terminal crisis at some point, and "alternative energy" will not save it. Or maybe capitalism will continue to a point such as to put the habitability of planet Earth into question, as Paul Prew suggested. And then there's the option I laid out in last Sunday's diary:

    The likelihood, I believe, is that for some time we will struggle along with a system which will pretend to be capitalism in much the same way in which "Communism" pretended to be communal. The more fervently we believe in capitalism, the more likely a system of faux-capitalism will continue.

    Here are the reasons why I think as I do:

    1) "Alternative energy" is poised to remain a supplement to fossil-fuel energy.

    Advocates of "alternative energy" capitalism imagine a sense in which increased production of alternative energy replaces fossil-fuel production. You buy a solar panel and, see, you're not using as much fossil power. The problem arises when we consider the human race as a whole, and not just individual solar panel buyers. Instead, as energy becomes cheaper with the addition of new sources, market forces push down the cost of the fossil-fuel energy, and the fossil energy you don't consume is bought by someone else. Ian Angus:

    A new study by Richard York of the University of Oregon shows that it isn’t that simple. Rather than displacing fossil fuels, green energy sources have proven to be mostly additive.

  • by OPOL

    7 comments / new

    There is no more important issue than that of Network Neutrality. The brilliant R. Buckminster Fuller posited decades ago that we would always think our way out of our dilemmas, that we would stay one step ahead by inventing new solutions to the thorniest problems facing the human race. And in many ways we have done just that with, among other things, computer technology and the Internet.

    Virtually every human endeavor benefits from those technologies. Computer and networking technologies have transformed our world like nothing before.

    For the first time in history, every co-existing civilization has easy access to (virtually) all others and that access is available to ordinary people in the remotest locations. This is a game-changer. Every curious mind with an increasingly common appliance has the world of answers to virtually any question at their fingertips. The communications alone that the Internet makes possible is a brilliant step forward for humanity. It has empowered the entire species and is one of the few unambiguously hopeful developments of the past several decades.

    The Internet is still young, but it's a promising youth. We have to nurture it of course. That's the point. All its potential is in our tender care. Hopefully we won't blow it.

    The Internet binds the world together in a way we've never seen before. The synergy of all that brain power from all different cultures and walks of life has enriched the environment within which we all dwell. We know the world is connected physically, geographically, etc. We know that borders are artificial and that the world, its oceans and atmosphere are seamless, all one thing really, a system. Now humanity is a singular thing too. The divisions between people are much like those artificial borders. And that is a mindset we are going to need to cultivate in order to get past the population and resource bottle-necks we face with respect to pressures on the environment, the need for renewable energy, responsible production and distribution of healthy food, medicine, potable water, adequate healthcare, the abatement of greenhouse gasses, the cessation of pollution, the withdrawal from fossil fuels, and so on.

    These challenges are formidable. We all need to have our thinking caps on as we sail into a complicated future so that we can work together empowered by the wisest possible use of the amazing technology and unprecedented intellectual connectivity that is now available to us.

    Don't let greedy, selfish corporate interests rob humanity of its freely shared thinking cap. Don't allow the mad, short-term interests of the few to destroy the hope for us all.

    Short-term profits are fine and good but we need to be thinking much bigger than that. Our vision needs to exceed our reverence for quarterly returns. This is posterity we're talking about.

  • by Finchj

    10 comments / new

    If so, what is the point of codifying them in the first place? Humiliation of the losing side?

    In the nearly decade long struggle to bring charges against those who committed torture under our banner, not even the silly old phrase "it is only a crime if you get caught" applies anymore.

    As has been pointed out, President Obama has been right to assert, on a handful of occasions, that certain practices committed during the Bush administration- especially waterboarding- constitute torture.

    Our government has not only been exposed by human rights activists over the past ten years, but our president even admits these crimes!

    And yet, there remains no visible action to bring those who ordered and carried out crimes against humanity to justice.

  • 18 comments / new

    I believe that you have crossed a line, Mr. Obama. At your recent press conference you very casually stated that "we tortured some folks" :

    With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

    How long is the "immediate aftermath of 9/11" (of 2001)? Is it hours, weeks, months, years - how long?

    I only ask because it seems that now, almost 13 years later, you are still presiding over the administration of torture on people allegedly connected with 9/11/01.

    When will you cease and desist "torturing folks?"

    You go on to state:

    I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.

    So, some "folks" tortured some other "folks," but "we" shouldn't be too "sanctimonious" because the "folks" who ordered and performed the torturing in extreme secrecy for the past 13 years had tough jobs?

    Who the hell is this "we" of whom you speak when you say that, "it's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect."

    When were "us" consulted about this? When did "us" demand that "folks" get tortured? Didn't "us" have some, um, laws about torture?

    It seems to me that "us" weren't in the loop. I don't remember at any time a movement of "us" demanding that the US withdraw from the UN Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    Sanctimonious? Eat my shorts! Some of us "folks" are just asking you to do your job. Binding U.S. law requires prosecutions for those who authorize torture.

    So, let's continue with your statement.